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Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
Retired New Hampshire Home Stager

A term I use a lot is "prepack".  I explain the importance of rooms appearing spacious.  I explain the distraction of having too many small items scattered throughout the room. I tell sellers "it's all got to be packed up eventually, if you do it prior to listing it saves you time later and helps sell the home faster."  Prepack and it's a win win!

Jan 14, 2015 11:56 PM
Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta, GA 404-939-2727
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty - Love our Great City - Love our Clients! Buckhead - Midtown - Westside - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Angela & Stephen Hardiman 
Interesting to read all comments.
My technique is to explain two things: 
1. Normally people buy a home because they need more room. If closets and countertops and tables are packed, they will do what Lyn Sims mentions - see the stuff not the home. 
2. Normally people want to imagine the house look in their OWN style. I explain that as soon as their home is on the market, it is no longer THEIR home but a beautiful place where they are now temporary residents - hopefully very temporary!

Great question to bring up! I really enjoyed the answers from everyone.
Sincerely, Lynn

Jan 14, 2015 10:43 AM
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Broker
Elizabeth Anne Weintraub, Broker - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

I keep it simple and tell them to make it look like nobody lives there. I stress that if a buyer opens the door and gushes: does anybody actually live here? Then it's done correctly. All personal stuff off the walls except abstract art or nature scenes, nothing on the kitchen counters, strip it down and pack up the bookcases. They seem to understand this explanation. De-personalize is the word I use. De-clutter seems too judgmental.

Jan 15, 2015 12:43 AM
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes"

It's better to describe specific actions that sellers should take to prepare their home for staging.  The word de-clutter doesn't really mean anything to most people.  They need to know what to remove so that potential buyers can see themselves living in the home once it's on the market.

Jan 14, 2015 03:59 PM
Dee Toohey
Innovative Realty Solutions Group - Longwood, FL
Broker, ABR, AHWD, CIPS, FMS, ePro

I don't tell them to declutter.  I give them a list, room by room, of what needs to be done.  That way we are totally clear.  Most sellers don't recognize their on clutter as such.

Jan 14, 2015 02:45 AM
M.C. Dwyer
Melody Russell Team at eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Felton, CA
MC Dwyer-Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Many great tips here -

you've got to move anyway so why not start packing stuff away now


remove oversized furnature and open up clear walkways

limit kitchen counter appliances to the one or two you use daily

It comes down to the homeowner.    Many times I'll suggest they remove a percentage of personal items, other times I'll give specific lists of what to pack.

Jan 15, 2015 01:23 AM
Richard Arnold
Keller Williams Realty East Valley - Tempe, AZ
Realtor - Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix

I think every home owner knows exactly what it means, and that's why many agents don't want to use the word.  The inference is that "your home is messy", even if it isn't.  I will explain what depersonalize means and why a buyer doesn't want to see your family photos from 1975.  

People don't want to pack suitcases for a 1-week trip.  Decluttering is 20x the effort - the decision making on what to keep, what to toss, what to hide, what to move - all the stuff the makes moving a PITA is associated with decluttering.  

I explain what happens when a Buyer walks in the door and asks about each object that doesn't fit - like gym equipment in the guest bedroom - or about the 20 shampoo bottles in the bathroom that brings to mind images of a frat house with dozens of people going in/out each day.  

Sometimes the won't make an effort until 5 Buyers make remarks about the bean bag in the middle of living room.  That's right - visitors aren't looking at your house, they are looking at the clutter - and they don't want anything to do with it.


Jan 15, 2015 12:41 AM
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty and Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

First and foremost, be VERY conservative with pictures or wall hangings, dust collectors on shelves, and furnishings. You want to give the appearance of space. If it is packed full, the impression is there is a limitation of storage space.


Second, get rid of all the personal stuff. A mantle or shelf can have one or two items, but make sure they are current, attractive, and dust free. Take most of the pictures off the fridge, cabinets, bulletin boards, etc. Again, give it an appearance of space and avoid over-whelming them with YOUR personality. They are buying the house, not admiring your life.


