7 Tips to Declutter Your Home FAST to Get It Ready To Sell

Updated: July 24, 2020

Recently a realtor asked me to go to his client’s house and coach them on what they needed to do to get their house ready to list. I was overwhelmed when I walked in at the bold colors, the amount of furniture, and all the “knick knacks” that each room had. The house was FULL of stuff!

As we went through each room and I made my long list of suggestions and recommendations, the client was telling me why she was not able to do it and that buyers would see through all the stuff, bold colors anyways, and would decorate it the way they wanted to when they moved in. Once we were over halfway through the staging consult, the client blew me away when she mentioned that she was offended with THE only offer they received a few months ago when the house was listed. The ONLY offer they received was $200,000 less than their asking price!!

Buyers needs to picture themselves in your home.  80% of buyers have difficulty visualizing themselves in rooms that smack of the owner’s personality.   Of the 20% that can visualize, they will low ball their offer for the “work” they feel they need to do.  

The challenge with hoping for buyers to “see through the clutter and see the potential” is that these buyers want to be compensated for the house appearing lower than market value. They come in with a “low ball” offer that is typically significantly lower than the selling price sellers want for their house. The sellers are left disgusted at such a “low ball” offer.

1. Think Like a Buyer!

When you’re getting your house ready to sell you need to think like a buyer!!  What would a buyer want to see in your home?  What would they NOT want to see? Walk around your house and pretend you’re a buyer.  What do you see?

Take Pictures of EVERY Room In Your House the Way it is NOW

Your next job is to grab your camera or cell phone.  You’re going to take a picture of EVERY single room in the house including the basement, the front and the backyard as well.  Take a few pictures of different angles so you can capture every part of the room. You want to see the good, bad & the ugly.  Don’t worry about moving things around.  There will be plenty of time for that.  Take as many pictures as you need to make sure you document every part of each room or space.

With the eyes of a prospective buyer, take a look at those pictures as if you were seeing your house for the very first time.

What do you see?  Clutter?  Dated furniture? Too much furniture?


No one likes to declutter their home because life gets busy.  If you have a choice to hang out with friends and family or declutter your home, which one are you going to choose?  The first one of course.  So the clutter accumulates AND accumulates until we’re ready to sell our home.  BUT now that you’ve decided to sell your home, you need to get rid of your clutter AND fast. AND you need to be very intentional about it.

What happens if you don’t declutter?  You’re leaving money on the table. Your home will take longer to sell AND you won’t get the price that you want or need for your home. Buyers will make low ball offers on your home and you won’t get the money for your house that you were hoping for.

Buyers needs to picture themselves in your home.  80% of buyers have difficulty visualizing themselves in rooms that smack of the owner’s personality.   Of the 20% that can visualize, they will low ball their offer for the “work” they feel they need to do.  

Read think like a buyer when selling your house

You’re convinced you need to declutter but where do you start?

2. The 5 Most Important Rooms to Focus on

If want to to get your house decluttered fast in order to stage your home, start with the most important rooms first. Rooms that are typically on the first floor or that you can see from the hallway. i.e. The living room, dining room, family room, kitchen and hallway.  Master bedrooms and rec rooms will come second but are important as well.

  1. Curb Appeal |Front of your House
  2. Living room and/or family room
  3. Kitchen
  4. Dining area
  5. Master bedroom

Regardless of the time you have, focusing on the 5 most important rooms first will help you come up with a plan of where to focus your energy, and if you run out of time to do a through job on other areas, you will have the most important rooms done.

Lastly, focus on the children’s bedrooms (closets can even be done AFTER photos are taken but BEFORE the listing is live). Lastly an unfinished basement.  If the basement is a finished basement, it needs to be decluttered and staged as noted above. If it’s not a finished basement, it still needs to be neat & tidy.   If you don’t have time to do a thorough decluttering job, just pack it up!  See Tip #7

3. Visualize Your End Goal

Remember our picture up at the top of the page that was badly needing a declutter job? It’s hard to believe that this is the same room below right?


Visualizing your end goal will help you get and stay motivated and get to your end goal. Get pictures from a blog, Pinterest or a magazine to help you visualize what you want the room to look like when you’re done.  This will not only help you get to your end goal, it will also help you decide what should stay and what should go!   Motivate yourself and stick up your favorite inspirational piece so you can see it daily.

4. Declutter. Declutter. Declutter.

Your moving anyways. Get rid off all that stuff you have been intending to get around to it. People have a hard time visualizing their selves living in a space that is cluttered with someone else’s stuff.


One fixer upper that I ended buying had old family photos on the wall in the hallway when you walked in and in the bedroom. It shouted the current owner lives here. It would be hard for the potential buyer to visualize living in that space. The house had many buyers walk through and it was on the market for a couple of months. The homeowners had already bought another home and where getting anxious as they were on the verge of owning two homes. They also had religious items in the home. Its best to keep the decorations neutral in the house so that potential buyers can vizualize themselves in the home. Remove quirky decorating items, family photos, trophies, degrees, etc. If you’re in doubt, remove it!

Get rid of furniture & items that you don’t need for staging & you’re not taking with you!

Don’t take furniture that you will need for staging.  One house I staged, the dining room furniture had been removed so it left the dining room totally empty.  The dining room was also the first room you would see when you walked into the house so it was very noticeable. 

Get rid of items that you don’t need for staging and you’re not taking with you!

You may have got used to all that furniture in a room BUT the biggest challenge with staging is too much furniture for the size of the room actually makes a room appear smaller than it actually is. One client’s house I visited had large gatherings of friends and family in their living room and thus had a couch set plus extra chairs to accommodate everyone. The challenge with all this furniture is that it was blocking traffic patterns and entryways causing the room to look smaller than it actually was. Once we removed one of the couches, the room opened up and the living room looked very inviting.

