Planning to move this Summer? Don’t pack a box until you read this.
Moving is the perfect opportunity to assess whether or not you need to downsize your home’s contents so that you don’t end up spending the time and money to move, insure and unpack items you don’t really want. There are so many great reasons to downsize. Here are some of my favorites:
You’ll sell your old home faster. An uncluttered home is massively appealing to home buyers. Nowadays, real estate agents won’t even consider listing your home until it’s cleared of all your personal belongings.
It’s safer. The less clutter on surfaces, stairs, floors or near electric or gas appliances, the better. So even if you’re not moving this alone is one great reason to downsize.
You’re the one in charge! You get to decide what stays and what goes and if you give yourself enough time, you won’t be making those decisions under pressure.
You can preserve memories. It’s easier to find the irreplaceable things in your life when you can easily find them.
Less stress. You will feel the peace of mind that comes from living an uncluttered life, surrounded by the people and things you enjoy the most
Save money. The less you move, the less it costs.
What to take, what to sell, what to donate
Not sure what you’ll take with you? That’s okay, you probably have a lot you don’t want now. Start to downsize well before you move and you get to decide what goes — nobody pressuring you! Best of all, you won’t make hasty decisions in the days leading up to your move that you may regret later.
If you have items you plan to sell such as good quality furniture, jewelry, luxury brand clothing or valuable artwork, you will first need to determine whether these items are in demand. Check out both local estate sellers and consignment services as well as online estate services that can consign or buy your items outright. One easy way to do this is to send them a few photos. It’s free and you’ll know pretty quickly what they may be worth. One word of caution, don’t expect the value to equal what you paid for an item or what you “think” it’s worth. If the item has value, they too will want to make a profit so they will never buy it for what it’s worth from an insurance standpoint.
Want to keep it simple and easy? In the San Francisco Bay Area there are services such as Remoovit.com that will literally take everything you don’t want and haul it away for one flat fee. Anything they can sell, they will and you will get fifty percent of the final sale price. Whatever can not be sold, will be donated or recycled. Remoovit once sold a rusty old “banana seat” bicycle belonging to one of my clients for $1,200. She got half of that which paid for the hauling of everything else! You pay by the truck load (or fraction thereof). It’s a one-stop service for those who need their homes to be emptied quickly but don’t want to simply give away items that may have market value.
Where do I start?
Not sure where to start? Begin with whatever area of your home you’ve been wanting to tackle but just haven’t had a good enough reason. Now you do. You’re moving and you want to surround yourself with the things that you love and use most. This doesn’t mean everything else goes in the trash. On the contrary, it’s likely you have usable items that somebody else wants (any may even pay for!) including family, friends, neighbors and members of your community.
Set aside one area of your home where you will sort and label as you go. A dining room is a good place for this as it’s less likely you will be entertaining at home in the weeks leading up to your move. Otherwise, pick an area that you occupy less frequently such as a guest room. Here are some other helpful tools you will need:
A folding table or work surface for sorting (if not in your dining room).
Supply of large, plastic yard bags for donating soft goods such as clothing, purses, accessories, good quality linens, outerwear. Keep in mind most charities will not accept bed pillows, bedding, or old linens. Old towels may be donated to local animal shelters.
Small moving or packing boxes, preferably ones with handles. Use these to donate home decor, small household items, kitchen tools and other hard-edged items.
Blue or green painter’s tape to label furniture, framed art work, lamps and other large items you no longer want.
A couple of black “sharpie” markers to use with the painter’s tape to label boxes, bags and unwanted items.
A glass or bottle of water (you’ll want to stay hydrated as you work!)
If you are lucky to have family nearby, especially strong children or grandchildren, ask them to load items in your car you wish to transport yourself or ask them to take them for you. Otherwise, you can count on the help of the charities that will pick up your items by truck.
Make a list of your preferred charities that accept household goods. Be sure they are available before you move. Many charities book 2-3 weeks in advance.
Don’t forget your local church bazaar, senior center and friends of the library. There may also be a veteran’s group in your area that will pick up your donated goods. Animal shelters and your local veterinarian are always in need of clean, old towels. Women’s shelters can use your unused, unopened toiletries. (Think of all those unopened hotel shampoos and body lotions you’ve collected over the years.) Local hospice stores, or other charities that operate re-sell or “thrift” stores are a great way to donate. Not sure where to donate clothing? Ask your local consignment store. They are usually a wealth of information. Lastly you will be grateful for the help of charities that do truck pick up. Not sure which ones serve your area? Do a Google search, “charities that do truck pick up near me.“
Helpful Tips for Downsizing
Start early. Don’t wait until a week before you move. Give yourself at least a month or more so you don’t have to make decisions under pressure.
