In fact, one independent study found that moving is considered by many to be the most stressful event of their lives — even ahead of divorce and having children.

The reason?

Whether you’re going it alone or hiring movers, the process of packing up and moving our belongings to a new location is difficult and time consuming. With costs ranging from $800 to $5,700 per move, it can also be expensive.

Downsizing can certainly help, as the fewer belongings you own, the simpler the process will be.

But what if you were to take that one step further and get rid of all of it? At first glance, it might seem extreme, but there are times where selling everything in your house actually makes sense — and can net you a nice profit before moving day.

You want to create a clean slate for buyers.

The benefits of letting it all go

Whether you’re trading your sprawling suburban home for a closet-sized city flat, moving internationally, or are simply looking for a fresh start, here are a few key benefits to selling everything in your house before you move:

It depersonalizes the space. When prospective buyers come into your home, they need to be able to envision themselves (and their belongings) in the space. When Joel Freis, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Miami Lakes, works with sellers, he stresses the importance of creating a staged environment. “You want to create a clean slate for buyers,” he says.

It will net you extra money. This is cash you can save to buy new items once you’re in your new home.

You’ll spend less time (and money) on the move. You always need more moving boxes, packing tape and bubble wrap than you think — and those costs add up fast. Never mind the additional cost and time it takes to move and unpack all those boxes.

You’ll have more freedom to customize your new home. Room sizes and layouts can vary drastically — meaning the furniture and decor that you have currently won’t necessarily work well in the new space. By starting fresh, you’ll be able to pick out furnishings with the size and layout of your new home in mind.

It will give you a fresh start. Sometimes, you just need a do-over. By selling all of your belongings now, you won’t be bogged down by bad memories or enter your new home already feeling overwhelmed by what you’re going to do with everything. It gives you an opportunity to start anew, in a fresh, clean, well-organized space.

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The 4 D’s of downsizing

When Amy Bloomer, founder at Let Your Space BLOOM, LLC, works with sellers to help them downsize before a move, she uses a four-step strategy. The goal is to help the homeowner better understand what they currently have in the house so they can make a plan for each item and whether it will make the move — or find a home elsewhere.

Here is how she recommends approaching how to sell everything in your house.

Step 1: Discovery

For the first step in this process, homeowners simply need to understand what items they have in their home. “This is the hardest step,” Bloomer says. “You literally need to discover what’s in your space.”

This means the contents of every room, but also all of the boxes you might have stacked up in your basement — or in the storage unit you rent across town.

One way to do this, is to simply go room by room and catalog all of the belongings in that space. Another option is to work by category: furniture, books, or clothing, for example. “Instead of looking at an entire room, you would say, today I’m going to discover all of the books I have in my living space.”

The benefit of working by category, is that you can make decisions for an entire category of belongings at a time. For example, what you’ll do with the books you have scattered throughout the house (or the plethora of kitchen gadgets cluttering up your cabinets).

Step 2: Decision

Once you’ve cataloged all of the items in your home, it’s decision time: what are you going to keep and what’s going to go. Keep in mind that even with the goal of selling everything, there will likely still be items that will make the move to your new space — precious photographs, clothing and other personal or sentimental items.

“When I’m preparing a home for sale, I create three piles: what we’re keeping, what we’re donating and what we’re selling,” Bloomer says.

If you used a notebook or spreadsheet to keep track of everything you uncovered during the discovery stage, you can put a notation next to each item on your list to indicate which “pile” it belongs in.

Quick tip: if you work by category, that could help streamline the sales and donation process, as some marketplaces and shops are better suited to specific categories of items. A used bookstore that will buy your unwanted books, or an online auction site for your rare collectibles, for example.

In an effort to be eco-conscious, Bloomer purposely leaves out the “what we’re throwing away” option. If you want to make an effort to keep your unusable items out of a landfill, there can be creative ways to get rid of it. You might include a separate area of the sheet for items like this so that you can research creative recycling options in the next step (we’ll include a few ideas below).

A person researching on their phone about how to sell everything.
Source: (sehoon ye / Unsplash)

Step 3: Distribution

Now that you’ve made a decision about the items you have in your home, it’s time to start letting things go. The Internet and social media have made this easier than ever before, with multiple selling sites and mobile apps designed to help you unload your unwanted belongings.

The tried-and-true garage sale is always an option as well, though you likely won’t get as much for your items as you would by selling them individually or through specialized sites. The tradeoff is that you can often clear out many of your belongings in a weekend — without having to separately list items online and manage showings.

If you do decide to go the garage sale route, you may still want to consider one or more of the following options for specialty items or collectibles. That will help ensure you get the value you deserve.

Local online marketplaces. If you have furniture, electronics, gently used toys, kitchen gadgets or other household items, selling them on a local online marketplace such as Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor or Craigslist can be an easy way to get rid of items fast. If you have a lot of small items, such as kitchen tools or office supplies, consider packaging them up and selling them as a set. (You can use this strategy for a garage sale, as well.)

