If having guests is the best friend of cleanliness, then moving is the best friend of decluttering, says Nonnahs Driskill, grown up military brat and professional organizer. By this standard, mobile military families should have a handle on decluttering, but it’s not always that simple. Nonnahs says staying ahead of clutter takes time and planning.
“Don’t think you’ll catch up magically if you fall behind going through mail, or passing on your kids’ outgrown clothes,” says Nonnahs, founding organizer of Get Organized Already in Pasadena, California. “You have to make it a priority and set aside some time. Having a designated time makes the chore easier and less frantic.”
Sharing and trading are cost-effective ways to outfit a home in a new location, says Nonnahs. Make use of the thrift shop, both to donate and to shop for furniture needs. Military thrift shops are often stocked with clothing suitable to the local climate, as well as specialized supplies like adapters or appliances for differing electrical currents overseas.
Another constructive and eco-friendly way to get rid of unneeded possessions is to give them directly to new families who need what you don’t.
“For a while my family lived on a training base, which had a fast turnover time,” Nonnahs says. “My parents would store specialty household items in our garage to help provide for the next wave of families coming to the street every eighteen months or so.”
Nonnahs offers these tips to military families for managing and organizing belongings, in moving season and every season:
- Less everyday stuff makes an easier move. Use the knowledge that you are moving to motivate you to keep less. Some types of things, like pots and pans, can be thrown out after they are used. Other things, like books and memorabilia, are sometimes more complicated for sentimental reasons.
- Approach your collections like a curator at a museum would approach an exhibit. When a bookshelf is getting full, instead of buying another bookcase, go through the books you have and let go of some.
- For children’s precious artwork and photos, use a sturdy storage box, and let the size of the box serve as a guide to how much to keep. Keep only favorites, and only as much as will fit in the box. Save a few things from each year, for each child, and you’ll have a beautiful collection that’s protected for many more moves to come.
- Use medium-sized, clear plastic bins for storage. Clear so you can see what is in them. Medium sized for easy access and lighter weight per box. Use the super-large containers only to store super-large items.
- Buy modular furniture, which can be split up as needed to fit a new space. This may help the costly cycle of buying different furnishings for larger or smaller homes. Buy smaller pieces and add or sell as needed. A sectional or love seat instead of huge sofas, for example. Also helpful: furniture pieces that double as storage.
Nonnahs Driskill grew up in a military family and is now a professional organizer in Pasadena, California.