Guest Post: Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Organized for Your Home Sale

For Sale Sign

Getting organized is a popular topic these days, whether it’s with your time or bookshelves. But selling a home comes with its own special requirements because a lot of organization goes into getting a house show-ready. And trust me, it’s worth the effort to give your house its best chance on the market.

The secret is to go one step at a time. Here’s a list of helpful home-selling tips broken down into categories. Follow these tips and the end result will be an open, clean, depersonalized home that attracts potential buyers and allows them to imagine living there. In fact, organized and decluttered homes can get 3-5% higher offers than other houses.

Steps to Take

The categories are: decluttering, cleaning, staging, curb appeal, and extras. These tips are for DIY, but all steps can be handled by professionals. These tips also assume that any major repairs your house needs are done.

Decluttering is first. You want buyers to look at the house and not be distracted by your personal things or mess. Clutter must go, inside and outside of the house, from everywhere buyers will want to look. And they will look everywhere.

  • Label some boxes or bins as Keep/Pack Away, Donate, and Not Sure. Also have a supply of trash bags.
  • Research places to donate different items. Some organizations will even do pick-up.
  • Set dates and time on your calendar to declutter, and stick to them.
  • Start with one room, or just one area, and complete it. It will add up in the end.
  • Clear surfaces such as shelves, mantles, counters, and tables.
  • Clear floors of laundry, toys, reading material, etc., and remove family photos or random decorations from walls.
  • Partially empty storage, such as closets and cabinets, so they look spacious.
  • Take down window dressing, leaving simple blinds or shades.
  • Clear the property of leaves, weeds, snow, bikes, gardening tools, etc.
  • Paint walls neutral shades, and keep a consistent palette throughout the house.
  • Don’t let clutter sneak back up on you. Deal daily with mail, work papers, kitchen utensils, backpacks, toys, or other things that tend to pile up easily.

Once the house is decluttered, it is vital to deep clean absolutely everything.

  • Gather your supplies, including gloves, various cleansers, sponges, small brushes, rags, brooms, mops, and vacuums.
  • This time, don’t go room by room. Instead, do one step throughout the house. From floor to ceiling, dust, wash, scrub, sweep, mop, and vacuum.
  • Clean inside appliances, under sinks, windows, back corners of cabinets, grout, and all nooks and crannies.
  • Have someone clean and service the furnace/HVAC, including the vents.

The house must stay this clean, which can be a challenge with daily life going on. But it must always be ready to show, or you could lose the sale. Establish a routine so that every day you:

  • Wipe tubs and bathroom surfaces, put away all bath products, and keep the toilet clean.
  • Put away laundry, dirty or clean, and don’t let loads pile up.
  • Wipe kitchen counters, appliances, and fixtures. Wash dishes. Put things away.
  • Dust surfaces in every room.
  • Sweep or vacuum, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • Keep pets, pet beds, and litter boxes clean.
  • Make all the beds in the house.
  • Deodorize if there are cooking or other odors. Lightly scented candles or essential oils make a nice substitute.

Staging takes a house from clean to eye-catching. Minimal furniture and props give it a neutral but comfortable look.

  • Arrange furniture to emphasize features of the house, such as a fireplace or view.
  • Create easy walking access through and around rooms.
  • Use furniture and staging props to give each room a purpose.
  • Add some color to your neutral background with pillows, plants, a bowl of fruit, a few books or objects, or some art. Create small vignettes that show off the lifestyle the house offers. For example: fluffy folded towels, a candle, and a glass bottle of bubble bath; a soft blanket and open book on a cozy chair; a seasonal centerpiece on the dining table; a kitchen island with morning coffee.

Curb appeal is the first thing people see, so decluttering and staging needs to happen outside, too.

  • Rake leaves and/or remove snow from traffic areas daily.
  • Mow the lawn often, and reseed if necessary.
  • Trim bushes and trees.
  • Add flowers or greenery to fill in beds and add color.
  • Fix peeling paint on trims, shutters, etc.
  • Stage outdoor areas with vignettes. Pay particular attention to the entrance: good lighting, bright paint on the front door, potted plants, etc.

Find a top realtor in your area that can give you advice and feedback on DIY organization and recommendations. Some organizing extras will help your realtor help you.

  • Let your realtor know your preferred contact method(s) and how often to be in touch.
  • Collect all paperwork from the house, including renovation and maintenance records, past sales history, appraisals, and contact information for professionals you’ve used.

Once you’re organized and the house is showing, these last tips will help you be ready to accept that offer and close.

Lin Nulman has been writing for HomeLight.com since 2016, and her work has been featured on many other websites. She teaches writing and literature at Bunker Hill Community College. Her poetry and arts writing has appeared in a number of journals, anthologies, and websites.