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    How to Declutter Before Your PCS Move

    What’s your PCS prep style? Are you go-getters and start purging once the whiff of a new duty station is in the air? Or, do you like working under pressure and toil away for a month instead of dragging the cleanup out over months?

    Either way, you can rid your home of trash and clutter. It's up to you whether or not you want to make money, donate your items, or utilize your local trash services. Most of us in this military life game incorporate all three options. 

    Here’s how to get started. First, ask yourself these questions to help you decide the fate of your items. 

    • Does it work right now? 
    • Did we use it this year?
    • Are there sentimental reasons to keep it?
    • Will it cost money to move it? 

    Hopefully, the answers are clear-cut, but if you need help, read on about ways to control your clutter chaos. You could find the perfect solution.  


    Photo from Canva

    1) Throw It Out

    Let’s start with the easy category, Throw It Out! Packing broken or damaged beyond-repair items is expensive, takes up precious space in your household goods shipment, and could cost you in the long run.

    Remember, each military member is entitled to a specific weight per move. If you go over, you’re on the hook to pay for the extra weight.

    Get rid of: 

    • Old documents. They’re heavy, and there’s probably a better way to digitize the ones you need. 
    • Unimportant photographs. Who needs copies of your toddler’s fun with the camera? Pictures are also heavy, so digitize them. 
    • Expired health and beauty products and medicine. They’re harmful!
    • Perishable or expired pantry items. Set up your new home with fresh items. 
    • Broken toys. Your kids won’t remember their cast-offs at the next duty station.  
    • Unidentifiable electrical cords. If you haven’t used them in the last two years, it's time to go. 
    • Previously boxed items. You probably don’t need the boxes from your last move if you didn’t open them. 

    items for sale at garage salePhoto from iStock photo/Basya555

    2) Sell Your Stuff

    If you have the luxury of time before your next PCS, take advantage of how you can sell your items, especially online. But don’t forget about old-fashioned garage sales. They still bring in the crowds.

    Selling does take some prep work, so make sure your selling plan is worth your time. Of course, you’ll have to clean, sort, and price your items, but everyone knows that every bit of extra money helps during a household move. 

    Antiques and Collectibles

    If you have antiques or fine collectibles to sell, you’ll need to spend plenty of time researching their worth and learn to find reputable selling outlets. You can start your search with these online options. 

    • eBay
    • Etsy
    • Ruby Lane
    • TIAS
    • Go Antiques
    • Bonanza
    • Replacements, Ltd for vintage dishes
    • 1stdibs 
    • Abe Books 


    Selling clothes is an easy way to earn money, but don’t expect to make a fortune in just days. Those apps and websites require some input work on your end, including photos and trips to the post office. Plus, after seeing what your items will likely price for, you might feel better about donating your too-small-jeans collection instead. 

    • Local consignment store
    • Poshmark
    • ThredUp
    • Tradesy


    Depending on what you have, you can make a chunk of change selling your old electronics. However, tread carefully. Your personal information is at risk, so learn how to wipe your items before sending them and be comfortable with the companies’ policies about deleting your information. 

    • Gazelle 
    • Amazon
    • Decluttr 
    • eBay
    • BuyBackWorld

    Furniture and Home Goods 

    You never know who’s stalking furniture for sale ads. You could make a college kid’s day by selling a sectional sofa for cheap, or find a like-minded admirer of Amish-built furniture. So remove stains, vacuum, and generally clean up your furniture before listing to get the best prices. 

    • Chairish
    • Facebook Marketplace 
    • OfferUp
    • Nextdoor
    • Craigslist

    electronic items in box for recycling or salePhoto from iStock photo/vejaa

    3) Recycle

    Start the recycling process early to take advantage of free decluttering. But before you fill your bins, check with your local sanitation department or hired companies to see what’s accepted.

    Most of the time, you can recycle:

    • Food cans
    • Scrap metal
    • Glass food jars
    • Newspaper
    • Envelopes
    • Junk mail
    • Phone books
    • Brochures
    • Magazines
    • Catalogs
    • Paperback books
    • File folders
    • Posterboard
    • Food boxes
    • Cardboard
    • Milk jugs and cartons 
    • Water and soda bottles and cans 
    • Shampoo, soap, and detergent bottles 

    old couch for donation with free signPhoto from iStock photo/SBSArtDept

    4) Donate

    You can donate just about anything if it's not broken or damaged. But keep an eye out for the usual exceptions at donation centers. Items like mattresses, non-flat screen TVs, and some furniture often sit on the No list.

    If you aren’t sure what charities will accept your items, start with Donation Town, plug in your zip code, and it’ll spit out some options near you. 

    Some places to take your donations: 

    • Local military installation thrift store or lending outlet 
    • Local library
    • Goodwill 
    • Salvation Army 
    • Dress for Success
    • Planet Aid
    • Human-I-T 
    • Computers with Causes
    • Habitat for Humanity
    • Pick Up Please (Vietnam Veterans of America)

    5) Junk Haulers

    If you’re short on time or don’t have the energy to clean, sort, and disperse your items, you could consider using a company that hauls away junk for a fee. Some will trash unusable items and donate the rest. Don’t forget to ask for a military discount! 

    • 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
    • College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving
    • Junk King
    • Junkluggers
    • JDog Junk Removal & Hauling

    Time’s ticking! If a PCS is headed your way, there’s no time like now to get started with easy decluttering tactics, such as filling your house’s trash and recycling bins to the brim each week months before departure. You should also set aside a few minutes each day to sort your items for selling, donation, or trash.

    Making a PCS move soon? Grab our complete library of free PCS guides below. 

    MilitaryByOwner's PCS Ebooks

    How to Declutter Before Your PCS Move

    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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