Focus on one room at a time. This way you will see progress and stay motivated.
Don’t buy more! Now is not the time time to go clothes shopping or re-stock your pantry. Use up what you have.
Segregate your paper. Don’t attempt to “go through” your files until you’ve downsized your other household goods. Instead, contain all your paper files in banker boxes and use the days leading up to the move to determine what you need to keep.
Use painters tape (not sticky notes – they fall off) to label items for donation
Save your back. Use charities that offer truck pick up to take your boxed and bagged items as well as your donated furniture
When to ask for help
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the whole process and know you can’t do this alone or are worried you would be overwhelmed by the memories and emotions often associated with large-scale downsizing
If you are working full time or traveling a lot and know you could use some help to make the process go faster
If you are far away from family or friends and need help with the physical work of sorting and transporting items for you
If you have physical limitations or just don’t have the endurance to deal with it yourself. This is especially true if you are clearing out large storage areas such as basements, garages and storage sheds.
Imagine you are moving (or remodeling) and you’ve decided not to keep your sofa or couch.
By the way a sofa is typically larger than a couch, seating four or more people whereas a couch is generally smaller, seating three or less. Now you know!
What do you do with your sofa (or couch) if you no longer want it?
As a relocation specialist and professional organizer, I see this come up with practically every home I downsize and every move I manage.
The answer will always depend on its condition and where you live. There are many potential solutions but you will first need to ask yourself these four questions about your used sofa:
Is it practically new – less than four years old or an antique – and in great condition? You may be able to sell or consign it.
Is it four or more years old and in very good condition and definitely still usable without stains, tears or fading? You still may be able to sell it or donate it or offer it for free to someone in your community.
Is it torn, ripped, stained or faded or in need of cleaning? You may be able to arrange to have it picked up by your local waste management company’s bulk pick up service and depending upon how its manufactured it may (or may not) be recycled by them.
Are you very concerned about it ending up in landfill? You may be able to recycle it but be prepared to pay for that. Recyclers generally won’t pick it up unless you are disposing of a large quantity – think dumpster – of items. On top of that you will probably have to pay recycling fees.
The biggest challenge in finding new homes or disposing of sofas and other large furniture typically comes down to time and transportation.
Time comes into play because scheduling a truck pick up of your gently used, usable or discarded item(s) must be done in advance, since many charities book as much as six weeks in advance.
If you are planning to move to relocate or remodel, be sure to add “sell/donate furniture” to your to-do list at least two months ahead of your move.
Why a so long? Let’s say you scheduled a charity to pick up your sofa. All charities will leave it up to the discretion of the driver as to whether or not to take your sofa. If they reject it when they arrive, you may then only have two weeks or so to find another solution before your move date. Chances are that means you will either have to schedule a hauler, which can be costly, a bulk pick up (if your city/county offers such a service) which also requires advance notice or find a way to move and transport it yourself; Rarely an option for most people in the midst of a move, especially if you are a senior or live alone.
TIP: Plan ahead and read on to know your options. By the way, these options apply to other large items of furniture as well.
Sell/Consign – For items that are practically new and in pristine or “gently used” condition, constructed from real materials (not particle board or composite wood) and of course, in demand, such as mid-century, some antiques, high-end contemporary and designer brands. you can try both local and on-line estate sellers.
TIP: Do a web-search for “Estate sellers near me” or “Furniture consignment stores near me” These searches will bring up both local as well as online options (The RealReal.com sells high quality pre-owned sofas to buyers throughout the U.S. Be sure to inquire about their policies and procedures for viewing and selling your items.)
Private Sale – For sofas that are in good condition but may be older or in less demand, or not acceptable to estate sellers or consignment services, try online selling sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, LetGo, OfferUp or Trove. Plan well in advance to post your item on these sites as you are competing with many others who are selling similar items.
If your item doesn’t sell within three weeks of your move, consider other options. Keep in mind, you will also have to deal directly with the buyer and he/she will likely need to enter your home to collect and pay for the items. Some online sites will process payments for you and take a commission. For neighborhood sites, I recommend requiring cash only.
If you live alone, make sure to have someone there with you. If you are disabled or not particularly strong, you will need to let the buyer know to come with help. Carefully consider your personal safety before selling anything to a private buyer.
