Published November 15, 2012
Decluttering shows your home to best advantage, which can make for a faster sale and a higher sales price. It can also be a great way to organize your life as you get ready to move, which is an excellent side benefit. If you set it as a weekend project, you can get your home looking more ready for sale in short order, and when you’re done, you can decide whether you want to work with your real estate agent or a home stager to add extra touches.
While a lived-in feel is great for the home you actually live in, it’s usually not what prospective buyers want to see. They’re interested in the aspirational potential of the home, and want to be able to imagine themselves in it. If your house is crowded with personal possessions, art, mismatched or oddly sized furniture, and other belongings, it can be a turnoff. Buyers can also get distracted, which makes it harder for them to focus on whether the house is right for them.
A good first step to declutter your home to sell is to walk through and take pictures. You might be surprised by what you see. Rooms that feel comfortable and open when you’re in them might look dark, messy, and small in photographs; and remember, photographs like these are what a real estate agent is going to use to try to tell your home! You can use these photos to zero in on problem rooms and areas to prioritize your decluttering project.
Your first step should be to honestly assess your possessions to see what you don’t need to keep around. That includes garbage, things you aren’t using anymore, old clothes, and other things that you’ve kept around with no real purpose in mind. Get rid of them now so you don’t have to sort through them in your new home, and either donate them to charity, take them to the dump, or sell them if they have value.
With these items cleared, you can get a better idea of how much clutter you’re dealing with. You may have a lot of things you need to keep, in which case it’s time to start thinking about prepacking. You don’t want to strip your house, because that can make it feel cold, but consider packing up the things you won’t need for a few weeks or even months while the sale goes through and you move into a new place.
That can include some of your books, movie collections, and other media, along with bulky furniture or items that aren’t very attractive. Rooms can look small and cramped with too much furniture, and it’s a good idea to pull out numerous pieces and leave a few artfully staged in the middle of the room to make it feel spacious and pleasant. You can also use this opportunity to showcase diverse uses for the rooms in your house; for example, the space you’re using as a television room could be made up as a guest bedroom.
You should also eliminate any collections of objects you have, although you may display a few items. Collectibles may be a passion, but they’re very distracting for buyers. Stick instead with a few accent ornaments or pieces of art to make your home spacious and allow people to imagine what they might put there.
Don’t leave these items in boxes in your home. It creates the impression that you don’t have storage space, and you don’t want that. Your buyers will go through closets, garages, and outbuildings, which means you can’t store them on-premises. Consider renting a temporary unit or contacting the moving company to see if they will take and store items before the big move.
You should be left with a small assortment of items in daily use, paired with key items of furniture. Don’t slack off when it comes to your decluttering mission here! Make sure items like toiletries, kids’ toys, and kitchen utensils are neatly stowed in drawers, containers tucked away in cupboards, and more. This will keep the house looking tidy, and it showcases creative uses of the existing storage space. Make sure everyone in the house gets in the habit of putting things away after use, and encourage them to take that habit with them when they move, because it will make your new home much more pleasant to live in.