Decluttering—a Clever Girl's advice
Updated: May 7, 2020
This week, we are pleased to share the expertise of our friend and colleague, Kathy Vines, of Clever Girl Organizing. Today, she digs into the idea of decluttering your home, whether you're selling this summer or farther down the line.
You’re thinking about selling someday, or someday SOON. Whether it’s around the corner or down the line, it’s never too early to start thinking about what you’ll need to do to bring the best offer for your home your way.
Getting a home ready to sell often involves the dreaded D- word: Decluttering. Why is Decluttering important?
It can improve the appearance of your home when on display for marketing photos and for showings. Improved appearance means a higher likelihood of interest in seeing your home in person, and a positive feeling people have while walking through your home.
When your home feels cluttered, prospective buyers will perceive your home to be limited in proper storage space (a negative for a buyer). When it is streamlined, with less stuff, people see the peaceful and stress-free quality of life that buying your home promises to deliver to them!
When you’ve decluttered, it’s easier for you to imagine moving into YOUR new home with an easier process of moving, and the ability to make the most of your new life, without the baggage that comes along with too much clutter!
However, if decluttering were easy, you’d be done by now. I have a 5-step process to how to prioritize and manage your decluttering goals:
1. Develop a plan:
A plan involves looking into the future and knowing what “finished” looks like. When you’re done, what will each space in your home look and feel like? When you’ve got that vision, and everyone in your home is on board with it, you can identify what work will need to be done to reach that vision. If you say, “The kitchen needs to feel like this is a home in which family gathers, dinner is easily prepared, kids can do homework, and parents can live with less stress,” what does that translate to? Clean counters with only daily-critical items on them? A free and open entry way? No piles of items that seem to need a home somewhere else, but haven’t managed to get there? Minimal distracting visual clutter, like décor or items on walls that make the room feel smaller or more hectic? Take that vision, and outline room-by-room to determine the work needed in each room to achieve your vision. Ask someone else who doesn’t live in the home to give their views of what needs to happen to meet that vision. We can be clutter-blind in our own home! The other part of the decluttering plan is to go through significant pieces like furniture, décor, lighting, etc., and determine for each piece: Keeping here no matter what? Staying here because it is good for staging but then getting rid of it? Keeping, but going somewhere else (like storage) while staging? Going, and need to find an exit strategy, like gift, donate, sell, or toss? Walking around each room to deliberately stare at each piece and decide, and writing down the list to follow in the future, can help you execute when it is time to get to work.
2. Set a schedule:
Whether your schedule is deadline driven (“We need to have photos taken for the listing in 3 months”) or workload driven (“We need to accomplish meaningful progress every week until we’re done”), having a schedule will help you keep on track and stay motivated. Chart out what needs to be accomplished each week. In some cases, you’ll need to chart what you’ll do each day. Whether your plan is to pack a box every night, or go through one closet or one set of cupboards every week, set out a time-driven plan for you to stay on top of it.
3. Establish criteria:
Some people can declutter and stage by gut; they know what FEELS right to reduce in each room to generate the desired effect. Others, however, need some rules. Working with the others impacted by your decluttering, develop common criteria that will help anyone make decisions on whether or not something is a “keep,” a “let go”, or any variation of either of them. There are some well-known criteria, like depersonalizing the artwork in your home, trying to get clean counters, but yours may be more specific: “Reduce the toys and games that get out of control quickly in each room” or “Let go of clothes in each closet so that it does not give the impression that this home has only a few small closets.”
4. Do the work:
This is the hard part: The doing. It requires motivation, momentum, and focus. It also requires the right tools, like boxes, bags, a list to keep track of any donations for tax purposes, etc. A little effort every day, even a commitment to 15 minutes a day, can make a dent in any part of your plan. Do what you can to make sure you’re setting aside time, follow your plan, and get the help you need to stay focused. You might consider hiring a professional organizer to help you with your process and decisions, or you might bring in physical labor to help you move things from one space to another as you’ve made decisions on things to keep.
5. Execute the exit strategies:
When you’ve determined items aren’t staying, then they need to actually go. That needs a plan, too! If you think you’re going to donate furniture, but need a place that will pick it up from you, start researching organizations and book the dates in advance. If you are going to sell items, figure out where, make sure the items are clean and you have the right information and pricing in mind to list something for sale. If you’ll need a lot of items hauled away, hire and book a reputable junk removal company a couple of weeks in advance, one that works to help recycle or donate items for you, too. It can be all too easy to have lots of piles around your home, then come up against a deadline, and no options for removal.
With these 5 steps, whether you’re trying to list your home for sale in a month or in a year, you can prioritize the process of decluttering, and all the great things that can come from it!
Kathy Vines, owner of Clever Girl Organizing®, is a Certified Professional Organizer ® and productivity specialist, coach, and speaker. She helps people untangle their relationship to their stuff and create a plan for living more simply and more organized every day. Whether side-by-side, speaking to a group, or working virtually with clients around the globe, she brings her expertise and perspective to making meaningful change in people’s lives. She blogs regularly and is the author of “Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less,” publishing in July 2017.