Every article on getting your home ready for sale will include decluttering as one of the steps to follow. Decluttering helps your rooms look larger, allows people to see themselves in the property and makes it easier to get the place shining.
But if you’ve never decluttered before, it can also feel overwhelming. Where do you start, and how do you know when you’ve done enough? We’ve put together the ultimate decluttering guide to help.
1. Set aside some time
How long you’ll need to declutter will vary depending on how large your property is and how long you’ve lived there. Assume, though, that it will take more than a few hours and plan accordingly. Either set aside a weekend – or a week, if that’s possible for you – or give yourself a long enough timeline to work through the job over multiple evenings. Either way, build in enough time for Step 4.
2. Pick a room
It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you have a system. You might choose to start with the least used room in the house and work up to big tasks like the lounge and kitchen, or work upwards, or from back to front. Your system is your roadmap and will prevent you from becoming lost along the way.
3. Consider everything in the room
Remove as much from the room as is physically possible, including furniture. Now consider what you need in that room to make it liveable.
This trick forces you to consider what you do want, as opposed to what you don’t want. Tackle the furniture first: you might be surprised at how many items you’ve accrued that you don’t really use. Next, return any accessories or ornaments that bring you pleasure or use, like your favourite lamp or that snuggly throw.
4. Wait a week or more
After the last step, you’ll be left with a huge pile of stuff. Don’t get rid of it just yet, because sometimes it takes a few days to realise that actually, you do need that recipe holder or that second coffee table. Wait at least a week, and ideally a month, and see what things you end up bringing back in during that time.
One trick for saving time is to follow Step 3 for every room in the house at once and designate a single ‘collection point’ for the extra stuff – a garage or basement is ideal. That way you’re not waiting a week or more between each room.
5. Tackle the pile
At the end of the time period, you can tackle the clutter pile itself. Just because something hasn’t been returned to its original room doesn’t mean that you might not want to keep it. Some of our possessions are seasonal: clothing, holiday decorations and the children’s wading pool are just three examples. Some are useful on an as-needed basis, like the first aid kit or the tool box.
There are a number of tricks to help you decide. Ask yourself:
Do I use it?
If the item hasn’t been used in over a year, that’s a strong argument towards tossing it.
Do I have concrete plans for its future use?
Sometimes, we may not have used something to date but have a specific use for it in the future. If that’s something you feel confident will happen, keep it. If it’s more nebulous (“this would be ideal if I ever get invited to a 20s-themed party!”), let it go.
Would I buy it now if I didn’t own it?
If you saw this item in a store, would you spend money on it? We tend to use a lower threshold for items we’ve already bought, because the cost is already covered. But every item has an ongoing cost in terms of space and upkeep (not to mention the packing cost when you move to your new home!) so this question will help you decide if you value it that much.
Do I love it?
Sometimes, an item doesn’t have any particular utility except making us happy. And those items are worth keeping. But if you’re keeping things out of a sense of obligation or guilt, you don’t need to do so. What’s the first emotion that looking at the item elicits? If it’s anything less than pleasure, toss.
6. Donate, sell or bin
Now you’ve established what you really need and don’t need, you’ll need a plan for getting rid of the excess. While selling it all sounds tempting, beware of the time and effort it takes. Your goal is to get it out of your house, so if you do want to try and recoup some of the cost set a tight time limit. If it’s not sold within a week, donate it. If you need to hire a skip, do so.
Be as ruthless as you can: you have a house to sell!