Decluttering – Less is More When Selling Your Home

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I don’t normally do new year’s resolutions. However, towards the end of last year, the small piles of random things throughout my office was starting to gnaw away at my soul. Many of them had some sort of to-do associated with them, and a few of them (I am embarrassed to say) had been there for years. Yes, YEARS. In December I vowed to begin decluttering my life, which has led to an ongoing journey of minimizing, organizing, streamlining and generally making life feel more sane. During this decluttering process, I realized much of what I was doing could benefit people looking to sell their home. In fact, I was following some of my own advice that I hand out to clients before they sell their properties. Whether you are potentially selling your home, or you just want to lead a less-cluttered life, I think you’ll find these tips helpful.

Decluttering – Where to Begin

Decluttering made simple!

A little bit of planning goes a long way when it decluttering. Step one is to figure out where everything is going, what you’re keeping and what you’re letting go in one way or another. For the things you’re keeping, you’ll still want to decide if any of that should be stored. For everything else, it’s either trash/recycle, donate, or sell. If you plan to sell your home and you’re on a timeline, selling all the items you don’t want or need can be a daunting project. Even if you go through the trouble of a garage sale or barraging Craigslist with ads, selling things is very time consuming. For that reason, I recommend avoiding the sell it option unless you have the luxury of time, or there are things of value you can’t stand donating or even storing.

Go through your home starting in one room and designate an area for each category. Send trash items straight to the trash or dumpster if needed. Make a donate pile in your garage or wherever convenient. Set aside a room for storage or rent a storage pod for anything you’ll be storing. You may need to entice some friends over with offers of beer/wine/food for moral support and manual labor. Friends can also make convenient recipients of stuff you don’t need.

Decluttering With a Home Buyer In Mind

Not optimal showing or living conditions

Most people have too many furnishings, too many decorations and too many things present in their homes. When a potential buyer steps into your home, you want them focused on the home itself, how it makes them feel, and hopefully imagining themselves in the home. You don’t want them distracted by your personal belongings. It’s also important that they navigate throughout the home without looking like a slalom skier avoiding furnishings.

In most homes you’ll want to accentuate openness, and the easiest way to do that is by reducing the number of furnishings. Once that is out of the way, remove all of your personal belongings. Of course some of these you’ll likely be keeping, but even for those things you should find a convenient, accessible drawer or shelf to tuck them away in. Visitors to your home shouldn’t be seeing your mail, toiletries, dirty clothes, food, etc.

decluttering a closet
Tackling a closet can be as simple as folding and stacking clothing – and donating what you don’t wear

Decor is something you’ll still want in your home, but less is more here too. Walls shouldn’t be filled with numerous framed items, and counters and tables should have just a colorful accent or two on them.

How to Maintain the Benefits of Decluttering

It’s one thing to successfully declutter a home (and hopefully sell it if you’re moving), but it’s another to maintain the benefits of a more organized, minimal life moving forward. Doing so involves awareness, discipline and systems. One example of all three is to set a rule that for every new “thing” that comes into your home, another similar “thing” gets donated or sold. How extreme you choose to take that is up to you.

Some of this starts at the consumer level. Asking yourself how much you really need something before buying it is a great place to start. So many purchases are made for reasons other than the item really being needed. I’m not saying don’t buy anything, but rather only buy things of necessity or that are meaningful to you and that you know will truly bring you joy.

Decluttering isn’t for everyone, but if you’re selling a home it’s a must if you want to maximize for a successful sale. Whether you’re selling a home or not, trimming away the things we don’t need and that don’t bring us joy can be a very liberating process. If you plan to live more minimally, think of it as more of an ongoing process and mindset rather than an event.

If you’d like more specific tips on decluttering, particularly when it comes to prepping a home for sale, check out this article on how to declutter on my real estate site.

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About Marc Lyman

Marc grew up under a brave single mom who "encouraged" home improvement on the family home. Early toddler gifts included a tool set, and even a cordless Bosch drill when cordless drills first came out. In grade school (give or take a few years), Marc's mom said, "We need to cut down some trees. . . . here's a chainsaw." A father figure also involved Marc in many home improvement projects, including a summer of home remodeling in Palo Alto, CA. Toss in some Obsessive Compulsive personality traits researching everything home improvement related. The end result: a genetically pre-disposed, socially sculpted home improvement machine! For his complete profile, please visit our About page. Really, it's worth it.

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4 thoughts on “Decluttering – Less is More When Selling Your Home”

  1. Great advice for home sellers, Marc. Your Realtor colleagues thank you! Decluttering is like eating a whale …… start with one bite at a time. I fake myself out by setting a one-hour time limit. Once I’m into it, it’s easy to go longer & get more done. I use the same mantra I use for fridge leftovers: When in doubt, throw it out.

    • Thanks Vicki! And I like your one-hour trick. . . that’s a great technique to getting over the hurdle of simply getting started. When in doubt throw it out is extra-wise when directed at the fridge too. 😉

  2. This is something I’ve been working on since moving out of my last home. When I actually moved, I donated a lot of stuff to local thrift stores. And since then I’ve been selling things on eBay. Some on Craigslist, but mostly eBay. It’s not always easy to let go, but it feels great to finally get rids of things I no longer want or need.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Steve! I have been doing the same thing for the last several months. It all started with the goal to clear my desk of anything non-essential. I am getting close! Definitely a great feeling, and that feeling is even better when things you aren’t using make their way into the hands of someone that will use them.


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