Q: My house is going on the market and I want to declutter it for viewings. Where do I start? Suzy Kell, decluttering coach, offers her expert advice.
A: Don’t panic! There’s a solution for everything. Decluttering the home will make it easier to prepare for viewings and the first step is to get rid of any large items you don’t want to keep. That might be an unused exercise bike or a chair you’ve never really liked, but it could also include things you’re not going to need in the new home. I once met a family who’d moved back from Canada along with all their skiing equipment. They were never going to need that in Ireland! Some of these items can be sold but there are also are many charities and online networks where you can donate things to people who need them. Landfill is a last resort.
The next step is to look at your home with fresh eyes. Walk through it as though you had never been there before and look for problem areas that catch the eye. We’re all in the habit of overlooking unsightly things that have always been there. Sometimes it helps to invite a friend to give their honest opinion. They might notice a tangle of wires dangling from the television, a misaligned shelf, or a messy corner. Locate the problem areas and deal with them. These may feel like small steps but nobody gets from zero to decluttered in a day.
Once this is done, you’ll be feeling more in control and ready to get the home looking its best. I always vote for boxing things. Buy a supply of cardboard boxes, or get them for free from local shops, and begin to fill them in a logical way. Organise things into categories: toys; clothes; things belonging to the kids; things belonging to the dog; or paper. Then pack the boxes and label them by destination as well as by content. It’s as much a mental game as it is a physical one. If two outwardly identical boxes of books are marked: “books from the office” and “books from the playroom” it will help the movers to put them into the correct room. Think of this as doing a favour to your future self! A stash of neatly labelled boxes in the spare room will look as though you’re well organised for the move. It won’t be off-putting for viewers.
Before you do the final packing, consider what you want to keep. My basic guideline is the 20:20 rule. If you can replace something for less than €20 in under 20 minutes, you don’t need to transport it. Cans of beans can go to the foodbank. What you bring with you will depend on how far you’re moving. If you’re moving abroad, the cost of transport will be calculated by weight as well as volume and this will narrow the options of what you can bring with you.
In the meantime, don’t pack away the things you need for daily life. If the house is becoming untidy (especially if you have small children) buy a laundry basket for each room. To prepare the house for a viewing at short notice, pick up anything that’s lying around, drop it into the basket, and close the lid. It’s a short term measure but very much quicker and easier than putting everything in its proper place. First focus on clearing the floors to create walkways around the home. Then clear the tables, countertops and beds. This will make the rooms easier to clean too.
For more help with decluttering see suzykell.com.