Declutter by pretending to move

There are a few of you out there living spartan lives, and you think this doesn’t apply. Keep reading.

My mom recently wrote about her decluttering efforts brought about by an actual move. Which caused me to not-so-fondly remember our process when we moved from Seattle to Phoenix.

Before we go any further, I want to address the basic question: Why is decluttering frugal?

1. A clean house means a calm mind. Or so I hear. Our house is in perpetual chaos. But I’m sure I would feel better if the house were clean. A calm mind means you can think more rationally — especially about finance.

An added bonus? You won’t feel the need to flee the mess by going out. Which means you don’t spend money going out — at least, not because of a mess.

2.  You save a ton on organizers. We buy those nifty-but-expensive doodads to help us deal with the overwhelming sea of stuff we’ve accumulated. No sea, no need for organizers.

3. It reminds you just how much crap you’ve got. It’s embarrassing how little of it you actually need/use. You’ll be more cautious about buying in the future.

4. You can have a yard sale, which usually brings in at least $100. And if you don’t the hassle of a yard sale, donate it for a potential tax write-off.

Here’s where I address those of you living spartan lives.

When we were getting ready to move, we scoffed at the idea that we’d have to get rid of much. I mean, we were low income, paying off medical/student loan debt and we lived in a one-bedroom apartment.

How much did we really have?

Then we found the cheapest move would be via Relo Cube (6′ x 7′ by 8′). That 336 cubic feet had to fit all our stuff, including our queen bed, two dressers and a couch. That, or we’d have to pay another $1,200 for a second cube.

Suddenly, a lot of our stuff seemed superfluous.

Suddenly, we changed the question.

When people are decluttering, they ask themselves Do I want to get rid of this?

That’s a terrible way to frame it. Who wants to get rid of their stuff? Yes, we want less clutter. But if we could do that without actually getting rid of anything, we would. (Hence the market share for organizers.)

Once we were moving, Tim and I found that we didn’t have the luxury of keeping things we were lukewarm about. It made our decisions more cutthroat but a lot more efficient.

So when you’re decluttering, don’t ask yourself if you want to get rid of it, or if you’d miss it. Ask yourself: Would I keep this if I had to pay to move it?

Or pretend you had to move a much smaller place. Would you keep it if space were at a premium? Because, if you’re desperately decluttering, then space is at a premium.

And if you’re not sure, bag up the items and tuck them away for a couple of months. If you don’t miss them — and you probably won’t — then you have your answer.


  1. Lisa says

    You are so right. Relatives moved this week and they had spent 6 months 'de cluttering.' Before I buy anything I ask, is this worth the space – now and in the moving truck? And any gifts that I have to dust get returned!

    • says

      Lisa: I should really start with the policy about dust-gathering gifts. Granted, everything in our house accumulates dust so… At least we would have lots of space!

    • says

      Kelly: Yep, I need to practice what I preach in that department. The whole house needs a going-through so we can simplify things a bit. We also need to help my in-laws go through the rest of their boxes and finish doing the same. We did about half of their boxes in the garage and then got stalled out.

  2. Ro in San Diego says

    I love this advice also. Since I am a strategic shopper I have a "stockpile" off goods I have purchased for free or cheap to add into the mix of items I have find room for in my home and garage which is not easy since I live in a small home with limited/inadequate storage.

    I am motivated to go through my clothes and donate them to a local women's clothes closet charity. I will keep this advice in mind while I purge so I can drop off a carload on Saturday and have room for the things I want in my life.

    • says

      Ro: I had to stop seeking out yard sales — though, with the holidays coming, I might start snooping around again — because I kept coming home with more stuff than I needed. And since they were selling it because they weren't using it, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that I didn't use most of it, either. But they're such good deals, it can be hard to pass up.

      We do technically have the space to store stuff now, which is dangerous, but we also want to start making the garage into more of a man cave for Tim. So that should help us avoid getting too crazy with the idea that it can just go out in the garage.

      • Ro in San Diego says

        Funny you should mention yard sales – most of the clothing I'm donating Saturday was either purchased at a Thrift store or a yard sale. I am pleased to announce a rather large pile has formed in my bedroom – I think I tossed 2 or 3 item there this morning after a quick try on I said "Nah" to 2 rather old jackets that I don't remember wearing for over a year. I am looking forward to being able to easily identify what I have to wear – that fits. The free apparel Tuesday for the past several weeks at Sears has afforded me some great new work-wear that is allowing me to get rid of a lot of less than suitable items….

        I spent the evening last night going through my canned goods and making order out of that chaos. I think I might be on my way to getting a handle on my stuff sooner rather than later.

        Thanks again for the motivation.

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