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How to Deal With All Your Stuff

Thursday, March 1st, 2018 at 12:00pm Stephen Carns


Casting Out the Clutter is the First Step to a Successful Sale

Do you LOVE those toy trains from your childhood (I still have all of mine!!)? Are you totally attached to your collection of stuffed animals? Do you, with ever lasting devotion, remain completely dedicated to your college fraternity and all the memorabilia that goes with that dedication? Do you have a “Wall-of-Fame” (or multiple walls) showing the history of your whole beautiful family, including photos, trophies, and momentos of every family moment for the past couple of decades?

I think it is awesome if you do, as nothing helps identify your unique lifestyle better than all your stuff. It’s what makes a house your home. Now, take a deep breath and a long look at all your stuff — then box it all up and ship it out of your house to a storage facility or at least pack and hide it under your bed. For no matter how much sentiment these personal items hold for you, these perfect little treasures appear as nothing but absolute CLUTTER to prospective buyers. I know, I know… It’s hard to believe your fourth-bedroom-converted-to-golf-trophy-room isn’t a selling feature to buyer. I hate to break it to you, but as hard as it is to hear, you know it’s true.

Clearing clutter from your home is one of the BEST things you can do to prepare your home for sale. For you, it makes it easier to clean your home for showings. For prospective buyers, it neutralizes the space, so they can imagine their own personalized treasures in there. So, if you begin to cringe as you read the following suggestions, just remember, this is ultimately for your benefit as the rewards of a faster sale for more money will follow. Just keep telling yourself: “Space sells.” Repeat it until you know it by heart and think of it in your sleep. “Space sells. Space sells. Space sells...”

But where do you begin? Having moved many people, including myself, I know this one necessary task seems monumental in nature. Just remember the old joke: How do you eat an elephant?… One bite at a time. Get started, take simple steps, keep at it, and you’ll get there.

Many sellers find it easiest to begin by clearing out the garage, an area where unwanted items often land before finally making it all the way out of the house. Throw away worthless items you can do without and store important items in a warehouse or a friend’s garage. As you collect "disposable" items from your house de-cluttering, organize them neatly in your garage in preparation for a garage sale.

Many home staging experts recommend removing as much as half your furniture from the house. This is a good time to repeat to yourself, "Space sells."

Accent tables, extra chairs, and cabinets that hold huge collections are good choices for removal. For example, a dining room table with chairs should be kept in the room, while a corner china cabinet or curio shelf should be removed. Bedrooms should contain just one double or queen size bed or two twin beds. Extra beds should be stored. Take an inventory of those items you can do without for awhile. Make a note of where you plan to put each item when it is removed. Store it, sell it, donate it or give it away… just be sure to remove it from the buyer’s sight.

Depersonalize every space. Remove your teenage daughter’s fan posters from her bedroom, your husband’s stuffed trophy fish from the study, and any partisan items like bumper stickers, books or magazines from the family room. All spaces should be neutral zones, so potential buyers can picture their own belongings in each room. Remind your family members that this isn’t permanent and they can have these items back as soon as the house sells!

Just as it is good to remember that space sells, it is also important to learn "The Rule of Three."

To begin: Take everything off the kitchen counter, bathroom vanity, table tops and mantles and wipe them sparkling clean.

And now the important part: Return only THREE items to each space. Yes, ONLY THREE — that’s the rule. As for the left over items - store them, sell them or give them away.

Keep in mind that nothing is sacred when a house is on the market. Anything that can be opened in any room - closets, drawers, cabinets, shower curtains, pantry doors - will be explored by potential buyers. Clean out and organize closets, drawers and the pantry. Keep the shower spotless and remove shampoo and conditioner bottles or any other personal care items.

In the bedroom, remove half the clothes from each closet, put shoes on a rack and hang purses and belts on pegs or organizers. Don’t forget to recycle all those grocery bags and newspapers you have stashed in the hall closet. Leave no cabinet door unopened and unclean.

In her book, "50 Simple Steps You Can Take to Sell Your Home Faster and for More Money in Any Market," Ilyce R. Glink suggests creating a "clutter collector" in areas where papers and writing utensils seem to collect. 

Glink’s clutter collector is a large flat storage box that is kept where mail and schoolwork seem to end up each day. Keep all receipts, old phone messages, pens and pencils, children’s artwork, permission slips, unopened mail and other miscellaneous papers in the box. Just before a potential buyer is scheduled to arrive for a showing, store the cutter collector underneath a bed.

Whew! Now that you’ve decluttered your house, what do you do with the items that you no longer need but are still usable? You have several options. If you donate them to a charity, you may be able to receive an income tax deduction for the value amount. An added bonus: Often these organizations will pick up donations, so you can focus on spending your time elsewhere.

You can always sell unwanted items through consignment shops, classified ads, garage sales, Craig’s List, Facebook Marketplace, eBay or an auction. It might be nice to have a little extra cash to help pay moving expenses. But if you can’t bear to part with these unnecessary treasures, self-storage may be the right answer for you. Rented storage units are particularly convenient places to keep furniture, seasonal sports gear, holiday decorations and patio furniture. Keep in mind, it’s not a permanent solution — It’s just until the house sells.

I know all this can be hard to read. I know while reading this you’ve thought to yourself, “This is too much. I’m not doing it.” Believe me, I truly understand. If clearing clutter seems like an overwhelming task, just remember two things: First, reducing clutter makes each room easier to clean, which will greatly help you save time maintaining the home while it’s on the market. Finally, don’t forget what’s down the road — The big MOVE. The more you clean out or box up before, the easier it will be to prepare to move after your house sells. You will have far more important things to do at that time, so doesn’t it make sense to get it all done even before your buyer comes to look at the home?

Feel Free to Ask for Help

Part of my service is educating my clients, so they can get the best results in their real estate transaction. Call or email me to request a personal Room-by-Room Review of your home. We will schedule a time where we will review each room of your home and make specific recommendations about de-cluttering and de-personalizing your home as you prepare your home for sale. And, I'll provide badly needed moral support by reminding you that doing this is in your best interest for a faster sale for more money. Interested? All you have to do is ask.

Here’s to your real estate success!

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