How NOT to Sell Your House – Clutter

We all have stuff.

We all like to collect one thing or another.

For some people it might be stamps…or coins…or thimbles…little spoons…shot glasses from around the world.  All of it grouped nicely in display cases.  Other people collect little artifacts from their travels or works of art or even lawn gnomes.  Most of it can be boxed up and stored while the house is up for sale.

The Not-So-Cool Clutter

What about the other stuff, though?

  • Old magazines from 1997
  • Wedding gifts that were opened and then immediately stored in the back of the closet
  • Ditto all the birthday gifts
  • Report cards from 3rd grade
  • 8-track tapes (I know you remember them!)
  • Clothes, clothes and more clothes. The kind we all hope we’ll fit back into one day or will come back into fashion.
  • Books
  • Ten cans of WD-40, a case of paper towels, empty packaging from every appliance you’ve ever owned.
  • All those neat things you bought because of late night infomericals

There’s lots more, of course.  It’s all clutter.  It all takes up space. And it all makes your house look tiny to someone who has never been in it.

The Power of the Optical Illusion

I tell all my seller clients that the new mantra for selling homes in the 21st Century is “Space Sells”.  Repeat after me. “Space Sells”.

The big challenge is that you really can’t do much about the actual physical space of your home.  It has a certain square footage and that’s it.

What you can do is make it look bigger. The way you do this is by emptying out all, and I mean all, of the clutter from your house.  If you don’t absolutely need it to live your day to day life, then it’s Donate or Discard.

Yes, keep the clothes that you are wearing day-to-day.  You know which ones.  Yes. Keep what you need to cook and read and enjoy your everyday life.  But, if you haven’t touched something within the last six months, it’s time to put it in a box and put it in storage, give it to charity or throw it away.

You Can’t Take It With You

The hard truth is that most of the stuff that is cluttering up your house is not going to fit into wherever you’re going and you probably wonder why you’ve kept it so long anyway. More importantly, the people who want to buy your house, don’t want it either.  You may think it’s wonderful and useful and expensive but the buyers don’t want your stuff.  They want their stuff.

If a buyer comes into your home and sees a lot of your stuff, they know that you really haven’t made the emotional decision to move.  They feel like visitors in your house.  Just like you invited them over for a cup of tea.  If your family photos are everywhere, kids toys, whatever…the buyers can’t visualize it as their home.  They see it as your home and they are intruding.

“Pardon me. I didn’t mean to interrupt.  I’ll be going now.” — that’s the thinking when a buyer walks into a home with all the personal belongings and years and years of accumulated stuff in a house.

So, as painful as it might be, get rid of the clutter.  Get rid of all the stuff that has been accumulating for years and years and years.  Do a yard sale. Give it to charity. Put it in storage.

Space Sells.

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About Ken Montville

Ken Montville is a Realtor® and Associate Broker with RE/MAX United Real Estate in the beautiful Maryland Suburbs of Washington, DC. He has been selling nice homes since 1999. Way back in the 20th Century.

When Ken Is not doing the real estate thing he can be found all over social media in places too numerous to mention and he listens to jazz, reads a little (mostly non-fiction), hangs out with the Rotary Club of Parole (Annapolis), MD and can be found blogging at MDSuburbanHomes.com

  • Good post, Ken – I just had a buyer say to me last Sunday, “why do sellers let buyers see their houses with clothes on the floor and junk laying around? It’s disgusting!”

    I’m working on my magazine-collection habit – I’ve finally gotten rid of most everything but old photo magazines. I swear I’ll find the time to read them someday! 😀

  • It always amazes me how much home sellers are attached to their “stuff” and expect home buyers to be OK with it if not outright fall in love with it.

    Speaking of magazines, I recently took a listing in College Park and the owners have these really nice, National Geographic magazines in nice leather-ette magazine binders. I think they go back to 1995. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    Let me know if you want any old National Geographics…..
    🙂

  • “If you walk into the walk-in closet and can’t turn around you have to much stuffed in there.” “Honest you don’t need to higher a stager just put the wall of VHS tapes in storage.” 😀