Moves happen for many reasons. Whether you're downsizing, making a long-distance move, or simply looking for a fresh start, you may be inspired to get rid of clutter. The good news is that decluttering doesn't need to be a stressful precursor to an already stressful transition. The following are five surefire strategies to stay on your plan and reap the many rewards of a simpler life:

1. Start Early

Whether you have one year or one month until the big move, putting a decluttering strategy in place early will reduce stress and allow you to combat the task in the right frame of mind. While it may seem like a daunting task, getting started early will reduce the time and money involved with shipping your clutter to a new home and having to deal with it during a subsequent move. An early-action plan will also help reduce any regret or anxiety over parting with your belongings.

If you have six months or more to declutter, consider marking the items you use over that period to help you understand where your elimination process can begin. For example, turn all your hangers around in your closet from the back to the front. As you wear an item, turn its hanger around and move it to the side of your closet. While you should allow for variations in season, this exercise will help you visualize how much of your wardrobe you actually wear. The same thought process can be used to evaluate items in other rooms.

2. Imagine Yourself as the Buyer

One great tactic is to tour your home through the eyes of a prospective buyer. In each room, note what the room is used for and remove anything that doesn't pertain to that use. If an item you remove doesn't seem to fit into any of your living spaces, reevaluate its usefulness. Your real estate agent can also be a great set of eyes to help you define each space in your home.

3. Measure Against Your New Space

Once you've viewed your current home through the eyes of a buyer, compare everything you intend to keep against your new living space. A rarely used recliner may be okay where it sits in a large room of your current home, but if it will not fit as easily in your new home due to size or layout constraints than the benefits of including it with the move has to be considered.

For small items, compare the existing storage in your new home, or research comparable listings if you haven't purchased yet, to determine the likely amount of space you will need. If your current kitchen contains seven drawers but the layout of your new home only allows for two, you will likely have some paring down to do.

4. Handle Each Item Once

One of the most difficult phases of decluttering is being unsure about an item in your discard pile. Be sure to handle each item only once by making a decision and sticking with it. Many homeowners find that having a system with multiple bins for items to keep, donate, sell, or discard is helpful when dealing with a large decluttering task. Once you've placed an item in a bin, leave it and move on to the next item. If you absolutely can't decide, dedicate one box for undecided goods and see whether you use anything in it between your decluttering day and moving day. If you haven't, you can be confident that getting rid of that item is the right choice.

5. Put It to the Replacement Test

If you lost all the items in your home, what would you choose to replace? If there was a fire, which belongings would you be most afraid to lose? Think of your home in terms of valuables and essentials. Valuables are the heirloom pieces, photographs, and most-treasured items to your family, while essentials are the items that let you function in your everyday life. Everyone has items that sit unused in their homes. When deciding what is vital to you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this item serve a purpose?
  • When was the last time I used this item?
  • Do I own something else that will serve the same purpose?
  • If I was shopping right now, would I buy this?
  • Am I holding onto this for sentimental value or obligation?

Moving is never easy, but a fresh start can be both easy and exciting if you stick to a plan. Whatever strategy you use to get rid of clutter, start small and go room by room. In the end, your home, your sanity, and quite possibly your moving budget will thank you.