Clean Sweep

So you’ve decided to relocate to your dream home. Congratulations on your bold move!  Your next question will likely be, “Do I take everything with me, or do I sell everything and begin anew?

Rather than packing your entire household—from sofa and chairs to pictures and dishes to every last knick-knack—and subject yourself to the hassles and moving expenses that go along with packing an entire household, I suggest another courageous decision:

  • Sell everything.
  • Use the funds from the sale of your household furnishings to carefully curate the new home and lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

This “clean sweep” approach to relocation may sound both drastic and daunting, but in the long run you’ll find, as I have found personally and with many whom I’ve interviewed, it’ll reduce the burden and stresses associated with packing and unpacking an entire household, not to mention the costs to move everything you own. Moreover, you’ll find that you can actually make money selling your furniture and household items. Best of all, with the new found fund from the sale of your items, you’ll be free to buy furnishings that will fit your new home and style “to a T” versus retrofitting your home with items from another style, region, or era.

Having  moved from Columbus, Ohio to The Cottages at Ocean Isle Beach, NC a few years ago, I can attest to the “clean sweep” method of moving.  We were drawn to the area by the mild weather, close proximity to the beach, lower property taxes, the community and builder of cottage-style homes, and the idea of living a coastal cottage lifestyle.

After much thought, it was clear that trying to retro-fit our soon-to–be-built coastal cottage with our current mid-Century modern furnishings just wouldn’t work. Rather than spend the time and money figuring it out the hard way (which we’ve done previously with earlier moves in our lifetime), we sold, gifted, donated, and pitched our items. Of course, there were items we kept and would encourage anyone to do the same.  For example, our Sleep Number bed, cookware and small appliances (in good shape), dishes, utensils, clothing, and cherished keepsakes such as pictures and mementos (even if they were likely going to be boxed and placed in a closet).

The move to Ocean Isle Beach, NC, however, allowed us to reduce the hoard that, as Americans, we’re all plagued with. It was time to pare down the far-to-many kitchen gadgets, the plethora of redundant serving dishes, the mounds of clothing in a range of sizes (that we hoped someday to fit back into), and the holiday décor enough to gild a small village.  Add to it the various and sundry “you never know when you’ll need it” items that were jammed into our garage storage units “just in case” we needed them at a later time.

From clothing to couches, you’ll find yourself attracted to a different style with your relocation.  Think about your new relocation lifestyle—really think about it.  How do you wish to live? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Let answers to these important questions guide you as you undertake the purge to head toward the life you’ve always dreamed of living. Relish the fact that the side effect will be having everything match your ideal look.

So, where do you begin?

Keep, Sell, Gift, Donate, Pitch

First, focus on the style of décor you want for your new home. Define it in concrete terms.  For example: Casual cottage. Chic beach. Seaside style. Relaxed woodland retreat. Formal plantation. Modern architect.

Browse magazines and peruse online articles and images. Get inspired from vignettes in furniture stores and vintage shops. (Note: Vintage merchants oftentimes create some of the most inspiring in-store vignettes.) Pull ideas from friends’ and family homes and TV homes that you admire. Visit model homes in the styles you’re drawn to. Take pictures!

Second, create a picture collage of your new home’s look, room by room. Or, write down what you wish to see and need in each space in your new home.

Third, identify what items in your current home fit might transition your new home. What items do you really need to take with you? Think about the basics and the hard to replace items.

Fourth, once you’ve identified your items to relocate, what items can you sell?

Fifth, what items do you wish to gift or give away to friends and family?

Sixth, what items should you donate to charity?

Finally, what items have no value? Stacks of Wall Street Journals should not be moved. Nor should faded silk flowers, broken items that you’ve been meaning to repair, or items that you loathe but feel guilty letting go of them.  It’s time for all of the no-value, junk items to hit the dumpster. Of course, recycle whatever paper, glass, and plastic items you can. The operative word, however, is pitch.

For items you are selling, follow these five steps:

  1. Alert your friends and family that you are moving and that you are selling your items. Give them a short period of time to buy items from you.
  2. Once the friends and family selling round is over, consider either a tag sale with a reputable tag sale company, and/or taking your items to a reputable consignment shop. If you wish to sell your furnishings on you own, post them on Craigslist. I’ve had great success when I’ve priced my items competitively.  All of these options take patience but are well worth the outcome.
  3. Hold a garage sale. Price the items fairly. Advertise widely and well ahead of your garage sale event.
  4. Donate items of value to your church rummage sales, charities, and Goodwill. Be sure to get tax receipts.
  5. Pitch the any remaining, no value items.

With funds in hand, it’s time to begin carefully curating pieces for your new home. Only do so once you’ve relocated. We moved to Ocean Isle Beach in July, so that we could not only watch the building progress of our home, but to strategically begin the acquisition process of our new look months prior to the home being completed.

Begin with pieces of inspiration—a painting, a rug, a piece of furniture, a piece of granite, a paint color. Or, take a more pragmatic approach: Start by only buying your key necessities:  A sofa, a bed, a dining room table, and then continue from there. This process will ensure that you only buy what is essential.

As you begin your curating journey, have fun along the way. The memories of acquiring items within a certain radius of your new home will be a special story for family and friends who come for a visit. You’ve worked hard to get to this point in your life where you could relocate and create a new style that perfectly matches your evolved wants and needs.

While a “clean sweep” approach isn’t for everyone, it can be a freeing experience.  And remember, the value of selling all your things depends heavily on the value of things being sold.  Of course, you’ll find some things that you just can’t bear to live without. The process of ruthless reduction of your possessions, however, can help you realize what’s really important in life. Things are things; things can be replaced. Relationships and memories are to be forever cherished.

­Mark R Ballard, author. Mark is a semi-retired marketing consultant who enjoys writing and living life in Ocean Isle Beach, NC. Mark and his partner recently relocated to OIB after selling their successful online and retail business in Columbus, Ohio. Prior, he was a corporate e-commerce VP, a corporate HR and training executive, and a university administrator. He holds a BS with distinction and MS from Iowa State University.