As your family grows, your belongings increase exponentially. When you have kids, walking around your living room may feel more like navigating an obstacle course as you try not to trip on toys or knock over piles of books. And if you have a newborn, every surface can resemble a changing table.
Looking around your home, you may find that you’re outgrowing it faster than you expected.
If it’s time to sell your home, you’re going to need to figure out what to do with all the stuff you’ve accumulated. You may just want to pile everything in the corner and hope no one notices, but home buyers notice everything.
Homes that sell quickly are neat and organized, but kids and their belongings don’t fit into those categories easily. Before you can start showing your home, you’re going to need to find a place for all your things. This idea may seem counterintuitive. Let’s face it, the primary reason you’re moving is that you don’t have enough space for all the items in your world. So why should you have to create space when you don’t have any?
Why Is It Important To Declutter Before Selling Your Home?
When potential buyers come to see your property, you don’t want them to see your home. You want them to be able to imagine theirs.
When you examine your home, you may be reminded of all of the reasons you’re ready to move on and move out. However, you don’t want home buyers to be aware of any of the issues that are motivating you to sell. So if you’re selling because you’ve outgrown your home, you need to ensure that anyone viewing your property for the first time is oblivious to your lack of space.
“When a room is filled with too much furniture, knick-knacks and just clutter, it is difficult for potential buyers to envision themselves in the environment,” says Denise Supplee, Licensed REALTOR®, Property Manager and Co-Founder of SparkRental.com.
Homes that are overflowing with belongings aren’t just distracting, they’re also discouraging to potential buyers. If there isn’t enough space in the home for your family, potential buyers will question whether there’s enough space for them.
Furthermore, Supplee adds, “Clutter could also give off the message that the home is unkept, and may have buyers contemplating that the house is not well cared for all around.”
If the amount of stuff you have in your home causes buyers to question the condition of your property, you’re in for a rocky experience. Even the most ideal homes can be challenging to sell.
You don’t want your home sending any mixed messages. But how are you supposed to create space when you don’t have any?
Begin To Sift Through Your Belongings
“Many of us live with what I call ‘toxic accumulation’ in our homes – i.e., years of accumulating not only dust and dirt but clutter and chaos as well. This accumulation shows and can be, well, toxic (both figuratively and literally). Whether it’s kids’ stuff or other stuff, paring down and getting rid of old items can minimize such accumulation within your home and thereby brighten it up,” says Luis Perez, a moving and storage expert for 5miles, a local marketplace app.
It’s this “toxic accumulation” that leads buyers to view homes as stuffy. Sorting through your belongings and figuring out what you no longer need is the first step in making your home feel bright, airy and attractive to home buyers.
As consumers, we’re much better at amassing things than we are at getting rid of them. Therefore, it can be challenging trying to determine what to throw away.
But according to Perez, “The average American home contains roughly 35 unused items, so most of us have plenty of stuff that we can get rid of. When deciding what to do with an unused item, ask yourself: Does it improve your life? Does it really hold sentimental value? Would it be hard to replace? If the answer to those questions is ‘no,’ it’s time for that item to go.”
Yet, once you go through the obvious items, there will still be many more that require your attention. So where do you go from there?
Rebecca Langman, an interior designer and owner of Revision Custom Home Design, suggests, “Take a day (or weekend) to go through each room and remove any items which are not necessary for the function of that room.” For example, she says, “Even if you always paint your nails in the living room, you should store those items in the bathroom while the home is on the market. Then go through and remove any items you won’t need between now and moving day.”
As we run out of space in our rooms, we tend to find creative places to put any items that don’t fit where they belong. By pulling these items out of their creative hiding places, you’ll naturally begin to clear away the clutter from each room. Throw away the excess, box up everything you won’t be needing for a while and then find a permanent home for everything you use regularly.
Create A Home For Everyday Items
As you eliminate the clutter and restore your rooms to their original purposes, you’ll want to start thinking like a stager. Stagers prepare homes for sale by stripping away distracting personal items and reinvigorating rooms to reflect the ways that new owners can enjoy them.
“Any space in a home for sale should look intentional. Kids’ backpacks hung in the mudroom highlight that space. Toys in a playroom look appropriate and emphasize storage options. Toys and kids’ clutter all over the kitchen or dining room are distracting,” says Lisa Dooley, organizing coach and author of “More Space. More Time. More Joy!: Organizing Your Best Life.”
