Clean that mess up! Why clutter gets in the way of house selling

William Shakespeare summed up the issue of clutter best when he wrote “And happy always was it for that son/Whose father for his hoarding went to hell”. Perhaps Shakespeare was cursing a difficult childhood, or maybe it was a line from Henry VI Part III in which Henry shows his disdain for the burdens his father placed upon him. I suppose we’ll never know.

Aside from being the muse for some quality literature, clutter has little else going for it. At best it’s uneasy on the eye. A really cluttered home can cause safety risks to anyone who isn’t an Olympic hurdler. And of course there are people with serious hoarding issues, which in all seriousness are best tackled in tandem with a professional.

For home sellers, a cluttered house stays on the market longer and often winds up selling for less than it should.

The New York Times has a series entitled ‘Market Ready’ which details ways to get your house in order before selling. A recent article on cluttered homes contains some excellent advice from Jeffrey Stockwell, a vice president at luxury real estate company Stribling & Associates.

Cluttered homes fail to sell, explains Stockwell, because “most real estate is aspirational, and buyers want to see themselves someplace better and more beautiful… If they walk into a cluttered, messy space, there’s none of that feeling that life will be better.” These homes also sell for less because “people will think it needs a renovation, and that lowers the value.”

No one will buy your house if they feel it’s a step down from where they are now.

What should you do? Hiding things in boxes doesn’t work, says Stockwell, because “if I go into an apartment and see a lot of boxes, even if they’re attractive boxes, I immediately think there’s not enough storage space.”

Professional organiser Jeffrey Phillip describes storage space as “a valuable asset in itself” and he’s absolutely right. You can’t just hide your stuff away and hope prospective buyers won’t find it. They will want to see how big the basement, attic and closets are.

Selling your home is as much a new start for you as for whoever buys your house. It’s the perfect time to get rid of anything you no longer need.

A personal anecdote: About a month ago I shifted from Auckland to Hamilton. When I started packing I would often stand there umming and ahhing while I worked out each item’s nostalgic value. Each detour down memory lane took me further away from what I was meant to be doing.

Only when I started getting moving quotes did I regain my sense of grim reality. Turns out moving to Hamilton ain’t cheap – but one can reduce the costs of moving simply by being ruthless. And I was: at least six rubbish bags worth were thrown out, recycled, or donated. It felt good. On the downside, the streets of New Lynn have never seen so many loud shirts.

Decluttering is easy if you can detach yourself emotionally. At the end of the day your things are just that: things.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. Note all the things you plan to absolutely keep – furniture, antiques, children, etc.
  2. Divide the rest of your stuff into three piles: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘Maybe’.
  3. Throw out everything in the ‘No’ pile.
  4. Throw out everything in the ‘Maybe’ pile.

Start with those storage spaces. If your stuff is put away somewhere, chances are it’s not stuff you use often – so you may as well biff it.

An uncluttered house is not only easier to sell, and for more, but it can also help unclutter your mind. Take this chance, home sellers, to make a truly new start. As the Great Bard said, “Now go we in content/To liberty, and not to banishment.”

2 thoughts on “Clean that mess up! Why clutter gets in the way of house selling

  1. Pingback: Are there times when just one photo is a good idea? | Open2view

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