The Homebuying Process: Packing Advice for Hoarders


Are you’re the hoarder type? If so and you’re considering buying a home, I want to give you a little packing advice: Don’t wait!

The best packing advice I can give you if you’re planning a move is to start sooner rather than later.

By now, I should have known this. But as someone who just completed a move, I see it even more clearly.

In my defense, both of my parents are hoarding types. Their space is crammed with stuff. It wouldn’t likely make the next episode of that cable show about hoarders, mind you, but they have plenty of clutter. Their parents were the same way.

So I got a dose of it on both sides.

Also in my defense, this move happened about five or six months sooner than I expected. I found the place I wanted far sooner than I thought one would become available. So I didn’t really have the several months I thought I’d have to go through things.

So if you are thinking about making a move of any kind, my packing advice begins with you pulling out the legal pad.

It’s time to start making some important decisions.

The first thing I did was to start with the big stuff. In particular, the heavy stuff I knew I’d need help getting out of the apartment. So I made a list of those items. I included the couch and recliner, the washer and dryer, the dining room table and the bed and dresser. I knew I could get things like coffee tables and dining room chairs over to the new place on my own.

My goal was to hire movers to move only the heavy stuff I either couldn’t or didn’t want to try moving myself.

Everything else was going to be me. I knew it’d be cheaper that way.

That, in itself, was a lot of motivation to get rid of clutter.

Once I had that list, I tried to start working around each of those items. After all, the movers would surely need a clear path to get to them, wrap them up and move them out.

I had a good bit of empty boxes I’d saved for such a move, although this one happened sooner than I expected. But I immediately started making use of them. I prioritized stuff I knew I wanted to keep and didn’t need immediately. And I boxed up those items first.

I set up a second group of boxes for things I wanted to donate…and I knew there’d be plenty. As I went through things, I came across boxes of clothes that I boxed up when I moved to Charleston. That was 14 years ago! And they were still boxed up.

Those were the first things I donated. Yes, I went through each item to make sure there was nothing valuable in there with the clothes. But if I haven’t needed them in 14 years, I clearly don’t need them at all.

That was the key concept I used as I sorted things.

When did I last need this thing? When do I think I’m genuinely going to need this in the future?

If my answer to either — especially that second question — was “never,” it went to the donate pile. Sometimes we keep things that mean something to us. Those are things that can be difficult to get rid of.

But no matter what kind of sentimental value you might convince yourself exists, if you apply the “When will you really need it?” test, it becomes easier to break those ties.

Of course, I kept plenty of things with sentimental value that I really wanted to keep. It’s just that I made myself mentally lower that bar a bit.

I didn’t want to be a spectacle. points out that there’s a fear of being judged that hoarders have. That’s definitely true.

If that applies to you as well, my packing advice is this: Space out your visits to Goodwill. (Or wherever else you decide to donate.)

Frankly, I took things there on the weekend and occasionally on a weeknight once I had a certain amount of things to donate. I lost track of how many trips I made there. But let’s just say I got rid of a lot of things I no longer needed.

Then there was the bags of trash. I went through things and just threw away stuff I didn’t feel was fit to donate. There were probably 40 bags of garbage over the course of a month’s time. I took a few bags of trash to the dumpster at a time. I tried to go to the dumpster at the apartment complex at varying times. Sometimes, I’d take my two or three bags early in the morning. Other times, it’d be late at night. That way, I figured anyone who might notice wouldn’t see every trip.

Not that anyone would really have cared. But when you’re a hoarder, you really do have that fear.

Celebrate each victory as you clear things out.

When I say victory with respect to packing, I’m talking about cleaning out a corner of your space. Every time you see a part of a wall or a part of the floor you couldn’t see before, grab the vacuum and then marvel at the new space you have to move around in.

It’s like someone who’s on a diet who loses that first 10 pounds. That’s an accomplishment.

Celebrate it. Mark the occasion.

Let that good feeling of accomplishment motivate you to keep working. The clock is ticking, after all. You have only a short amount of time before you have to be out of there.

I just took the last two items from my apartment to the new place last night: a vacuum cleaner and a broom.

It felt good to walk through and see that I managed to get out all of the stuff I’d managed to accumulate.

But honestly, it felt even better to know that I managed to cut the clutter and donate at least 50% of what I had. And most of that was stuff I didn’t need to begin with!

There comes a point when you have to just box up what’s left.

As the clock ticks down, you might reach a point where there’s no time left to sort. You just have to pack up what’s left and take it to the new place and sort later.

For a hoarder, that’s not ideal at all. It’s just too easy to slide those boxes in a corner somewhere and forget about them.

But time isn’t your friend in the moving process. You have to stay on schedule and what you can’t sort quickly enough just has to come with you.

My best packing advice also includes some unpacking advice: make time to go through those boxes, too. Try your best to start off with as little clutter as possible.

The bad news is you’ll probably build up clutter in the new place quickly enough. Don’t add to that pile!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.