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  • Writer's pictureLaura Weiler

What to do before listing your home

Birds are chirping, things are turning green, and that means…the spring real estate market is heating up! Clutter is a huge turnoff to potential buyers. It gives the impression that your home lacks storage (even if it doesn’t), it feels chaotic, and it makes it more difficult for people to picture themselves and their things in your home. An investment in decluttering and organizing (time if you DIY, or money if you call in a pro) can really pay off when selling.

And there’s another perk—your move will be easier, less expensive, and less stressful if you declutter first. If you don’t use it now and won’t need it in your new home, don’t move it.

Not putting your home on the market? Keep reading, because these tips will help you love your home even if you’re not moving.

Start by getting rid of things you don’t need. Be ruthless. Ask yourself, do I want this enough to pack it, move it, unpack it, and find a home for it?

Grab a garbage bag or recycling bin and walk around the house tossing in anything that’s, well, trash, but also:

  • things that are broken (and won’t realistically be fixed)

  • things you won’t really read (magazines, newspapers, catalogs)

  • things that have served their purpose (crafts missing goggly eyes, dried out Play-Doh)

  • empty boxes or containers (i.e. shipping cartons, the takeout container you washed and are saving because…why, exactly?)

Next, get a box or laundry basket and walk around looking for things you no longer need, but are in good enough condition to donate:

  • toys or clothes your children have outgrown

  • clothes you no longer wear

  • duplicate appliances (you probably don’t need a blender and a smoothie maker and a food processor)

  • mugs and glasses (just about every home I’ve been to had more mugs and glasses than could ever be used)

  • books, movies, video games, etc. that won’t be reread, watched again, or played with any longer

The longer you’ve lived in your home, the more necessary this is, and the greater the impact will be. Stuff accumulates over time, and that’s how people end up with four can openers and a pile of Wii games but no console.

organizing before a move, preparing your house to sell, what to do before before you list, organizing before a move
Clean counters are nice to look at, provide a sense of calm, and show that there's plenty of storage elsewhere.

My whole house?!?!, you may be thinking. I don’t have time for that. Going through the whole house is ideal (your potential buyers sure will be!), but if your time is really limited, focus on these spaces:

kitchen and pantry

Cluttered counters and cabinets suggest that your kitchen lacks storage. Nobody wants a kitchen without enough storage.

  • get rid of expired food, old spices, anything you won't eat (and buy less—you’re moving soon; this is not the time to stock up because cereal was on sale!)

  • tidy your pantry and cabinet shelves—make it look like there’s plenty of room

  • get rid of duplicate dishes, appliances, etc. to create more space

  • clear your countertops as much as possible to look spacious and calm


Again, you want it to look like there’s adequate storage.

  • get rid of anything you’re not using (shampoo you didn’t like, the travel size items, etc.)

  • (safely) get rid of expired medication

  • remove ratty-looking towels (use them as packing material or donate to an animal shelter)

  • if your shower curtain liner is less than sparkling, go buy a new one

bedroom closets

Make it neat. Make it look like there’s plenty of space.

  • get rid of all wire hangers, plastic dry cleaning bags, etc.

  • group similar items—hang all shirts together, group pants, etc. This is the fastest way to make your closet look orderly and appealing.

storage areas (basement, garage, utility closet)

Your potential buyers will open that door and look inside. You want them to see a space that can hold their things, not one that threatens an avalanche!

  • Get things off the floor. If your space doesn’t have shelving, add some—it doesn’t need to be fancy or custom in spaces like these. The space will look neater, function better, and it might even be a selling point if it stays with the house.

  • If you have a garage, make sure it has room for cars.

professional organizing before a move
A mudroom is a coveted item for buyers. If you have one, show it off. If you don't, find a way to incorporate the function of a mudroom into your home with smart storage and creative solutions.

entryway, mudroom, coat closet

Everyone has coats, backpacks, shoes, etc. and they have to go somewhere. Don’t make your buyers guess where they might put these things—have a clear, designated, functional spot.

  • declutter to make it look spacious

  • add hooks to get backpacks and sports bags off the floor

  • use a bin or rack for shoes to keep them contained

And if you are keeping these things on the floor or the dining room table because you’ve never figured out a good system, please browse Pinterest for ideas, or call me, because I promise there is a better solution.

Great, you may be thinking. Now what do I do with the mountain of stuff in the corner of my living room? If you’re working with me, I take a full SUV trunk-load of donations with me every time I leave your house (no extra charge). You don’t see it or think about it again. If you’re working on your own, you could load up the car and drop it off at a donation center—an online search should bring up multiple options—or schedule a pick-up at your home. You can search for charities who pick up donations here. Keep in mind that it might take a couple weeks, so start the process well before your first showing.

If this all sounds like something you should do, but you just don’t have the time to dig through your cabinets and drive around town dropping off donations, give me a call. I can help your home look its best before listing, and make sure that the only things that move on to your next home are things you love, need, and use. Happy spring!

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