Decluttering Your Home for a Future Sale

As you get ready to sell your home, there are a couple of big projects that await you.  No, I'm not talking about replacing the carpet in the living room, and I'm not talking about the mismatched appliances that reside in your kitchen.  I'm talking about the dreaded Decluttering and Deep Cleaning. 

We know they need to be done.  We know they are easy to procrastinate.  And mostly, we know if we do them right, we'll sell our home faster and for more money than if we don't do them.  Cleaning, most people have a grasp on.  Sure, we're all a bit behind, but we get it.  (If you'd like a downloadable checklist, check here).  Decluttering though is a more remote concept for most people.  We do sort of understand what it is - "have less stuff" is probably as good a summary as any, but how do we do it?  This post is for people looking for constructive ways to declutter.

With the idea that you'll be moving, it's your chance to try out the minimalist life. Here's how to get started.

Start Packing

OK, we know the goal is to get rid of stuff.  There's two ways to do that.  One, throw it out (or sell it!).  Two, put it in a box, and save it for when you don't need to be so minimalist. Generally, for many things we own, 20% of the stuff is used 80% of the time.  That means 80% of the stuff is rarely used.  Even if you box up half that stuff, you're well on your way to being decluttered. I recommend, when boxing stuff, to clearly label boxes of stuff to keep as "Extra (whatever is in the box)".  You'll know later that this was the stuff you don't use all the time, and who knows?  Maybe you'll never unpack it.  OK.  Now we know that if we're not throwing it out or selling it, it goes in a box.  So where do we start?


Bacon may make everything better with food, but baskets are the key to decluttering crowded spaces.  There is a downside of baskets - it can be hard to see what's in a basket above eye level - so look for ones that are easily labeled, and try not to mix what's inside.  Of course, if the basket thing is temporary, then no worries.  Easy to do: a) Find shelf b) Empty shelf c) clean shelf d) Box half of shelf as "extra" e) put remaining in baskets.  

 Cluttered.  Too much stuff, not too attracive containers, and things pretty much stuffed in there.    Baskets up and below make this closet sparkle.  Note the small number of clothes. Mimialist closet from Metal baskets allow you to compress larger items into smaller spaces. Organized Linen Closet courtesy of

In the Kitchen

Yikes it's clutter central! No room, when decluttering, is more important to fix than the kitchen.  And it's easier than you think.  Let's pack:  Extra coffee cups.  I have no fewer than 14 coffee cups in my kitchen.  At most, we need 4. That's 10 in a box.  Glasses?  Really, how often do you reach up for glasses and see the cabinet is empty?  Never? Me too. Half go in a box. Tupperware: Great time to find all the "unmatched ones" and recycle that plastic. Instant de-clutter.  Rarely used pans.  Can you get by without the lobster pot?  The cappuccino machine? How many cookie sheets do you need for the next couple of months?  Serving platters? Not to mention all the kitchen gadgets.  I bet I have 4 wine openers, and I probably don't even have 4 wine bottles in my house.  Box, Box, Box, Box. 

Don't neglect the pantry either.  Yes, it's great to have all those cans and boxes in case we have a snow storm.  But you don't NEED them for right now.  Box. Or eat!  Just stop hoarding. 


Ladies, let's talk shoes!  I hear black goes with everything.  Put as many in a box as you can. No lie, my wife could put 20 pairs of shoes in a box and still have plenty for a few months.  For the boys, you can really go minimalist.  A couple of Dress shoes, kicks, and sandal/slippers and you're good to go. That's five pairs, and all you need for now.

Bringing us to: Jackets!  This one will hit home for New Englanders. We need 5 jackets for every season, but if you're going to close before winter is here (and most will!), boots, winter jackets, gloves, hats, all in a box.  Get down to a couple of mid weight jackets and something water proof and that's it. 

Garage Planning

There's two aspects to getting the garage ready.  First, it's probably pretty cluttered, so it needs to be cleaned and organized.  Second, where do you think you're going to put all those boxes?  Yep, the garage.  When selling your house, people know you're moving.  Putting things in the garage is totally OK - but clean the garage first.  There's probably a lot of stuff that can go right to the recycle bin or the trash, but also quite a bit that can be put in a box. 

Books and Bookcases

Yeah, you don't need all those books, stacked wall to wall and on top of each other.  Try to make it look decluttered! Here's a before and after for you.


Removing books makes it easy to go from busy to soothing. 

Shelves and Nooks

We all have shelves and spots in our house where pictures and nick-knacks gather.  Mostly, they gather dust!  They all go in a box, these elements of personalization don't help you sell, and dusty things that clutter are a negative. 

DVD's and Games

You know, these things are sell-able.  But if you want to keep them, in a box. Keep the top 10 favs, the rest can wait. 

Scan It

For the truly motivated, start scanning that mountain of paperwork.  First, get a good scanner.  Most Brother scanners will do 10-15 pages a minute, and they cost about $100.  Once the paper is scanned, shred and recycle.  Make sure your hard drive is backed up to the cloud or something, but really, scanning, like all decluttering, is a real motivator and is very liberating. 


An Educated Home Buyer is a Happy Home Owner. Read On!

About Matt Heisler

Matt Heisler is a real-estate professional and owner of this website. He has been selling homes in MA for buyers and sellers for over 20 years. He is an expert in foreclosure purchases, short-sale purchases, short-sale sales, buy and hold investing, fix and flip investing, and of course traditional residential home sales. He is happy to take questions as they pertain to real estate on Title V, Radon, Termites, Sump Pumps, Roofs, Foundations, Wells, Septic Systems, Cash-Flow, Staging, and a host of other housing issues. As a Vanderbilt University alumnus, he is proud to serve his local community.

*All information is posted in good faith and is assumed to be reliable, but may rely on third party information sources.