The 'Move-Out' Decluttering Method Is The Organization Kick You Need

Whether you're embarking on an annual spring clean or just trying to reclaim some order over your house, decluttering and organizing can be a stressful process. Many folks feel overwhelmed at the prospect of winnowing down closets, kitchenware, and children's toy boxes or tackling that drawer that seems to catch every stray battery, paper clip, and defunct charging cord. Moreover, finding the motivation to not just start but follow through can feel impossible. 

That's why it's important to go into decluttering and reorganizing with a strategy in place. If you happen to be prone to procrastination and have a difficult time extending the cleaning and purging to each part of the home, you may benefit from using the move-out method. Even though moving home is by no means fun, it happens to be a great motivator to get your place looking its best — and you don't need to actually move home to use it. Here's how to use the move-out cleaning and organizing method, even if you're in your forever home. 

Pick a move out date and take inventory

One of the unique ideas of a move-out cleaning strategy is that it has a deadline. So picking out a self-imposed, made-up moving day is the first step of the method. Choose a date that is realistic but doesn't give you endless weekends to work your way through the home — you probably won't ever finish, and you'll have to re-clean rooms throughout the process. 2 to 4 weeks is a reasonable goal, depending on the size of your home. In addition to the date, lay out a rough list of projects and the order in which you'd like to complete them. 

You can do this in a few ways. You can plan to tackle major projects like the bedroom and kitchen on a weekend day and save linen closets and cupboards for after-work weeknights like you might before an actual move. Or you can try to clean the entire home in rounds by starting with a house-wide purge, followed by a thorough cleaning. Try to consider what will give you the greatest sense of accomplishment at the end of each scheduled day, because that is the surest way you'll want to come back to it tomorrow.    

Get everything out of its place

One mistake we make during a deep clean is trying to clean around our stuff. While this is an easy method, it doesn't actually help you get to all the clutter, and you don't actually take inventory of what's taking up space in your home. So even before you start cleaning, it's important to actually take everything from your closets and cabinets and lay it out in front of you. This is true for any storage space in the home, whether it's a pantry, a laundry room, or the garage. 

Arrange all the items on a table, bed, or even the floor so that you can see them clearly. Create a keep and a donate box, and be sure to have a generous supply of heavy-duty trash bags — especially if you're cleaning food storage cupboards out. Then, it's time to ruthlessly purge. Any clothes that are the wrong size, haven't been worn in a long time, or you forgot that you have but are saving for a special occasion, can safely go in the donate box. Half-eaten food, fast food condiments, almost-empty cosmetics products, broken hair brushes, and clothes with holes or untreatable stains should be tossed out — trust us on this, you already have plenty of pajama shirts. 

Pack it up

You may be thinking to yourself that this is taking the move-out method a step too far, but packing up your must-keep items is an important step. This is primarily because it helps to keep the clutter contained and portable as you clean up the area. You may also notice that as you pack things into boxes, you kept a few too many things, and seeing it in a box can make you really ask if you'd actually take this item to a new home. 

You can get cheap or free moving boxes from online classifieds, Facebook Marketplace, or by swinging around your local grocery or hardware store. Otherwise, you can reuse plastic or rubber bins if you plan on going room-by-room. Just as you would during a real move, label each box and provide a brief inventory. Now that you've got all the clutter out of the way, it's time to clean. 

Go deep on the clean

Not like getting a little spaghetti sauce off the countertop or vacuuming cat hair off of the sofa type of clean — more like you want to get every cent of your security deposit back from your landlord type of clean. You'll need to go deep. Luckily, since you've got everything packed into boxes, there's nothing to get in your way. Vacuum and scrub out drawers and cupboards, wipe down the microwave and shower, and move light furniture if able so you can thoroughly clean as many areas as possible. 

You should also take on tasks that don't usually make it onto your weekly or even monthly cleaning list. This can include things like vacuuming the baseboards, moving the fridge out so you can sweep and mop underneath, wiping down cabinet doors, walls, and windows, and cleaning your oven. You can even pay for a professional carpet cleaning service, to go the extra mile, or rent a carpet cleaning machine. 

Move back in

Once everything is sparkly clean, it's time for you to move back into your home! But, before you dump everything back into drawers and cupboards, take some time to devise an organizing plan. By identifying organization problem areas in your life, you can find solutions that help things to stay in their proper place and make it easier to declutter, clean, and reorganize in the future. 

One organizing tip that extends to each area of the home is to group similar objects together. Fold towels and place them all in the same closet. Separate the canned and dried food in kitchen cabinets. Put hair products on one side of the bathroom cabinet and skin care on the other. This type of organization helps provide structure in your daily life and prevents bigger messes from accumulating over time. Once you've moved back in, the optional but crucial final step is to celebrate your fictitious move just as you would a real one — with a hot pizza and a glass of wine.