Donation – As Baby Boomers age and downsize, there is a glut of items being donated. So much so that charities can be much pickier about what they take. Most charities train their drivers to carefully inspect items. Pick up is always at the driver’s discretion. This can be a huge issue if you have a hard deadline to meet to be out of your home.
TIP: If you are remodeling, ask your contractors if they would move your sofa for you to the street for hauling.
Most charities will want to see photos of your sofa. Be sure to send them good quality photos, at least three, including front, side and back views and be absolutely candid about your item’s condition. Also, inform the charity about access to the item including outside and inside stairs, long hallways or whether or not there is an elevator.
I recently had a charity reject my client’s sofa because the driver and his assistant did not want to transport the item down a long flight of stairs.
TIP: Do a web search for “charities that offer truck pickup near me” to locate charities that offer free truck pick up of your donated furniture and household items.
Charities are looking for items that are sellable so don’t expect them to take anything that is damaged, in need of cleaning or repair. To locate a charity that offers free truck pickup, check out http://donationtown.org/ but be prepared to enter your contact information on their website. You can also contact charities directly such as Salvation Army (SATruck.org), Habitat for Humanity Restores (San Francisco Bay Area only) or Out of The Closet.
One other option for donating your older but good quality sofa is to make it available for free to people in your community through sites such as Freecycle, Nextdoor or through the “free stuff” tab on Craigslist. If you can spare the time, having someone come and get your old sofa is in fact money in your pocket. Why? Because unless you have strong kids who are available exactly when you need them to help, you may end up paying for the labor it would cost you to have your sofa moved curbside for the bulk pickup: An unexpected expense and logistics issue often overlooked in crunch time.
Recycling/Disposal – You know that old sofa you’ve had for 20 years, the one that is covered in an old blanket because underneath your pets destroyed it? This is the sofa that no one wants but you will still need to dispose. In Oakland, California where I live, both the City and the County offer, free curbside bulk pick up. This is the last available free option for large old sofas and other large household debris that can’t be simply tossed in the trash.
TIP: Call your local waste management company to see if they offer bulk pick up service. You will still need to get your old sofa to your curb. If you live alone, or are a senior, you may have to hire a helper.
I recently used an online app called Lugg to help a client who needed to get her sofa and other items on the curb for bulk pick up. They are a platform for movers, haulers and helpers, for when you need a little or a lot of muscle.
In Oakland, the local waste management company will sort items and if they can be all or partially recycled they will be, I am told. But if you are very concerned about the footprint you leave on the environment, there may still be other options for keeping your sofa (or at least most of it) out of the landfill but it will most likely cost you.
Check out a website called, Earth911.com to find a recycling facility near you. It may not be free and you will either have to arrange to transport your sofa yourself to a local recycler or pay to have it hauled.
The bottom line is no matter which option you choose, plan ahead. You want to have a Plan B (donate) and possibly even a Plan C (haul) if your original Plan A, to sell or give away your sofa falls through. Trust me, the last thing you (or your real estate agent) want to see the day you move is the ugly, torn, pet-stained sofa, you couldn’t get rid of still in your empty home.
Most Real Estate professionals will tell you to declutter your home before selling it. But why? Here are 10 reasons why removing clutter will make your home more attractive and thus more valuable to prospective buyers.
Woman Tossing Clothes from Closet
An uncluttered home looks more spacious and space is what most home buyers are looking for.
A prospective buyer wants to imagine themselves in your home, not feel like an intruder. That’s why removing all personal items such as family photos, knickknacks, religious items, art work with a political theme, and excess furniture is so important.
A cluttered home gives an impression that the house has not been well maintained, raising a prospective buyers suspicions of “unseen” damage.
Clutter is a potential liability. If someone trips on your clutter, falls and injures themselves, you could be liable.
Storage space, such as cabinets and closets that are partially empty convey the impression that the house has good storage available – a big selling point for most people.
Older or worn furniture items, even if they may be important to you, can make a house seem dated and old.
Clutter conveys a dirty home, even if you’re a tidy person. If you’re not, by all means get it professionally cleaned!
Too much stuff, makes it difficult to focus on a home’s best features.
Don’t assume buyers will want to use your home the same way you do. If you have a room set up as an office, take the advice of your Real Estate agent if they suggest staging it differently.
Less clutter means less stuff for you to pack up and move, which will lower your cost of moving, and less stuff to unpack or clutter up your new home.
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