What are the best ways to "downsize" for a long-distance move?


We are planning a big move for our family of 4, about 650 miles South, which I am thrilled about. I am no stranger to moving as we moved a lot when I was a kid, I moved apartment several times when I was single, and my husband and I have move once as a couple and once when our first born was 2, but both were local. We didn't really worry about sorting or getting rid of stuff because the houses just kept getting bigger and the moves were relatively cheap.

Now with 2 kids, 2 dogs and all of our years of accumulated stuff and moving costs looming in the $10,000-$15,000 range, somethings gotta give. At the same time, I don't want to have to completely refurnish a new home, especially since we are looking at homes with 4-5 bedrooms and minimum 2,500sq.ft.

Any advise on what to keep, what to replace when we get there? We may be in a smaller home temporarily, so advice on separating short and longer term storage items welcome. Generally, for those of you who have done a long-distance move, or just down-sized, on reflection were there things you kept that you didn't need or items you got rid of that you wish you would have held onto. Tips for cutting the cord on clutter is also welcome!

  6 answers
  • Laura Cooper Laura Cooper on Mar 14, 2019

    Most furniture is less expensive to purchase at your new location than the cost of moving it. I keep valuable furniture, sentimental pieces and the beds, as these are either harder to replace or needed immediately upon arrival. Any bulky furniture that is dated or worn should be sold before the move. A good example is an entertainment center. No one really uses these anymore because flat screen tvs get hung on the wall. A well-worn pullout sofa is much harder to move than just buying new.

    When you set up your new place, yes the furnishings may be a little sparse, but you might find that you like it. Ask yourself, do I LOVE this item? Is it my favorite? If not, let it go for some cash.

  • Twyla J Boyer Twyla J Boyer on Mar 14, 2019

    Get rid of anything you are keeping out of a sense of obligation, whether gifts from friends or family or family heirlooms. (Offer family heirlooms to other family members before selling or discarding).

    Get rid of anything you don't love and things you never really use. It doesn't matter how beautiful the wedding china is if you never use it, for example. And your daughter is probably not really going to wear your wedding dress (but ask her first).

    Get rid of paperback books and any books that are particularly special. Books are heavy and interstate moves are charged by weight.

    Give yourself a limit of how much sentimental kid stuff you will move - perhaps a couple of those Rubbermaid type totes per kid. You really, really don't need all their art projects from nursery school. Pick one or two of the best ones, frame them, and display them proudly, but let the rest go. Let the kids help choose what to keep.

    Get rid of anything easily and cheaply replaced that you don't need right away - especially things from dollar stores or that were free promotional items.

    Unless you have particularly wonderful plastic containers that you invested a lot of money in (like Tupperware), get rid of plastic containers.

    Get rid of chipped or broken things that you haven't fixed in at least 2 years. Especially get rid of chipped, broken, or stained coffee mugs. (Coffee mugs multiply in our cupboards when we aren't looking, I'm pretty sure!)

    Get rid of anything you have been using "for now" until you get "something better." Why pay to move something you always intended to be temporary?

    Get rid of spices unless you have a lot invested in them and use them regularly. For a couple hundred bucks you can buy yourself a whole new spice crate from Penzeys (my favorite spice place - I don't work for them or get a kickback or anything, I just think their stuff is the best - especially their cinnamon - mmmmm) that will be fresher and better than the old jars you've had around for years.

    Get rid of clothes and toys that you and the kids have outgrown or that they will outgrow within a year or so.

    Get rid of the old, ugly towels that you only use for mopping up messes and that you hide when guests are coming over. (We all have them.)

    Get rid of wobbly or inconvenient furniture that irritates you. Also, get rid of any cheap assemble-it-yourself furniture. That stuff doesn't move well and is inexpensive to replace, but not inexpensive to move and store.

    Get rid of any craft supplies you no longer use. Pare down the ones you do. Same for tools and sports equipment.

    Get rid of any sports equipment or yard tools you won't need because of the difference in climate where you are moving. I guarantee you won't need a snowblower in most parts of the south or an ocean kayak if you are moving to the midwest.

    Get rid of anything big, heavy, and awkward that you use only once in a blue moon and can rent cheaply. I am mostly thinking about things like cement mixers, floor sanders, etc - stuff you bought for that one big job....

    Pare down your kitchen gadgets. Keep the ones you really use, but let go of those you don't - even if they were expensive. (Try selling them, maybe.)

    Get rid of anything that makes you scowl. I am not on the only-keep-it-if-it-brings-you-joy bandwagon, but there is nothing like the sense of freedom gained when you get rid of that thing you held onto because you SHOULD like it but you never did. (In my case, the box of yarn that I bought when I thought I was going to learn to knit - I am a TERRIBLE knitter!)

