We are kicking off the new year in a very big way!  Home Staging Expert® Certified Stager and Certified Virtual Professional Organizer and Director of Organizing Options®, Kathleen Murphy has provided an incredibly thorough and very useful guide to get your home decluttered and organized before you list it to sell. Share it, print it, and make sure to save it for future reference.  We are so honored to share Kathleen’s experience and wisdom with you! 

I think decluttering is always a good idea, but it is essential when you are planning to list your home on the market. While this is shared knowledge between home stagers and Realtors, it is not so easy for homeowners to accept. Many people suffer from “Clutter Blindness” which is one’s inability to see clutter and recognize it for what it is. Usually because the clutter has been around for so long that they have grown used to it.

Try to look at your home through the eyes of potential buyers, as they will want to see themselves living there.  To help in that, the home needs to be decluttered and depersonalized.  If you’ve ever been to an IKEA showroom, you may have noticed how spacious the makeshift rooms feel, even when they are rather small. This is due to an absence of clutter and the depersonalization of the showrooms. There are no clutter-obstacles or personal memorabilia to be found in those rooms.

As a guide, I’ve outlined some common clutter areas for the review of your home, with recommended actions:

Remove Personal Items

The key is to depersonalize your home so that potential buyers can see themselves in the home with their own belongings, and not with the belongings of the current owner.

Family photos: Removing family photos will give potential buyers room to picture themselves living there, and displaying their own memories and vacations on the walls and table tops.

Personal care products: You will need to remove shampoo bottles, used bars of soap, and other personal care products from sinks, bath tubs and shower stalls. You should also remove brushes, combs, hairdryers, and other such items from dressers and bedroom furniture. Anything that is hygiene and grooming related counts as personal, and it is better that they are not on display.

Religious symbols: You will want potential buyers of all backgrounds to feel comfortable imagining themselves living in your home, and some people may feel uncomfortable with religious symbols or find it hard to relate to the space. Better to err on the side of caution and remove them.

Alcohol bottles and containers: Seeing bottles of alcohol can be triggering for some people, so it is best to put them out of sight.

Pets and related items: Remove all traces of fur when cleaning.  Remove all pet toys, dog beds, food dishes, bags of pet food, carrying cases, and of course your furry friends before potential buyers come to view your home. Not everyone likes pets, and can be afraid of them or have allergies as well. Better not to take a chance.

Refrigerator: Clear all fridge magnets, notes, photos, and drawings off the refrigerator. The refrigerator is a clutter trap and any items on the fridge will distract potential buyers from seeing the full expanse of the kitchen.

Paperwork from the kitchen table or other area: Be sure that all confidential papers are out of sight before having a tour of your home. If you leave piles of paper on tabletops, potential buyers will think there is not enough space in your home for a makeshift or proper office. It is best to gather your papers and place them in a labelled box that is out of sight, yet available for easy retrieval.

Children’s toys: They need to be contained whether in a toy box, or in a storage box. Remember we want potential buyers to be able to picture themselves living in the home, and seeing your children’s toys will make it more difficult to do so.

Remove Excess Items

Do not worry about having too much empty space in your rooms, as potential buyers want to be sure their furniture will fit into those rooms.

Furniture not being kept: Remove the furniture you will not bring with you when you move. This would be the best time to get unwanted furniture out of the house for a donation or otherwise.

From the garage: Remove garbage, recycling, toxic materials, sports gear, unusable tires, broken BBQs, garden supplies, and garden furniture not going on the move. This is the time to remove everything possible that you no longer want or need.

From the closets – clothes, hall, linen, storage: If everything is squished tightly together on the rods of the clothes closet and on the floor, potential buyers will think there is not enough space for their stuff. I recommend that you declutter all your closets so that they are no more than three quarters full when the home is being shown.

The closet floors should be as clutter free as possible, ideally with only a few pairs of shoes and boots.

The same applies to the hall closet for coats and jackets. When decluttering, remove non-seasonal items such as summer caps in the winter, and scarves, hats and gloves in the summer.

Linen closets usually have an overflow of toweling and bed sheets. I recommend that you take an inventory of what you have, shelf by shelf, and only keep the number of items you want or need.

Storage closets typically hold items that are no longer in use, so this is a good time to let those things go. Like with the garage, this is the time to remove everything possible that you no longer want or need.

You now know more about the value of decluttering. Feel free to use this Blog post as a type of checklist, and give a call to your Realtor for their 2 cents. Now let’s go tackle us some clutter!

Submitted by Kathleen Murphy, a Certified Home Stager from Home Staging Expert® and Certified Virtual Professional Organizer and Director of Organizing Options®. Kathleen leads workshops and provides home staging, and decluttering and organizing consultations to private clients via Zoom, phone, and Facebook messenger. Organizing Options® is a fully insured company. Learn more at


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