Early in our life together, my husband and I moved so we could experience other countries and cities. We have never had the economic wherewithal to travel and stay in places for extended periods of time without jobs, so moving, finding employment, and settling in seemed to be the best choice for us. We've lived in some great places --- Bath (UK), Los Angeles, Portland (OR), Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Over time, we realized that San Francisco held a special place in our hearts. So, we are moving back. This time for good.
A Modest Proposal
But the act of moving can be a real pain. The boxes, the tape, the moving van, yuuuch! There never seems to be enough time to go through all the papers and books, so we have just packed it all up, labeled the boxes, and carried them with us. Not this time. For this move, we are limiting ourselves to the few pieces of furniture that we delight in (and there are only 4 or 5 of these), necessary work and household papers, about three or four boxes of books each, clothes, basic linens, and some kitchen stuff. What doesn't make the cut, gets sold, given to friends, donated, or thrown away (depending on condition).
I Couldn't Do That
Do you really love all of your stuff? Or are you just keeping it because it is yours? Understandable when the item is a body part, but not so much when it's just "stuff."
For inspiration, watch a Hoarders marathon. Seriously. That will surely get at least one or two extra trash bags put out that week. Next, take pictures of all of your rooms. Believe me, just like you don't know how much weight you have gained or lost until you see a photo, you have no clear picture of your current living state until you see the pictures.
First thing you will notice is the stacks of things hanging around. Is it just that you are working on a project and need this material out until you finish? Or is it because there is no room to "put away" these piles? If the latter, it is time to get to work. Either that, or you (1) move to a larger space, or you (2) spend $60 a month to rent a storage space to put stuff you will never look at again. A serious waste of money on both counts.
Even if you don't move, this is a great exercise. Studies have shown that people get depressed when they live in a crowded environment. Time to cheer yourself up!
How to Start
For the paper material (which is often the worst offender), buy some file folders, labels, file buckets, plastic file storage boxes (bugs don't like plastic), etc. This will help you organize what you intend to keep. Start small, working for an hour each time. If you do only three or four hours a week, you will have cleared out your place by the end of the year. And you will know where all your remaining important papers are.
As for the rest, ask yourself:
1. Is it broken? How long has it been broken? Am I really going to fix it? Is it worth fixing? Be honest here. For example, no one really wants an old CRT television set. It isn't worth the effort to fix it or the storage space. Same goes for your old Commodore 64 computer.
2. For the kitchen and dining room: How many sets of dishes, glasses, and silverware do you own? How often do you use them all at once? If the answer is less than monthly, it would be cheaper to rent cutlery, glasses, and plates for the few occasions you need them than to rent a larger space to house these items.
3. Furniture: Unless you actually love the item at your Aunt Debby's or need to replace an existing piece of furniture, NEVER take a hand-me-down. It only crowds your house, and it prevents you from developing your own style. Live with a futon sofa and storage boxes until you can find or afford what you truly want to live with. And if you bring in one set of end tables, that means the existing ones have to go to a new home --- away from your house.
4. For the collectors: If you are overwhelmed by your collection of action figures, hubcaps, or manhole covers, time to make hard choices. Consider only keeping those items you go back to again and again and selling the items you like least. If for no other reason than you will have cash to acquire a new and better item. (After all, isn't the hunt more than half the fun.) If your collection is gynormous, consider renting a small storefront and starting a business. I'm serious.
As for us, we have become ruthless. Our motto these days, which we stole from Ice Age: The Meltdown, has become, "Do we really need to take this crap? I'm sure there's crap where we're going." Our goal is to only keep what will comfortably fit into a large studio or small one-bedroom apartment. Should be fun.