Before you start packing, it's a good idea to sort through your stuff so you don't move things that you don't need and have never really used. Not only will it save you time in packing and unpacking, but it will also save you money; the more stuff you have to move, the more expensive it will be. This is particularly true for people who are moving to another city, across the state or across the country.
Take note of time-consuming rooms
Keep track of the areas in your home where you'll need to spend extra time. Closets are prime spaces where most of us store things we don't use on a daily basis. Other rooms where you tend to store items is the garage, den or home office, and front closet. Make note of these spaces to ensure you have enough time to go through them; if you leave sorting to the last minute, you'll find that you're packing up everything even though you know you don't really need it all.
Make a list
Take time to go through each room, writing down the things that will stay and what you don't really need. Keep this list to the absolute essentials - the things you know for sure you're moving. Try to be realistic. If you're moving everything yourself, then think about how much you want to pack and what you can fit in the moving truck. If you're hiring movers, remember that every box you pack costs money.
Taking inventory is a little more detailed and time consuming than making a list of items that you think you'll be moving. If you have the time, it's a great way to determine how much stuff you'll be moving and what the possible cost might be. Sometimes if you know how much you'll have to spend, you'll find it easier to leave some things behind.
Remove everything from the space
If you're sorting closets, take everything out. If you're sorting a room, make sure everything is out of boxes and removed from storage containers. If you're sorting the garage, remove everything and place it in the center of the room or outside the space. Removing everything will give you a sense of the amount of stuff you have and what you really do need from that pile.
Place the items into piles
What should go into the "keep" pile?
To decide if an item should be kept or tossed, ask yourself how often you've worn or used the item in the last year. For clothing, it should have been worn at least twice. If you want to keep the item "just in case", then don't; usually that means you'll never use it and maybe someone else can.
What should go into the "donate" pile?
Items that you haven't used or are unlikely to use and that are still in good shape, add them to the donate pile. Make sure the items aren't ripped or stained or broken beyond repair. If they are, they should be put in the garbage or made into cleaning cloths. Don't waste a charity's time by donating unusable items. For more information on where to donate items, check out the article on where to donate used goods.
What should go into the "sell" pile?
This pile should contain items that you know you could fetch some money for, things that you can imagine someone else using. Take clothing to consignment stores; household items can be sold online or at a garage sale.
Place all the donate or sell objects in separate bags or bins
Once you've placed them in containers, set the containers in a place where they will be out of the way, but not forgotten. Whatever you've decided to do with these unwanted items, add that task(s) to your list of things to do.
Go back to your "keep" pile
Look at the items that you decided to keep. Go through each one to make sure you'll use it again. If you're hesitating, add it to the "donate/sell" pile(s). The things you want to keep, organize by type and select the appropriate sized boxes. For example, you may want to pack all the shoes into one medium-size box. Label the box with the contents and which closet or room it came from, i.e., "hall closet" or "bedroom closet".