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When selling your home, your faced with the realization that copious amounts of cleaning, organizing and packing are ahead of you.  Before you tackle those tasks, you should first commit to decluttering your home from top to bottom.  Take a good look around you.  Clutter often piles up without you even realizing it.  The papers on the kitchen table, books on the coffee table, knick-knacks on the shelves, mail on the countertop—everywhere you look, you’ll find things that don’t actually belong.  Here we review ways to start the daunting task of decluttering and find ways to stay clutter free!

The first thing you want to do is determine where your “clutter” is going to go.  You might consider setting up a filing system for the papers you’ll come across.  Try designating specific folders for bills, important documents, children’s schoolwork, etc.  You will also want to set aside boxes or bags to place items you are discarding, donating and packing.   Be sure to have one place for incoming mail or papers that need to be addressed.

Now you’re ready to dive (or wade) in to start clearing your clutter.

Designate time.

For many, the thought of decluttering is overwhelming.  You often don’t know where to begin or what to do with the stuff, and that’s how the space got cluttered in the first place.  If you feel overwhelmed, start small.  Set aside 5-10 minutes each day to work in a specific room and do only one room at a time.  If you try to do multiple rooms at once, you will not see results as quickly and will likely get discouraged.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for time each day, even if it’s only 5-10 minutes, schedule a block of time, such as your day off from work or a weekend that you can dedicate to decluttering and focus on the task at hand.

Pick one room and one room only to start in. 

If you choose to start in the kitchen, start with the countertops and tables and sort through miscellaneous mail and papers that have piled up.  Once you clean a section, make it a point to keep it cleared off using your filing system and designated boxes and bags.

When working in the living room, take a look around to see what has accumulated on the coffee table and on the floor.  Books that have already been read?  Put them in the donate box.  Magazines from three months ago?  Donate or recycle.  Extra furniture pieces that only get in the way or collect dust?  Pack them up for moving or donate them.  Think ahead:  when you have your open house, potential buyers want to be able to envision themselves living in your home.  If the rooms are cluttered or filled with more furniture than needed, it’s difficult for people to picture it as their own.

In the bathroom, get rid of old toiletries, half used (never to be used again) perfume bottles, nearly empty bottles of soap and medicine that is collecting dust.  Haven’t used that make-up in over a month?  Get rid of it.   Keep in mind that when people start touring your home, they will most certainly open your cabinets and closets, so if you don’t want the contents to be seen, remove it.

Don’t forget to empty your drawers.  This goes for kitchens drawers, bureau drawers, and junk drawers.  Many people have things in the bottom or back of drawers that they haven’t seen, never mind use, in ages.  Keep only what you use or plan to use in the next month, donate or trash the rest.

Make sure you have all family members on board with your plan, or else your efforts will be fruitless.

Your family members should be aware of your new system and responsible for filing things accordingly.  Make sure everyone knows where new mail will go each day.  If you have children, work with them to break the habit of leaving their belongings laying around, teaching (or reminding) them that everything has its place.

Keep a vision of how you want your rooms to look, and how you want them to appear to outsiders when they schedule times to tour your home.  Use this vision as motivation to go through your whole home, organizing, discarding, filing and donating to create a space you’re happy to show off, and also a space that’s easier to clean and pack when the time comes!