Buyers usually call me only when they’re ready to buy, but sellers usually call 3 to 6 months, sometimes even a year, before they actually want to sell. They usually say that they want to have time to take care of all those little nagging repairs they’ve been putting off, but my experience is that it is often more about the clearing and decluttering process than anything. People look at 10 or 20 years of accumulated belongings and start to think that maybe they don’t really want to move until next year.

I understand this. I’m one of those people who can’t just throw things in the trash; if I ever loved an item, or it has any usefulness left in it, I need to find it an actual new home, a home where it will be loved by someone, as if an old side table were, say, a kitten. That tendency can really slow the process down.

Start Decluttering Early

That’s why I encourage anyone who has a lot of stuff, especially families or those who have inherited a household from their parents, to start the decluttering process early, and when needed, to bring in a professional. These are people who have all sorts of strategies to help clients decide what to keep, what to donate and what to do with the rest.

Decluttering isn’t new. In fact, there have been a slew of books—several of them bestsellers—on the topic. And yet, here is a statistic for you: the average American home contains 300,000 items. What? That is a lot of things. A lot of things to use, wear, clean, dust, sort, fold, hang, protect, organize, file, watch, cook with, play with, vacuum around and store. And if you’re moving, that is a lot of things to pack. So if a move is in your future this year—or even next—it’s time to get at it.

Here is a “why-to” declutter from the perspective of a listing agent:

  1. Kitchens with clear counters translate to cleanliness, readiness, possibility.
  2. Uncluttered bedrooms feel like tranquil havens.
  3. Your stuff isn’t someone else’s stuff, so less of yours makes it easier for others to envision their amazing life in your home with their stuff.
  4. Living areas feel bigger when you air out your spaces by keeping only furnishings that serve a purpose, with few, if any, duplicates.
  5. Less stuff means fewer objects to sort, wrap, pack and unpack. Win, win, win and win.
  6. And finally, life is change, and change is good. All of us, children and adults alike, grow out of things: clothes, interests, hobbies. Make room for fresh ideas and new pursuits instead of holding on to outlived items.

Need more inspiration?

Check out Decluttering at the Speed of Life (Dana White), The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo) or The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning (Margareta Magnusson).  

If you’re looking for a professional organizer, let me know and I’ll share my sources with you. I also have a great spreadsheet of where you can donate or recycle unwanted items. Happy decluttering!