What to move and what to leave behind

What to move and what to leave behind

So, you are planning your move, and deciding what goes with you, and what gets left behind. It’s an exciting time, but it can be stressful as well. Moving a long way, even to another state, is expensive and challenging, and perhaps you have the added complication of storage or temporary housing. Or you may have taken a quick trip to select your new place, but now it’s hard to remember the exact layout. Will your old furniture even fit? There are a lot of questions. 

How do I decide what to move and what to leave?

Start with an unemotional evaluation of your options. It may help if you make a list of the non-negotiable items (do this as a family if you aren’t the only one involved in the decisions, and the move will be easier for everyone). Let each person identify some number of items that they get to take, no questions asked. Maybe for you, that’s your heirloom dining room set, and for your spouse, it is the rocking chair he comforted the children in when they were babies. If there are children in the home, they need to safeguard the familiarity of essential items as well.

But not everything in the house has sentimental value, and not everything is worth moving.  If the new residence is larger than the current one, that takes one pressure point away. Perhaps you are losing square feet, downsizing from a house to a condo, or finally moving into your retirement cabin on the lake? Even a joyous event can be tinged with regret when it is time to sort and discard the collection of memories that comprise our household goods.

It is human nature to collect and to save things we might need later. Throwing things away seems wasteful, and we tell ourselves we’ll keep it “in case” it might come in handy. Now that you are moving, it’s time to be brutally honest about the value of everything you have been keeping. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and start donating.

Should I take my furniture?

Of course, the answer is not a definite yes or no. It depends, so let’s start with the big stuff. Take a good look at your furniture. Is it worth moving, or is it time to start fresh? If the answer is obvious, you are in luck. Valuable, high-end furniture is going to be less expensive to move than to replace. If you have cheap hand-me-downs or thrift store bargains, you may want to consider passing them along to the next up-and-coming cousin furnishing their first place after college. It’s the murky middle that causes you to question this decision, and the answer might be as much about who you are as it is about your furnishings. 

You may be approaching the move with eagerness and excitement—a fresh start in a new place, with great adventures on the horizon. In that case, old furniture may feel like a weight that you are happy to cast aside. Why not take the basics and see what the new residence feels like when you get there? On the other hand, if you want to bring some of the comforts of your current home with you, the familiar furnishings will smooth the transition.

The bottom line from a financial perspective in most situations is that it is less costly to move than to replace, so unless you have unusually heavy, old, but cheap furniture, you probably will save by relocating it. The same may not be accurate for some of the other possessions you may have collected, depending on how long it has been since your last move.  If the furniture is appropriate for your new home, moving it probably makes sense. If you are downsizing, bring the best pieces and dispose of the rest. You may have an opportunity to repurpose some items in a different role in the new location, but don’t take something you don’t need.

How do I reduce the amount of weight?

Start in the garage and closets, looking at things you haven’t used in six months. Some people do this culling regularly (or they move a lot and maintain a minimalist approach to possessions), but others find it hard to part with things even when they upgrade. Relocating is the time to conduct a disciplined evaluation of clothing, books, decor, tools, craft and hobby items, and even the collection of worksheets from when your kids were in elementary school. Many people have overstocked kitchens, overflowing linen closets, and extras of all types of household goods. An average moving box may weigh 50 pounds, so a few extra boxes of books or knickknacks will significantly add to the weight.

Be honest—do you still have boxes sitting unopened from the last move? Open them now and decide whether the contents should move again or be donated to your favorite non-profit. More than likely, your kitchen and garage review will yield a bounty of candidates for exclusion. Utility closets and those catch-all hall and guest room closets also collect the items that we don’t want to discard but don’t have a real use for.

What if I have the movers packing for me? Sorting is one of the best arguments for completing the packing on your own, rather than engaging the moving company to do that work. The movers will pack everything (right down to your kitchen junk drawer and the powder room trash) without considering what should be left behind. Hiring the movers for the packing can be a good idea for other reasons, depending on your circumstances. If this is your situation, it just gives you the incentive to complete the assessment process earlier. Take a room at a time, starting as soon as you can, and discard or donate the things that you don’t need. Going through the evaluation process gives you insight into what you are taking and reduces the amount of packing you are paying for and the final weight. 

What about prohibited items?

Aside from the weight and cost issues, there are some items you can’t or shouldn’t try to send in the moving van. Movers won’t move plants and are prohibited from moving them more than 150 miles to forestall the introduction of pests into new areas. They won’t take your pets, which seems obvious, but people try it all the time. Perishable food will not be accepted, so use it up, give it away, or take it with you in the car. The moving company won’t take anything hazardous, including flammable, explosive, and corrosive items. This list includes things you might not think of, like paint, paint thinner, aerosol cans, fire extinguishers, charcoal, lighter fluid, some batteries, acid, and the more obvious ammunition, firearms, and fireworks. Don’t try to hide something dangerous and sneak it into a shipment. If anything goes wrong, the presence of a prohibited item will void the carrier’s liability for any damage you incur.