Pretend this is the first time you are seeing your house. Review each room with a fresh set of eyes. Is there excess furniture? Keep in mind that when selling your house, potential buyers and agents will come through in groups. You want them to flow through easily and get a sense of space.
As you go through the house, make sure everything has a place near where it is used. Be honest with yourself… if you haven’t used something in a while, remove it. Use three boxes as you go through each room 1) PACK FOR NEW HOUSE, 2) DONATE, 3) TRASH. We could write a whole other column on how to get rid of stuff, but see the list of resources at the end of this one for some local solutions.
Once you have taken care of the general clutter, it’s time to zero in on the problem zones. Here are some tips for areas that tend to need more attention.
Bookshelves: Shelving will show better if it’s not jam packed. Arrange books and objects of interest artfully. If you have collections of knick-knacks, just keep a few of the larger items on display and put away the small stuff. Things look nice in groups of three. Color blocking your books creates a nice effect.
Closets: If something is not in season, pack it away. If it doesn’t make you feel good and you don’t wear it… let it go. Divide your closet into zones. It should make sense for you, but think “like kind with like kind” or pants all together in one area, shirts in another. You can organize by color here too. If you have a hodgepodge of hangers, make a small investment in some premium hangers. You will not believe what a world of difference it makes! If space is limited, tiered hangers will help things feel less crowded. Do whatever you can to help the closets not seem stuffed. You don’t want to give the impression that the house is short on storage.
Bedrooms: Small knick-knacks should get packed away. If you have kids and they want their things around, it’s ok, as long as they’re displayed neatly. Framed personal photos should be pared down to a minimum. Buyers need to be able to picture themselves living in the home. A hamper with a lid in each bedroom will help manage the laundry and keep clothes off the floor.
Kitchen: While it is convenient to have things on the counter, it makes the kitchen feel cluttered. Counters don’t need to be completely bare. Feel free to leave key items out, like your coffee maker and a few cooking utensils in a nice container near the stove. No need to have the knives out… put them away in a drawer. Lazy susans are great for storing smaller items in cabinets so you can still easily access everything. But if you’re not going to need that waffle maker or margarita mix in the short term, pack it up.
Bathrooms: The same idea applies to your bathrooms. Less is more. Keep the counters and floor space clear. Reserve a space in your medicine cabinet or vanity where you can quickly stash your personal toiletries once showings begin.
Mudroom: If it’s not in season, remove it from the space. Even if you don’t have an actual mudroom area, you can always create an organized space where people can land their stuff. Think vertically. Is there a wall where you can add some hooks to hang coats, scarves and bags up? Use a bench with baskets underneath to corral small shoes, gloves and hats. If there’s room, add a boot tray. Voila! You have yourself an organized landing spot.
Of course, we don’t live like this every day. But selling your home is a major life event. Taking the extra time to declutter will pay off and make moving into your next home much easier!
Here are some of our favorite local places to donate/sell/recycle/dispose of things:
Westfield Service League - 114 Elmer Street, Westfield, NJ - They take everything and they support local non-profits. You can consign or donate, depending on the item. Thrift: 908-233-2530 Consignment: 908-232-1223
Unique - 2485 US Highway 22 West, Union, NJ 908-688-6822 - They take almost everything.
Goodwill - 126 Route 22 West Springfield NJ (973) 912-0156 - They also take almost everything.
The Hope Chest - 26 Prospect Street, Westfield, NJ (908) 233-9973 - They accept new and gently worn clothing for men, women and children, toys, books and household items. They subsidize hospice care for patients in need. Donations are accepted on Tuesdays and Saturdays 10 am - 4:00 pm.
Furniture Assist - 398 Chestnut Street, Union, New Jersey, 973-868-6007 - They are currently moving to a new location and will begin accepting donations shortly.
Best Buy - will accept electronics for recycling, just bring them to the Customer Service desk.
Paper Shredding - Staples will shred up to 5 lbs. for free. Also, Union County has mobile paper shredding events throughout the year.