“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.
If you need some added inspiration in this area, try our e-book, Simplify.
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.
I agree! When we moved out of our townhouse many years ago we made a big deal about fixing those little nagging things and it dawned on me – why wait until we are selling to fix these things, do it while WE are living there! A very similar concept here.
I agree, why would you only put so much of your time to have someone else buy the house you previously called home.
I agree with the point you just shared above.
Thank you so much!
Maria Pinto says
Check out today’s newsletter at Thepennyhoarder.com It is titled “Thirteen Tips for spending less and smart ways to save more”
It talks about impulse buying and has great ways to steer you in the right direction. You can also subscribe to their email list. They also have articles on how to prevent food waste and much more.
Icons Marketing says
I stage home virtually for living. and i think most of these tips can be used in virtual staging as well. Thank you for explaining all these awesome tips on home staging.
Jan Conwell says
Mr Becker, I’d say you missed the angle on this article. If we’re already minimalists, then we have pretty much already “staged our homes for our lives.” But for most folk, “remove 1/3 of your stuff” is a daunting or even impossible concept. This approach is letting the tail wag the dog, really. You have to accept all the hard parts of minimalism before you’re going to even care about staging. That’s why there’s a “back stage”. Most people like it there.
What if you had reminded readers of how it feels to be in a house that you’ve just listed…that clean, spacious, purposeful house. Loads of us have sold homes, watched the HGTV Sell Your House shows. So, the idea that our homes can feel like that year ’round? Inspiring, not daunting. And maybe more the hook into minimalism for those scared to try it.
We are currently getting ready to list our house. This will be our 17th move in our 25 yrs as a couple. So–I’m a moving pro. THIS time, however, my job was so much easier. I had to break down and pack away my studio (I’m an artist) which was a lot of work, but the rest? No need to rent a storage unit, no need to park my car on the driveway.
Our house really is already staged for living–and for selling.
Ellen S O says
Yes! I think the article is suppose to make you want to live in an already staged house. Taken care of in every way possible. That you appreciate yourself and your family enough to want to take care of your home all the time. And not only do all that work for others, but for yourself. Love yourself!!
This is a good site for ideas for home staging. De-cluttering is the most important task and doing it intentionally make the steps easier. This blog is motivating and helped me rethinking my living space. It makes you happier if it is less furnished IMHO
MAYBE you should write your own article instead of telling someone else they wrote it wrong. Just RUDE.
Owner Finance OKC says
Spot on! Very good article. Taking care of your home, fixing what needs to be fixed right away,updating it is a big advantage when you decide to sell your home. Thanks for sharing this post.
This article really resonates with me. My husband and I have always wondered why people “fix up” their homes to sell them. We take very good care of our home, make repairs as needed and updates (as the budget allows), clean thoroughly all the time, keep clutter at bay and things picked up. Yes, we live in our home and enjoy it, but we also enjoy keeping it up to date and pride ourselves in our home looking nice. We don’t do this to impress anyone. We do this to enjoy the space we live in.
The author of this article is spot on. Don’t fix up your house just to sell it to someone else. Fix it up and enjoy it while you live there.
Another benefit to living like this, is that when the time comes to sell your home, you will have very little to do to “stage” it for selling.
Merritt Home Buyers says
Love this comprehensive post! Thank you. We try to encourage sellers to stage because of the nice revenue bump it can bring.
Absolutely right, home renovation makes your home beautiful as well as increase property value. It can make look more appealing to potential buyers if your looking to sell.
Allan Foglio says
There are very important post that your article that you make.In this blog after reading this article.It was very important post.Thanks for sharing this article….
Small Talk Mama says
Oh, my goodness. You must have been reading my mind. I have seriously been thinking about this very thing. Why did we live in half-finished projects, sub-par decorating and all that clutter for so many years and then wrap it all up right before we move on????
Eric West says
When we did our first big declutter, we did it with the intention of downsizing to a smaller place. After decluttering we liked it so much that we almost stayed. We did finally sell and downsize, and have moved a couple of times since. We follow most of the tips you suggested here. The most rewarding aspect of it for me is, walking in the house when I get home from work and seeing the clean and uncluttered space. It feels great to get home and feel the sense of peace that comes with a decluttered home staged for living.
