How to Declutter Your Home to Sell

You are getting ready to sell your home.

Are you excited? Are you ready? Or are you overwhelmed? Not sure where to start?

A cluttered home can can be a source of real anxiety for anyone getting ready to put their home on the market.

Will you get less money? How clean does it need to be? What do you do with all of the extra stuff?

This is a quick guide on decluttering your home before you sell it.

I am a real estate expert, both as a licensed Realtor and an investor. I have helped many clients with guidance on decluttering and have decluttered several homes myself.

So, I hope this guide sets you on your journey to a clutter free home and, hopefully, more profit at the closing table.

Why Declutter Your Home Before You Sell?

A fair question is, “do I really need to declutter, can I just sell my home as it is?”.

The answer is that you (almost) always make more money by putting in effort to get your home presentable before selling.

The exception to this would be if you sell to a builder looking to tear down the home to start new. They really could care less what the inside of your home looks like…and often will not even look inside but rather art your lot.

However, every other buyer is turned off by clutter. The more cluttered the home is the more it discourages them.

A lot of this is just human psychology rather than a personal decision.

When a buyer walks into a cluttered home, I have found they think a few things almost instantly.

• The home has not been cared for, is in bad condition and needs work.

• The home is too small and does not have enough storage.

• The clutter is hiding something bad about the home.

The funny thing about these thoughts are they might not be true. but you will be unable to convince a buyer otherwise if the home is cluttered. And you also may not know what the clutter is hiding, perhaps the floors are stained, etc.

This will affect your bottom line at the real estate closing table.

Step 1: Do an Honest Assessment

I have had clients tell me that there home is “a little bit cluttered” and found that every square inch of the home, minus some paths to walk around, was chest high with stuff. Most of it not useful or valuable.

I have had other clients tell me that there home was a disaster, and went over to find that they just needed to tidy up. A few of hours at work at most.

I have also seen in between. I never judge anyone on the condition of their home, because I have seen it all.

I am telling you this because the first step to decluttering and getting the home ready to sell is to be honest with yourself about the task ahead.

You want to sell in your timeframe (and maybe you need to). And you also want to get your home looking the best it ever has in that timeframe.

So figuring out how much stuff you actually have, how long it will take you to declutter each room, if you need to find people to help, etc. will help you get to your final goal.

Step 2: List Decluttering Options (Trash, Donate, Store, Keep)

Make a list of the possible options for all of the stuff in the home.

My personal one commonly goes like this:

• Trash

•Recycle

• Donate

• Store offsite (storage unit, etc.)

• Keep in the home until closing

You may want to list more options depending on your resources.

If you have a big decluttering project, a professional junk removal service and storage company can come in handy. Here are some more possible options that you can add to your list:

• Leave for junk removal company (they can donate things as well)

• Estate sale items

• Items for family/friends

• Yard Sale

• Shred

If there is anything else you want to add to your list, go ahead. If you think of something while you are decluttering, you can add it later.

Step 3: Get Ready

Pod storage container outside of a craftsman style home in Arlington VA.
PODs are a good way to get storage fast, right outside your home. I do recommend having them picked up before going on the market, because they reduce buyer’s perception of curb appeal.

Now is time to prepare for your start date.

Are you going to utilize storage? Get a POD, rent a storage unit, or utilize the next place you will live.

If you have a lot of trash, rent a roll off dumpster for your driveway.

If you are going to have an estate sale, decide whether you will do it on your own, or hire a professional company.

Also, it is a good idea to have in mind what you want to keep in each room.

This is where staging comes into play and an experienced Realtor can help. If you look at homes already for sale, you will start to get an idea of what the home should look like for photos and showings.

Step 4: Get Started! (In One Room)

If you have a majorly cluttered home, this might be a huge undertaking for you. It is ok to feel overwhelmed, but being paralyzed by it and pushing it off is only going to delay the inevitable task.

So get you plan in place, set a date on the calendar and get up early on that day.

Here is what I like to do: choose a small room to start in. One of the easier rooms in the house to declutter.

Get that room completely cleared out, even if you temporarily have to move more things into another room.

Getting one room done is a big deal, both mentally and to physically give you a little space.

Now, that room can be used for at least one of the following.

• Start to set up for an estate sale.

• Put aside valuables/anything else you will want to eventually store.

• Donations.

• A room to go in to take a deep breath.

Starting and completing one room will give you an early victory and the juice to move forward.

Step 5: Remove Obvious Trash & Recycling

This step can, for some, get difficult. Some people get sentimental over things, and others do not. I am blessed (or cursed?) with being a minimalist, so I can get rid of these items no problem.

Other clients I have spoken with have trouble differentiating between something not useful for anyone (trash/recycling) and something that should be donated, stored or kept in their new home.

Maybe you are somewhere in between these two extremes.

The more things you sort through, the easier it gets to know what you should be thinking of keeping and throwing out.

