Selling Your Home Requires Preparation. Here are 5 Tips for How To Declutter.
*This post about how to declutter your home to prepare for selling was sponsored by Travelers Insurance, and their Home Central site; an online resource on Travelers.com, where users can read home-related articles and learn about great tips for their home...all opinions, 80’s music references, and cheesy jokes are mine all mine.*
Clutter can be completely overwhelming in any situation. But it can feel paralyzing when you’re preparing to sell your home.
I’ve been there. MULTIPLE times as a seller. And also as a real estate agent, helping other sellers work through the process of preparing to sell their homes.
If you’re thinking of selling your home, or if your home is already on the market, I hope these five tips can help guide you in the process of how to declutter. Because…
a decluttered home sells MUCH quicker than a home full of stuff.
Above and beyond these tips I’ll share today, another great place to find additional information for homebuyers and sellers is Travelers Home Central resource. They have fantastic information available spanning topics such as selling and buying a home, renovating, home maintenance and more.
Home Central has an article on decluttering, as well! So take a look at what we’ve got to offer you here, then head over there for even more helpful tips and information.
How to Declutter Your Home – 5 Tips for Sellers:
1.) Understand what a buyer thinks of as “clutter”.
It’s hard to do a great job decluttering your home to put on the market without a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes what we see as a treasured memento, or a family heirloom…a buyer may see as clutter.
Often as homeowners we “stock up” on things, like tomato sauce at Costco. But when a buyer looks into our pantry and sees it chockfull of food, they’ll see that as a lack of storage space and clutter.
Here is a breakdown of the main sources/places where the clutter has an impact as well as items which a buyer could view as clutter in your home:
Items which may appear as “clutter” in the eyes of a buyer:
1.) Large pieces of furniture which overcrowd a room
2.) Knick Knacks / Tchotchkes
3.) Crowded Gallery Walls
4.) Overstuffed bookcases or open shelving
6). Other kid paraphernalia (think bikes, infant swings, playmats, etc.)
Areas of a home where a buyer is most likely to see “clutter”:
2.) Countertops/Horizontal Surfaces
3.) Storage Areas (garages, basements)
4.) Drawers and Cabinets
2.) You need the right tools.
Decluttering your home is a DIY project. And like any other DIY project, it’s important to have the right tools.
For decluttering your home, you only need a few things, but they are each important:
- Trash bags (two different colors/types can be helpful)
- Clear plastic bins with lids or other storage bins of choice
- Label maker (helpful for labeling long term storage containers)
- Dumpster rental or Bagster (if your decluttering job is a big one)
- Consider onsite storage cube rental or offsite storage unit rental (again for bigger jobs)
A couple comments about each of these. Starting at the top of the list, trash bags are kind of obvious.
While decluttering, you’ll opt to trash a bunch of items. But remember that donating is an option as well.
Separate the bags that will be trash from bags that will be donations. Use either two different colors of bags, or label them with a Sharpie.
When you’re selling your home, you’ll want to whittle down items (including furniture) in each room to the BARE MINIMUM.
But if you’re going to be living in the home while it’s on the market, it’s not feasible to take everything to offsite storage.
Use clear plastic storage bins to store items that you’ll need, but can move into storage areas such as the garage, basement, or other storage area..
Clear bins make it easy to glance and find what you’re looking for, even if not every bin is labeled well.
Stackable bins of any kind, look neat and organized to a buyer. And when they are neatly organized in a storage area, it gives an impression of ample space. It also helps the buyer picture how much stuff of their own they could fit into a space.
If you’re struggling with what to clear out of your closets, think seasonally. If your home will be on the market in summer, put all those winter clothes, shoes, sleds, etc. in storage, either onsite or off.
And if you have a LOT of decluttering to do before putting your home on the market, you may need to go the route of renting an onsite storage cube that sits in your driveway,
or opt for an offsite storage unit.
Make sure to clearly label anything headed out of the house and bound for the storage units.
Clear labeling now will make the job much easier when you are on the unpacking end of this transition.
That said, let’s not label everything! We gotta toss some stuff! The point of this decluttering journey is not to label and pack everything away. We’re trying to get rid of extra weight.
And if you’re working through years of accumulated clutter, you may need more than a few trash bags to get this job done.
Consider renting a dumpster. Or buy a “bagster” (you purchase at your local home improvement store for about $20, then will pay a pick up fee around $150-ish to have it hauled away once full). This will help you tear through the decluttering process quickly since you’ll have a readily available place onsite to haul all the discards.
3.) Eat the Frog.
Odd tip? Let me give you some context. There’s a famous quote by Mark Twain,
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Decluttering isn’t a super fun job. At least for most people. But if we’re aiming to sell, we need to tackle the BIGGEST eyesore first. That’s what will make the most impact in a buyer’s eyes.
So find the frogs. If it’s your master bedroom full of huge antique furniture that takes up 80% of the floor space…then you need to clear out 50% of that furniture and put it in storage. If it’s a kids’ playroom packed with puzzles and Legos and the rest, slay that beast right away.
Is it a bit of a shock to the system diving straight into the deep end? Yep. BUT, since our goal is to get your home ready for buyers, tackling the biggest eyesores right from the top will be the best for your bottom line. Eat that frog, folks.
4.) It’s all about the Benjamins.
There’s not much that can make me want to clean. But if you’re paying me to do it? Suddenly the task becomes MUCH more appealing.
Selling items you’ve made the decision to part with in places like Craigslist or local Facebook yard sales is quick and easy.
It doesn’t require taping up garage sale signs on trees and sitting at the curb for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon. Just a couple pics on your smart phone, a description of the items, and you’re on your way to decluttering WHILE making some extra cash. WIN-WIN.
If you’ve never bought or sold items this way, we have a great article on how to use Craigslist and Facebook yard sales here, and a printable resource on selling strategies, tips & tricks for Craigslist and FB yard sales for our subscribers here.
5.) Depersonalize while Decluttering.
Last but far from least, while you’re hauling out the bulky pieces of furniture, and clearing extra ladles from the kitchen drawers, don’t forget to depersonalize.
As I discussed in “8 stellar tips for staging a home to sell quickly,” depersonalizing your home before putting it on the market is crucial.
Humans are nosey by nature (not to be confused with Naughty by Nature). And that gallery wall you have of your wedding photos and kids’ school pictures will be a distraction to your buyers. It will prevent them from being able to fully picture themselves living in your home. That’s not good.
Pack up those photos. If the wall looks barren without your gallery wall, swap in pictures of beaches or watercolors of flowers, perhaps. Just make sure faces are removed from the mix.
This tip is ESPECIALLY true for any photo frames living on horizontal surfaces.
Decluttering desk tops, countertops and open shelving is an absolute must.
Those frames need to find a new home, be it temporary storage, or a more permanent new home at the Goodwill.
If parting with super personal odds and ends is emotionally challenging (if you’re anything like me, I’m thinking of the bins and bins and bins of our kids’ school papers, for instance), whip out your smart phone again.
Take a picture of those things that you don’t want to forget, but also don’t want to lug to your next house. Get a digital copy of the item, then dump the original. You’ll still have the memory preserved, while also preserving more room in your home, making it show better. Score.
I hope that these tips for how to declutter your home as you prepare to sell are helpful to you. And if you’re searching for even more homeowner tips and other great resources, be sure to head over to the Travelers Insurance Home Central site.
Have some experience with this process yourself? Leave a comment on the Pinterest pin! That really helps other folks!
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