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Please Declutter!

You’ve worked closely with your realtor to price your home to sell, and in that process have discussed the selling points (and problem areas) for your home. Now it’s time for pictures (and maybe video or a 3D tour), and almost time for your realtor to place your listing in the local MLS database.

Your realtor asks you to “declutter” your home prior to taking pictures, making your listing active in the MLS, and inviting prospective buyers to visit. What exactly does that mean?

If you’re like the average person, you have a lot of things in your home, ranging from excess furniture, toys, kitchen appliances, clothes and random empty boxes. It makes sense to remove as much of that as possible, even if it means hauling some of it to a storage unit. After all, you want to avoid giving the impression to prospective buyers that your home (regardless of size) is too small for their possessions. Subconsciously, if your material possessions fit, theirs would too. In seeking a new home, buyers don’t want to move in and find that they have bliveted (the definition of blivet according to Urban Dictionary is 10 lbs of you-know-what in a 5 lb bag).

That’s the obvious reason to declutter. There’s another, less obvious reason to declutter, and it’s a little cringe-worthy.

One reason that hotels strive to provide a spa-like (perhaps sterile) experience in their rooms is that the hotel room you’re staying in has likely been used by hundreds, if not thousands, of people. If your hotel stay is satisfactory or better, it’s because you weren’t constantly reminded of the previous occupants. There are no towels on the floor, scraps of paper in the corner, personal photos and endless reminders of someone’s prior presence. Your hotel room is inviting because it is clean and sterile. (We apologize if you now never want to stay in another hotel ever again.)

In other words, prospective buyers do not want to be reminded that they will be residing in the midst of your leftover funk, should they purchase your home. That is one of the reasons why off-the-wall colors and personalized wallpaper choices are problematic. They are constant reminders of you to the buyer.

And at the end of the day, the next owner of your home is moving into your home, and has no desire to actually move in with you, no matter how lovely you are.

Here’s a list of other things to consider, which go hand-in-hand with decluttering:

  • Fix anything that needs it, especially if it’s near the main entrance, where buyers are likely to form a lasting opinion in the first 10 seconds or less
  • Trim bushes, mow that grass, and edge the yard because a well maintained yard implies a well maintained home
  • Sparse furnishings make rooms feel bigger
  • Add cut flowers or fresh plants to brighten spaces
  • Remove scuff marks on walls and repaint if needed (bright pink rooms with purple trim do not help a resale)
  • Deep clean your carpets or replace them if they are beyond cleaning, because dirty carpets are gross and the stuff of nightmares
  • Remove personal photos no matter how good looking your family is, especially if you have the wall(s) of photos in your home
  • Leave your house for 15 minutes and then walk back in and sniff - if it doesn’t smell good, prospective buyers will run, so fix those smells, including and especially damp, musty and mysterious smells in your basement.

Think you can make your home look more like a classy hotel? That’s your goal, and if you can do that, you’ve successfully decluttered. Congrats!