What’s the deal with decluttering?

Why is clutter a problem when selling your home?  Here is an example…Have you ever been to the craigslist website?  Without going there right now, tell me what is the most dominant thing you remember on the page?  You can’t right? That’s because nothing is dominant…. it’s a list of words that are links.  The good thing is that it is supposed to be a list, so it works for them.  If the goal were for them to be memorable, they failed.  Let’s do a similar exercise with your living room.  Without actually looking at it, what is the most dominant thing you would see?  What would a guest see?  Are these two things the same?  Are these things the BEST feature of the room?  Are these things that a buyer would get to have if they bought the room?  You should now know that buyers will remember your house as that dominant thing.  As stagers, we go into a lot of homes.  We’ve seen houses where the dominant feature was the 85 inch TV on one wall.  Or where the dominant feature was grandma’s quilt hung above the fireplace.  Or the most memorable item was a family gallery wall.  These are all fine things to have in your home and also make for a valid focus of your attention IN THE HOME THAT YOU LIVE IN.  When we are focused on selling that home, we want buyers to remember the things they get when they buy the house.  You want to be remembered for the “bright, sunny kitchen” …or the “stone fireplace in the family room” or the “vaulted ceiling in the living room”…not grandma’s quilt.


With that established, how does clutter figure into this?  Let’s start with a definition.  What counts as clutter?  Meriam-Webster defines clutter (as a noun) as: a crowded or confused mass or collection or things that clutter a place, which is quite vague.  The point being that just about anything can be considered ‘clutter’ if it is a disturbance or a distraction.  There are multiple reasons why clutter is a problem.


1)    Too much stuff distracts from those dominant features we just talked about.  When someone walks into a room, the natural reaction is to quickly scan the view in front of them and then the eyes will come to rest on the dominant feature.  It there is too much to see and no place for the eye to ‘rest’.  This is an instinctual occurrence, and most people have no idea that it is happening. What they do know is that if there is no place for the eye to naturally come to rest, then it feels uncomfortable.  They don’t know why…they just feel it.  I don’t have to tell you that when you are selling your home, the last thing you want a potential buyer to feel when they walk into a room is uncomfortable!


2)    Clutter (or lots of small items) looks more pronounced in photos.  In today’s world, photos are everything when it comes to selling your home.  Those digital images are horribly unforgiving when it comes to things being out of place.  Too many things in the image will distract from the best selling features of the home, just as they do in person.


3)    Clutter is typically personal.  When you live in a home, you often want to surround yourself with the things that mean something to you.  This is totally normal and expected!  The key is that this must change when selling the home.  It’s time to start thinking about packing up all those meaningful items and storing them safely away in anticipation of their display in your new home.  The goal here is to help potential buyers imagine themselves living in the home.


The one caution to all of this effort to declutter is to not take it so far as to strip the home and make it feel too sterile.  This is where the help of a professional stager who has training in staging occupied homes can be a huge help.  Professional (certified/trained/insured) stagers are skilled at knowing how to declutter and depersonalize a home without stripping it of all life.  There is a fine line between simplified and barren and sometimes your best bet is to consult a professional to ensure that you get it dialed in!