When Organizing and Staging Collide

Posted By on February 25, 2011

After: Behold, a clean, spacious living room after clutter was removed and items were organized for home staging.

Before: The same living room as above before toys and clutter were taken out to prepare for visits from potential home buyers.

By Professional Organizer Liz Jenkins

Staging a house is all about making it attractive to potential buyers, but one of the biggest issues in most homes is – you guessed it – clutter!

The way you live in a home has nothing to do with the way you sell a home. Creating a welcoming atmosphere for potential buyers where they can see themselves living in your (former) house is key. With all of your “stuff” lying around, that’s impossible.

Here are the objections clients have (until they “get it”):

  • “But it’s just stuff. Can’t they see around it?”
  • “This isn’t going to be here when they move in. Why is it a problem?”
  • “I still have to live here!”

Yeah, I get it. But … I tell them their buyers won’t. All that the buyers see is a bunch of stuff laying around that isn’t theirs.

Here’s what goes through their heads:

  • “Are these people slobs?”
  • “If it’s this cluttered, I wonder how clean this place is?”
  • “If it’s not clean, I wonder if they’ve maintained the house.”
  • “I can’t imagine my things in here because it’s so messy.”

So, in order to sell your home, I recommend that you:

Hide: Yes, pack up everything in your home that is moving with you that you don’t use regularly. This may include seasonal items, rarely used kitchen appliances, keepsakes, etc.

Purge: Don’t pack things that don’t get used much because, honestly, why would you pay to move things you didn’t use in this house? Are you really going to use it in your new one? Donate unused items to charity or have a yard sale.

Pack: Pack and find a hiding spot for personal items such as diplomas, family portraits, kids awards, mail (basically anything with your name or identifying information on it). This is a safety issue, as well as a clutter issue.

You don’t want people to know who you are or where your kids go to school. Not only that, but your family photos don’t say to a buyer that this could be his or her home. They say it’s still yours.

Organize: Make your pantry, cupboards and closets neat. Potential buyers look everywhere, and if these areas are messy and jam-packed with stuff, it reflects poorly on your home. Use matching hangers; leave at least 25% “white space” inside; and place items in bins to conceal them.

Edit:Home staging experts remove between 25% to 40% of the furniture and accessories in each room of a house. It may look somewhat bare to you, but the buyer is looking at how much room there is in the home. Generally, most homes have too much furniture and accessories.

You want clear paths to walk through and, in each room, clearly defined spaces with a purpose (sitting area, office or playroom). The25-40% rule doesn’t always apply. Some home owners never really furnish their homes. This is where a stager can come in and add furniture and accessories to make the place shine.

Some storage tips:

Be creative with storage! Angle a sofa against the wall and put storage bins behind to conceal kids toys or as a quick place to toss things if you have an impromptu showing. Repurpose sideboards or cabinetry to hold items. Use bed risers to create storage under a bed (nobody will look there) and conceal the space with a bedskirt.

Create a storage place for mail and bills that isn’t visible.Do not put these items in a permanent fixture such as a kitchen drawer – people will open those. I recommend a box with a lid, a briefcase or tote you can take with you, a drawer in a free-standing piece of furniture, etc., something that will keep your privacy but that you can still access.

Bins conceal a multitude of sins. Anything you want to keep but not have looking cluttered? Put it in a bin. I love wicker baskets for closets, family rooms and entryways; white plastic Sterilite bins for pantries, kitchens and baths; pop-up hampers to contain stuffed animals and toys; ottomans with storage inside.

Create a strategic exit plan for a quick showing. Inevitably you’ll get a call that someone is sitting in their car at the end of the block and want to come see the house. Keep a laundry hamper or a couple of big tote bags in a convenient location so you can dump any clutter in it and take it with you. I had a client leave with an entire chicken cut up on a butcher block as she was in the middle of prepping dinner – the laundry basket held it nicely!

Organizing is probably the most economical thing you can do when staging a home, and it has the biggest impact.

The act of decluttering not only makes your home look so much more appealing to prospective buyers, but also it makes your move easier. It allows you to reduce how much you have to transport and helps you start off in your new home the right way – with only the things in it that make your life better and more enjoyable, which is what organizing is all about.

Liz JenkinsLiz Jenkins, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of A Fresh Space in the Nashville, TN area, specializes in helping people in their homes or small businesses streamline their lives so they can be more effective, productive and not so stressed out and frazzled.

A self-professed life-long organizing geek, Liz wields a label maker with style and can sort and containerize with a wave of her magic wand (not really but wouldn’t it be cool?). Decluttering, figuring out what to do with all the papers, wrangling the kids toys, managing emails and calendars, creating order out of chaos . . . these are the things that make her day. Find more organizing tips on her blog, A Fresh Space.



2 Responses to “When Organizing and Staging Collide”

  1. […] Simon, a.k.a. The Clutter Princess, asked me to write a guest post about staging but since we are both Professional Organizers I thought it would be great to show how […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Julie Bestry, JaniceSimon. JaniceSimon said: Read guest blog: When Staging and Organizing Collide by @afreshspace! http://bit.ly/gO6n7p […]