Decluttering every so often is an important job for all homeowners, but if you decide to sell up it can become more pressing. When you put your home up for sale you want to showcase the house and not its contents. Or rather, you want the contents to make the house look as good as possible. But if your home is packed full of your possessions it can make your home look not just messy but smaller and overly-personalised – a real turn-off for potential buyers.
So, before you come to sell your house or flat, decluttering is a must-do.
We asked Lizzie Grant, founder of Simplify Stuff, to advise on which decluttering jobs to do before you put your house up for sale. ‘Buyers may be concerned that areas stuffed with clutter also need repairs or renovation that they cannot see. Clearing these spaces will put their minds at rest, give the impression that your home is bigger and add value to it.’ So, take heed and get a quicker sale at the best price possible…
DECLUTTER THE HALLWAY
Hallways are generally narrow and so can easily get overwhelmed by stuff. As the entrance to your home, they are one of the first areas to make an impression. Decluttering your hallway will ensure your does just that – and it will make that narrow space look wider.
1. ‘Sort through coats, accessories and shoes that are usually kept here and let go of any you no longer need or want. Consider keeping seasonal clothes in vacuum pack bags and seasonal shoes in plastic boxes under beds or in another space – they don’t all need to be out at once.’
2. Tidy up paperwork: ‘Piles of post in the hallway are off-putting, so remove them and have a system for when letters come through the door. You may want to invest in a letter holder in the hallway and an in-tray elsewhere in your home.’
3. Clear away pet paraphernalia: We’d also advise tidying away dog leads, toys and beds – they make any room look cluttered and untidy and, of course, they carry their own special scent… Find more ways to clear up after your dog (particularly in the hallway) in our dedicated guide.
DECLUTTER THE LIVING ROOM
The living room needs to look welcoming – prospective buyers need to imagine themselves unwinding there – but it needs to feel spacious, too. Here’s what to pare back:
4. Get rid of excess furniture: ‘One of the quickest ‘wins’ when decluttering your home for sale is to get rid of excess furniture – a couple of pieces that are not needed will instantly make rooms feel more spacious and make the positive features of the room more obvious. It also makes it one less place for clutter to gather!’
5. Remove over-sized pieces: ‘You may have a large coffee table or gym equipment in a small living room – or an ottoman in a small bedroom. Consider whether you need it on display or whether it could be sold, donated or stored elsewhere while the house is on the market.’
6. Depersonalise: ‘As beautiful as your wedding photos or pictures of your kids are, take them down before viewings. By decluttering photos on walls and shelves, you de-personalise your home which means prospective buyers can visualise your home as “theirs”. This is a good opportunity for you to decide whether any of these sentimental items should be stored in a memory box instead. You may need to rearrange shelves where photos have been so play around with the space but remember to keep it simple and symmetrical, where possible.’
DECLUTTER THE KITCHEN
The kitchen is the biggest influencer on prospective buyers, so working hard to declutter yours makes good sense. Here’s what to do:
7. Declutter kitchen work surfaces: ‘This is vital, particularly if you keep a lot of kitchen gadgets and appliances on show. For example, if despite all your good intentions, you only use your juice maker now and again, put it in a cupboard between uses. This may mean that you need to make space for these appliances in your cupboards.’
8. Tidy out drawers and cupboards: ‘Sort through items and remember you don’t need to do it all at once. You could sort out pans one day and cutlery the next. Be ruthless and let go of duplicates, anything that you do not use or is broken or worn out. Donate working items to friends or family who may be able to use them. Any clean items in good working order can also be donated to your local charity shop so they can be resold.’
9. ‘Remove fridge magnets, artwork, vouchers and anything else you have plastered on your fridge.’
10. Declutter windowsills: ‘The same goes for the windowsill – if you have lots of plants and ornaments, reduce these and this will make a huge difference to the feel of this space.’ This goes for all your rooms.
DECLUTTER THE BEDROOM
Don’t think for a minute that viewers won’t open fitted cupboards to see how much space there is inside. That means bedrooms – and any rooms with fitted furniture – need to be decluttered and tidied to make a good impression:
11. Declutter wardrobes: ‘It’s really important to do this before selling. If they are full to bursting, this will create the impression that you have no space. You can guarantee buyers will be opening doors to storage spaces to have a nosy. Work through each category of clothes to make it more manageable, e.g. underwear, tops, trousers, dresses, etc. Bring all the clothes in a category together so you can see how many you have. Pick up each item and decide whether you love it and wear it.’
