The Role of Decluttering in Selling Your Home (with Actionable Checklist)

(**) Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning our company, JCHQ Publishing will get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, but at no additional cost to you.

Let’s face it – in the bustling world of real estate, first impressions matter, and clutter can be a deal-breaker. As a real estate agent, you’ve seen it all: homes that gleam with potential but are buried under piles of personal belongings, leaving potential buyers overwhelmed and uninterested. And for homeowners, the process of decluttering can seem as daunting as selling the house itself.

But fear not! Decluttering not only paves the way for a faster sale but can also add value to the property. Let’s dive deeper into why decluttering is the unsung hero of home sales.

Home Seller's Declutter Checklist (Created with Canva)

1. Do decluttered homes sell faster?

Absolutely! The cleaner and more spacious a home appears, the easier it is for buyers to imagine themselves living in it. Clutter distracts. A potential buyer might get so wrapped up in wondering why there’s a collection of porcelain frogs in the living room that they miss the beauty of the original hardwood floors.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, decluttered homes tend to be more appealing to a broader range of buyers, leading to quicker sales. In some hot markets, a decluttered home can sell weeks faster than a cluttered counterpart.

For agents, it is important that you advise your sellers to start decluttering even before listing photographs are taken. Photos of a clutter-free home will naturally attract more online clicks and in-person visits.

2. Why declutter your home when selling?

  • Enhanced Visual Appeal: Clutter can overshadow the features of a home. Removing it lets the house’s true character shine through.
  • Stress Reduction: For sellers, fewer items mean fewer things to clean and organize before showings.
  • Higher Valuation: Homes perceived as “well-maintained” often receive higher offers.
  • Emotional Disconnect: It’s easier for sellers to say goodbye to a home that doesn’t feel like “theirs” anymore.

Practical Tip: Agents can provide a checklist for sellers highlighting the key areas to declutter, making the process more manageable.

3. What is the 80-20 rule for decluttering a house?

Have you ever noticed that you wear the same few clothes even if your closet is full? Or you use the same few dishes even if your cabinets are overflowing? That’s the 80-20 rule. It means that we often use only 20% of our things regularly, while the other 80% just sits there, taking up space.

So, what can we do about that 80%? It’s simple: sort it out and clear it away. By doing this, rooms can suddenly feel bigger and more comfortable.

And if you’re not sure what to clear out, try this easy trick: the “box test.” Put stuff you think you don’t use in a box. After a month, if you haven’t needed to open the box, you probably don’t need those things. It might be time to give them away or throw them out. This way, you can easily see what you really use and what you can live without.

Then there’s the 6-month rule: if you haven’t used an item in the past six months, you likely don’t need it. Of course, this doesn’t apply to seasonal clothing and holiday items.

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4. What to pack away when selling a house?

  • Personal Items: It’s harder for buyers to visualize their life in a home if it’s filled with someone else’s memories.
  • Excess Furniture: A minimalist approach can make spaces look larger and more inviting.
  • Unused Appliances: A clean kitchen countertop is always more attractive.
  • Clothes: An organized closet looks bigger, suggesting ample storage space.
  • Books and Magazines: A few decorative books are fine, but shelves shouldn’t be overflowing.

Practical Tip: Agents, consider partnering with local storage companies. You can often get discounts for your clients, which will be an added selling point for your services.

5. Where do we store your belongings?

Let’s face it, when it’s time to clear out some space, a big question pops up: “Where do I put all my stuff?” It’s like playing a game of Tetris with your belongings. But don’t worry, there are some simple and practical options to help you out.

1. Rent a Storage Unit: Think of this as a mini-home for your bigger things like furniture or those boxes of books you can’t part with. It’s great if you need a bit more space than your home offers right now.

2. A Buddy’s Spare Room: Got some smaller treasures you’re not ready to part with? Maybe a friend or family member has a bit of extra space. It’s like giving them a visit until you figure out a more permanent spot for them. But remember, this is usually a good short-term fix.

3. Portable Storage Containers: These are super handy. It’s like having a moving truck and storage unit all in one. You can keep it right in your driveway or have it moved to a storage spot until you need it again.

4. Your Home’s Hidden Gems – Basements, Attics, or Garages: Yes, these spaces are great for storage, but let’s keep it neat. Just because it’s out of sight doesn’t mean it should be a jumbled mess. And remember, if every corner is packed, it might be time for a little more decluttering.

A Little Bit of Wisdom: When you’re packing things away, label your boxes. It might sound like extra work now, but trust me, future-you will be thankful. If you’re feeling extra organized, make a quick list or spreadsheet of what’s in each box. When it’s time to unpack or find something, it’ll be a breeze. Imagine moving into your new place and knowing exactly where your favorite coffee mug is. Pure magic!

6. The Emotional Tug of War: Psychology and Decluttering

Our possessions aren’t just objects; they’re fragments of memories, experiences, and emotions. This is why parting with them is seldom easy.

Yet, in the modern age, there’s a silver lining: not all decluttering means parting with memories. For instance, photos, which often take up physical space in albums and boxes, can be digitized and safely stored in the cloud. This way, you’re preserving the memories without the clutter.

