How to Stage Your Home for Living


“All journeys eventually end in the same place, home.” —Chris Geiger

I am 38 years old. And I have lived in 16 different homes.

Now, most of these moves took place when I was young. But since getting married to my wife 15 years ago, we have lived in 5 different homes. Needless to say, moving is something I have become accustomed to. And as a result, I have become familiar with the process of buying and selling houses.

Each time we have sold a home, we have been advised by our realtor to “stage our home for selling.”

So then, in the weeks prior to our house hitting the market, we spent numerous hours “staging our home” for the sale. We did the research describing what makes a home attractive to a potential buyer and put most of their recommendations into place. By the end, our house looked better than it ever had since moving in—and then we sold it to some lucky family.

Each time, I can’t help but be struck by the irony of the situation. We spend countless hours getting our home into its best possible condition, only to leave it? Most of the time while staging our home for sale, I wondered why we had never put in the effort to stage our home for living. You know, so we could have actually enjoyed it more while we called it home.

To not make the same mistake we did, consider setting aside a weekend to stage your house for living. The process will take some time, energy, and money. It will take some intentional effort. But in the end, your home just may look better than the day you bought it. And maybe, just maybe, it could be a little bit of fun too.

A Step-by-Step Process to Stage Your Home for Living.

Remove 1/3 of your possessions. Those who stage a home for sale will tell you to remove roughly 33% of your personal possessions from the property. Less stuff means your rooms/closets have room to breathe and feel more spacious. A decluttered home is calm and inviting.

This may be easier if you were actually moving (natural purging almost always takes place during transition), but if you wouldn’t take it with you when you moved, why let it take up space in your life today?

Grab some cardboard boxes and walk through your home room-by-room, closet-by-closet, and drawer-by-drawer. Collect all the stuff you no longer need or love. Donate it, sell it, or give it away.

Find a home for everything. Walking again through your home, make note of the items that are stored in your field of vision (think countertops, toys, entertainment units). Why are those items stored out in the open? Are they in the wrong room? Are they too big to be stored out of sight? Is their proper home too crowded? Intentionally identify the visible clutter. Ask questions to identify the problem. And brainstorm a new solution.

Find new places to store these items out of sight. Visible clutter pulls at our attention and distracts us on an ongiong basis. On the other hand, clean, undistracted rooms promote relaxation and intentionality.

Declutter counter tops, cupboards, and drawers. Buyers always open cupboards, drawers, and closets. Unfortunately, storage spaces packed too tightly look small, unsightly, and counter-productive. Remove unneeded items from everyday storage spaces. This won’t be difficult. You have likely collected a number of items over the years that are no longer necessary. At this point, they are only taking up space in your storage areas. Discard them. As an added benefit, you just may realize you have had enough storage space all along.

Personalize your decorations. Realtors and professional home stagers will ask you to remove most of your personal decorations as it subtly communicates “I live here, not you,” to your potential buyer. And that is not a good aura to give the future residents of your home.

However, when staging your home for living, leave the personal decorations. Even better, capitalize on them! Rather than devaluing them, highlight them by removing some of the non-personal decorations in your home. As a result, the ones that make you unique will play a more pronounced role in your home.

Give your bathroom the attention it deserves. Put away personal hygiene products. Scrub bathtubs, toilets, and shower walls. Make clean and bright your goal. It’s not glamorous, but it sure makes getting ready every morning more enjoyable.

Consider curb appeal. Realtors will tell you that you can never spend too much attention on curb appeal. Your potential buyer will likely make their decision on your home within the first few minutes of entering. Therefore, first impressions are the most important. And the very first impression they receive is when they pull into your driveway.

If you have children, clean up their toys. If you have shrubs, prune them. Lay fresh mulch. Put some grass seed on the bare spots in your yard. Paint your foundation. Plant some flowers. After all, you pull into your driveway almost everyday of your life. Don’t you want to pull into something you’d like to purchase all over again?

