Home & Garden

Less stuff equals better home offers

Plastic tubs can be used to organize clutter at her home.
Plastic tubs can be used to organize clutter at her home. rbenton@sacbee.com

Like it or not, home sellers who prune their accumulations fare better than those who fail to remove superfluous items prior to selling, said Vicki Norris, who heads her own professional organizing firm.

“People want to picture themselves living in your place, and they can’t do that if it’s crowded with all your stuff,” said Norris, author of “Restoring Order to Your Home.”

Would-be sellers are not only advised to streamline their possessions, they’re also urged to reduce the inflow into their home until they receive a solid contract for sale. And that means less shopping.

Ironically, many people begin an anti-clutter campaign with a shopping spree involving the purchase of numerous storage containers. But all those big plastic bins prove more of a hindrance than a help, according to Barbara Hemphill, author of “Less Clutter More Life,” who began her career in professional organizing in 1978.

“What’s inevitable is that those containers will just get in your way,” she said.

Here are a few pointers for sellers:

▪  Enlist outside help with major projects. Judith Rough, a downsizing expert, estimates that to fully declutter an average-sized house usually takes at least four weeks of concentrated effort. And to avoid getting sidelined with the feelings that the process arouses, many people need assistance.

“Going through everything you’ve acquired for decades is extremely emotional – particularly if you’ve raised your family in that house,” said Rough.

Sellers often turn to relatives for help. But Rough said you’re better off with an objective third party –ideally a professional organizer. One source for referrals is the real estate agent who will list your property. Another is the National Association of Professional Organizers (napo.net).

▪  Query your loved ones on items they wish to keep. Are you the parent of grown children? If so, Rough said you may be tempted to hang on to nostalgic possessions you believe your offspring may someday want to claim. But as Rough said, “your kids will want far less of your stuff than you expect.” So she suggests you ask them directly what they want.

▪  Photograph cherished items that you can’t keep. Before seeking to declutter, Hemphill often recommends that home sellers take photographs of entire rooms to create compact memories of these spaces. She also advises taking pictures of valued items that are too large to bring to the next property.

“Converting prized belongings to art is a great way to hasten the clearing process and make your house more saleable,” she said.

In sifting through your accumulations, you’re bound to find many things you no longer want, need or value. There’s obviously little reason to haul these items – including extra books, toys and pieces of unused sports gear – to your new property.

Whenever possible, Rough encourages you to donate serviceable items to a reputable charity. Through the years, for example, she’s donated many of her own discards through church groups.

Another option is to post your giveaways on a social network account, which could result in finding a friend, relative or acquaintance who would appreciate receiving them.

“It’s hugely satisfying to know that things you paid good money for will find the right home,” Rough said.