The Art of Home Selling, Chapter 2: Declutter&Clean


Decluttering is probably the most important and time consuming step of the home staging. Home staging forces you to finally deal with delayed home organization and unfinished projects.

When you are preparing to make a home sale, this task should be first on your to-do list. Sure, you can throw everything in boxes and deal with it later in your new home, but do you really want to do that?

You might need your stuff! Decluttering is not converting your house to a campground. You can make a check list of the areas for the fast control before showing to be sure that it is well prepared.

It is important to declutter your house so it appears to have lots of storage space.  Potential buyers want to feel like they can easily fit all their belongings and be well-organized.  All built-in cabinets and closets are fair game for potential buyers to inspect.  These areas must be clean, neat, and orderly.

Psychologists advise to minimize the number of personal things, this will allow the prospective buyer to envision your home as his own.

Start your work from planning and buying supplies.You to-have-checklist before you start the Declutter&Clean project:

  • Packing tape or tape gun
  • Black Marker
  • Bubble wrap for valuables and pictures
  • Plastic storage containers
  • Newspaper or wrapping paper
  • Boxes: small, medium and large. Start with 5 of each, you can always get more
  • Stick-on labels for the boxes
  • Large garbage bags for trash and donations

You will sort all objects for five uses. Mark the boxes or bags with stick-on lables.

  1. Things you need in your new home, but don’t expect to use them in the next 1-2 months. Pack them in the moving boxes and move them to a storage. Coordinate your work with the moving company if you are going to use such services.
  2. Things you need in your new home, and will need in the next 1-2 months. Store them in little transparent containers, e.g. in a emptied closet.
  3. Donations and Yard sale. You can use bags, boxes in a storage place of your choice. A Yard sale is a good opportunity to send a message to your neighborhood about your readiness to move. If you choose the garage try don’t fill it up
  4. Garbage. Go through items, one by one. If you can’t bear parting with a sentimental item that you no longer need, take a picture of it, then get rid of it!
  5. UI-Under Investigation If you don’t know where it will go. Don’t lose your precious time, you have planned so much work! If you are not sure where the object goes or suspect it has some sentimental value for a family member, put it in the UI


Here are  more tips:

  • Instead of trying to declutter the entire house at once, (which can seem futile) select one space at a time.
  • Start with small spaces, as you’ll see your progress faster and feel encouraged to move on to bigger tasks.
  • A small space can be a “junk” drawer, a bedroom dresser, or a closet.
  • Work in short time segments. Set a timer for 20 minutes and tackle just one area. Increase the time as you become more efficient.
  • As you declutter your home, you’ll also have the opportunity to give each room a deep cleaning, accomplishing two tasks at once.
  • A spotlessly clean house is a must if you’re planning a home sale! Nothing turns off house hunters more than a dirty, cluttered home.
  • Keep in mind that you are organizing and purging yourself of things you have been clinging to for years—be realistic.


Here are some more tips for decluttering room by room:


  • Keep towels and potholders in drawers, not dangling from the oven handle.
  • Corral sponges and cleansers in a shallow bowl under the sink.
  • Pack rarely used appliances (crockpots, fondue pots, roasters), tools and pans. Pack them to moving boxes (1.) or “available” containers (2.)
  • Collect teacups, plates, pitchers, molds or anything else? Pack away all but a few. Leave up a handful of strategically placed accessories to call buyers’ attention to the decorative shelving.
  • Pot racks, utensils hanging on walls and other open kitchen storage can be unsightly and even dangerous, if people are in danger of hitting their heads or brushing up against sharp gear. Take it all down and swap in plain wallboard.
  • Pack away rarely used staples and gear like seasonal cookie cutters, extra aprons, and unusual spices to air out pantries, drawers and cabinets. People need to envision their own stuff in the storage spaces
  • Remove evidence of problems, such as ant powder, from closets.
  • Declutter your kitchen first by clearing off the countertops.
  •  Cluttered countertops give the impression that you don’t have enough storage space and need the countertops for overflow. Cluttered countertops can also make a kitchen appear tired and small.
  • Clear counters of small appliances.
  • Don’t forget about the inside of your cupboards! Buyers will look inside to see if there’s enough room for their things. They’ll open the dishwasher, fridge, and drawers– that’s why it’s essential to have everything sparkling clean and staged inside and out.
  • The best way to make home buyers think there isn’t enough storage space for their things is to cram as much stuff as possible into the cupboards and drawers.
  • Illusion plays a key role in the art of home staging. Leaving space around items will give the impression that there’s lots of storage room in your kitchen!
  • This is your chance to throw out, donate, recycle, or pack items for your new house. Donate appliances that you never use, throw out mismatched items, and pack up grandma’s punch bowl and the turkey roaster that you use only once a year.


