Getting your house on the market and getting ready to move can be a very stressful time. Having a comprehensive plan can reduce that stress. We help folks with this type of work every week , so here are a some of the essential guidelines we recommend for such a plan.

Start with the garage

We often start work with clients who have clothes piled up in the guest room, papers piled up in the home office, and everything piled up in the kitchen. They want to clear their home to sell, but they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. We do. Start with the garage.

The garage tends to hold a lot of quick wins, that is, items you have been holding on to for years, but you haven’t felt pressured to dispatch with, until now. Donating and discarding these items tends to happen pretty quickly, when it’s time to move.

You can quickly open up a lot of space and what you should use this space for, is exit zones, for the rest of the house. Exit zones might include a discard zone, a donate zone, a sell zone, and a give-to zone. A give-to zone is when you have someone in particular in mind, as opposed to a general donation. It should be subdivided by friends and family members.

After the garage, move on the the attic, for similar reasons. You will probably find a lot of quick wins up there too. The discards, donates, sells, and give-to’s then go out through the garage. Use the open space in the attic  for items to move. There will be items throughout the house that you will want to move to your new home, but won’t show well, when your trying to sell your current home. For example, you should stow away your family photos and many of your decorative items.

Focus on keeping, not tossing

You may say, that surely the whole point of preparing a home for sale is to get rid of as much as possible. However, if you have a family member who is resistant to discarding, the process can be very frustrating if all the emphasis is on what you are giving up. Instead, switch the focus to what you are keeping and why , and how much, and where it is all going to go in the new home. Your priorities have probably changed, so now is a great opportunity to look at your lifestyle through fresh eyes.

Momentum trumps perfection

While moving IS a good opportunity to reprioritize, remove, and refresh, it won’t be the last. So don’t look to always make ultimate decisions. There  are going to be some items that you just aren’t ready to get rid of. So don’t. When in doubt, don’t throw it out. You heard right. Organizing can be really overwhelming and exhausting if it is slow and painful. That discourages progress. It is far more important to maintain a healthy momentum than to make the perfect decision every time. If you’re not sure about getting rid of an item, simply identify why you are keeping it (keepsake, decor, reference, etc.), put it in the appropriate category, and keep going with the easier choices.

As I’ve often stated, the best definition of clutter, comes from professional organizing pioneer Barbara Hemphill, who describes clutter as postponed decisions.  It’s not just junk.  So if your plan for decluttering for a move is to just rent a dumpster, think again. The dumpster alone won’t cut it and it won’t reduce stress, especially if you or a family member is resistant to discarding. By making a generous allowance for items to donate, sell, give-to, AND decide next time around, you give yourself the momentum you need to get the job done quickly and a to actually feel good about it.

If you’re finding it hard to make these guidelines work, I know a great team of focused, well-trained professional organizers who can get the job done;-)