Third, the size and quantity of furniture should give the appearance of space and fit the room. Get rid of the couch in your kids bedroom. If the dining space is tight, take a leaf out of the table or get a smaller table.


There are a ton of tips, but these are some of the most common ones I see.

Jan 14, 2015 11:08 PM
Lisa Wozniakowski
RedKey Realty Leaders - Crown Point, IN

I agree with most of the other answers, which are all great.  I ask that they pick up and go through specific items...if they have a stuffed closet and you can't tell tell there is an organizer in there...time to go through it.  Bottles of products in the bathroom on the counter or vanity, too many personal items lying around, etc.  I do like family portraits and photos in a house....I personally think it helps sell the house if not overdone.  

I do always explain what the kitchen needs to look like for every showing.  Too many sellers have a counter top full of items they rarely maker, blender, mixer, toaster...and you lose the visual of counter space.

Jan 14, 2015 10:40 PM
Sham Reddy CRS
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

We try to come up with fancy words and accronyms everyday that most poeple who are not in our industry understand.  David Knox has a great video on preparing home for showings which kind of goes through what declutting is and stuff you love personally may turn off buyers.  We start using a language everyone understands.

Jan 14, 2015 07:47 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Too many totchkes around; too many personal photos; just too much stuff--you kind of know it when you see it. (How about all those magnets on a fridge?)

Jan 14, 2015 07:38 PM
Mark Horan
Resident Team Realty, LLC & Toni's Property Management LLC - Saint Cloud, FL
"The Resident Chef" - Resident Team Realty LLC &

I first start by explaing that light and room sizes matter. Make your rooms as bright as possible, and make the rooms look as large as possible. Then I give example of things that are out that might be better unseen. Most understand at that point.

Jan 14, 2015 03:25 PM
Sybil Campbell
Fernandina Beach, FL
Referral Agent Amelia Island Florida

To me decluttering is to put away things that might be lying around and to remove any extra unnecessary items in closets and drawers.

Jan 14, 2015 11:35 AM
S. Leanne Paynter ☼ Broward County, FL
United Realty Group, Inc. - Davie, FL
Davie, Plantation, Cooper City & Weston Specialist

I try to explain that it's best to minimize (they'll be moving soon anyway, so pack away what's not needed in next couple of months) and depersonalize (remove or reduce personal photos, excessive religious items & such).

Jan 14, 2015 11:01 AM
Rob D. Shepherd
RETIRED - Florence, OR

Bulldozer and Dump truck.

Jan 14, 2015 10:58 AM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

One person's clutter is another person's treasures.  It can be a difficult topic and one get a sense of what the seller is willing to remove.  I try to show some photos and it helps.  

Jan 14, 2015 10:53 AM
Ginger Harper
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage~ Ginger Harper Real Estate Team - Southport, NC
Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County!

I think that is a word in our industry and not every one knows its meaning.

Best to tell them to pack up the nick nacks..

Jan 14, 2015 10:27 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Angela and Stephen,   I don't like using the word because it can be taken as somewhat insulting.  And, sellers have watched the cable shows and shutter at the sound of it.  Instead, I talk about editing what they have and allowing the buyer to see the possibilities of the home. 

Jan 14, 2015 09:05 AM
Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties
Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070 - Clarksville, TN
The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730

Too much sit around stuff and unnecessary furniture. Overdecorating. It could also be too much trash and things out of place and not stored away properly. It can mean a lot of different things but means the house is too full and will not show well.

Jan 14, 2015 07:55 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Agent Retired

I have a few sheets that gives tips & I show them with pictures what I expect. Especially for the kitchen & livingroom areas. No clutter, no collections, no pictures of family all over the walls. Just furniture & a nice painting or 2.

I go room by room with them. Also have staging videos that REMAX has plus my own blog posts. Most of the time they get it quickly. Not saying they want to do it, but they do.

I use the word stage. Also tell a story about how I follow buyers in a cluttered home as they're eye goes from object to object instead of looking at the house.

Jan 14, 2015 04:00 AM
Ajay Pandya
e-Merge Real Estate - Columbus, OH
Realtor Ajay Pandya

Oh sure, they do. They just want the agent to pay for it many!