When potential buyers come to see your home, you want them to see the possibilities. You want their eyes to travel around the room, stopping only to appreciate the advantages of the space. This means not only finding a proper home for every item but also creating the impression of order in each room. To achieve this effect, you should ask yourself: What items can I display here that will emphasize the utility of the room?
Pick out the items that are most representative of the function of each room and store them neatly and visibly. Seeing that your belongings have a proper place in your home will signal to buyers that the house not only works for you but that it will also be perfect for them.
How To Store Toys For Kids
Although playrooms are the ideal place to store your kids’ toys, not every home has enough space for one. If you don’t have a playroom, you’ll need to work a bit harder to find an appropriate place for your kids’ playthings.
You should aim to store as many toys in your kids’ bedrooms as possible since their rooms are the logical place for their toys to be kept. Yet, you can get away with storing select toys in the family room. But you can’t just throw your kids’ toys in the corner of the room and call that their play area.
“Filling corners of rooms that are not intended for storage will give the impression that the home is smaller than it actually is,” says Langman.
You need to create purposeful storage places for your kids’ stuff to properly show off the square footage of your home. “Storage cubbies are ideal for toys. Use a combination of bins and boxes for smaller items and open shelving for games, puzzles, etc.,” says Dooley.
Group your kids’ toys by category – dolls, blocks, action figures, electronics, etc. – and put like items in the same storage cubby or bin. This will not only create a semblance of order in kids’ chaotic rooms but it will also help you remain organized while you show your property. When every item has a clear home, your kids will have an easier time putting their things away after they’ve used them.
A home with empty rooms is just as difficult to sell as a home with cluttered rooms. So organized storage cubbies and tidy shelves have a decorative purpose as well as a practical one. Your storage solutions will give kids’ bedrooms a polished look that will entice potential buyers to make an offer on your home.
How To Organize A Shared Bedroom
If your kids share a bedroom, you’ve probably discovered that their room feels very cramped. Having two kids in one room means that you have twice the stuff to deal with. Therefore, you’ll need to spend extra time trying to make their room feel less claustrophobic.
“Shared bedroom space is going to look smaller because there’s more furniture in that space. By getting as much off the floor as possible, it highlights floor space and makes the room look more open and therefore bigger,” says Dooley.
The storage solutions that work in a single child’s room or a family room won’t work in a shared bedroom because any furniture you add will make the room look that much smaller. Instead of bringing in storage cubbies and hanging more shelves, you’ll want to find existing spaces to stash kids’ items.
“Give each child a large toy bin or plastic storage box that they can quickly throw their mess in and store in their closet or under their bed for showings or open houses,” says Langman.
Closets are a great place to conceal the overflow, but you need to be strategic when utilizing the space. Potential buyers tend to open all doors, and crammed closets indicate that a home has limited storage options. If you don’t have a shelf above your kids’ clothes rack, you’ll want to add one so you have a place to put toy bins.
Anything that doesn’t fit in the closet should be hidden under beds. Storage containers that fit under the bed are especially great for housing art supplies, linens and bulkier clothes that can look sloppy in drawers or on shelves.
While clearing off the floors of your kids’ shared bedroom will do wonders for opening up the space, you should also pay attention to the walls of the room.
“Taking down anything distracting or oversized on the walls (assuming the paint or wallpaper underneath are in good condition) will also make the room look bigger,” says Dooley.
You want potential buyers to be impressed by how much space there is in the bedroom, so get rid of anything on the floor or walls that isn’t essential.
Make Room For The Baby
If one of the reasons you’re moving is that you don’t have space for a nursery, you may be panicking about where you’re going to put all of your baby’s necessities. Don’t worry. You can do it. You’re just going to need to get a bit more creative.
Baby furniture can take up a lot of space in a room, so you’ll want to streamline the number of pieces you need. A baby’s crib, dresser and changing table are the mainstays of any nursery. You can’t get rid of the crib, but you can use the space below it. Store extra diapers, wipes, powders and other items neatly in a bin and slide them under the crib.