    Get rid of liquids. Most moving companies will not move liquids.

    If furniture is old enough to need replacing in the next three years, get rid of it and get new when you get moved. No sense moving 20 year old mattresses.

    Get rid of candles - chances are good they will melt in transit, making a giant mess. Same for crayons. (Yes, I did learn that the hard way - why do you ask?)

    Keep the things that would make you really sad to let go. It doesn't matter if they make sense or not. it doesn't even matter if they are on my get rid of list. If letting go of something really hurts your heart, keep it. But try to really think about whether you would miss it.

    Keep the things you use all the time.

    Keep the best family photos (but feel free to weed out the ones you don't like).

    Keep stuff that makes you smile each time you see it.

    Some packing tips:

    Get more tape than you think you will need. Boxes, too. Much better to buy a few extra that you don't use than to pay detention time for the movers because you ran out of boxes and couldn't get more in the middle of the night so you got behind on packing and weren't ready when the movers came.

    Don't pack in totes. Movers hate that. Pack in actual moving boxes, the sturdier the better. And pack appropriate items in the various boxes.

    Pack stuff well enough that you could kick it down a flight of stairs and be pretty sure it would survive. That means stuff shouldn't shift around, there shouldn't be dead spaces within boxes, and the more fragile things should be packed tightly with packing material with lots of give but lots of bulk. Pack fragile things in really, really sturdy boxes and mark them well on each side.

    Label your boxes - with the content, the room it came from, and the room it's going to (if you know before moving). If you are putting some stuff in storage for a while, pack that stuff first and mark it for storage - ideally a few months ahead of the move. You will learn quickly if you actually need to not store that stuff so you don't have to got climbing over things and opening boxes in your storage unit.

    Pack a box of essentials for when you arrive at your destination and move that in your car - a few rolls of toilet paper, some disposable utensils and plates and cups, a couple of pots and pans, a can opener, a corkscrew, paper towels, a couple of kitchen towels, a pot holder, some command hooks, a couple of opaque shower curtains (to curtain off the windows temporarily), a plastic shower curtain and rings, enough bath towels and washcloths for the family, some dish soap, a sponge, a serving spoon, some plastic bags, a french press and some coffee if you are coffee drinkers, some tea bags if you are tea drinkers, sugar, salt, pepper, and a decent (but maybe not your best) knife and a cutting mat. Add some non-perishable snacks and treats as a reward. Seriously, you will thank me for this box.

    Pack the things you don't need right away in the linens and out of season clothes you don't need right away. Use pillows and extra towels and such as packing material. The more stuff you use as packing material, the less packing material you need to buy and the fewer boxes you need to buy. (I sew, and use my fabric stash as packing material, too. Movers are always amazed when they estimate the number of boxes I will have and then find I have roughly 1/3 fewer than they anticipated because I use what I have as packing material.)

    Probably WAY more information than you wanted, but I've moved a lot.....

  • Hi Cindy - This is one of my favorite articles on cleaning, organizing and decluttering. It really breaks down the steps of the process, and even includes an interview with TV show Hoarders star Matt Paxton. Hope this helps! Hugs, Holly


    • Cindy Palmatier Cindy Palmatier on Mar 15, 2019

      Thank you so much for this Holly! It makes a lot of sense. She shares my hate of being wasteful, and keeping things for someday. But, I know in my head that this is an opportunity to make a fresh start in a major way for our family, instead of just trying to organize one room at a time (that never seems to stay that way!). It needs to be a new mindset, across the board.

  • Deb K Deb K on Feb 09, 2020

    Hi Cindy,have you thought about those storage pods? They would work great because you can get them moved I think, keep just the basics out for daily use , If you are very attached to your furniture (which can be pricey) plan on moving it, smaller items that can easily be replaced may be something you can part with and replace when you get there, think about having a garage sale and saving that cash you make for replacing the items when you get to the new place. You know what your budget is, so you can choose what you can easily replace for the new house. Good luck

  • MaryDy MaryDy on Mar 18, 2020

    I was the same one, I always was inloved in moving to different places of living. In all, we have relocated for 3 times in different countries and changed about 8 houses. But honestly, we are tired of it for the present moment. Frankly speaking, I wouldn't leave Mexica. It seems, we find our perfect place.

  • DeEva DeEva on Mar 18, 2020

    I was the same one! I always was inloved in moving to the different places of living. Frankly speaking, we even had our permanent transport company, which we always contacted when we were relocating. By the way, we have relocated for 3 times in different cities and changed about 8 houses. Each of them was left to me in its own way, in every house there remained a piece of my soul. To tell the truth, how much I loved moving, so much they were given to me morally. And honestly, we became tired of it yet. I wouldn't leave Mexica. It seems, we find our perfect place. Hope, you will not regret about your decision and you will be fine in a new place!

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