  • Corral prescription drugs in a child-safe area or, better yet, secure them in a different location to keep them from harm’s way.
  • Find a different or temporary home for jewlery, perfume, and rarely used toiletries.
  • Pack or toss all but three changes of linens to create an airy look in your closets.
  • Refresh shelf and drawer liners.
  • Remove evidence of mothballs.
  • Corral cleaning gear in a single, child-safe spot.
  • Clean and repair grout.
  • Declutter your bathroom by going through each item, tossing makeup that has expired, unused appliances, and anything else that you don’t need for daily use. Sort through the linen closet and remove ratty old towels and linens that you wouldn’t want guests to see.



  • Choose a pretty, light set of linens for each bed, with crisp decorative pillows. Now is the time to wash comforters, duvets and quilts so they glow.
  • Keep only a couple family photos on display. Pack the rest and secure off-site.

Living, Dining and Family Rooms

  • Edit your book piles. Clear away all but a few volumes: what you’re currently reading, and perhaps a few for accessorizing.
  • Clear out stacks of magazines and hobby materials. Stacks, even if neat and straight, add weight and visual clutter to rooms.
  • Is there sufficient lighting for reading and tasks? Rearrange lighting to ensure that the rooms are well lit at any time of day or night.
  • Clean the window treatments and the windows. If your window treatments involve numerous layers, consider leaving only the decorative layer.
  • If your walls are covered with attention-grabbing artwork, shrink your arrangement to a tasteful few.
  • Examine walls and woodwork for dirt and chips. Will cleaning be enough, or do surfaces need to be repainted? Ditto for switchplates.
  • Choose only a few pillows for accents. Ditto for tables and shelves holding collections.
  • Reconsider throw rugs. The last thing you want is for a throw rug to throw a potential buyer, figuratively or literally. Either secure them with floor grips, or pack them away.
  • Make sure you have a safe, consistent landing spot for TV and sound system remotes, far from the hands of children.
  • Limit the number of toys kept in any room, and create a place where the remaining toys can quickly be collected, such as a large basket. If you have a baby or toddler, consider laying a large, light blanket on the floor as a temporary play area. When it’s time to tidy for a showing, you can just gather the four corners of the blanket and voila, the toys are collected and can be plopped in a basket or box.

High Traffic Areas

  • Front halls set the first impression. Yours should offer an obvious spot for setting down purses, umbrellas, totes and coats.
  • Remove out of season gear from the hall closet.
  • Make sure the doorbell and entrance systems (locks and security systems) work smoothly and consistently.
  • What is the view from the front door? Remove extraneous furniture so the sightline is as long as possible. The more of your house that visitors can see from the front door, the more intrigued they will be—and that will draw them into the house.
  • Remove hooks and hanging things from halls, especially if the halls are used as storage for coats. The hall will seem narrow and even dangerous to visitors who are dodging hooks as they walk through.

Keep in mind, that you need to be able to declutter the whole house in a short time before house showing. It is like competitive decluttering and like any other sport needs repetition, endurance and discipline.


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40 tips to declutter your home

How to sell your house fast. Declutter&Staging

How to Declutter Before an Open House




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