Where Organizing and Staging cross paths . . .clutter is your enemy when selling!


Liz Jenkins


Clutter is the downfall of most houses, and never is this more apparent than when a house goes on the market.  As both a Professional Organizer and Home Stager, it’s really amazing how much of my organizing skills I use when I stage.  In fact, I’m surprised there aren’t more stagers that are PO’s as well!  So from my Professional Organizer hat, here’s some tips for stagers (as if you don’t already know these!!), but mostly for homeowners putting their house on the market:

  1. A stager will tell you to de-clutter.  This means PUT AWAY OR GET RID OF ALL OF THE STUFF LAYING AROUND EVERYWHERE!  When someone comes to look at your home for sale, it is really important that they see the great features of your home – not your collections of angels, your kid’s toys, or your mail.  These things are distractions and make the home seem dirty and unattractive.  You don’t want every surface bare, but there is a fine line between accessorizing and messy.  This is where a stager comes in handy.
  2. A stager will tell you to hide your personal items.  This means PUT IT AWAY SOMEWHERE WHERE IT CANNOT BE SEEN!  This doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your toothbrush or your bills – it means that people don’t want to see your personal hygiene products, and leaving mail or personal papers out is an identity theft issue and a personal safety issue.  You don’t want people knowing you you are.  People need to visualize themselves in a home and they can’t do that if your stuff is out and about.
  3. A stager will have you remove family photos.  This means TAKE THEM ALL DOWN AND PUT THEM IN A BOX SOMEWHERE.  Personal photos not only clutter up a house, they don’t say “buy me-I’m your new home” to a prospective buyer.
  4. A stager will tell you to create a smooth flow of traffic by removing or re-arranging furniture.  This means YOU HAVE TOO MUCH FURNITURE AND IT’S IN THE WRONG PLACES FOR SHOWING YOUR HOUSE!  Furniture that isn’t placed properly for showing your home makes the home seem cramped, cluttered and small.  Removing and arranging your furniture properly can make your home seem more spacious and attractive – helping you sell.  How you live in a home is usually not how it should look when selling.

Where the organizing aspect comes in is figuring out what to do with about these things.  This is what I recommend:

  1. Go through your home and get rid of any items you do not see yourself using in your new home.  Visualize where you are moving and the life you want to live.  Look at each item and ask yourself, “does this reflect who I am today and where I am going?”  If it doesn’t, either throw it away, donate it to charity or have a rummage sale.  Be ruthless and be realistic.  If you haven’t used in in years, or you just really don’t like it – why are you going to take the time and money to pack and move it?
  2. Place items in bins.  This is key for most of my clients.  You can have a lot of stuff in your home if it is contained in attractive bins.  I usually use plastic bins with lids for storage; open top white bins for storing items in pantries or closets; canvas, wooden or wicker bins & baskets for items that need to be accessible in living rooms or bedrooms.  Bins look nice, and conceal a myriad of messes.  Bins are your friend when it comes to organizing and staging.  Be sure to label all of your bins so you know what is in them – nothing is worse than putting away everything and then not knowing where your things are.
  3. Leave “white space”.  I do this when I organize and stage.  Don’t fill every available space, even in a cupboard, closet or pantry.  Leave room so that not only will the area look bigger, but it looks like you have so much space that you can’t even use it all.  Plus, from an organizing standpoint, it gives you room to grow.
  4. Pack for your move.  Keep in mind when packing that you only want to pack what you actually want to take (see tip #1).  By packing now, it will not only make your move easier, but it will help de-clutter.  The key things to keep in mind are:  Pack items by room.  Label every box not only with what is in it, but what room it belongs in.  Create an inventory list of what you have packed.  If you still have boxes that were never unpacked from your last move – this is a good sign that you most likely don’t need to keep these boxes.
  5. Be creative with storage.  People will not usually look under beds. behind a couch, or inside chests or freestanding pieces of furniture. 

This family room below was very cluttered with kids toys.  By getting rid of toys the client didn’t use anymore, we then  stored the rest in bins both in the cupboards and in the room.  I angled the sofa in the corner to get additional storage space and placed the most used toys in large plastic totes.  One tote is visible, the rest are behind the couch.  When the house is shown, the homeowner can just gather the toys in the bins, and drop them behind the couch.  The woman in the photo is sorting the toys and placing them in the bins for storage.family room afterfamily room before