A new home means a fresh start: new paint, a new bedroom, even a fresh take on arranging your old furniture.
But your new space won’t feel so wonderful if it’s weighed down with junk you didn’t bother ditching during the move. Now’s the time to purge your home—and we’re not talking about just sifting through stacks of magazines while you binge on Netflix.
“Your possessions should have three purposes: function, aesthetic purpose, or sentimental value,” says Christina Giaquinto, a professional organizer in Franklin Lakes, NJ. “Pick up each item in your home, and ask yourself, ‘Why do I have this item? What does this item do for me?'”
From doodads you picked up at the flea market to jewelry you never wear to a pile of untouched cat toys, there are a lot of things you should toss or donate before packing up the truck. But here are nine of the most common offenders.
1. Old towels and linens
When’s the last time you bought new towels? If it’s the last time you moved, turn those suckers into rags and buy something new. After years of use and hundreds of washings, there’s no denying your fluffy bath towels have lost some of their plushness.
Ditch old bed sheets, too. Fitted sheets lose their elasticity over time, and exposure to sweat and oil can cause unpleasant stains.
2. Your juicer
We all have goals. Running three times a week. Cleaning every Sunday. And starting each morning with a glass of cold juice pressed from spinach, kale, ginger, and pineapple.
Don’t give up on achieving your dreams—but if you’ve tried to make a change and found it didn’t work with your lifestyle, don’t hang on to the dregs of disappointment. Maybe getting up a half-hour early every morning to juice isn’t for you. Assess your achievements at moving time, and donate everything that didn’t work out. At least you’ll have room for your next wild aspiration. Perhaps a set of dumbbells?
3. Unworn clothes
Organizing a closet before a move should be simple. A keep pile, a toss pile, and a donate pile—right? But we all have those jeans we keep around just in case we finally lose 15 pounds. Or a dress tucked deep in your closet in case you ever go clubbing again. (Never mind that the last time you were out of the house after 10 p.m. was the night your first child was born.)
Watch out for clothing you’re keeping “just in case,” which take up precious room in your closet. And even if you do lose the weight, or get an invitation to a bachelorette party in Vegas, you can always buy (or rent) something new—and we bet you’ll love it even more.
4. Duplicates and souvenirs
Clutter accrues in the strangest places—like your mug tree or your dining hutch. You might have started out with two novelty mugs, but now you own a coffee cup from every place you’ve visited. Ever.
“Try to keep only one from your favorite vacation,” Giaquinto says.
Look for duplicates throughout your kitchen. Do you really need three bread pans? Or more than one cake platter?
“You should only hold on to what can fit neatly in your space,” Giaquinto says.
5. Collections you’ve outgrown
One day, many moons ago, you told your mom you liked elephants. You were 12.
Your next birthday: an elephant necklace. Your graduation gift: a porcelain elephant statuette. Your housewarming gift from your aunt: an Etsy elephant print.
It’s too late to convince everyone you’re not a loxodonta-phile, but it’s not too late to trim down your collection. And when Mom stops by and looks confused, just say, “I had to. I couldn’t fit it into our new space.”
6. Cosmetics and toiletries
Like most things in life, skin and beauty products don’t last forever. So before you move, ditch the pile of half-used products you’ve amassed under your bathroom sink; that goes for skin creams, sunscreens, shaving cream, beard oils, deodorant, and even soap.
Ladies—make sure to toss the nail polish.That stuff has a shelf life of only two years, meaning you’ll likely never finish a bottle before the polish gets gunky and hard to apply.
Same goes for cosmetics: For example, you should replace your favorite mascara every three months. Otherwise, you risk exposing your eye to contaminants and air particles.
7. Space fillers
Sometimes, when moving into a new home, we buy stuff just to fill the emptiness. Ugly side tables, a TV stand three shades darker than the rest of your furniture, or that annoying inspirational wall art that’s long past being cool (if it ever was).
Your next home doesn’t need to be a blank slate, but do yourself a favor before moving in by ditching furniture and decor you’re “meh” on. And next time, buy slowly and ponder exactly what you want before plunking down cash.
8. Cords and cables
You don’t know how it happened, but suddenly you have 34 micro-USB cables and seven random charging cables that seemingly belong to nothing and everything at the same time.
“So what’s the neighborhood really like?” is the ubiquitous refrain among home buyers shopping in areas they’re unfamiliar with. And though your real estate agent can fill lots of the big-picture details, it pays to do your research before committing to a residential purchase.
Short of stopping people on the street for intel—and being greeted by strange, skittish looks, or way worse—there are some far easier ways to get a feel for what living in a neighborhood is really like.
Best of all, you can even do them from afar (you’re welcome, relocators)! For starters, you can get local information on various neighborhoods on our site. Then for more deets, get digging in the resources below.
The first census required by the U.S. Constitution was completed in 1790, and U.S. Census Bureau workers have been counting the population—now more than 322 million people—every 10 years ever since. It’s all easily accessible, and you’d be amazed at the depth of detail. Their latest count, the 2010 Census, breaks down the nitty-gritty of age, race, population density, and even average commute times to work by neighborhood. The bureau’s maps also offer a graphic overview of select demographics.
For what’s notable and unique…
Type any address into NeighborhoodScout and its proprietary search algorithm provides a ton of data—median home price, crime rates, ease of commute—in one easy-to-digest snapshot. And beyond that, the site can tell you what makes a neighborhood unique. For instance, you may learn that a certain area has a high percentage of brownstones, or gay/lesbian families, or homeowners who don’t own cars.
