5 Steps to Declutter Your House Before Selling

By Steph Matarazzo

|10 min read

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Dealing with clutter is a common American problem. A 2015 study done by the National Association of Profesional Organizers found that 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by clutter. This is a big reason why you need to know how to declutter your house before listing it for sale.

Decluttering your house is one way you can take charge of the home selling process. For potential buyers, purchasing your home is one of the most significant investments of their lifetimes. They want to be able to see themselves living in a home before making a decision. With things covering counters and floors, it’s hard to see a home’s potential.

decluttered home

To you, the home may look cozy and lived in. But to a potential buyer, it looks cluttered and possibly overwhelming. But there is a simple fix—decluttering! 

This guide will explore in-depth how to declutter a house before selling. We’ll look at areas to focus your efforts, special tips, and ways to declutter effectively over time or one day.

How to Declutter Your House to Sell 

You decided to sell, and there’s much to do. Your main job is to create an environment where potential buyers can picture themselves living. One of the most effective ways to do this is decluttering. But where do you start, and what are to most effective decluttering techniques?

One option is to hire a house decluttering service. These services work with you to organize your home. Often, they provide you with the tools needed to stay organized. They can help with one room or an entire house.

The other option is to roll up your sleeves and take decluttering into your own hands. After all, you know your space and your stuff best, making you the ideal recruit. On its surface, the job may seem overwhelming. However, once it’s broken down into small steps, it’s a much easier task to swallow. Let’s take a look.

How to Declutter Your House in One Day (or longer)

For most, decluttering a home is more manageable when spread out over several days. While this is ideal, it is not always an option. Here are tips to help you declutter your house in one day or one weekend.

1. Make a List

Before getting started, compile a list of each room and guesstimate the time to declutter each. Since you’re working with little time, limit the time spent on each room to a few hours max. Stick with this limit, so you spend more time taking care of business and less time getting lost in memories.

2. Gather Supplies 

Now that you have your list, gather everything you’ll need to declutter and stay on task. Markers, trash bags, boxes, labels, and a timer will get your list of supplies going. Add anything else that comes to mind. The idea here is to keep your mind on the task by having everything you need on hand.

3. Sort and Choose

There is a popular book (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing) that goes in-depth about the best way to go about deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. In the end, what you want to focus on is what do you use, need or love.

If you’re working with minimal time, you’ll need to sort through your items somewhat aggressively and unpassionately. It’s okay to have an indecision pile to come back to later. Try not to hang on to things just because you got a good deal on them or feel like you should.

For the things you keep, make sure they appear tidy and don’t create clutter.

4. Store the Things You Keep Appropriately

The things you use often should be kept in places that are easy to get to. Use small bins or boxes to organize for easy access. If you still have too much stuff to keep your home looking tidy, you can always start packing early. Anything that can be done without for a few months can go in a box and out of sight. Make sure to also store any keepsakes or personal items.

Large plastic bins are great for those things that you don’t need to retrieve daily. Think about finding a place for them in the basement or garage of your new home. If you realize that those things continue to sit there year after year without being touched, reconsider if keeping them is necessary.

5. Take a Final Lap

After you’ve completed the above steps, take a final tour of your property through the eyes of a buyer. If you see items that are personal to your life, remove them. Declutter anything you missed and clean as you go. It doesn’t hurt to perform this walkthrough multiple times or to enlist the help of a friend or family member.

5 Rooms to Declutter to Sell a House

1. Kitchen

How to declutter your house should start in your kitchen. With all its drawers, cupboards, and closets, put decluttering your kitchen at the top of your list. As one of the top rooms influencing a potential buyer’s decision, it’s essential to pay the kitchen special attention.

  • A great place to start is the drawers and cupboards. Sort through everything, always with the eyes of a buyer. Also, keep the question “Do I really need this” at the top of your mind. If you see a pot or pan you haven’t used in years, add it to the donate pile. If you have four spatulas but only use one or two, only keep the ones you use.

