As a Professional Organizer and Certified Move Manager, I can honestly say that when it comes to packing up, moving out and moving in, I’ve seen it all and then some. I can also tell you that the single most important task you need to do before you move is to face facts and admit that — no matter how organized and stuff-free you think you are — every one of us has things we don’t need, use or want, which means that in order to have a successful household move, you need to declutter before you move.

Whether you’re downsizing, upsizing or moving out temporarily while your home is being renovated, the goal of today’s column is to give you a few hints on how to make your move as stress-free as possible. Here’s to you and to your successful household move.

  • Hire a licensed, insured and experienced Professional Organizer to help you declutter, downsize and prepare for the move. Yes, I know you could probably do it yourself and don’t need a professional to help with the process, but trust me, the task of decluttering and downsizing is so much easier when you work with a pro!
  • To guarantee your move is as seamless as possible, my suggestion is that you hire a Professional Organizer who is also a Certified Move Manager. How will this help alleviate some (all) of the stress associated with moving? Simply put, we do it all, from vetting the moving company to reviewing moving proposals and insurance rates to coordinating all (and I mean all) of the logistics. We are there from start to finish to take care of all of the details and to help pack, unpack and organize your new home.
  • The moment you decide to move is the time to avoid “big box” shopping at all costs. Now is the time to start using up household supplies, such as liquid and pod detergents and opened household cleaning products.
  • The same goes for canned, bagged and boxed foods. Buying large quantities of anything before you move means you’ll have more stuff to move, more stuff to unpack and more stuff to find room for when you move into your new home.
  • Dispose of any opened bags and/or canisters of dry goods before you move. I recently did a large unpack-and-organize-job where the client had packed the pantry items herself. Just try to imagine the mess I encountered upon opening a large moving box that contained a canister filled with baking flour that had not professionally packed. Not a pretty sight.
  • Take photos of all fine art, framed photographs and mirrors before moving day. On moving day, have the movers tape the photographs to the outside of the wrapped item — this way, you’ll know exactly what’s behind the brown paper wrapping when you arrive at your new home.
  • When packing to move, ask yourself this simple question: “Where do I see myself in five years and will I want these things in the next chapter of my life?” For example, if you’re downsizing, do you really want to take your grown kids’ stuff with you again? Isn’t it time that they took responsibility for their own clutter?
  • If you’re moving to a warm climate, this is the perfect time to sort through your winter clothes and begin purging. I know what you’re thinking, that you’ll be going “up north” at least once a month and will desperately need your winter woolies. You won’t.
  • On moving day, pack one box per bedroom with a change of sheets, pillows, mattress and pillow protectors and bedding inside, as well as a small plastic zippered baggie with the nuts ‘n bolts needed to re-assemble your beds. Mark the box clearly as to which bedroom the box belongs in when the movers are sorting through the boxes.
  • Pack one box per bathroom to include all of your toiletries and whatnot. (Decorative items should be packed separately.) If you have open shampoos, conditioners and lotions, toss them. You cannot imagine the mess an open bottle of shampoo will make.

Note: Unless the proposal you receive from the moving company specifically says “unpack and debris removal,” the moving company you hire will do nothing more than move you into your new home, leaving you with a whole lotta boxes and trash to deal with. And remember, even if you pay for unpacking and debris removal, movers will NOT put things away for you. To guarantee a successful household move, read the fine print.

As you go through the process of getting organized, it’s important to remember: What you own does not define you and, above all else, you are stronger than all the “stuff” in your life.