What May Be Sabotaging Your Home Sale (and How to Fix it!)

This weekend, our latest Expert Psychological Stager™ graduates staged this gorgeous home here in Nashville. It was an amazing day of applying all the psychological staging techniques they learned to make a home its most competitive! Some people think that staging is simply decluttering, but decluttering is actually a precursor to effective staging. When a stager has to spend a lot of time decluttering a home, that’s less time they have to focus on arranging furniture, creating memory points for buyers, and visually marketing the home in a way that brings top dollar results.

Decluttering needs to come FIRST before professional staging. And I know an expert in the field of organization who has some great pointers for homeowners who need to tackle that bear!  Liz Jenkins is the owner of A Fresh Space and a Certified Professional Organizer. Her team of organizers has been helping people streamline their homes, prepare for selling their property, and downsize in an organized fashion in the Nashville area since 2005.  Liz is a member of NAPO (the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) and has been featured in publications such as Rachael Ray, Pottery Barn, Working Mother and Good Housekeeping (as well as the popular reality TV show, Hoarders).

Here’s what Liz has to say about why you need to declutter and HOW to do it right:

So, you’re getting ready to list your home for sale. You’ve come up with your asking price, found an agent, and (finally) repaired that roof leak. You even added a fresh coat of paint to everything and hired a professional home stager. At first glance, your home looks like something straight from an episode of some HGTV makeover show. Put the sign in the front yard, because you’re ready for an open house! Right??

Not so fast. Let’s open up those laundry room cabinet doors and poke our heads into the hall closets. Do you see a mess? That won’t work. You may think that things behind closed doors don’t need as much attention as what’s out in the open in your home, but that’s simply not true.

“WHAT?! I have to organize all the hidden stuff in my house? But why?” Let me give you three good reasons…

1. To show off the size and potential of the space

Let’s envision a buyer walking through your home. They open a closet to see a built-in shelving unit with neatly organized bins on it. Their reaction? “Oh! Look how much space is in here! I could put my craft supplies on this shelf… oh honey, come look at this wonderful closet!”

do this

Alternatively, envision them opening a closet and seeing piles of stuff that you’ve shoved into the closet and left there for 20 years: “Oh, my. What a cramped closet. Wow, honey, I wonder if this house will have enough storage space for us.”

not this!

See the difference? Don’t let your storage areas kill the vibe that the rest of your home creates.

2. To reassure the buyer about the condition of your home

You want buyers to know that your home is in excellent condition. If you have stuff piled up in every corner of your bonus room, how will they know the carpet isn’t stained or ripped underneath? For all they know, that giant stack of books and papers on the dining room table
could be hiding a hole in the wall. Everything in your home either builds or destroys their excitement about your home, so make sure they find reassurance around every corner. In addition, a buyer may wonder how much attention you are paying to maintenance if the clutter
hasn’t been attended to.

3. To add a “wow factor”

Do you live like Martha Stewart, with a Pinterest-worthy, impeccably organized home? No? That’s okay, but you need to make it look like you do at least while your home is on the market. When people are looking to buy, they want the homes they are considering to live up to the expectation they have of their dream home in their head. If they see an unkempt environment, your home is already falling short of their vision. To keep buyers excited about your home as they walk through, implement some functional—and visually appealing—organization systems.


How to Organize Before Listing

Alright, you’re convinced. You know you need to take care of the hidden messes behind closed doors in your home, but where do you start?

1. Sort and group everything.

Take everything—including that crumpled up grocery receipt that’s been in the back of the cabinet since 1984—out of the space you’re working in. Sort it into groups, like with like. For example, if you’re working in the kitchen, put all the spices together, the utensils, small appliances. Trying to go full on Marie Kondo and decluttering the whole home at one time can be overwhelming, so start small and go space by space.

2. Edit down the piles, and be ruthless.

Some things will be easy to throw out or donate, but when decisions get tougher, be honest with yourself. Will you really use that flimsy “as seen on TV” slicing gadget that hasn’t been touched in years? No. Say goodbye to the things that no longer serve you. When it’s time to move, your new home will have only the things you truly love in it—what a wonderful fresh start!

3. Bins are your friends and other tips.

Now that you know exactly what you’re keeping, don’t throw it all back in the cabinet in (slightly smaller) piles! Use matching bins or containers, and place one category of items in each bin. Buyers would cringe at the sight of haphazardly thrown piles in a cabinet, but if they open a cabinet and are wowed by the beautifully coordinated and labeled bins, there’s not much chance of them actually looking inside the bins. In your closet, use matching hangers to create a cohesive feel, and in your kitchen use a small step riser for your spices. Make each space visually appealing – inside and out.

Truthfully, preparing to sell your home and move to a new place can be one of the busiest and most stressful situations you live through. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of decluttering and organizing your home before you list it, or you need help coordinating your move, it’s time to call in the professionals. A Fresh Space is here to help with more than a decade of experience in organization and move management, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

This is NOT a sponsored post. Organization is not my strength, and people like Liz bring something really important to interior design and staging. You can learn more about Liz and her company at afreshspace.com. Stay tuned for befores and afters of this beautiful home staging, and find out all about my September course right here.


  1. Susan Davis

    Oh, Kristie! Thank you! We have sold several homes and I always felt a bit nuts when I styled the cabinets and closets–no more! All of our houses sold quickly 🙂

    • Kristie Barnett

      Not at all nuts – just thorough! Those details count 😉

  2. Lisa W

    I think there’s a fourth benefit. Well organized and neat storage says to a buyer “this homeowner takes good care of their possessions, and therefore must have taken good care of this house.” My closets do NOT ordinarily look like these photos, but before my house goes up for sale, they ALWAYS do and I have always had good offers in two weeks or less. I’m a believer!

    • Kristie Barnett

      Yes, Lisa! I believe there’s a similar automatic thought process when a buyer walks up to a property’s front door – if the door is battered and the porch lights and door hardware are worn and peeling, there’s that first impression that the homeowner hasn’t maintained the property and that mindset makes a buyer scrutinize everything a lot closer. In our EPS™ training, I teach the stagers about how easy it is to fall prey to confirmation bias (either in the positive OR negative direction), which is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or first impressions. First impressions can make or break a sale!

  3. Patsy

    How do you feel about storage areas in staging vacant homes? Do you add a few nice looking organizational type things in closets – to look enticing? Towels, sheets, cleaning supplies, clothes, etc?

    • Kristie Barnett

      For vacant homes, it can be nice to have a handful of wooden hangers with a few nice blouses, a pair of clean shoes, a few square storage bins/baskets. No cleaning supplies – and I wouldn’t bother with sheets/towels. White towels in the bathroom – yes.

  4. Fluix

    Savings are reflected in two points: speed and quality. Experience matters to make sure you get the best deal and sell quickly. An experienced realtor can predict what will happen during negotiations and develop strategies in advance to overcome these obstacles. Quality includes how much time was spent analyzing the market and finding paying customers to view the property, how many visits were made and whether the cost was reduced in the process.


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