Preparing to put your house on the market is a big job, one that can overwhelm even the most
organized people. In March when I learned that family members had decided to move. Knowing what a challenge it would be, I offered my services. They accepted my offer to spend a week with them to clear out their house so they could list it mid-April.
When contemplating the work I would do with them I thought they might benefit from having some guidance about how to get started with clutter clearing in advance of my visit. You might find this information helpful when you are getting ready to move.
Steps to Take Prior to Sorting and Clutter Clearing
- Get a good realtor, one who comes highly recommended for selling houses quickly and one who becomes your partner in the process. A partner is a person who is available for support and information every step of the way. The best realtor I ever had lightened my load by telling me what I needed to do to the house to prepare it to sell. With her guidance I didn’t waste time on costly repairs that I may have thought had to be done, but in fact weren’t necessary. She found me reliable resources for repairs, and was at my house when repairs were being done if I couldn’t be there. When we ran into roadblocks, she took the bull by the horns and cleared them away. A good realtor is a must!
- Focus your decision-making and clutter clearing on getting the interior ready to sell. Most realtors will recommend that you remove all photos of family and anything personal, like personal collections, religious symbols and unusual art. You want the house to be neutral to anyone looking at it. That way prospective buyers will be able to imagine their things in the space. If you have things out that they don’t like or resonate with, it could affect their decision to buy. Beware! This process will lead to the feeling that your house is not your house anymore. That’s what you want, but it can be very uncomfortable for the time that you will be living there. It can be like you are living in someone else’s house.
- Get a bunch of boxes and wrapping paper either from the moving company that you will use or from stores like Lowe’s or U-Haul right away. Those supplies will make it possible for you to start packing up things to take with you that you won’t display when you put the house on the market.
- Identify a place to put the packed boxes of personal items you will take to your new home. Temporarily you can use one room of your house or an area of your garage. For showing the house you may even want to get a temporary storage unit.
- Identify a space for staging the items to get rid of.
- Identify a space for staging medium and small items to sell.
Tips for Successful Sorting and Clearing
When you begin to prepare to sell your house you’re likely to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the project. Following are some guidelines I use to ensure that real progress can be made and to prevent overwhelm paralysis.
- Don’t start with paper. Paper is overwhelming and completely boring. Because it takes so long to do review and organize, trying to do it first will stop you in your tracks. And, it will take forever to make, see and feel progress being made. Visible progress is the fuel that will keep you motivated to continue your clearing. If you start with paper you will either quit or run screaming from the room in search anything more interesting! If, however, you have paper in multiple locations or spread around in one location, it’s energy can be distracting, noisy, and annoying. To quiet the noise of paper, gather it all together in bags or boxes to be dealt with after you’ve finished all other clearing. Often, because of time constraints, paper must be moved to the new home before it can be addressed.
- Start by identifying big items you can get rid of. Give away the items that don’t plan to take to your new home and that aren’t worth selling as quickly as possible. When you remove big things, you will experience significant energy shifts and visible evidence that you are making progress. That will motivate you to keep moving.
- Continue sorting items into the following categories: 1) those you will keep and display while the house is on the market; 2) those that you will keep that will not be displayed while the house is on the market; 3) items to give away to specific individuals; 4) items to donate; 5) items to sell.*
- Keep only those items you actually use or are HIGHLY likely to use in your new life and items you LOVE. You are looking for diamonds, items with the best energy. Items with the best energy are used at least once a year. Items you love hold the best memories, give your heart a special feeling, and/or are beautiful or highly functional. Think of the life you want to have in your new home and only keep those things that you love or use that will fit in the life you have planned.
- As you sort, pack up the things you will keep that won’t be on display when the house is shown. Put the packed boxes in the area you identified for storage of things you will take you to your new home.
- As you sort, move items for donation or to give away to specific individuals to the staging area you’ve created.
- As you sort, move medium and smaller items to be sold to the staging area you’ve created. Leave the larger items to be sold in place until they can be picked up by an auction or consignment company or individuals who are buying them.
- Initially, don’t worry about clearing out drawers and closets because if you do, you’ll get bogged down in all the little stuff (paper clips, pill bottles, jewelry, small tools, buttons, etc.) and are likely to get paralyzed by all the decisions to be made and quit. When you encounter little stuff, clump it together in a box or bag to go through after you’ve made decisions about the big things.
- Leave the attic, basement and garage for last. The size of those spaces and the mix of items in them can be very overwhelming. It’s also impossible to make quick progress in those areas. Besides, getting them cleared out before the house goes on the market is not as important as clearing things out of the more frequently used rooms in the house.
*In my experience when people sell household items (including yard sales, consignment sales, in the newspaper or on the internet), they don’t make enough money to make the hassle of selling small items worth it unless they are collectibles or antiques. I recommend that most things be given away — either to family, friends or charity. If you plan to give items to family members or friends, first see if they they want the item(s), and then give them a deadline for coming to look at and remove the items. Let them know that if they miss the deadline the items will go to a charity. If you plan to sell antiques, collectibles and items that could be valuable, I recommend selling them at auction. Advantages of going the auction route is that many companies that run auctions will give you a deadline for receipt of the items, and if you have larger items, they will pick up the items and get them out of your house. You will also receive proceeds from the sale quickly.
I’ve used the above approach several times myself, and have recommended it to clients with great success. It works! The family members above used the steps and had most of the interior of their house cleared and ready to be photographed and listed before I arrived to help them. When I arrived my assignment was to help them clear three attic areas and organize their photos. Granted, they were highly motivated and retired, so had the time to devote to work. But, having guidelines to light their way prevented them from getting stuck in minutia.