Why Decluttering Accelerates the Sale of a Home & How to Implement It Successfully

Why Decluttering
Accelerates the Sale of a Home & How to Implement It Successfully


Nearly every professional real estate agent or home stager will
tell you how important it is to declutter your home before selling it. “Decluttering”
is a universal term for putting your personal items away, leaving spaces clear from
things that distract from the home and its potential for a new owner. The
process involves putting away extraneous belongings, making way for clear lines
of sight, and removing visual distractions. Buyers would prefer not to see the
things that feel personal to the seller and messy to the eye. However, in a
pandemic when we are working from home, children are in classes at home, and
more of our lives are spent at home, this decluttering is a tall order.

 Does decluttering really matter? After all, the buyer
has a home too, filled with personal items and can certainly understand. The
answer is yes. Buyers are looking for the magazine cover page, the Instagram® image,
the HGTV® reveal. As more than a third of home buyers are now in the
millennials age range, they are seeking the picture-perfect home as promoted on
social medias and television networks.

 As a professional home stager, I have seen some cluttered
homes that can be deemed “real hot messes” – to use my southern emphasis. Many
of these cluttered homes that have been on the market for months, and by walking
into the front door, I’ve tiptoed around items and personal belongings. The buyers
have likely walked the same maze of belongings when touring the house. I’ve
also viewed properties where sellers collect lovely things that they display on
shelves and dressers, in china cabinets, and throughout the house in various
places. While perhaps neatly placed, these items draw curious glances and distract
from the property itself. I have also spoken with sellers who refuse to believe
that their personal items are clutter, and thus have paid the price with time
on market and/or lower sales price.

 Growing up, my mother had a mug that read, “Great Minds Have
Messy Desks.” The sentiment was accurate, given that my mother’s desk was often
very cluttered. She could find anything she needed, but the desk was definitely
a mess. Her desk functioned perfectly fine for her because our house wasn’t for
sale. However, if your home is on the market, a messy desk or a messy bathroom,
for example, could have poor implications when prospective buyers tour the

 To some the idea of decluttering is daunting, especially if
you are not an organized person, cherish your collectables, or have a “real hot
mess,” in your home. From my home staging experience, I have learned some tips
and strategies for making the process a little easier and less intimidating.


 Start with horizontal surfaces, like tabletops and
countertops – these surfaces should be free and clear of almost everything. A
buyer’s eye should not be stopped from observing a home from floor to ceiling
with items that interrupt the horizonal flow of the space.

 In the kitchen, exceptions may be daily use items (like a
coffee pot or bowl of fruit). Everything else should be put away into the
cabinets or drawers. Likewise, in the bathroom, no buyer wants to see your
toothbrush, used bar of soap, collections of lotions or other hygiene items. Tuck
these items away out of view.

 Finally, in living spaces, dining rooms and bedrooms, clear
shelving of items smaller than a man’s fist. Anything else should be carefully
analyzed for color and curiosity. If it is odd or brightly colored, it should
probably be tucked away.


 Aside from furniture and large planters, nothing should take
up valuable floor space. The more floor space is uninterrupted, the bigger the
room will feel. (This may even include removing rugs.) Small statutes, umbrella
stands, tray tables, baskets, etc. should be packed away. These items conflict
with the scale of most rooms and while functional for day-to-day use, are unnecessary
for the staging of the home.

 Kids’ bedrooms should be free from toys on the floor and as
much as possible, any other items that take up floor space. While many buyers
give grace for children’s rooms, it is in the best interest of the seller to
remove as much clutter as possible for a room to feel large and tidy, creating
a positive impression for buyers.


 Keep art to a minimum. Remove any art pieces that are off
scale (most often art that is too small). Art with strong subject matter should
also be taken down. While it may be tempting to think that a cool gallery wall
could be a great way to showcase art, gallery walls require very careful
measurements and installation. In my opinion, one thoughtfully placed art piece
per room is generally enough and should be placed on the first visible wall
when entering the room.


 Less is always more when
preparing a home for sale. If you are struggling with whether an item is
clutter, it probably is. Many people feel that their home will be too sterile
after they declutter. In fact, clean and clear is quite attractive and allows a
buyer to see the qualities of the home (space, character, amenities, etc.)
without being distracted by personal “stuff”. It may be helpful to engage the
services of a professional home stager to provide assistance and direction.
When selling a home, it is essential to present the home at its best to potential buyers.

Lorelie Brown, M.A., CPRES, CID is the Owner of Showhomes Charleston in Charleston, SC.  RESA-PRO member, an HSRA-Elite Member and HSRA Elite Leadership. She is passionate about the power of home staging and has staged over $300 million in real estate.