Where did all this junk come from? The Junk Fairy!

Yes, there is really a being who travels house-to-house late at night distributing other people’s junk to unsuspecting and otherwise neat folks. That’s why attics bulge, garages have no room for cars, and storage unit rental is big business. The Junk Fairy is busily at work! (Kind of a demented Santa!)

What can you do to combat the Junk Fairy? You can start today to declutter your home, apartment, or other abode. If you have plenty of time before your move, begin to declutter your home as soon as you even think about moving. The longer you have lived in your current home, the more important this step.

Making Your Move

Get out! As the moving date draws near, reduce stress by regularly taking a break from the confusion and activity. Take an hour a day for yourself. Use it to exercise, go out for lunch, read a good book, or relax with a friend.

A few years ago, our family was stuck in a location it wanted to leave. Winters were too cold, summers too humid, and family too far. So we decided to make the move back “home” in the next year. The problem was that, in our five years in the middle of nowhere, we had accumulated stuff to keep us occupied. Lots of stuff. And we knew we would have to either move it or lose it.

So we had garage sales, trips to the recycling and donation centers. But we still had lots of just plain old junk that nobody wanted. Trash may be a better term. So we purchased a new 30-gallon trash can and promised to fill it up each week for the next year. That’s 1,560 gallons of trash!

Well, maybe we only got rid of 1,000 gallons, but that was 1,000 gallons that we didn’t have to move half-way across the country! And, years later, there wasn’t one item that we wished we hadn’t thrown or given away. We really didn’t need it.

So how can you begin decluttering? If you are lucky enough to know about your move months in advance, you can begin examining your belongings to determine which are really valuable enough to move. If you have just a short time to prepare, getting rid of at least some of the big extras will simplify your job. Set up your own criteria for what to save, what to send to the dump, what to sell, and what to give away.


Here are some proven tips for decluttering:

  • If you haven’t used it or worn it in the past year, will you use or wear it again?
  • If it needs repair, will you fix it or should it be replaced after the move?
  • If it costs you $1 a pound to move it, do you really need it or want to move it? (Such as a 120-lb. barbell set that cost you 60 bucks.)
  • Will that clothing match the climate to which you’re moving?
  • If it hasn’t been unpacked since the last time you moved, it’s probably time to get rid of it.

If you find parting with anything difficult, invite a friend or relative to give you a hand. Sometimes it’s easier to make the decision with someone else asking the question: move it or lose it? But always, the decision is yours. It’s valid to keep some things (but not everything!) just because you want to. Moving just might provide a welcome opportunity to replace some of that old furniture and replenish your wardrobe. Besides, it feels good to declutter and simplify.

Everyone can help declutter! Every member of your living group (excluding infants, of course) can go through his or her belongings and find lots of items to dispose of. Small children may need help. Give everyone containers to fill with disposables. You should be the arbitrator who finally decides what is bound for the dump and what might sell at your moving sale.

Where to start? Start with the attic and the basement (if you have them). Go through every drawer and every closet in every room. Consider each piece of furniture and every appliance. Do you plan to have another baby or is it time to sell or give away the stroller, high chair, crib, swing and car seat? Have you ever used that fondue pot Grandma Florence sent you last Christmas (because somebody gave it to her ten years ago and she’s since moved)?

What about the kids? Give away or sell toys that are not used. Ask the child if he or she would like to share the toy with a child who doesn’t have any. Offer a child one new special toy at the other end of the move. You may save enough on moving costs to pay for it.

So-called “empty nest” couples often need another step in the moving process: notifying the young adults that they must remove their belongings from the old family home. Somehow, when young adults leave the nest, they leave many things behind for mom and dad to store. The family garage becomes a U-Store-It unit.

Give them a deadline! If it isn’t gone by that deadline, you will dispose of it as you see fit.

Unlike the Junk Fairy, decluttering doesn’t happen overnight. Consider getting rid of things in stages. Go through once, then again later if possible.

Making Your Move

If your move is within a month or two, take some time now to prepare and freeze several meals to serve during the last couple weeks before moving. You’re going to get tired of take-out! Casseroles and other one-dish meals are good choices and easy to prepare. Just add a packaged green salad, bread, and fresh fruit for dessert for an easy and satisfying meal.

Of course, if your move is just across town your decluttering will probably be simpler than if you’re moving from one coast to another—or across an ocean.

Another tip for decluttering: use photos or a video of your new home (if selected) to decide now what will probably fit and what probably won’t. If possible, decide who will get each bedroom and how storage will be used. And don’t forget to use a 25-foot or longer tape measure to help you figure what fits.

If your move is temporary, especially out of the country, consider putting some items in storage. It’s more expensive than getting rid of them, but less expensive than moving them.

Donating Stuff