12. Clear out drawers: ‘If you find it hard to decide, pick out the three items in each category that you absolutely love. For example, if you are decluttering jumpers, pick your top five favourite ones and then with each other jumper decide whether it matches up to that feeling. If not, it’s time to let go of it. Donate clothes to your charity shop so others can benefit from them. It often makes it easier to let go of things if you know that they will go to a good home and won’t be wasted.’
13. Hide what’s under the bed: If your under-bed area is stuffed with untidy boxes that can be seen when you enter the room, swap them out for good-looking storage boxes or invest in a valance to hide what’s beneath the bed. It’s worth decluttering the top of wardrobes and the back of the bedroom door in exactly the same way – either hide it or disguise it.
DECLUTTER KIDS’ ROOMS
It can be difficult to keep your home tidy for viewings when you have children. And it can be hard to get them to agree to throw things out, too. However, it’s a must in really cluttered rooms.
14. ‘Decluttering toys can really help keep things under control and create a lot more space. Try to involve your children if you can but remember if they are small, the ultimate decision lies with you. Get rid of any items they no longer play with.’
15. Store away items for the future: ‘If you are holding on to items in case you have another child in the future, box these up and keep them stored elsewhere.’
16. Invest in stylish storage: ‘Once you have decluttered, storage baskets are a great way to organise toys in play areas and mean that you can chuck toys in them five minutes before a viewing.’
DECLUTTER THE BATHROOM
‘Ideally, you want to present the image that your bathroom is effortlessly easy to keep clean and a relaxing space to indulge in a bit of me-time (you’re selling the dream, remember!). A line up of half-used and expired toiletries in your bathroom is not going to help that image.’
17. Throw away old toiletries: ‘Go through all your cosmetics and toiletries and throw away any that are past their use-by date. Typically makeup expires six months to a year after you bought it so keep that in mind when decluttering your cosmetics. Items that have not been used can be donated at food collection banks or to non-profit organisations such as The Hygiene Bank or Beauty Banks.’
18. Invest in good towel storage: If all your towels are on show, good towel storage is a must-have to keep them neat. Doing so will help keep them dry, too, which will, in turn, help keep your bathroom smelling sweet.
DECLUTTER THE HOME OFFICE
Whether yours is a dedicated room or a desk in the corner of a living space or bedroom, keeping it neat is a must during viewings. You might also like to hide away paperwork out of sight of particularly nosy viewers…
19. Clear paperwork: ‘If you have piles of paperwork and feel stressed by them, then that is how a prospective buyer is going to feel seeing them as well. Take some time to gather all your paperwork together from around your home, go through it and get rid of as much as possible. Remember that most things can now be found online and only keep paperwork which is really important.’
20. Put things in files: ‘A4 lever arch files with labelled dividers are a cheap and easy way to bring order to the chaos. If you can store them out of sight in a cupboard with doors, that’s even better.’
DECLUTTER THE GARDEN
‘Often the garden gets forgotten but it’s important to declutter it as well.’ Here’s where to concentrate your efforts:
21. Remove garden rubbish: ‘Broken garden furniture, old toys and other garden rubbish, such as dead leaves and branches. This might finally be the time to remove the rusty table tennis table the kids haven’t used for 10 years!’
22. Hide the bins: While we’re on the subject of rubbish, decluttering the front garden of anything untidy, such as bins, will help create kerb appeal. This might mean investing in bin storage just to snag a sale.
23. Clear out the shed: ‘If you have a shed in your garden, take the time to clear this out as well so that buyers can see how useful it is. If they are stuffed to the brim, their inherent value can be lost on buyers.’
DECLUTTER THE LOFT
If your loft hasn’t been converted, it’s going to be a draw for would-be extenders.
24. Clear out the loft: If you’ve lived in your home for some years, chances are your loft is packed to the rooftop with stuff you don’t need or won’t take with you when you move. Decluttering now will help your buyers see its potential. Always expect viewers to want to look at the loft – if not on first viewing then definitely on second viewing.
25. Invest in good loft storage: Whatever you keep, take the opportunity to sort into clear storage boxes; doing so will make life so much easier when you move house, and will create the impression of an organised space. Which buyers love.
DECLUTTER THE GARAGE
Think no one will look in there? Yes, they will, and a messy garage stuffed with all your unwanted things can make it look smaller than it is.
26. Do a garage clear-out: You will have to do it at some point before moving out anyway, so do it before viewings commence. If you can’t bring yourself to throw out all your kids’ old toys/clothes you wore 20 years ago, throw a garage sale.
27. Organise the garage with good storage: plastic storage boxes are the easiest option, but there are more creative ways to organising your garage, such as hanging all your tools on peg boards and converting old filing cabinets into storage containers.
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