Do you know what furniture you will be taking with you?  One client of mine had a big king size bed and matching furniture in a basement bedroom.  The bed & furniture was way too large for the size of the room and it made the room look small which it wasn’t.  They weren’t taking it with them so it was decided that the furniture would get donated to a worthy cause and the office furniture that was in the family room, would get moved to that former bedroom turned into an office.  A win|win.

Read how to get rid of big furniture

Need some guidance? A staging consult? A color consult?


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Call the Kids to Get Their Stuff!

Also tag those old university books, furniture & any items that you have been storing for your adult children.  Now is the time for them to take it off your hands or else!  Out it goes to the trash or recycling. One house I staged had been holding onto a piano for their daughter for years! Time to get it out!

Put ads in Facebook Marketplace and LetGo etc for other items like the unused play set in the backyard or the dusty treadmill that you no longer use.  Get rid of those bulky items & eye sores.

Related Post: How to Get Rid of Unwanted Furniture 


Pianos are also a piece of furniture that tends to sit in a house unused once the kids have moved out and no one longer plays it. If you’re not taking the piano with you, and you don’t need it for staging, now is the time to make arrangments to get rid of the piano. Pianos are harder to offload these days since there’s such a surplus of them.

5.  Get 3 bins

Let’s be brutally honest here.  Most of us (except for my brother & sister-in-law) don’t like going through our stuff.  Our clutter.  We would much rather be going out with friends, hanging with our kids, working, or anything else for that matter than going through our clutter.  Yes there are those that like a clutter-free house, and its actually less stressful, than seeing a pile of clutter here and there that should be removed from our home. There’s a reason why we got here in the first place, but if we follow these 10 steps to remove the clutter and to KEEP IT THAT WAY, we won’t need to be doing this again. 

This is the time when you need to make those tough decisions with yourself. If you haven’t used an item in a year, you need to ask yourself to really need it.  Why are you keeping it? This is where a bit of soul searching may come into play if you find yourself keeping way more items than you need.

BE RUTHLESS.  Get rid of the stuff you don’t absolutely love or use.  Just because someone gave you something, doesn’t mean you need to keep it! If an item is broken or missing a part, and it has been like that for a year or over, throw it out or donate it.  Chances are, it will be like that for another year if you keep it.

  1.  Keep – If you still use it or wear it in the past year. Trash/recycle – Past the expiry date/broken/won’t work. Be ruthless. Get rid of the stuff you don’t absolutely love or use. Just because someone gave you something, doesn’t mean you need to keep it.
  2. Donate – Don’t use it or wear it but still in good condition.
  3. Trash/Recycle – Anything past the expiry date/broken/won’t work.  BE RUTHLESS.  Get rid of the stuff you don’t absolutely love or use.  Just because someone gave you something, doesn’t mean you need to keep it !

6. Ask your friends or family to help!

When homeowners are thinking of listing their house, they tend to panic because they know they need to declutter, personalize and make their home appealing to 80 -90% of the population. When I visit clients for the first time for a staging consult, they’re a little panicked as to what should be done, how much they need to do and what are the priorities. Some people have months to get ready and quite frankly, some need it. Especially if they are moving out of their home where they have raised their family and are downsizing to a smaller space. They typically have alot of stuff to go through. On the other hand, some people may only have a few weeks to get ready because they found out they need to move quickly for work or other reasons.

THIS is the time to call in ALL your favors.  (Okay maybe save one or two for moving day!)  Remember the time when you dog sat your friends dog for the week-end?  Or the number of times you have driven your son’s friend home back from soccer practice?  Or when you shoveled your neighbor’s driveway while they were down south sunning themselves?  You get the drift.  Call in those favors.  Even if it’s only for a couple of hours.  Many hands make light work!

Don’t worry about how your house looks.  Their house is going to look the same when they’re moving! lol

7.  Just Pack It !!!

One client of mine was combining two households. He was a widower, and found his true love a second time! They decided to move in together. They both had two separate houses and decided to buy a new house together for a fresh start. Due to the timing of the closing of the new house, and the amount of decluttering they needed to do for two houses, they didn’t have time to declutter TWO houses at the same time! So they decluttered as much as possible in the time given, but packed up alot of stuff they didn’t need for staging and put it in storage. They rented a locker, and when they had to be out of the house for showings, they went to the locker and sorted & decluttered. By the time they were ready to move into their one home, they had completed their decluttering!

If you don’t have time to sort all your stuff before your house needs to be listed,  pack up your stuff that you don’t need for staging and put it in storage.  Rent a locker and sort out your possessions, while your house is being shown.  Since you will need to be out of the house for showings, this will give you something to do – lol.  

Although this option is not ideal, in some situations it may be necessary if it means the cost of delaying putting your house on the market is MORE than the cost of renting a locker to store your stuff to sort later.

And what happened to my clients that combined two houses? They sold both houses very quickly for the price they wanted! AND it gets better, on their first night in their new home, my client the widower, proposed to his girlfriend, who accepted, and they are now living happily ever after!

Happy tagging, decluttering & packing!


I’m Debi Collinson. Designer. Stager. Real Estate Investor. In 2006, at the request of a realtor, I staged my very first home. Staging houses was just starting to become popular. I watched every staging show on HGTV that I could find. I was very nervous staging my first house, but the sellers liked their newly redesigned home so much that they turned down an offer for full asking price. I went back to design school and have never looked back. Since 2006, I have been staging & designing spaces to make them look like they belong in a magazine page, and buying “fixer uppers” to fix up & either sell for a healthy profit or to rent them out. Sign up to receive my e-mails of how to make your home stunning, how to sell your house for top dollar AND how to become financially independent one fixer upper at a time!

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