Getting ready to sell? Depersonalize and get rid of clutter first

Jeff Peterson
Jeff Peterson
Published on May 21, 2018

Think back to a time when you, or someone you know, sold or traded in a car. There was some work to do before advertising it for sale or taking it to the car lot, right? It’s a rare car seller, who’ll leave all the fast-food wrappers, empty plastic water bottles and crumbs left behind by the kids.


Because a clean car gives off an impression of being well-maintained.

It’s the same thing with houses. Sadly, decluttering and cleaning a house prior to going on the market, isn’t as routine task like selling a car. Yet a home is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars more than a car. Here are some tips that will help you get ready to sell your house.

1. Get Rid of the Clutter

Scientific studies show that clutter causes anxiety in people who view it. Not a good state for a homebuyer to be in, and reason enough to get rid of excess “stuff” in the home.

If you have a lot of it, the process may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to. Remember the old advice on how to eat an elephant (one bite at a time) and apply it to getting rid of the clutter in your home, in order to get it ready to sell.

In this case, take it one room at a time. Try to do the entire home in one day and you’ll most likely get frustrated and lose the mojo needed to complete the job, according to professional organizer Nicole Anzia.

“It’s much better to spend a few hours — 2 or 3 — on one project or space. This way you’ll feel motivated to do more, not be burned out by the process,” she tells’s Catrin Morris.

For those who burn out quickly, Anzia suggests doing one room at a time, “in 30-minute bursts … work for 30 minutes, take a half-hour break, then work for another 30.”

When tackling clutter, pay close attention to any collections you may have. Too many items in a room makes it appear cluttered and distracting to buyers. When you get ready to sell, remove all collections of items in every room and only have the necessities. If you have ever toured a model home or a home that has been staged, you will notice there is no clutter and all furniture, pictures, or decorations serve a purpose.

2. Depersonalize

Actually, you may end up doing a lot of the “depersonalization” while you’re getting rid of clutter. When you are ready to sell your house, it is time to not make it YOUR house anymore. 

In a nutshell, depersonalizing a home involves removing anything of an overly-personal nature.

Again, think about model homes in new-home communities. These homes are carefully staged to appeal to the broadest number of buyers and they are decidedly, depersonalized. These homes are 100% ready to sell with how they are staged.

You want buyers to be able to imagine themselves living in the home, with their furniture and their belongings.

Some of what you should remove and store includes:

  • Excess family photos – It’s ok to have some but I always recommend removing all family photos
  • Framed diplomas, degrees and awards
  • Extra toys
  • Magazines and professional journals
  • Craft items
  • Anything on the refrigerator doors
  • Anything that sits on the kitchen and bathroom counters that isn’t decorative
  • Mail
  • Paperwork
  • Anything of a religious or political nature
  • Sports memorabilia

Depersonalization doesn’t just include removing overly-personal items from the home. Consider repainting walls that are currently painted in a bright or odd color and getting rid of odors from cooking, pets, babies and smokers. It is also strongly recommended to remove any wallpaper, including border wallpaper. While that might have been something you enjoyed, home buyers look at wall paper as a large project they have to take on if they but the house. So while you are get your house ready to sell, make the colors neutral throughout the house.

While you get your house ready to sell, don’t go too overboard in depersonalizing the home, however. Leave some traces of your personal statement, so that buyers get an idea of the lifestyle the home offers.

If you are wanting some professional advice, I’d be happy to take a look at your house and make some recommendations. When you are ready to sell, please feel free to give me a call.  I’d love to help you get it SOLD!


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