Jan 15, 2018 11:42 PM
Debra Peters
Referral Realty - Manorville, NY
NY Real Estate Salesperson

If I have to ask a client to "declutter", I will show them what needs to be done.  I don't just say your home needs to be decluttered and leave them to decipher what I mean by that phrase.  I may not even ask them to declutter, but rather tell them that all hygiene products should be put away in the bathrooms and that counter tops in the kitchen need to be free and clear from appliances and other objects that may give the counter top a cluttered look.  

Jan 20, 2015 03:26 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Start with the kitchen refrigerator and work to the counters, then to the bathrooms and linen closets and then to the bedrooms and living room - I like the surfaces to be clear at least! 

Jan 16, 2015 09:26 PM
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

Decluttering is having the courage to finally get rid of the those things you do not need and will not need again.  

Jan 16, 2015 02:26 AM
BethAnn Long
RE/MAX of Spokane - Spokane, WA
Realtor, CRS, e-PRO, Spokane Wa Real Estate

I think it depends on the seller, and what the situation is- however there is nothing wrong with calling it what it is, clutter- if indeed it is an issue. But there are tactful ways to do that :) I tell them it will be much easier for them to move when the time comes if they minimize to what they actually use daily. You do have to be sensitive as people are attached to their " stuff ". But if indeed we are trying to accomplish and end result of selling, we must be honest and it is part of our job to make sure the house looks great. I Tell them it's all about the photo's and the small things, and clutter get in the way of great pictures.

Jan 15, 2015 08:11 AM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I generally give them specific lists of "this needs to go items" and we go to market when it is done.

Jan 15, 2015 07:40 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I think it's true that some sellers won't know what that means, just like some sellers don't know what "clean" means. 

Jan 15, 2015 05:57 AM
Nancy Middleton
Counselor Realty, Inc. - Excelsior, MN
Nancy Middleton, Counselor Realty, Minnetonka, MN

Angela and Stephen:  I think there is a balance between an over-staged home that looks like a stager put all their latest decor on display..... and the home that is  bright, warm, clean , tidy, and inviting without an excess of personal photos, certificates, and  seller treasures. I tell clients that a Buyer needs to be able not to be distracted by your treasurers so they  can concentrate on picturing their treasurere on those walls and in those rooms........ My greatest dislike is a couch or chair that is crowded with multiple pillows where no one could sit down if they needed to. To me that's very un-lived in and makes me think I'm in a showroom in a store rather than in a home that I'd like to buy for my family to live in. I like Elizabeth's word "de-personalize" rather than "de-clutter." I guess I'd have to say there are good stagers and good home-owners who can make a home attractive without extremes of too much or too little. It is a personal opinion for everyone, and we can be a guide to help them with our experience.

Jan 15, 2015 05:57 AM
Robert Kennedy
Chase International - Zephyr Cove, NV

The term I often use is "dress your house for success." Or try to look at your home through "buyers eyes." Sometimes they need to be blunty told to clean it up - which often offends sellers. There are plenty of videos on the internet that describe the declutter process, and I encourage sellers to take the hint. But the simple answer to the declutter question is, in most cases, put away or get rid of about half your stuff.

Jan 15, 2015 05:03 AM
Beth and Richard Witt
Long Island Cash Home Buyer - Center Moriches, NY
Long Island Cash Home Buyer 516-330-6940

Wonderful comments... really nothing for me to say that has not already been said... except... we provide all of our sellers with a stager at our expense and I'm sure she get's the de-clutter stuff taken clear of

Jan 15, 2015 02:34 AM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Many home owners watch TV shows so they are familiar with the word staging . i do not use the word declutter.

Jan 14, 2015 08:44 PM
Russ Ravary ~ Metro Detroit Realtor call (248) 310-6239
Real Estate One - Commerce, MI
Michigan homes for sale ~

Mine is not only to get rid of the small stuff but to get rid of excess furniture too

Jan 14, 2015 07:05 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

I walk the entire house, and make a list for them what they need to remove, move, etc. so they definitely understand what de-cluttering means.

