Declutter your home for a faster sale



What makes a house a home?

People answer that in different ways, but one thing that I commonly hear is that the house “feels” like home. This is experienced by the buyer on both an emotional and an intuitive level at the same time. It is usually something that buyers have a hard time putting into words.

When you’re selling your home, you need to present your home in such a way that makes it easy for buyers to get that feeling of home. How do you do that?

The buyer must envision their stuff in the space, not your stuff

In order for the house to feel like a home, the buyer needs to be able to imagine what it would be like to live in this house. The buyer needs to be able to envision their own stuff in the house. They’ll consider bigger things like where we should put the couch and will our bedroom set fit this bedroom. But they’ll also be picturing the little things, like pictures and knick knacks on the wall, and how their existing decor will fit in the new space.

In order for the buyer to imagine the house as their own home, you need to declutter and depersonalize the house in order to create “space” for the buyer’s imagination. Space for the buyer to see where they can fit their stuff and make it their home. If the house is filled with your stuff, it is harder for the buyer to see their stuff in it.

If the space is filled with your stuff, it’s harder for them to see their stuff in it

Too much of your stuff will remind them that your house is not their home. You need the buyer to be able to see past that. That will make it harder for them to imagine living there, and less likely for the buyer to get the feeling of home.

When you’re getting your house ready for sale, one of the first things you should do is declutter and depersonalize the house. Create that space for the buyer’s imagination by minimizing your own stuff.

Here are some ideas to help you declutter and depersonalize your home….

How to declutter and depersonalize

How to declutter and depersonalize

  • Remove pictures and mementos from walls: This can be a tough one, but think about it. If the buyer sees your family and friends all over the place, it’s not going to feel like home. It will remind them that this is your house, not theirs. You don’t have to remove every picture, but try to limit it to one or two items per room. Pictures are distracting and draw attention away from your home.
  • Knick knacks, trinkets, tchotchke, and collections: We’ve seen homes that had so many knick knacks, souvenirs, and trinkets on the walls that you could not see the walls! This presents a real challenge for potential buyers. Not only does it prevent them from seeing their stuff in the space, but it also makes the house feel smaller.
  • This one might be tough: Pare down items that are overtly religious or political. Though those things may be very important to you, a potential buyer might strongly disagree with your point of view. Some people just can’t look past this kind of thing, and you don’t want them to form their opinion of your home based on a negative association.
  • Neutral colors: We once had a room that had blue and red walls, and another room with purple and some sort of nuclear yellow. Don’t make the same mistake! It only reminded buyers that it was our home, not theirs, and if they wanted to buy it someone was going to have to paint. If you have some colorful craziness going on like we did, consider painting over it with a neutral color.
  • Scent: Try to get rid of any odor issues in your home. Common sources of odors are garbage cans, shoes, pets, strong smelling foods, and smoking. If your home has an odor issue, it will smack people in the face as soon as they walk in the door. It makes a terrible first impression. Masking the odor with scented air fresheners can make it worse, because some buyers are very sensitive to scent. Professional carpet cleaning can help.
  • Fresh air: Whether your home has a scent issue or not, fresh air is always good. Crack some windows and let the house air out, especially before a showing or open house. This can help prevent odor issues from returning.
  • Clean out the pantry: This will make your pantry seem larger. You should donate food that is still good, but won’t be eaten. You can throw out food that is expired.
  • Clean up the bathroom: Try not to leave your toothbrushes, deodorant, and beauty products on the counter.
  • Fewer pieces of furniture: Remove unnecessary chairs, couches, end tables, that may be cluttering up small spaces
  • Purge: This is an excellent opportunity to get rid of some of that stuff that you’ve accumulated over the years.

What do you do with all the stuff?

  • Garage sale: This is a time-tested way to get rid of that stuff you don’t need anymore or never use.
  • Storage: If you have a lot of stuff that you don’t want to get rid of, consider placing it in temporary storage until after you move. If you can’t afford storage, try to make some room in the garage.
  • Donation: Give your stuff to an organization that helps people in need, such as the Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity.
  • Craigslist: Craigslist is the undisputed champion of classified ads. Just be sure to follow some common sense safety guidelines.

Toss it: When it’s not too good to toss, take it to the dump.

Bonus Tip

Decluttering and depersonalizing your home can be a real challenge. It feels like you are dismantling your home’s identity, or even your own! As you put your stuff away, try to flip this feeling around by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I have this thing?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • What would happen if it was gone?
  • Do I really need to keep it?

If you ask these questions as you put stuff away, you might realize that you don’t really need so much stuff after all.


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