For walkability …
Since “walkability” is such a buzzword, especially among millennials, it makes sense that there’s a site devoted to telling you how easy it is to get around by foot. That’s where Walk Score comes in. How easily you can you hoof it to a coffee shop, grocery shopping, and parks gets crunched into one overall rating showing how conducive an area is to walking. You say you’d rather spend your time getting around on two wheels instead of two feet? Bike Score gives you a sense of a neighborhood’s bike-friendliness from the extent of its bike lanes and trails.
For an idea of what a neighborhood stroll is like …
The free walking app Walc shows you what you’ll actually see on a jaunt, rather than the nondescript compass directions used for every other directional app. Simply enter a potential address into Walc, add a destination, and take a leisurely stroll in a neighborhood, without ever stepping foot on a street. You’ll get a sense of place from the landmarks that pop up: Do you turn right at an alehouse or a Pilates studio?
For public transportation access …
Each day, 35 million Americans use public transportation, making access to it a must for, well, at least 35 million people. To check out an area’s accessibility to trains, buses, and light rail, David Reiss, a professor of law and research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School, recommends researching the Transit Score. “These scores are great, really giving you a sense of how important it is to have a car in a particular community,” he says.
For school quality …
Sure, a seller may tell you a local school is great. But don’t rely on bias when it comes to your child’s education. Instead, go to the nonprofit Greatschools.org and type in a potential ZIP code. You’ll have a chance to read school report cards crafted by reviews from teachers, parents, and even the students themselves. Or, if you already know which school district you want your child to attend, download realtor.com’s mobile app—you can search for homes by school district.
For crime rates…
To see how safe it would be to set foot outside your home, enter your address into My Local Crime to pull up any recent local crimes from vandalism to shootings. Click on the map function to see where exactly those crimes were committed (in other words, maybe certain blocks to avoid after dark?).
For the lay of the land, literally…
When Professor Reiss asked students to find interesting web resources to learn about neighborhoods, they discovered that topological maps are a cool tool. Most maps show only a two-dimensional rendering. Topographical maps, which add the third dimension of elevation, show the surface and physical features of a given neighborhood. Besides highlighting hills and valleys, topography is important when it comes to weather events (just ask anyone in a flood plain).
To find out what people do there for fun…
You know Yelp can help you discover local restaurants, and that Moviefone can let you know what theaters might be near you. But what about entertainment, culture and nightlife? Enter Gravy, a website and app that gives you the rundown on an area’s events, from rock concerts to church suppers.
To find a neighborhood just like the one you’re already in …
Love your neighborhood, but feel it’s time to move? Head back to NeighborhoodScout once more. Users can find their ideal neighborhood by selecting filters that take into account their lifestyle preferences—whether family-friendly or suitable for first-time home buyers. Alternatively, if you love your current neighborhood, enter your address to find comparable towns throughout the country.
We understand the appeal of moving into a newly constructed home. After all, it’s hard not to be enticed by brand-new appliances, floors, and heating, cooling, and electrical systems. Plus, buying an old place that needs work can be intimidating, especially for those of us whose only brush with restoring a house has come from watching reruns of “Fixer Upper.”
However, home buyers can see all the beauty and potential in older houses. What some view as eyesores, others see as charm—four walls full of history that can’t be duplicated. Besides the nostalgia factor, an old house can be a smart purchase for the sake of your wallet.
Take a look at the top reasons why buying an old house might just be the best decision you’ll ever make.
What classifies as an older home? In general, if a home does not use or contain modern materials such as high-performance concrete, it qualifies as “old.” Normally, these homes would have been built before 1970.
Shelley Cluff, a real estate broker and owner of Park Place Homes, in Midland, MI, explains that an older home gives you substantially more bang for your buck.
“On average, a comparably sized new construction can sell for 10% to 20% more than an older, updated home,” she says. While newer homes might cost less to maintain, they are also built with different materials such as energy-efficient products that drive up the cost of building them and, by extension, the cost of buying them.
The saying “they don’t build ’em like they used to” is generally true. Established houses are built to last, and many aspects of the construction cannot be reproduced today. Older homes might be built with wood made from old-growth trees (trees that attained great age by not being significantly disturbed) and therefore more resistant to rot and warping.
Even the walls are likely different. In an older home they’re probably built with plaster and lathe, making them structurally stronger than the drywall construction of modern homes. These older materials also provide a better sound barrier and insulation.
3. Old homes are often in established locations
When choosing a neighborhood, home buyers weigh a number of factors—including the school district, crime rate, and walkability. If you’re looking at buying an old house, chances are it’s in a well-established, and probably stable, area. This is a good thing.
4. Old homes have more character
See that mature oak tree towering over the front yard that took decades to reach such heights? You’re not going to get that kind of curb appeal from a new construction.
Some older homes have managed to maintain the amenities that are characteristic of the era it was built in—for example, original crown molding, herringbone-patterned hardwood floors, and built-ins.
While newer homes will reflect the trends of current times, they won’t satisfy other eclectic tastes. Victorian homes with authentic stained-glass windows or a midcentury sunken living room can’t be found in modern houses. While many designers do emulate these characteristics, you might prefer to go for the real thing.
5. Lot size tends to be larger with old homes
Newer homes might come with newer amenities, but on the outside (specifically in the backyard) things aren’t as remarkable. According to data from CoreLogic, new constructions tend to have a larger house with a smaller lot.
“The median size of a new home increased from 1,938 square feet in 1990 to 2,300 square feet in 2016, but lot sizes during this same period decreased from 8,250 square feet to 6,970 square feet.”
In an effort to keep the cost of new homes down and bring in more revenue, homebuilders have favored building larger homes on smaller lots. Why?
“When home prices appreciate at a fast pace, the land value rises even faster, which in turn drives the cost of homes higher,” according to CoreLogic.
So if a big backyard is on your list on nonnegotiables, you’re most likely to find that in an older home.