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Before we left to travel full time in 2019, we had to purge belongings before a big move. And not just to a new state or a new country.

We had to purge almost everything because we decided not to put things in storage “just in case.” Getting started was pretty difficult. We didn’t really know where to begin.

Thankfully, I had recently read Marie Kondo’s book about decluttering. Plus, her TV show just launched on Netflix. It was exactly what we needed to jump-start our digital nomad purge process!

Tips for How To Purge

1. Start Small

It can be overwhelming when thinking about how to purge belongings before a big move. I found it most effective to start with my own stuff before moving on to the family.

I went through all my clothes. If I wasn’t going to wear it before we left, if it wasn’t a perfect fit, or if it was stained or had holes then it was donated. Anything I felt ambivalent about also got donated.

If I didn’t love it, it was gone. David was watching the TV show with me. That inspired him to do the same process with his clothes, which was very helpful to get started!

When all adults involved in the big purge are on the same page, the process is much smoother.

how to purge belongings before a big move

2. Purging Kid Stuff

In some ways, purging kid stuff is easy because they outgrow toys and clothes quickly. However, it’s also difficult because there are so many parental memories and emotions attached to simple things. Like baby socks. Or is that just me?

My favorite way to sell kids’ stuff was at a local consignment sale. My favorite local sale in Chicago had a fall and a spring weekend popup.

I would hang it, tag it, and sell it all at once over a couple of days. If it didn’t sell, I had the option to pick it up and try to sell it again at the next sale.

Alternatively, I could have it all donated to a local charity and receive an itemized donation receipt. Usually, I just donated everything because I didn’t want it back.

However, with the “big purge” I could use the extra money by trying to sell stuff one more time.

Once we got past the final spring sale, though, I had to make a choice. I could try and sell my kid stuff piecemeal or just donate it. We quickly discovered that selling second-hand items is a lot of work for a little reward.

It was very disappointing to see just how flaky and cheap people are. We scheduled a pickup SIX times for a woman who wanted to buy a $5 item.

Finally, she just canceled altogether. There were also scores of people who would just not show up to arranged pickup times.

3. Price Sellable Items Fairly

Just because you paid $20, $50, or even hundreds of dollars for an item does not mean that others are willing to pay good money for it in used condition.

If you really want to purge belongings before a big move, you need to price things to sell. If it’s selling on Facebook Marketplace for $50, try posting yours for $40. And be willing to haggle, even if you specifically state an item’s price is firm.

If you want to sell things fast in order to purge more quickly, then they need to be priced lower than average. It’s vital you do this right from the start in order to get them out of your home faster.

The closer it gets to your move, the more you’re going to want to get rid of it because you can’t or don’t want to pack it.


4. Be Ruthless

Once you get started, it’s easy to build up momentum. The question is no longer “how to purge belongings before a big move” but how fast can you do it.

Stop saving things for just-in-case scenarios.

There won’t be any. I promise. If I’m wrong, you can borrow it from a friend or neighbor for that one last time before you move.

Once you have that momentum, go through every closet completely. Only leave items in there that you are guaranteed to use before you move or that you plan to take with you.

Designate one side of the closet for items you will pack and the other for items you will use but not pack. Once you’re done with an item on the do not pack side, then sell or donate it.

After the closets are done, move onto the drawers. Don’t forget the junk drawer. Then move on to the garage and storage unit if you have one. Follow the same process for each thing or place.

Don’t leave anything hidden away for the last minute. You’ll be too focused on other things during the last couple of weeks before your move.

Purging Parameters

To save ourselves some headaches, we set sale and donation guidelines for how to purge before a big move.

One caveat to the purge process is that we saved everything that didn’t sell over the winter for a yard sale in the spring.

Then after that was over, we strictly followed these parameters:

  1. If it sells for less than $5, don’t bother selling. Just donate it.
  2. If it sells for less than $20, wait a month. If it doesn’t sell, donate it.
  3. Sell on multiple platforms. In addition to Facebook Marketplace and local Buy/Sell/Trade groups, we posted on Poshmark, Mercari, Craigslist, OfferUp, LetGo, and Ebay. 
  4. When donating, take the donations to a place that allows for an itemized donation receipt. If nothing else, we got a nice tax write-off at the end of the year.

    This is only helpful for families who itemize tax deductions, which we do. We recommend our readers discuss their personal options with a tax professional.

Safety Tips for How to Purge

When selling items second-hand always be vigilant against possible criminal activity. While it’s helpful to arrange pickups in a public place, that isn’t always possible.

We always came outside to conduct the transaction in the front yard or on the sidewalk. This meant all our neighbors could see it.

When an item was too large to sell it outside, we often moved it to our garage in advance of listing it for sale.

That way the buyer just saw the inside of our garage instead of our entire house. We did this for mattresses, window AC units, bed frames, and other furniture.

If it had to sell from its place in our home, then we always made sure at least two adults were present for the transaction. The largest items we got rid of happened toward the end of our purge process.

So we didn’t have much left in our home by that point. We made a point of telling people we were moving overseas and selling everything in our home.

We had several people ask to come in and use our bathroom during an item pickup. We always denied these requests and redirected them to a local gas station or fast-food restaurant.

Although they may have seemed nice, it’s better to be safe than sorry. We certainly don’t want to be a “readers beware” news headline!

Conclusion; How to Purge Before a Move

The process of how to purge belongings before a move isn’t difficult to do.

But emotions can cloud the process and stress can distract you from completion.

As long as you commit to finishing what you start the process can go much more quickly.

Whatever you do, don’t wait to start! We did and it made things harder toward the end of our purging process.