This step consists of getting rid of all the clutter that is obvious trash and recycling, and I do this in all of the rooms before getting going room by room.

Depending on the amount of clutter you have, you may not be able to get to all of it without further organizing. That is ok. Getting the big trash and surface junk out will make the next step much easier.

Step 6: Go Room by Room, Create “Zones” if Needed

Next I go room by room, starting with the biggest room.

Depending on how much clutter you are dealing with, I recommend creating “zones”. A zone is my fancy word for piles of similar items. These can consist of anything that has a similar final destination.

If you are doing an estate sale or yard sale, these “zones” can consist of similar items for the buyer to look through. For example, antique dishes and glassware could be one “zone”. Sports collectibles another. And tools and other hardware could be a zone too (usually in the basement or garage).

The more rooms that you are able to clear, the more space for these zones you will have.

Once you get in the flow of the organizing, you remember where each type of item goes. Clearing a room may be more about moving objects around from room to room than getting all of the items out of the house at this phase.

Step 7: Clearing Out : Sales, Donations, Final Removal

Once you have every room organized with your zones for estate sale, donation, larger junk removal, etc…it is time for the final purge.

If you are having an estate sale or yard sale, this is the time to host it or have your pro company run it.

Most are held on the weekend for the best chance of a successful sale. Estate sales can have varying degrees of sales, so have a back up plan for donation after the sale.

Now is the time to get the final details of clearing the home worked out.

Figure out what can stay in the home while you sell it. If you do not have any furniture that will be good for staging it, then selling it completely empty is fine.

This is when you move everything else to storage, donations or into where you will be moving next.

Step 8: A Deep Clean

Once you have everything cleared out, it is time to clean.

When you put it on the market, your home should be as clean as it has ever been since you first moved in. A clean house can help you ultimately get more money once you put it on the market.

If you do not hire anybody else to help (discussed below) this is one spot where owners do splurge. A good cleaning company will make your life a lot easier. Some even have special packages for homes that are about to go on the market.

Step 9: Sell!

Your hard work will now pay off. Go relax, celebrate and get ready to let your real estate agent handle the rest of the work to market the home and bring you offers.


More Tips for De-cluttering

Here are some things to keep in mind as you go about your mission to get your home clutter free, and ready to sell.

Professionals

If you have a budget that you can use for getting your home decluttered, it will allow you to leverage professionals to help you get it done. Here are some that you can call around for.

  • Estate Sale Company. These companies will help you set up for an estate sale, market the sale and run the sale. Some of them will also give you a price to handle clearing out the rest of your home after including donations/etc.
  • Junk Removal Services. Companies like 1-800-Got-Junk will come to your home, and remove any amount of unwanted clutter that you have. Big, small and in between. Many companies will also donate items if they are useful for someone else.
  • Cleaning Services. For your final clean, you can find both individuals and national companies to come and do a deep clean of your home.
  • Professional Organizers. Sometimes, you just need a little help. These individuals and companies will come early on in the process and help you with everything from decision making, what items go where, all the way to the final cleanout.
  • Stagers. These companies help you arrange and decorate your home, specifically to sell it. They are best near the end of the process to organize what is left, or bring in decor for you to rent while you sell.

Real estate agents can also be helpful to help you stay organized, give you referrals to contractors, and when the time is right begin to pre-market your home.

Selling Items Online

One of the best ways to sell small, easy to ship items like collectibles or small antiques is online.

Large internet auction sites, such as eBay, will allow you to market them to a huge amount of buyers as opposed to just some at an estate sale.

Keep in mind, once it is listed on certain sites you will want to make sure that you go through with the sale, so do not sell it in person with the intention of taking down the auction.

Local classified sites, like your local craigslist, allow you more flexibility. This is because you can take your posts down if needed. You can also sell larger items, because your buyer will be local and can come and pick them up.

To fit your timeframe, you can take items you want to sell online to a storage facility so that you are not waiting on the sale for you to finish with your decluttering of your home.

When You Do Not Have Time

Sometimes, you may need to get your home sold immediately, do not have funds to hire professionals and are realizing that decluttering will take too long.

In this case, you may need to sell to an investor who will be willing to look past the clutter.

Investors are not likely to give you market value, so if you want to maximize your return it is good to take the time to declutter your home and sell it if you can make it work.

Get Help From a Friend

You may feel self conscious about a cluttered home, but it is very difficult to declutter along.

Think of anyone in your life who would want to help you if you needed it. Those are the people to call to help you get started on your project.

Conclusion

Decluttering a home to sell can be daunting. But once you get into a flow, it is rewarding both mentally and financially.

I hope this guide has been helpful, and good luck selling your home!

Will Rodgers

Will is an award winning real estate agent, author and high tech marketing expert. Adopting a consultative approach he has helped hundreds of clients meet their real estate goals in the Northern VA real estate market.