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Should I Sell My Stuff or Move It With Me? Decide in 5 Steps

Garage sale sign on grass lawn
Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock

You’re prepping for a move. What an exciting life step! But the moving process can be intimidating. You might be thinking, “How on Earth am I going to get all my stuff to a new place? Isn’t that going to cost a ton?”

Let’s hit the brakes for a second. You don’t have to move everything.

If you have a limited budget, the question of what to keep and what to throw away has a much simpler deciding factor: What’s cheaper?

Transporting furniture and large items is expensive, but so is replacing them. You just have to figure out which works better for you.

5 steps to decide whether to sell your stuff or move it

1. Minimize your stuff

The less stuff you take with you, the cheaper and easier your long-distance move will be. But, before you ask “should I sell everything or move it?” it’s important to go through what you own and analyze what you really want to take with you.

You can split things up into piles: items that are irreplaceable, items that are easily replaced, and those that fall in the middle.

For the items you don’t want to take with you, think about donating them. Pro tip: There are organizations that will come pick up your donations — for free!

What to keep

Furniture: If you’re planning to redecorate your new place, keep pieces that will complement the style you’ve chosen. As for those beloved furnishings you’re holding onto, plan to decorate your new space around them.

Clothing: Now is the time to assess, organize, and update your closet. Start by taking everything (yes, everything) out of your closets and drawers. Pick up each piece of clothing, and if it’s something that you love and wear often, put it back in its place. (We’ll come back to what to do with the rest later.) Get rid of anything that does not fit. Trust us, if you’re hanging onto that college freshman sweatshirt in hopes it’ll fit again, it won’t. If it’s too overwhelming to go through everything all at once, tackle one section of your closet or drawer at a time.

Items with sentimental value: Hold on to family heirlooms and emotionally significant tchotchkes. If it’s decor you currently use, find space for it. Otherwise, there are plenty of ways to store it. Use stylish bins and boxes that fit under the bed or at the top or bottom of your closets to hold photographs, books, and other items that you don’t want to part with. This can be particularly difficult if you’re a senior looking to downsize after decades in a home. 

What to toss

Towels, sheets, pillows: If your towels and sheets show signs of aging, it’s time to replace them. Moving is a great time for a refresh! Unfortunately, most places won’t accept these sorts of items as donations unless they’re new; consider giving to animal shelters instead.

Expired products: Often, we put spices and condiments into the fridge or the pantry and let them linger way past their expiration dates. Before you pack, toss anything that’s expired. With the move over, it’s time to restock the spice rack. Oh, how much brighter that turmeric flavor is when it’s fresh. The same goes for any expired medications. Be sure you dispose of them properly, according to their instructions (don’t flush!).

Flawed clothing: If an item didn’t make it back to your closet after your “What to Keep” round and is stained or damaged, you probably won’t be able to sell or donate it. You’ll also have to toss any undergarments you don’t intend to keep.

Broken appliances, furniture, electronics: This is pretty self-explanatory, but if it doesn’t work, it’s going to be tough to donate it. You need to recycle old TVs, refrigerators, electronics, and computers. Research Terracycle® to find a local resource. Another one of our favorites is 1-800-GOT-JUNK. They make it easy!

2. Research your new space

Have you ever moved into a new apartment and realized that your bed now barely fits in your bedroom? Or decided that your leather couch clashes with your new living room’s aesthetic?

As you prep for your long-distance move, look at photos of the new space and take measurements of every room.

Decide if the old décor will be appropriate, and more importantly, if it will fit. There’s no point in lugging your old furniture if you’re just going to toss it when you get there.

3. Selling vs. donating

Before making the final decision, see if you have anything worth selling.

If you can resell your bedroom set for about the cost of a new one, you’ll likely save on moving and shipping costs.

Hold a garage sale before you go! But try to be realistic; no one wants to pay $500 for your mid-century modern coffee table.

There are also apps that can help you figure where to sell stuff.

What to donate

Food: Give your unopened, nonperishable food items to Move For Hunger™. Simply book your move with one of their professional movers and set the items aside. They’ll pack them up and donate them to families in need.

Clothing in good condition: You loved how they looked in the store, but then you took them home and never wore them . . . like, ever? Those are great to donate. Clothing with the tags still on and items that are still wearable and presentable, like jeans that no longer fit, are perfect candidates for donating to places like Goodwill.

Dishes and kitchen gadgets: If you’ve got mismatched glasses and dishes, treat yourself to a new set for your next place. Don’t feel bad about getting rid of them! If they’re in good shape, donate them. The same goes for functioning kitchen gadgets you don’t use much.

Furniture: If your furniture is in good condition, but you’re not looking to keep it, donate it. There are many local organizations that do pickups. A great resource is freecycle.org, where you can list your items locally and keep them out of landfills.

4. Decide how you’ll move new furniture

If you decide to move without your large items, you need to plan out how you’ll transport the replacements once you buy them. Will your car be able to fit a bed frame or will you have to rent a truck?

Most furniture stores are happy to provide delivery (although it might cost you). If you shop on Craigslist or thrift stores, you’ll have to figure out your own transportation. This can be simple in a smaller town or city where lots of people drive trucks, but a nightmare in a city like New York or Washington, D.C., where most people rely on public transit.

Consider that when weighing your options.

5. Examine the costs

Once you have your stuff sorted into categories and you’ve weeded out the items you aren’t keeping, it’s time to call some moving companies and truck rental options. Ask for the price difference between different services and various truck sizes.

Then, make a list of how much it would cost to replace everything you’d leave behind. Try to be realistic; don’t forget extra expenses like delivery or installation. Search Craigslist in your destination city to see what you’d likely pay for a used dresser, or look at the average cost of those items at places like IKEA if you’re looking for new on a budget.

Now, compare the two estimates. Which one is cheaper? If there’s little difference, then the choice is more personal than financial.

The bottom line

Do you feel attached to your old stuff? Would you rather start fresh in your new city? Will you have time to go shopping? Do you enjoy picking out new home goods, or is it a chore?

How you respond to these questions might be the deciding factor, rather than the price.


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