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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If there’s one thing I think we can all agree on, it’s that 2020 was definitely a challenging year.  But even through all the ups and downs, the Real Estate industry was still able to shine with all-time low mortgage rates driving the market.  And since the Home Staging industry walks hand-in-hand, we managed to pull through just fine, adding more certified HSE’s than ever before!

To kick things off, we celebrated 21 years in business this year, so I guess that makes us officially legal!  (Ha!) And to make things less confusing, we officially changed our name to Home Staging Expert®, Inc. and dropped our original corporate name of Center Stage Home, Inc.

We were approved to offer Continuing Education Credits in several more states including Georgia, Mississippi, and Wyoming.  This is in addition to Colorado and Michigan, where we already offer CE Credits.

We shared the fabulous work of even more HSE® Certified Stagers!  Check out the before and after photos of Realtors® Dawn Hosier, Annie FarmerLinda SanfillipoRicky Janotha, and Michael Hughes, who all earned their HSE® Certification in 2020.  (CONGRATS!)

In our “Ask the Home Staging Expert®” column, we tackled vastly different topics from how to emotionally prepare to sell your house, to updating a fireplace before selling, to how to decorate for Christmas while your house is on the market.

We showed you how to stage around a sectional sofa, answered the most frequently asked questions about Home Staging (watch for Part 2 coming in January) and had the honor of participating in a great before and after feature on house flipping with

As 2020 finally comes to an end, we are filled with hope and optimism as we ring in 2021!  Wishing all good things for you and your family in the coming New Year and thanks so much for following our blog!  We appreciate you all so much and couldn’t do it without you.

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Home Staging Expert® Trainer Joanna Gyrath Reveals Bathroom Update in Colorado


Bathrooms are always a big selling point for potential buyers.  And here, our very own Certified Home Staging Expert® Trainer Joanna Gyrath shows us just what she did to update the bathroom in her own home.  For all the gorgeous details and more fabulous photos, click here.

And don’t forget…Joanna is one of our Certified Trainers!  If you’re interested in earning 14 CE Credits in Colorado or Wyoming, Joanna has several upcoming workshops to choose from.  Here’s the list!  Check it out to find a date that works for you.  FYI – She’s even got a Live Virtual 2-Day Workshop coming up December 9th and 10th and you still have time to register.


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“Ask the Home Staging Expert®”: If Our House is on the Market, can We Still Decorate for Christmas?


Hi, Lori – With the holidays approaching, we need some advice.

This year made us realize how important our family is and how much we miss them, so we’re selling our home to move closer.  Currently, houses in this market are moving fast, which is why we thought we should get our home listed now.  A Realtor® friend advised us not to wait and said things likely won’t be slowing down between Thanksgiving and New Year, so my husband is anxious to get things rolling.

The problem is…Christmas!  Our girls are now 7 and 9, so it’s a very big deal to them and it’s always been a very big deal to me.  I tend to go full-Gonzo with the decorations during the holiday season and always look forward to it.  As much as I want to move, I do think it’s more important than ever to carry on the traditions.  My husband thinks the most important thing is to get the house sold as quickly as possible.

While I agree that all the decorations might be distracting to some buyers, I don’t want to ignore Christmas.  So many normal activities have already been taken away from our girls because of the pandemic, I think it’s just too important not to give them this holiday.  What do you think?  Can we still decorate for Christmas?

Christmas-Gonzo in Virginia


Dear Gonzo –

I get it.  I truly do.  This year, ‘normal’ has taken on a whole new meaning.  We all miss it, and I feel particularly bad for the children and elderly who’ve been cooped up and have to make so many sacrifices.  And with the world currently sitting on a tilt, who knows what next year will bring?

For you and your family, I think it’s all about priorities.  You seem to agree that now is the best time to get your home sold.  You just have to wrap your head around what that truly means.  The good news is, you can still have a fabulous holiday without going ‘full-Gonzo’ on the decor!  And turning it down to a level most potential buyers will find more acceptable certainly doesn’t mean you’re ignoring Christmas.

Personally, I don’t think any reasonable buyer is going to care about a holiday tree and a few decorations.  Just don’t let them overwhelm your space.  Your kids are probably old enough to understand that this year is a little different.  Not just because of the virus, but your plans to move, as well.  Get them excited about that!  Remind them of how awesome it will be to see Grandma and Grandpa so often!

Instead of an explosion of decorations to represent the holidays for you, get the kids involved in a flurry of festive activities!  Make your own ornaments for the tree.  Make bird seed ornaments and decorate a tree for the birds outside.  Bake up and decorate a GONZO amount of holiday cookies and mail them off to that family you’re missing.  Make your own Christmas cards to send.  It’s a long-lost tradition, but probably more important now than ever before.  You can also check around the nursing homes in your area to see what their policies are, as many of them do allow people to drop off cards and non-food items for their residents.  I’m sure plenty of them would LOVE to receive a holiday greeting or handmade painting from your girls!

So you see?  There are actually many things you can do to make the holiday special for you and your family and get your house sold at the same time.  And please remember that the children are going to pick up on your attitude about this new way of celebrating.  If you’re enthusiastic about it, they will be, too!  Just consider it an opportunity to explore some new options that very well may end up turning into holiday traditions in your new home.

Wishing you and yours all the best and hope this helps!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT®”, please contact

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Before and After: Realtor® Michael Hughes Creates A Positive First Impression in Boulder, Colorado

For potential buyers, it’s all about that first impression!  If you can impress them on the very first showing, you’re halfway there.  Here at Home Staging Expert®, we cannot stress enough how important that is.

Luckily for his clients, Realtor® Michael Hughes of LIV Sotheby’s International Realty in Boulder, Colorado, knows just how to impress!  After taking our workshop with HSE Certified Trainer Joanna Gyrath and earning his Home Staging Expert® Certification, Michael hit the ground running and we could not be more pleased with his home staging success!

While most Realtors® would just assume that a home this well-appointed would require very little effort to prepare for market, keep in mind that designing to live vs. staging to sell are two different things.  It’s all about the positive impact those rooms will have on a potential buyer at first glance!  By opening up the floor plan, drawing the buyer’s eye directly to the features, and enhancing those features even more, Michael was able to transform this beautiful home into a desirable listing.

Thoughtfully edited furnishings allowed him to create more visual square footage, offering a much easier flow that is fully accessible to anyone wanting a closer look.  The new arrangement also helps to draw the buyer’s eye directly to that gorgeous fireplace!  Accessorizing with artwork in softer tones over the mantel gave this entire feature a subtle but unmistakable boost without grabbing too much attention on its own.  And the placement of the now distinctly noticeable red upholstered chairs liven up the entire space and bring the balcony doors into plain sight, giving potential buyers a glimpse of what lies beyond.

This is what staging can do for your property, and this is what Michael can do for you!  A top tier real estate professional with local expertise and global connections, Michael Hughes is known for his integrity and an exceptional level of service to both buyers and sellers in the Boulder community.  His outstanding skills as a Realtor® and Home Staging Expert® Certification are sure to leave not only a positive first impression, but a lasting one.

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What the Flip? How a Fixer-Upper in Portland Brought in Big Profits

I had the honor of participating in a wonderful article on a beautiful house flip written by Whitney Coy that appeared on in October.  Thought you might like to read more about this amazing transformation!  CLICK HERE for the full article.



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