Ok confession time: I have a closet right by my front door where I regularly shove things that hasn’t been cleaned out for years. There are boxes left over from my last move still taking up space in there, filled with who knows what, but I’ve become so accustomed to it that it never really bothered me. Then last week a friend came over the borrow a cooler and as I opened the door to this junk-filled closet, I was filled with a rush of shame and embarrassment because someone else was seeing it. Sometimes you need another set of eyes to see problem areas in your home because when you seem them regularly you become blind to them.
It helps me to think of my home as a living, breathing thing, like a garden that needs to be weeded regularly; we all need to incorporate a habit of regularly decluttering in our daily lives.
This is easier said than done and seems impossible to start especially if you haven’t done it in a while. Or ever. No judgement here. A messy or disorganized home doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you or you are a failure, but if you are selling your home and haven’t purged in years, you need to get started because a space sells, and clutter shrinks space. Here are some tips to help you get started and focus on the areas that need it most.
- See through a stranger’s eyes: Go outside and walk through you door as though you were touring a stranger’s house not your own. We have busy lives and tend to rush through the door, dump our stuff, and start our next tasks without ever looking around. Step inside your door and take a minute to notice your surroundings. Is there a messy desk with piles of paper on it in plain sight? A rack of coats and shoes strewn all over the floor like apples fallen from a tree? Can you see the dust bunnies underneath that console table that you’ve been meaning to clean for 3 months? We become indifferent to these things during our daily lives, but to a buyer they might be a sign that your home lacks flow or storage or is not well maintained.
- Have your agent take a tour: A new set of ideas with the underlying goal of making your home appeal to buyers will help you realize where you should focus your efforts. Have your Realtor take notes on which spaces work and which need some work, where dust is gathering, and which need a clearer purpose. You may love teddy bears so much that they cover every surface of your home, but trust us, no buyer wants to walk into a den of teddy bears (this is a true story). Buyers want to imagine their own story in the home, which is hard to do when all they can picture is your fetish.
- Start Small: Rather than taking the first day to tackle my shame closet, I am weeding out the bookshelves that house the T.V. and the 7 (!) extension cords that are stored there. Why 7? No idea, but we certainly don’t need that many. Starting with small things builds up your confidence and get momentum going so that later you can take on the bigger, more daunting projects. And look how much better that shelf looks without the tangled cords snaking around!
- Focus on Flow: Starting with the entrance, where do your eyes move? Where do you immediately want to go next? (This will probably be different than your normal routine, so keep an open mind) Move through your home the way it is set up visually, not programmatically. When you do your walk through, take notice of what people see, how the spaces might make someone move in a different direction and then prioritize the biggest spatial players.
- Caveat: What you are about to hear is shameful but efficient. Don’t ever tell your kids or anyone you know that you do this. In a pinch and short on time, stash it. After the walkthrough, start to declutter by going back to the beginning and picking up items off every surface that don’t seem to be intentionally put there. For me, this process started when I was younger and was told by my mother to go clean my room. When she came back an hour later to find nothing done she would give me a deadline and set the timer. Rather than actually clean or face her wrath, I just shoved everything under my bed and went about my day with an instantly spotless room. I continued this process for years, doing deep cleans when the mood struck or when I couldn’t find anything to wear. Now I do the same thing when I am getting ready for company and want my house to look it’s best. Instead of taking the time to organize every bill, cord, book, and pen, I just stash them all in a bin or basket to be taken care of later. Each room looks instantly clean and organized even though things are hiding behind the facade. Stashing works beautifully and takes half the time of most de-cluttering processes by taking the guesswork out. Also, in most instances, when I don’t go looking for those stashed items over the next 6 months, I realize I could have just gotten rid of them entirely. This realization (pretty much every time) forces me to prioritize my life over my clutter. I am not recommending doing this instead of decluttering, but if you are short on time it works great.
- Highlight your assets: So you’ve gone through the home and seen it through the eyes of a stranger, now you know what areas to highlight. If you have a small entryway but a large, bright living room, highlight the living room so that buyers don’t even remember to entry size. Candles and lighting can instantly transform a space while inviting people to desired areas. Put some finishing touches on things. Set your table with some place mats. Put on some music. Take in how inviting everything feels. Look around! Your house looks stunning!