    Pack away anything else you don’t use weekly to add more spaciousness to your cupboards and drawers.
  • Take a look at your kitchen work surfaces. Move any appliances you don’t regularly use to the cabinets or pantry. Storing larger appliances in these areas will add to their spaciousness since they can house them easily. Anything on your countertops that can be removed or tucked into a corner will also generate spaciousness.
  • Create a blank canvas with your refrigerator by removing all photos, magnets, and artwork. You want the buyer to picture themselves living in your home. A fridge covered with family photos and magnets works against that goal.

2. Hallways

The first step to decluttering a hallway is removing everything that shouldn’t be there. In doing so, you take this narrow space and make it appear much wider.

  • Start by going through any shoes, coats, et cetera stored in a hallway. If there’s anything you can live without, add it to the donate pile. Bulky seasonal coats take up a lot of space. Tuck these out of sight before showing your home.
  • If there’s any visual clutter in the hallway, remove it. We’re talking about photographs, umbrellas, artwork, dog leashes, and toys.
  • Perhaps your hallway has a small desk or another surface where you toss your keys and bills. If so, develop a system for sorting and storing your mail and items out of sight for now.

3. Living Room

Your potential buyers will undoubtedly spend a good deal of time scrutinizing your living room. With families spending so much time there, it makes sense for a buyer to take extra time checking things out.

  • Let’s face it—living rooms get used. Tour the entire room slowly and gather any out-of-place items. Once you have your pile, return these items to their rightful place. This includes any throw pillows on the floor, coffee table books, and various gadgets. 
  • You want the living room to appear welcoming and spacious at once. Start by unloading any excess furniture. You’ll be amazed at how removing one piece of furniture can create so much space. Pay close attention to larger items. Sure, you love your oversized coffee table, but does it make the room appear smaller? If so, consider swapping it out for the time being.
  • Remove any items that have made a home on your floor. This includes shoes, toys, coats, and anything else you can store away elsewhere.
  • As with any room, remove anything that may prevent the buyer from picturing themselves living there. Take down and tuck away any family photos and sentimental items. What if a potential buyer roots for your favorite team’s rival? Probably best to remove any sports-related signage or decoration.

4. Bedrooms 

As with the living room, decluttering your bedrooms is a must. Start with the primary bedroom and work your way down until each room is clutter-free.

  • Time to clear out those bedroom drawers, closets, and wardrobes. Again, you want to give your buyer the impression of space. If they find a wardrobe overflowing with items, this tells them that your home lacks storage. Make your way through each drawer, closet, or wardrobe like a person on a mission.

    Take your time to examine each item and deem it necessary or unnecessary. Some people have a hard time parting with articles of clothing that bring back good memories. If you’re part of this group and no longer wear the item, steel your resolve. Add it to the donate pile. Your good memories are still available, and now you’re helping those in need.

5. Bathrooms

You want potential buyers to enter bathrooms that are clean, free of clutter, and relaxing. You want the environment to be warm and welcoming but completely depersonalized. 

  • Dig through all drawers and cabinets. Get rid of any used toiletries you no longer need. Donate any unused, unwanted products. For any showings, have a medicine kit packed that you can take with you. Or, find a new out of sight place in a closet to store these items. You definitely don’t want potential buyers to see your used toothbrush.
  • Make sure any remaining towels are clean and well organized. Check out YouTube videos to discover how to fold and store towels attractively.

Conclusion

Decluttering an entire home or even a room can feel overwhelming. However, breaking this seemingly impossible task up and spreading it out over a series of days takes the pressure off. Your best chance at attracting a buyer is by giving them the opportunity to picture themselves living in the space. Now you know how to declutter your house to help them do this.

Since they have a trained eye, recruit the help of your real estate agent for further tips and advice. Also, check out our extensive list for more home selling tips.

Steph Matarazzo

Steph

Steph is the Marketing Director at FastExpert and has been working in the real estate data and research world for two years. She is passionate about educating people on the real estate market and Excel spreadsheets. She lives on the East Coast with her family and recently purchased her own home.

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