Instead of having a separate dresser and changing table, use one piece of furniture for both. Having a changing pad above the drawers you use to store your baby’s clothes will enable you to cut down on cumbersome furniture and further open up the floor space.
Stackable furniture is a great way to utilize space more fully, but every extra item of furniture you have in a room makes it feel smaller. So when your floor space begins to get too tight, it’s time to go vertical.
Hanging items that typically clutter the ground will make your rooms feel more spacious. Create wall mounts for your stroller and high chair in your mudroom or hall closet. Add a hook on the wall for the diaper bag.
By paring down your baby’s furniture and creating wall space in closets for bigger items, you’ll be able to squeeze your nursery into the corner of your master bedroom. By adding some minimal decorations to your makeshift nursery, you’ll make this space look more intentional. With these embellishments, potential buyers won’t think of the makeshift nursery as an issue with lack of space but instead as a calculated way to keep your baby close for late-night feedings.
What To Do With Everything That Doesn’t Fit
Even after you’ve sorted through your belongings, found places for your kids’ toys and made room for your baby’s necessities, you’ll most likely find that you still have a lot of stuff you don’t know where to store.
While the basement, attic or garage may seem like a reasonable place to store excess furniture and boxes of items you don’t need at the moment, you want those areas to look expansive and uncrowded.
If you’re worried that these commonly cluttered areas are already overused, it may be time to enlist outside help. Self-storage units can be the perfect solution for getting those sentimental, seasonal or bigger items out of the way before you start showing your home.
Furthermore, getting a storage unit will help minimize the stress of your impending move by allowing you to start packing up your things early on in the process. Simply label boxes to make things easy to find and unpack later.
Adam Pogoda, Director of Acquisitions for Pogoda Companies, a large storage operator in the Midwest, says, “Over 10% of American households utilize a storage unit to declutter their homes and closets. When selling a home, a storage unit can be helpful as clean, organized and decluttered homes sell faster and at higher numbers. People who buy new homes dream of what their lives could be, and they don’t want the image of their new life to be a mess.”
It may be difficult for you to part with the many items you don’t need between now and when you move into your new home. Yet, having those items lie around the house as you show it will turn off potential buyers. Getting a storage unit provides the best of both worlds: a neat, spacious home to sell now and a treasure trove of your belongings to fill your new home with later.
While the added expense of having to rent a storage unit may put you off at first, you’ll find that it’s worth the cost. While selling her home, Mary Pitman, a writer and publisher for Do the Right Thing Publishing, rented a storage unit and believes that it made all the difference.
“The price of the storage unit more than paid for itself simply by the speed of the sale,” she says. After removing unworn clothes from closets and bulky furniture from overcrowded rooms, she received an offer in 2 weeks and closed 2 weeks later.
Pitman adds, “The most telling effect of clearing out the clutter was my real estate agent’s comments as we waited at closing for the buyer: ‘I have to tell you … I cannot believe you got that much money for that house.’”
Sometimes a storage unit is all you need to close quickly and get the highest price possible for your home. If you believe a storage unit is the right option for you, you’ll want to start looking into the storage facilities in your area. Not sure what to look for?
Pogoda says, “There are over 50,000 self-storage facilities in America, so chances are there is one close by. You should look for a facility that is well-kept with a security system that includes gated access and cameras. Most facilities have websites, so it’s easy to shop online to find the best combination of convenience and price. Check the reviews of a store online to make sure there are no pest or mold problems. Property managers are well-trained to help you find the right size unit and will tell you about a store’s features.”
Self-storage has become a modern convenience that most households use anyway. So after you rent a unit for your move, you may find that you enjoy having your belongings out of your home but close enough that you can always retrieve them. You can even invest in a climate-controlled unit that will protect your most valuable belongings from extreme temperatures.
No matter how you choose to do it, clearing out your home is a monstrous task. It requires you to sort through all of your belongings and remove any personal touches or oversized furniture that distract from the space. But it’s well worth the hassle. If your rooms are tidy and well-organized, it will tell buyers that your home has been well-maintained and has enough storage options to suit their needs.
But once you’ve finished clearing away the clutter, you may feel so burnt out that you can’t imagine going through the process of selling alone. Just take a deep breath. You’re not alone. If you feel like you could use a little guidance, we’re here to help. We have the tools you’ll need each step of the way.