Selling Your Home and “Purging the Clutter”


This is another great subject for the New Year, and it also happens to be a very appropos topic for home sellers. Purging the clutter is one of the most important tasks in preparation for putting your home on the market. So I was thrilled when I was watching The Today Show earlier this month and saw Stephanie Sisco, Real Simple Magazine’s Associate Editor, tackle the subject of ridding some essential areas of the home of its clutter. Here are some of her tips, thoughts and suggestions:

“Take it room by room, piece by piece.”  The thought of de-cluttering – plus the time and focus that go hand in hand with it – can be overwhelming. In fact, if you look at the process in total, you might never get started. After all, who has the time to de-clutter the basement? But a room in the basement or a set of shelves in the basement is much more manageable and significantly less overwhelming. The piece by piece strategy applies to every area of the house – bookshelves (shelf by shelf), closets (hanging area by hanging area), kitchens (cupboard by cupboard), bedroom dressers (drawer by drawer) and more…. Not only this, but by breaking the projects down into pieces, you can feel success more quickly which in turns spurs you on to face more de-cluttering challenges.

Categorize the Items. In addition to attacking the clutter piece by piece and drawer by drawer, Ms. Sisco suggested that the next step is to categorize items into “a Keep pile, a Donation pile or a Limbo pile.” When setting your organizing sights on a bookshelf, for example, she said, “If it [a book] has sentimental value, we say keep it. Otherwise, it’s time to go. Somebody else could use it.” She suggested donating some of the books to schools or charities, including Operation Paperback which donates books to troops overseas and military families state-side, and throwing away loose pamphlets or tattered novels. On that note, she reiterated that with the donation pile, these items should be in good condition – not stained or torn. With regard to the items in limbo, she advised “storing them in a box outside of the room. And if you go back and look for them, they deserve a place in your wardrobe.” Otherwise, it’s time to give them the heave-ho as they say.

Organize by Use and Color. Once you’ve decided what to keep, Ms. Sisco recommends making the bookshelf, for instance, “visually appealing by color coding the remaining books that you are keeping and adding a few decorative objects as well…. And then leave yourself some space to keep growing.” When putting items back in the closet, she advocated “organizing them by use – casual to business to formal wear toward the back of the closet, and within those, arrange them by color so again it’s visually appealing.” Not only is the clutter gone, but now your bookshelf, closet or other storage area is organized and aesthetically pleasing.

Remember the Statute of Limitations Rule – Ms. Sisco asserts that “If you haven’t worn something within two years, it’s time to say goodbye.” And this time frame is actually fairly conservative. Some de-cluttering experts advocate a 6-month policy. I wish I could take this rule to heart. That’s a hard one for me because I always think, “What if I want to wear it one day soon….” And so I decide to keep the item, going against all of the de-cluttering principles. If you find yourself in this kind of situation – having a hard time parting with a particular item – she suggested giving it a “test run.” In other words, wear that skirt, which you haven’t worn in two years but think you might wear one day soon, to a party or to work, and see how it feels. If it just doesn’t fit right or feels dated style-wise, then you have your answer. Or you may wear it and become overcome with joy for having brought it back into action….

Store Everyday Items Separately from Sentimental or Barely-Used Items – I love this concept. It’s so practical and is a great organizing tool. For example, my ice bucket, which I don’t tend to use much and takes up quite a bit of cabinet speace, really doesn’t need to be stored in the kitchen. In can be stored in the basement and brought up for its infrequent use. This frees up much-needed space in the kitchen. Alleluia! Same with those sentimental drawings that your children may have made for you.  They can be placed in a “Sentimental Bin” in the attic. They are safe and preserved but don’t take up much needed space in your office drawer or dresser.

When ending the segment, Savannah Guthrie summed it up by saying, “A lot of tough love here….” I would concur with that, but as Ms. Sisco reminded her, de-cluttering becomes much less daunting if you “start small” and remember that “there’s no time frame, no pressure.” Plus it feels so good – almost like a weight has been lifted – once you’ve successfully de-cluttered your bookshelf, closet, dresser, kitchen and on and on….

What are your thoughts on the subject of getting rid of clutter? Did you use some of these tips when you were de-cluttering your home to either sell it or just simplify living in it? Do you have your own de-cluttering principles and guidelines? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (, 781-267-2844 or, to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.