8 Top Tips to Declutter your Home for Sale
Chaos and mess is a known top turn-off for potential buyers, so it’s important to get your home decluttered and organised! Shedding some life-layers now will also be a bonus come moving day, plus you’ll start afresh in your new home with a harmonious, clutter-free space.
For many of us, paring back is difficult – there is often sentimental value in the form of memories and experiences attached to knick-knacks, while others just find comfort from a home filled to the brim with their favourite things. But it’s time to get your head in the sell-space. The cold, harsh reality is that you need to present the best first impression to potential buyers, and your memories are not on their list of wants or needs.
Buyers desire storage and space, and will favour a home they can easily visualise as their own. So, decluttering is about making your home feel larger, showing off your storage, and selectively pruning to achieve that balance of de-personalised comfort to allow buyers to easily envision themselves moving in. Your end goal is to entice buyers to linger in each room, so they can see the features and benefit of your home.
1. Start Simply.
Knowing where, and how, to start decluttering is often the hardest step. But there are a few simple tips to help you ease into the exercise.
Start with one room (usually a small, easy one), and don’t move on until it’s finished. Or alternatively, you might prefer to tidy by category – for instance, deal with all the books in the house. If you do dive down the category route, it’s often best to start with clothing and the least emotionally loaded categories, like shoes, books etc and leave the old photographs and letters till last.
Put your blinkers on, and be conscious of time. Once you’ve decided on a room or category to declutter, give yourself a set amount of time to complete it – and stick to it! Be careful to avoid falling down the rabbit hole of memories; nostalgia is not your friend when clearing for sale.
The 12-month principle. Not a tip for the faint-hearted, but potentially your best ally when tidying for sale. It’s simple – for every item, consider if you’ve used it, or thought about it during the past year. If you draw a blank, that’s a good indication it’s time to part ways.
Organise your items into three grades – things to take (and to be stored for the moment), things to donate and things to toss. Be prepared and have cardboard boxes pre-labelled so it makes it easy to divide things up. For larger items, like furniture, use colour coded stickers or labels to identify which need to be stored, donated or dumped.
Off-site storage is not an excuse. You may have an overflow of items which need to be stored off-site for the meantime. Just be sure to remember the aim of decluttering is to save you time and money when selling – not to create more expense. So, try to keep the off-site storage costs to a minimum by ensuring the overflow items are those you’ll definitely use often in your new home, or love unconditionally.
Depersonalising is an easy way to start the decluttering process in any room. Personal items like photos on the bedside table, religious icons, family heirlooms and kid’s drawings on the fridge make it harder to buyers to picture themselves living in your home. You want your home to feel lived in and comfortable, but not covered in personal belongings.
2. Cull Callously in the Kitchen.
Top of mind should be that kitchens sell homes, so get cracking! Buyers will be opening cupboards looking for that all-important storage space. Make sure their search is rewarded by clearing your cupboards of everything you can live without during the next couple of months. Each drawer, cabinet and cupboard needs to appear like you have plenty of space for what you need, and room to spare.
Pack up all the “good” china, serving ware and platters. Likewise, with your extra bakeware and rarely used appliances, pots and pans. Clear the counters of all appliances, place towels and potholders in drawers rather than hanging from the oven door, and hide soap dishes, sponges and detergents under the sink – buyers want to think about entertaining in your kitchen, not washing dishes. Remove evidence of any problems, such as ant powder or mouse traps, and take all personal memorabilia off the fridge.
3. Showcase your Living and Dining Areas.
Firstly, look at the bulky items – any extra, oversized or old furniture needs to go, whether it be into storage or otherwise. That includes extra dining table chairs, multiple bookcases and if your lounge and/or dining table is clearly too large for the space, consider hiring one in a more suitable size while selling your home. Then turn your attention to the smaller stuff – clear out stacks of magazines, ornament collections in the china cabinet, edit the bookshelves and cull the throw pillows and table accessories. The more clutter, the heavier and smaller the rooms will feel.
