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The Ultimate Guide to Decluttering

The Ultimate Guide to Decluttering

When you start getting serious about putting your house up for sale, one to-do list item will often be decluttering and staging the home for photos and showings. Staging is the process of strategically placing furniture, lighting, decorations, and other regular household items to make the interior of your home as appealing to buyers as possible.

Buyers want to see a clean home they can envision themselves living in, so something you absolutely must do as part of the staging process is declutter. This can be a challenging task that you might not think is worth it, but it is actually a very important step to getting your home ready to sell. Here is how to go about it the right way.

The Importance Of Decluttering

Most home sellers remain living in their house while the property is on the market, which can make staging and decluttering difficult. However, putting in the time and effort to get staging and decluttering right will make it much easier to sell your home.

Image of clutter

It’s desirable to have potential buyers imagining themselves and their own possessions in your home, and that is difficult to do when the belongings of the current occupants are everywhere. As emotionally attached as you may be to your home, its décor, or its layout, you need to put the emotion aside and approach this process from a buyer’s point of view.

It may seem like clutter is not especially important compared to major issues that could be wrong with your home, such as a roof in disrepair or a crumbling foundation. After all, you are probably planning to take all your things with you when you move, so it may not seem that important. But first impressions really matter when selling a home.

Clutter can send the message, rightly or wrongly, that you haven’t maintained the property well overall, or that you aren’t serious about selling. This can have serious financial consequences. Avoid this entirely by presenting a clean, neat home to buyers from the start.

When To Do It

You should have your home fully decluttered by the time professional listing photographs are scheduled to be taken. I have photographed over 1,000 homes and walked away from only one home. It was so cluttered I had no room to move my camera tripod without bumping into things.

Old Polaroid Camera

Today’s home buyers usually search for a home online and they will judge your home by the photos that accompany your listing. This is why professional photography is so important. If they don’t like what they see, they won’t bother to schedule a showing at all. It is so important to avoid having listing photos show your personal stuff everywhere.

Once the photos have been taken, however, you can’t just put your stuff right back where it was. Listing the home is the first step, and now you will need to keep the home clean and uncluttered for the remainder of the time it’s on the market.

This can be challenging and annoying, but live showings of your home is for a potential buyer, and you don’t want to lose out on a sale because the clutter in your home turned a buyer off. Don’t make it difficult for prospective buyers to evaluate your property and see for themselves all it has to offer.

How Long It Takes

How long the decluttering process will take depends entirely on how much stuff you have. Some homes could be made presentable in just a few hours while others might take days or even weeks. Evaluate the state of your home realistically and come up with an efficient, effective strategy.

It might be best not to tackle all of it at once. You can declutter in a more manageable, methodical way such as going room by room. Having everyone in your household help or enlisting the aid of friends and family can make the process go even faster.

It is extremely important to communicate with your real estate listing agent regarding when you will be ready to have professional photos taken and for the house to go live. I often have to re-schedule a photo shoot because of a delay in the sellers’ ability to get their home ready. It’s OK, I’m used to it and pays off in the end as I rather photograph a sparkling, decluttered home!

Photo of room clutter and trash

Getting Rid of Stuff

Moving is one of the best times to cut down on items that you still have but no longer need or want. You should take this opportunity to downsize and accomplish two objectives at the same time: making your home presentable to sell and making your move easier by having to relocate fewer possessions.

You have several options for how to get rid of items you find you no longer want while you declutter. I like to call it purging.

Sell Everything Your Don’t Need or Want

You can probably use some extra money, especially to offset the costs associated with moving, and many of the items you want to get rid of might be valuable enough to sell. Some might even be worth far more than you thought they were.

It’s often worth checking values of most items to see what they are currently going for, and then putting them up for sale.

There are a few methods you can use to sell your old things. The first is the tried-and-true garage or yard sale. This is a good way to put many of your unwanted items out there all at once to sell. Anything that doesn’t sell you can then get rid of via alternate methods, such as attempting to sell them online, donating them, or just throwing them away, or if possible recycled.

Image of a yard sale.

Be sure to advertise your garage or yard sale online or in your local community paper so people know when and where it will be held, as well as the types of items you are selling. I have done this many times and when I had some items left I put them at the curb with a sign that said ‘FREE’. That always works!

Certain specialty stores may also be willing to buy used goods for resale. You might have stores locally that are willing to purchase items from your declutter such as books, clothes, records, movies, furniture, and more. If you aren’t sure you can inquire – it never hurts to ask.

You can also list and sell items online. This is usually the better option for niche items that won’t have much of a market in your community or are worth enough that you want to be able to sell them for their true value.

You should be sure to take detailed photographs of any item you are listing and clearly describe its condition. Use keywords to your advantage. On some sites, such as eBay and Craigslist, you can sell groups of similar items as “lots,” which can make it easier to get rid of large quantities of items at once.

Try Donating Stuff When Selling Your Home

There are many good organizations, both national and in your local community that accept donations of just about any item imaginable. For example, if during your home declutter you find you have a lot of books you need to get rid of, you can look into donating them to your local library. I have done that several times.

Image of donation

There are numerous secondhand clothing shops that regularly accept donations of old, gently-used clothes. Old toys can be donated to children’s charities. Homeless shelters are usually in need of mattresses in good condition. The list goes on.


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