Cleaning Tips - Decluttering to Sell
These cleaning tips on decluttering to sell are the most important tips I have to give you as you prepare for your move. This pre-move declutter is not your usual 'go through the drawers and get rid of the the junk and put everything where it belongs' de-clutter. It is more in the line of 'pack up everything that you can do without while your house is on the market'. It's a big job, but if you do it right, not only will your house be in much better shape to put on the market, but you will have the added benefit of having done a lot of pre-packing!
1. It will be much easier to keep everything neat and tidy
2. Your house will look bigger and appear to have lots of storage
3. Prospective buyers will be able to visualize their stuff in your house much more easily
When you have done the job right - the house will look quite bare, so don't be surprised.
Where Will You Store Your Stuff?
Don't store it anywhere in your house - the entire point of the exercise is show that your house has plenty of space.
You may come up with a different option, but here are the most common, in order of preference:
1. A relative or friend's garage or basement.
2. A rented storage facility.
3. Your garage or shed, but only if there is absolutely no other option - these areas should ideally be decluttered for prospective buyers.
4. You can have a garage sale or donate items that you won't need in your new home. I have to admit that I rarely do this - but many people do and make some good money. In our neighborhood people frequently put good items they no longer want at the curb with a 'Free to a Good Home' sign. This works really well - if the item is any good at all, it usually finds a new home by the end of the day! It's best to get rid of these items before you move if you can.
Decluttering to Sell
First of all, you should ask your agent what the average timeframe is for house sales in your area. This changes from season to season, from neighborhood to neighborhood, and from house style to house style - so you want to get the information from a reliable source. For the sake of discussion, let's say the average time frame to sell a house like yours in your neighborhood is 6 weeks.
Now, double it - for a total of 12 weeks. This is the period that you need to plan for.
If you are committed to sell your house for the highest possible price as quickly as possible, you must also commit yourself to following these decluttering house cleaing tips:
1. Consider the seasons covered by this 12 week period. Pack away anything out-of-season.
2. Remove all personal pictures/certificates from walls and horizontal surfaces. Although we are rightfully proud of our families and accomplishments, these distract buyers from the features of the house. When they leave your house, you want them to remember how well layed-out it was, not that cute picture of your grandson in the pumpkin patch.
3. Bedrooms. Pack way all seasonal clothes. Remove unnecessary books/magazines. Throw them out unless you want to keep them for the next house. Remove any 'excess' furniture. Keep furnishings to a bed, 1 bedside table per person, 1 dresser per person. In a child's room, if there is a desk, consider removing it. (I generally took out the bedside table and left the desk).
4. Kids' Toys. Either get them to help, or do it yourself when they are busy/at school - whichever will cause the least trauma. Be ruthless. Remember that all their toys will be available again once you have moved. If you are selling during the warm weather months, you can really reduce the inside toys to a few favorites and toys that they play with for hours, like construction toys and doll houses. Avoid keeping messy crafts - these are a real pain to clean up quickly when you receive a call for a last-minute showing.
5. Dining Room/Eating Area. Only keep tables and chairs and perhaps your china cabinet. Everything that is not clearly related to dining should be removed. If you have more chairs than you need, consider removing the extra's. If your china cabinet has a glass display case, minimize the contents. If you have anything on a horizontal surface, reduce to one or two items.
6. The Living Room/Family Room. Obviously - get rid of the clutter. Then you will want to remove any furniture you can live without to make the rooms look as big as possible. In my current living room I would remove the electronic piano, one bookcase, the fake fig tree, the gate-leg table and perhaps one of the easy chairs. If you have time, follow the house cleaning tips found elsewhere on this site, and clean them before storage. That way you will unpack everything clean and ready to use in your new home.
7. Office Space. Pack away all 'supplies' you won't need as well as your well-labelled historical documents, and put everything else away. If you, like me, are a 'stacker' this will make you a little crazy, but it will be worth it.
8. Linen and broom closets. Only keep what you actually will use in the next couple of months. Your back-up supplies can be packed. There are generally lots of linens that can be boxed up: excess towels, sheets etc. What is left should be neatly arranged, with as much 'air' around the stacks as possible. If you can keep stuff that is color-coordinated, all the better.
9. Bathroom Cabinets. Only keep what you need. This is a good time to dispose of any expired or unneeded medications by taking them to your local pharmacy. Pack the rest for your new home.
10. Kitchen Cabinets and Countertops. Remember that kitchens are one of the things that sell a home. People want to know that there is plenty of storage, and that they will be able to feed their families from their new kitchen. So, be brutal. Only keep what you absolutely can't live without for the next couple of months. Clear out everything else - each cabinet and drawer needs to look like you have space for what you need, plus room to spare.
Unless you are planning a number of formal affairs, all of your 'good' dishes and serving platters can be packed. Same for baking supplies - especially in the summer months, you can probably make do with less.
If you have food allergies or sensitivities and make everything from scratch, make enough dry mixes for the time you need, and put them in the freezer. Packing and cleaning out all of your special flours and ingredients will free up a ton of space.
11. Storage Areas. If it's in storage, you likely won't be using it for the next few weeks - so it can go. I would keep a few suitcases, and any seasonal decorations, just to show that you have room for these common items. If possible, your house should look like it has more storage space than you need. At minimum, it should not look over-crowded.
12. Garage/Shed. Tackle these spaces after your are done the house. Even though you really should de-clutter them, the impact is not as large if you don't quite get to it. All old tools, sports and camping equipment, paint, appliances you are going to repair 'one day' - they can go, go go! Everything else should be packed or neatly re-arranged if iw may be used while you are selling. (i.e. - don't pack the paint rollers of you are planning on refreshing the paint in the house).
If you have leftover paint that matches the house, keep it aside. Label it with the room it belongs to for the new owners - they will be highly appreciative.
13. Craft and Hobby Materials. Be realistic. You are going to be very busy for the next couple of months - it is unlikely you will get much use out of this until you arrive in your new home. Pack it. The only exception is if you have a craft room you and your agent agree you should show-off. In that case, pack any clutter and re-arrange it to show it off.
A NOTE ABOUT RE-PURPOSING ROOMS Your Real Estate Agent may suggest that you change the way you use one or more of the rooms in your house. (i.e. turn that upstairs office or craft room into an additional bedroom, or the main floor den into a dining room) All I can say is - do it! Your Real Estate Agent deals with dozens of clients a year, and they know what people are looking for. They want your house to sell - and their advice is intended to help you do just that!