Take stock of your artwork and larger accessories – these are often a reflection of your personal style and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if they are brash and OTT. If your walls are hung with attention-grabbing artwork, pare it back to a tasteful couple. Similarly with rugs – remove bold, jarring rugs and aim for more neutral accents in all your soft furnishings. Lastly, remember to remove most of your personal mementos’ like photographs and children’s artwork, plus any kids (or pet) toys.
4. Clear the Way in High Traffic Areas.
An entryway or hallway sets the initial tone for a buyer and shows them what to expect from the rest of the home. To get this important first impression right, create an entrance that draws potential buyers in – not one which has them immediately back tracking out the door. Clear magazine racks, umbrella holders, hanging hooks, photographs and artwork from the walls and floor. If your entry and hallways are narrow, don’t place any furniture. For wider halls, a slimline bench or accent table can provide a nice welcome. Be sure to secure any rugs with floor grips, so to avoid a buyer tripping hazard as soon as they walk in.
5. Beautify the Bedrooms.
Don’t just shove everything into the cupboard and hope for the best – buyers will be opening the closet and won’t appreciate a mess falling out on top of them. Start by giving your clothing the 12 month test – anything you haven’t worn in the past year needs to be donated. Pack away seasonal clothing in storage, and rearrange anything left based on type and colour – it’s an easy way to make a closet look roomy and organised.
Remove any excess furniture such as a bulky dresser, keeping only a bed and one bedside table per person with limited accessories. Remove anything from under the bed, and make sure your linen is clean, fresh and as neutral as possible. In the kid’s room, opt between either a bedside table or small desk and remove photo frames, posters and artwork. It’s also a great time to cull kid’s toys – either have them help, or do it yourself while they are at school, whichever option causes the least trauma.
6. Bare-ify the Bathrooms.
Bathrooms will benefit from popping all those cosmetics, perfumes and personal care products away. Master suites and ensuites need to feel luxurious, so keep them as bare as possible. The top of all bathroom vanities should be clear, with maybe a scented candle or fresh flowers for decoration and perfume. Try to stick to neutral coloured towels, and clean and repair any discoloured grout or evidence of mould. Remove stains from the toilet bowl, and try to ensure the bathroom is an area that really shines with cleanliness.
7. Get Creative with Office and Hobby Spaces.
Often times, its best to turn those dedicated office or hobby rooms into an extra bedroom. This gives your home better sales potential. In some cases, perhaps you can keep your office desk and install a single bed, to show the dual use of a smaller room. A craft space usually needs to be packed away entirely. In reality, you’ll be super busy during the next couple of months and a hobby room is unlikely to receive much use during the selling and moving period.
However, if you have plenty of bedrooms already, a dedicated office or craft space can also provide big benefits. If you are lucky enough to be in this position, show off your extra space by making sure it is neat, orderly and storage space is freely available.
8. Maximise the Impact of Storage Spaces.
Open your linen closet and assess what you really will need and use over the next couple of months; usually three changes of linen should do. Everything else can be packed up for storage. A word of advice – keeping linen that is colour coordinated provides a nice touch, especially when neatly arranged with plenty of room to “breathe”. Remove any mothballs and air out the closet.
For any other internal storage areas, rest assured these will be inspected carefully by potential buyers. Be brutal – toss as much as possible so that your storage areas look spacious and organised.
Once you are finished in the house, tackle your garage and garden shed last. Even though it’s important they also received the de-clutter treatment, it’s not a deal breaker if you don’t get to them in time. Trash old tools and items that were to be repaired “one day”, and donate old sporting and camping equipment. Again, be as ruthless as possible. The remaining items should be neatly re-homed in an organised manner.
Expert tip – if you have leftover house paint, keep it aside and label it with the room it belongs to. The new owners will love you for it!
There are so many benefits to decluttering – most of all the savings in time (on the market), and expense (of moving less items). Clearing for sale also has the added bonus of starting the preparation for change and emotionally disconnecting from your home, which dramatically reduces the stresses of selling and moving. Start decluttering early and you’ll be reaping the rewards in no time!