Clean thoroughly. Clean the surface. Then, clean deeper. Give extra attention to corners and windows and hard-to-reach areas. Just like in the bathroom, make clean and bright your goal. If you’ve successfully removed a good portion of personal possessions, you’ll find this task far easier to complete.

Complete minor repairs. Take a notepad and create a to-do list of minor home repairs such as wall nicks, paint touch-ups, squeaky doors, running toilets, loose pieces, and burnt out light bulbs. Most of the minor repairs can be handled in less than 20 minutes for less than $15 and can be found with a simple Google search.

Eventually, the repairs need to happen. And if they have to be taken care of before you sell your house anyway, why not repair them when you can actually enjoy them too? The investment sure beats walking back into your bathroom to wiggle the handle on a running toilet 3 times a day.

Tackle a major repair. Roof about to go? Replace it. Leaky basement? Research your solutions. Kitchen appliances barely working? Go for it. These major repairs can be costly. And I’d never advise you to go into debt to stage your home for living. But if the time ever comes when your house does indeed need to be sold, an inspector/realtor will ask you to solve the problems. And if it gets to that, you’ll be paying for someone else to enjoy them rather than yourself.

Likely the hardest part of staging your home for living is finding the motivation to get started. I get it. Life gets busy. And without the potential for a future sale on the horizon, it can be difficult to get started. So you just may need to artificially create the momentum to get started in the process. That is, unless the simple fact that you live everyday in this home is motivation enough.

Image: 55Laney69

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. Mike Ronsons says

    Yes to minor repairs! It makes such a difference.

    But please, PLEASE don’t paint your foundation. You’re making something that’s neutral and low-maintenance …not neutral and low-maintenance. Lately, as I’ve been looking at houses, every once in a while there’s an, “Ugh. They painted the foundation.”

  2. says

    Excellent advice! I recently read a post on Houzz that was published around Thanksgiving. It was all about being grateful & thankful for your home. Houzz is a site for those who are “into” interior design and remodeling… but this article inspired me to “clean it, fix it, and be thankful”. I even began a journal to write out those things I appreciate about my home. P.S. I especially like to “search” for minimalist ideas on Houzz!

  3. says

    I have always felt the same way! Especially re: going work on your house to sell it. Why finish the bathroom for someone else but not yourself?!

  4. Lu says

    My thoughts exactly, beautiful! I’ve always wondered why people fix up and de clutter for the next buyers, why wouldn’t you want to live this way anyway, where have you been who wrote this article all my life, I totally one hundred percent agree with you!! Thank you for putting this out there.

  5. Cathy says

    I’ve always been more on the minimalist side of life. Recently we renovated our kitchen & family room and I went crazy in the purging process of the entire house and discovered this blog in the process. This is my calling. Has brought so much more clarity on many different levels. Much gratitude to you Joshua!

  6. says

    I just love this. I am hoping to achieve this over the next year. The penny dropped when my stepmother died and all herpossessions were given to good will aside from her jewelry and paintings. Living with less feels so great!

  7. says

    Thanks so much for the tips. I’ve spent the better part of the last year decluttering, so I think it might be time for me to move onto some of the other things you mentioned. Cabinets and drawers might be next!

  8. says

    Why do we often wait until we are trying to sell our house to someone else before making it look great?!? And why does “living in a house” so often equal “we can be as messy as we want to”? An uncluttered house keeps me calm, a messy one stresses me out. I want my house to be a sanctuary; I want to come home to calm and leave the chaos behind.

  9. Jeannie says

    I plan on putting my house on the market in 2 years. The carpets were shot and needed replaced so I decided to replace with hardwood now so I could enjoy them in the meantime. Thanks for justifying my decision! Lol!

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. tiny houses | Lightyellow | October 26, 2013
  2. Worth Reading This Weekend | July 12, 2014
  3. Staging Your Home | My Blog | June 22, 2015

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