According to Kayleen Kelly, Professional Organizer, understanding the root cause of your clutter is essential, as it can transform the decluttering process from a burdensome chore into a positive, transformative experience. It’s crucial to set realistic goals, aiming for functionality over perfection, and recognizing that decluttering is a journey, not a one-time event.

For sellers overwhelmed by the emotional aspect, real estate agents can guide them towards professionals who specialize in decluttering. Their expertise can offer the much-needed emotional support, making the process less daunting and more therapeutic.

7. Counting the Benefits: The Financial Upside of Decluttering

Beyond aesthetics and mental well-being, decluttering has a tangible financial upside. Think about those unused items gathering dust. By selling them, sellers can pocket some extra cash. Moreover, a decluttered, well-presented home often fetches a higher market price, given its ready-to-move-in allure.

Real estate agents can guide sellers towards platforms like eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. I’ve personally sold an used sofa, fridge, kids’ drawing table, gardening tools through one of this channels and it’s super convenient in doing so. Typically, I’m able to recoup about 30% to 50% of the original price I paid.

8. Green Decluttering: The Eco-friendly Approach

Decluttering isn’t just about discarding; it’s about making conscious choices. In our eco-conscious era, the discarded items from one home can find purpose in another. By donating, recycling, or repurposing, sellers not only declutter but also contribute to sustainability.

Real estate agents can further this eco-friendly approach by providing sellers with a list of local charities, thrift shops, or recycling centers, turning decluttering into an act of green responsibility.

Here are five reputable charities that often welcome donations:

  1. Goodwill: A well-known organization that accepts donations of clothing and household items, selling them in their stores to fund job training and community-based programs.
  2. The Salvation Army: Beyond its well-known holiday bell ringers, this group runs thrift stores across the country and uses the proceeds to fund various community programs.
  3. Habitat for Humanity ReStores: They accept household items and furniture, which are sold to fund the construction of homes for those in need.
  4. Dress for Success: This charity focuses on empowering women by providing them with professional attire for job interviews and employment.
  5. Furniture Bank: For larger items like furniture, this charity helps set up homes for the recently homeless or those escaping domestic violence.

9. Setting the Stage Right: Home Staging vs. Decluttering

At a glance, decluttering and home staging may seem like two sides of the same coin. But delve deeper, and their distinct roles become clear. Decluttering paves the way by removing excess, making a home feel spacious and breathable.

On the other hand, home staging artistically arranges the remaining items, highlighting a property’s best features. Together, they create a harmonious blend of space and aesthetics, making a property irresistibly inviting.

According to a the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Home Staging Profile Report, 44% of sellers’ agents believe that staging boosts a property’s value—sometimes by as much as 20%! More than half, 53% to be exact, feel a staged home will sell faster.

For agents aiming to provide an all-rounded service, collaborating with professional home stagers can be a game-changer. Not only can it enhance the visual appeal of a property, but it can also potentially boost its market value.

Staging Savvy Quiz: Do You Have the Eye of a Home Stager?(**)

10. Decluttering in the Digital Age

While tangible clutter is evident, digital clutter often goes unnoticed. In today’s tech-centric world, it’s imperative to declutter digital realms. Whether it’s a family photo slideshow on a smart TV, personal playlists on home voice assistants, or sensitive documents on a home office computer, these need addressing. Digital clutter can be off-putting for potential buyers and a security concern for sellers.

Agents can assist by providing a comprehensive digital declutter checklist, ensuring sellers leave no digital trace behind.

A Fresh Start: Post-Sale Decluttering

Selling a home is like closing one chapter and starting another. And what better way to start a new chapter than with a clean slate? Carrying old clutter into a new home can be a real mood-dampener. That’s why a good declutter before moving in can make all the difference. And for our savvy real estate agents? Providing a handy post-move checklist can be a game-changer. It helps sellers settle in smoothly and reminds them you’re there every step of the way.

After all, decluttering isn’t just about tidying up; it’s about showcasing a home’s heart and soul. So, let’s dive into this decluttering adventure and set the stage for happy new beginnings!

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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general information only, and not intend to provide any advice. They are subjected to change without any notice, and not guaranteed to be error-free. Some of the posts on this site may contain views and opinions from individual not related to JCHQ Publishing. They do not necessarily reflect our view or position.


  • NAR Profile of Home Staging (Source)


  • Jacob Coleman

    Jacob is a content writer and a real estate investor. He has experience working with different real estate professionals throughout the years. (i.e., appraisers, real estate agents, property managers, home inspectors.) In order to build a career you love, Jacob believes not only you need a thorough understanding about the profession, but you also have to find out what type of jobs could match your personality, lifestyle and expectation.

Jacob Coleman

Jacob is a content writer and a real estate investor. He has experience working with different real estate professionals throughout the years. (i.e., appraisers, real estate agents, property managers, home inspectors.) In order to build a career you love, Jacob believes not only you need a thorough understanding about the profession, but you also have to find out what type of jobs could match your personality, lifestyle and expectation.

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