At the start of a new year a lot of us get motivated to give our homes a good cleaning. It's a way to clear the physical and mental clutter and, if you're selling your home, it's a must-do to help attract buyers.
According to HomeGain, cleaning up and de-cluttering can gain you thousands of dollars at the time of the sale and cost you as little as a few hundred dollars, if you use experts, to get the job done. Next week, I'll explore other repair areas that result in the greatest return; but this week, it's all about getting organized to increase the chances of selling your home.
I recently took on the task and unloaded about 25 trash bags worth of once-prized possessions. It's funny how, as the years go by, time and lack of room can make you realize that those prized-possessions are just eating up space while serving little purpose. Most of us have more than we need. Having more stuff than you need in a home is not appealing to buyers. It can make them feel cramped, nervous, and overall uncomfortable in your home which may result in a lower offer.
The best approach to de-cluttering is to have an organized plan. Expert organizer Mary Pankiewicz of Clutter-Free & Organized suggests making a list of all the areas that need to be organized; otherwise you run the risk of giving up.
"What people do is they try to do too big of a project and then they get overwhelmed and then they get discouraged," says Pankiewicz.
So, if you're rolling up your sleeves and getting started, a good place to start de-cluttering is the hall closet. Why? Buyers are certain to open it up and check it out for space.
"The thing to remember, particularly with closets is, it doesn't matter how big the closet is -- if it looks crowded, the buyer still thinks it's a small closet," says Pankiewicz.
De-cluttering a home can be a huge task that can be made even more laborious if you're not careful. "What people will want to do is haul everything out of that closet and then they don't know what to do next because they've got too much stuff to deal with."
She recommends a systematic approach to clearing clutter. Pankiewicz tells clients to first start with everything on the floor. Pull those items out and leave everything on shelves inside. Go through the items and get rid of the things that you don't have a use for. "The golden question to ask is not 'Will I ever use that?' That's what I call the keeper question because the answer to that [question] is 'Who knows, maybe.' So then I better keep it," says Pankiewicz. She says the better question to ask is, "What will make me use this or what will make me need this?"
Pankiewicz says when that question is asked, often people realize that they're never going to use the item and then are more willing to let it go.
Once you've found the stuff you're ready to get rid of, what do you do with it? Many sellers attempt to store it until they can have a yard sale or they donate the items. If you donate your items, make sure you take a look at the book Money for Your Used Clothing by William R. Lewis, CPA. The book tells you what the IRS will let you take as a tax deduction in 2008 for various items.
"If it's cluttered before the move, it's chaos after," says Pankiewicz. She adds, "The key mistake is people not making a decision before they pack things up."
That can be a very costly mistake for sellers. "They put stuff in storage and they pay for it year after year and then when they finally look at it, it's nothing they want," says Pankiewicz.
"The sooner you get your house ready to sell, the better decisions you'll make," says Pankiewicz. She says if sellers wait until the last minute then they tend to hold on to things and pack them up in storage saying, "I'll look at it later." That's how the clutter simply follows them from home to home.