Deciding What To Keep When Moving

Once again I find myself staring down Optimus Prime. He's sitting on his little shelf all cocky and dusty, and I know he thinks he's coming with us on one more move, but he's got another thing coming. It's time to make some hard decisions, and he's not getting on that moving truck.

I seem to have become a person who moves around a lot. Six years in New York was my longest stretch anywhere since high school. But mobility doesn't jive with my acquisitive personality—a trait shared by my husband—and every time we move I swear that next time will be different and I'll stop collecting things. Where did that Sailor Moon Thermos come from, and why did I think it was a good idea to start a Barbie collection?

But in the meantime, here are some things I try to keep in mind while moving:

Where is this going to go in the new house? If the Autobots haven't been unpacked after three moves, get rid of them.

Am I keeping this just because I can? Just because something's tiny and can be squashed into the corner of a box doesn't mean it should be. Psyduck the 2" Pokemon has made it through six or seven moves at this point, just by virtue of being small enough to squash in with the spoons.

How replaceable is it? It's possible to make mistakes when moving and cull something you should have kept (more on that later). If that happens, how easy will a thing be to replace? If you haven't looked at something in three years, it's generally safe to get rid of. Sure, I've had to re-buy Arthur Waley's Monkey five or six times now, but that's easy and inexpensive to do, so culling it was the right choice. Give irreplaceable objects more consideration. I haven't looked at my wedding album, like, ever. But it still gets a spot on the truck.

Is it really worth a ton of money? Take it from me: After 20 years occupying one square foot of my closet space, those Beanie Babies definitely did not earn their keep.

Is it either practical or fabulous? I have an affinity for vintage clothes, so I'm very skeptical of the old "if you haven't worn it in a year, throw it out" chestnut. If my mother followed that logic, I'd be bereft of a closet full of fabulous disco dresses. By my rules you're allowed to keep something if you wear it all the time, or if it's just that awesome. (I'm told Sarah Jessica Parker has an off-site storage closet for excess clothes. Memo to self: Look into that.)

Am I decluttering, or going crazy? Getting rid of unnecessary objects is great, but it's possible to go too far. During my last move—a particularly frenzied one from New York to Beijing—I got carried away and threw out all my makeup. Don't do that. Give yourself enough time to take breaks when you need them, or you might wind up having to spend a ton of money at Duty Free.

What are your tips for determining what stays and goes during a move? Let us know in the comments.

(Image: Shutterstock)