Antique and collectible sellers. Whether it’s a valuable coin collection or a set of Hummel figurines, a vendor that specializes in antiques and collectibles will be your best bet to cash in your items for the highest price. The online auction site eBay is a popular choice if you want to manage the sales process on your own. Or, you can reach out to your local auction house or antique shops. Due to the pandemic, some auctions are now held online, which helps cast a wider net, Bloomer notes.

Consignment shops. If you have designer clothing and handbags that have been gently used, you might want to consider selling items to a local upscale consignment shop or an online shop such as TheRealReal. At TheRealReal, they’ll sell your belongings on your behalf and give you up to 85% of the selling price. The online marketplace GoodBuy Gear has a similar program for gently used children’s gear, including strollers, toys and nursery furniture.

Used book stores. Many used book stores will buy your books for either cash or a store credit. If you don’t have any books that are particularly valuable, you can package them all up and take them down to your nearest store for an immediate sale.

As long as it’s useful, whatever you aren’t able to sell can be easily donated to a local shelter or a thrift shop such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity. Some will even come to your home for bulk pickups — including furniture. If you want to use the donation as a tax deduction, make sure to take photographs of the items to keep with your receipt.

And for seemingly “non useful” items such as old towels or broken toys, there are creative ways to dispose of them, as well. For old towels, blankets or stuffed animals, consider a local animal shelter. For broken toys or games with missing pieces, you can ship them (for free!) to Hasbro for recycling. You can learn more about what they accept, and how the program works, here.

Step 4: Descriptions

As we mentioned earlier, selling everything before you move doesn’t necessarily mean selling everything. In fact there are certain items that you should be very careful NOT to dispose of such as:

  • Real estate deeds and titles
  • Insurance policies
  • Financial documents (bank statements, tax returns and stock certificates)
  • Power of Attorney documents
  • Burial trusts
  • Military service records
  • Last Will and Testaments
  • Birth certificates, passports and social security cards

These items, as well as any personal items that you’ll be taking to your new home, should be carefully packed and labeled with clear descriptions, Bloomer says. This ensures you know exactly what is in each box and can find what you’re looking for easily during and after the move. Especially when it comes to important documents, you never know when you’ll need access to something immediately — and you don’t want to be scrambling during an already hectic time.

A person making a to-do list when selling everything in their house.
Source: (Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash)

Q&A: More expert advice for how to sell everything in your house before a move

Can you sell a house full of belongings?

Yes, and according to Freis, it happens often — particularly in the case of adult children who inherit the home of a deceased parent. You’ll be selling to a cash buyer, and won’t get as much money for the house, but you do gain the convenience of not having to deal with the monumental task of cleaning out the house and getting it ready for market.

“It’s ideal for someone who is happy getting less to not have the responsibility of removing items,” Freis says.

Can you leave select items in the house if it’s being sold “as is?”

Yes, but similar to the case above, you can expect to get less for your offer if the responsibility of removing the items left behind now rests with the buyer. That being said, sometimes the items left behind are welcomed by the buyer, even if they’re not worth anything.

“Let’s say there’s a pool table that’s a little beat up in the family room. If the buyers have kids, they might consider it a cool little item to have in the house,” Freis says. “ It doesn’t add value to the home, but is a nice little parting gift.”

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What if I have expensive light fixtures I want to sell?

If it’s attached to the home, it’s considered a fixture, and therefore it’s expected that it will be included in the sale of the home. “I advise sellers that if they have an expensive chandelier, or a lighting fixture that is sentimental, that it should be swapped out first,” Freis says. “You don’t want a buyer to fall in love with it and have that become a dealbreaker.”

What is the biggest mistake sellers make when they’re clearing out a house in a hurry?

Paper clutter is a big problem for a lot of people, but moving too fast can mean that you accidentally throw away an important financial or legal document, such as the ones we called out above. If you know there are documents you have and should be looking out for, make a quick list so that you can make sure you don’t miss anything.

When it comes to cleaning out a family member’s house, Bloomer also points to the importance of not going it alone. “This process can be very difficult to do with other family members,” she says. “Enlisting the help of a professional organizer is one of the best investments you can make for your emotional wellbeing and to keep the peace in the family. Even if it’s just for one session, that objective third party can come in to help you make decisions you’ll feel good about.”

Bottom line — extra cash, cleaner space, and a fresh start

Selling everything in your house can not only net you some extra cash before your move, but it can help you save significantly on moving expenses — a win-win as you prepare for this next chapter of your life. According to Freis, it can also benefit the selling process, as having a clear, staged space is key to helping buyers envision their future in your home.

If you’re working with an experienced real estate agent such as Freis, they’ll not only guide you through the process of what you should (and should not) remove from the house, but they’ll give you expert guidance on how to take advantage of your new, clean space so that it’s most appealing to prospective buyers.

Clearing away the clutter in your life can also give you a fresh start in your new home.

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