I was told of a man that absolutely could not finish their home.
He and his wife decided to sell it due to weariness of living in the unfinished space. However upon listing it, they were required to finish it. The man finished the house in only 2 weeks. His wife divorce him.
Small Talk Mama says
Ha ha ha!! Too funny. . . also probably a true story.
I am grateful to all minimalist authors for contributing reducing CO2 emissions. The more written the more inspired to consume less.
I test myself occasionally by living without sight. If I NEED sight to locate any item in my own home then I have to much.
Marie Lafontaine says
Joshua, you just nailed it! This weekend we will begin staging our home to live in it! A lot has been decluttered for most of this year and it´s time to see and feel the beauty of it, thanks!!! :)
Other than making a “to do list”, any suggestions what to do on days when you don’t feel well, but still would like to accomplish something?
Not feeling well and trying to accomplish goals that are very physical does often take a bit more creativity.
I have multiple health conditions that make coming home from work and focusing on day to day tasks difficult. Add in my goals to declutter my home and it can be overwhelming. What I have learned, particularly after my last year of working to declutter my home is that you have to be understanding when you can’t do something and take advantage of the days you can. The worse things you can do is get upset with yourself or tell yourself negative things when you have a bad day. The more you get down on yourself the worse you feel emotionally and physically.
As far as still getting things done when you’re not well you need to adjust your expectations. Use that goal list you mentioned and review it with fresh eyes. Seperate out anything you can do easily when you aren’t feeling well. Then acknowledged that on a day that is bad you will try to maybe do one thing from that list. Pick something on the list that fits how you’re feeling and adjust how you perform it to fit any limitations you may have.
The bigger projects on your remaining list should be reviewed for what can be broken down into smaller tasks and bigger tasked saved for the days you feel a bit better. On top of everything give yourself extra time to complete each task and if you have a day or week you can’t do anything accept it as the way things are and move on with a positive attitude that next week will be better. Attitude helps a lot in this area.
If all this is still not feasible based on different factors there are other options. You can hire a professional to come help you. If you want it cheaper search for someone who is trying to get into the business of decluttering and organizing people’s home. If that is still to costly. Talk to your church or community center about finding a volunteer or two to help you. Offer to give them everything you decide to donate during the process. Some organizations will have volunteers willing to help to get more items for a church garage sale or community center homeless or underprivileged program.
Keep in mind your victories. So you didn’t get the whole closet cleaned out today, oh well. Hey, you did get rid of those shoes you hated or that shirt that doesn’t fit. One less thing in your home is a step in the right direction. When you’re not feeling well little victories to others ARE big victories.
Diane Spencer says
Thanks, I always find your articles inspirational! I recently cleaned out our kitchen drawers and found FIVE can openers! All sorted now, it really does make your daily life calmer and easier.
Ellen S O says
So true!! The more you get out of your house. The lighter you feel, and you can start sorting things that really matter. Like pictures and artwork etc…I just put all my glass figurines in my kitchen cupboard while trying to sell them. The beautiful clutter had just been sitting in a dark box in my storageroom. Now I see them everyday through the glasswindow of the cupboard door. People that loved me bought me these expensive «toys» when I was little. Hopefully someone that collects would want them. Untill then they are no longer hidden, because I now have space for them in my flat.
I couldn’t have wandered into this well written blog post at a more perfect time. Thank you so much for being such a great resource to my journey toward minimalism.
AGREE!!!!! I’ve lately become obsessed with improving home on a five year plan to move, after a retirement and child graduates, and downsizing and moving to a small lakeside home. I am in process of rewriting to-do list to have house ready for sale in Four years. Lots of purging to go yet. But figure I might as well enjoy the improvements while living there.
Book lover 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!
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.
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!
Diana Higbee 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!
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!
Theo, what in the world are you talking about?
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.
Great post. I feel so much better when I am happy about the condition of my home
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?!
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!
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.”
I too have wondered why we’ve had the carpets cleaned, only for the next tenants. Great post!
I truly enjoy your writings.