“If you are living in the house while it’s on the market, remove clutter and knick-knacks and reduce personal items down to all that you need for the next 2 to 6 months.”
As a stager, I know how difficult this task is to home sellers. But why pack things you no longer need to the new home?
Many of our homes have become the storage of clutter. Just look your basement, attic or garage. It's an anxiety-inducing task to clean out years, sometimes decades of old clothes, books, tools and toys. I would rather read the news than clean one of these rooms.
It's a lot like the junk drawer in the kitchen. We all have one right? It's a place where I put everyday necessities like pens, pencils, clips, measuring tape and batteries. Plus a collection of odd things like toy parts, restaurant menus, receipts and spare buttons that will be of use someday.
But where is the damn measuring tape when I need it? It's frustrating! Every. Single. Time. Multiply this by 1000 and you have an overwhelming and paralyzing cleaning and organizing task. Where do you even start?
Fortunately, there are effective and powerful guides to help us declutter. Use the methods below to minimize unwanted clutter before your next move. Don't do it all in one go. For a move, I recommend doing these months in advance, even a year in advance.
One that I'm most familiar with is the KonMari method by Marie Kondō. She focuses on keeping things that only spark joy. As many of our clutter are things that we no longer need, she teaches you to let go of each item with gratitude.
In order to determine if you should keep an item, hold it to your chest to see if it "sparks joy". If it doesn't give it a quick thank you for serving its purpose and discard or put in the charity pile.
Tidy by category of clothes, books, papers, komono (misc. stuff), and sentimental. For example, for the clothing category, gather every bit of your clothing not just in your closet and drawers but also the basement.
She even has specific guidelines on how to fold clothes in her book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up). Below is a sample of her method.
Getting started is probably the hardest part, but if done properly according to her method, you won’t need to tidy up as much as you used to.
I’ve been able to do this on my own wardrobe, as well as my children’s toys and clothes. The outcome has been therapeutic.
Death Cleaning Method
There's another method based on The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson. Sounds morbid right? But it’s decluttering as an act of love for your loved ones so that in their grief they won’t need to death clean. I assure you, she is both funny, wise and inspiring.
One of her advice is to shred or throw away anything that could be upsetting, hurtful, or embarrassing for your family to find. She writes, "Save your favorite dildo — but throw away the other 15!" I told you she was funny!
Another great tip is to have a throw-away box of items that mean a lot to you. Let your family and friends know that they have permission to look at it before discarding.
“There are a few things that I would like to save for myself only...Old love letters, programs, memories from traveling. I have gathered all these personal items in a box that I have marked 'throw away'...Once I am gone, the box can be destroyed.”
There really is no hard rules with this method, instead, it’s a reflection on your loved ones while you're alive. Which item will you give to which child? Do they want any of your furniture?
I have slowly embraced minimalism for my own home. Here is my junk drawer before and after it's been decluttered. It's so calming to be able to see everything that I need.
Both of these methods don't just help us achieve a cleaner home, but will make you reflect on what is truly important in life. It’s beyond cleaning, it’s about living intentionally. Use them when planning an easier move.