Three ways to declutter before you sell your home

Getting your home ready to sell sounds like sunshine and rainbows. That is, until you are about four hours into the project.

How do I know?

I just moved six weeks ago…with my family of six.

Our journey started out like this: “honey, this neighborhood doesn’t suit us anymore. Wouldn’t we love to have lower taxes, less home maintenance and save more retirement money?”

So, we hired a real estate broker, and within 72 hours, I had our home picture-perfect and ready for photographs and showings.

As a professional organizer and the founder of That Girl Organizes, I was already prepared with an organized, well-maintained home (and with an amazing cleaning service, anything is possible).

Not everyone organizes homes for a living, but anyone can take a few simple steps to declutter your home in preparation for a move, with or without the help of a professional organizer.

Pack seasonal items first

The first thing I did was send my husband to U-Haul for 30 small boxes, which were the cheapest option we could find, to pack up everything that was not in season — keeping the bare minimum in every room and packing the rest is key.

I also grabbed some color-coded tape and wrote each room’s name on it. Because each room had a designated color, it made for easy unpacking too.

Have plenty of bags or boxes on hand too, to pack up donations. Our family rule is, “if we don’t love it or use it, we bless someone else with it.”

Rethink everything you rarely use

It’s hard to part with family heirlooms, but many of my clients find that taking a picture of their heirlooms before donating them works well.

Think about it: would Grandma really want you to keep her favorite Christmas decorations if you think they are hideous?


Offer those barely-used Thanksgiving dishes to other family members and if they are not interested, take photos of the items to capture memories and take them to a retail shop or a shelter in need. In the Chicago suburbs, I like Second Chance Resale in Naperville and Sharing Connections in Downer’s Grove.

Once you’ve packed up everything you aren’t using and have donated what you don’t need, you’re ready to straighten up every closet and drawer.

Buyers look everywhere and try to imagine living in your home, so let them see total bliss.

Enlist help from the kids

How do you help your children declutter?

Children aren’t as difficult as you may expect, particularly if someone other than a family member (a professional organizer!) is helping them.

Ask them:

  • Does it fit?
  • Does anything feel icky?
  • What’s too babyish for you?

Once the child makes a pile of clothes and toys that they no longer wear or use, gently ask if you may give the rest to children who don’t have as much.

Also ask kids: “what do you have here that you would buy for a friend’s birthday present because it’s so much fun?” Those are good items to keep.

Once you’ve begun the process of decluttering your home, you’ll feel calm, stress-free and ready to tackle all of the other tasks that come along with selling your home and preparing for your move.

Ann Marie Guenther is on a mission to clear the clutter in people’s lives. A self-taught “guru of organization,” the former bookkeeper launched her own organizing service in Naperville, IL. For more information, visit her online at

Written by @properties
@properties Christie’s International Real Estate is Chicagoland’s #1 brokerage. Through our affiliation with Christie’s International Real Estate, our network spans nearly 50 countries. No matter your real estate needs, we’ve got you covered.