Jan 14, 2015 10:51 AM
Bill Dandridge
MKB, Realtors - Roanoke, VA
GREEN, ABR, GRI, EcoBroker

My definition is to provide clear, wide walways through each room, with minimal additional furniture throughout the house.

Jan 14, 2015 10:39 AM
Susan Jacobsen
The Alliance Group Realty - Hilton Head Island, SC
20 Years Providing WOW Real Estate Service

Oh boy can this every be a loaded statement - you are so right to even ask this? Everyone has a different definition that's for sure and those 'treasures' that have been sitting around FOREVER may mean something to the current homeowner but it represents just 'stuff' to a buyer. I personally don't use the word and even 'staging' doesn't seem to resonate.

I have found that it helps to bring a flyer from a new home development showing one of the fabulous models! I say yes, it seems kind of cold, but wouldn't it be terrific if you can provide a blank slate so the new folks can make their own memories? and of course, remember when you moved in? you wanted to add your  own touches. Won't it be fun to handle your treasures as you pack them away and remember when you got them?  anything to take their focus away from being irritated or overwhelmed.

Jan 14, 2015 09:59 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

I do not use the word - it's overused and lacks real meaning as to what the sellers need to do. Action items are very specific and detailed so there is no confusion or misunderstanding. Every situation is different.

Jan 14, 2015 09:13 AM
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

Declutter to me means 

  1. Personal photo's on wall or tabletops
  2. Books and magazines in shelving units
  3. Off season clothing in closets
  4. Extra Hangers in Closets
  5. Collections in curio cabinets
  6. Excess Dishes in Kitchen
  7. Excess Plants anywhere
Jan 14, 2015 08:44 AM
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

I show them pictures of the interiors of Danish Modern or Japanese Modern, that's true declutter.

Jan 14, 2015 08:31 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

I've definitely seen them get offended and even fight it. After a while, they get it.

Jan 14, 2015 08:28 AM
Raymond Denton
Homesmart / Evergreen Realty - Irvine, CA
Irvine Realtor®

I've read several posts here at AR rain about the word declutter, and better alternative words.  I never thought about it until reading those posts, so now I say stage instead.

Jan 14, 2015 08:15 AM
Ron Marshall
Marshall Enterprises - Saint Michael, MN
Birdhouse Builder Extraordinaire

I would go with Lyn Sims expectations...and Debbie's make a lot of sense, too!

Jan 14, 2015 08:04 AM
Olga Simoncelli
Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate - New Fairfield, CT
CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management

Decluttering, in a minimum of words can be expressed as "less is better".

Jan 14, 2015 06:58 AM
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy

Angela and Stephen,

De clutter means different things to different people.  I would use words that imply that the home can be shown better with less stuff around, so that people can visualize their possessions there.  A

Jan 14, 2015 05:58 AM
Juba Team Realty
JUBA TEAM REALTY - Jefferson Township, NJ
Jefferson Township NJ Real Estate Experts

Angela, the best way I found is to be direct as possible and as quickly as possible. I find once I let a client know the home will look more spacious if we limited excess furniture they usually get the point. Thnaks Nick Juba

Jan 14, 2015 04:30 AM
Dipti Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
On a team with Praful Thakkar

Yes, theydo.

May 25, 2018 10:55 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Best to include detailed instruction, or a stager.

Nov 09, 2017 09:59 PM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

I find it necessary to be specific and tell sellers exactly what needs to be removed, boxed up, moved, etc.

Jan 17, 2015 09:56 AM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Without the sellers cooperation, selling their property at the highest value would be difficult, so is it worth a little time and expense to get their property looking the best it could be? So, what would you do with an uncooperative seller?

My point is the agent should always recommend improvements, yet how many will insist that improvements shall be made to get the highest and best value for their property?  I believe most agents would take the listing even if the seller refused to cooperate to either stage or prep the property for sale, don't you?

Jan 15, 2015 03:54 PM
Virginia Youngblood
DO-STAGE! LLC - an ASPM® Home Staging Company - Charlotte, NC
DO-STAGE! LLC - Home Stager - ASPM®

Right on everyone!!!  Super answers -- especially the ones that encourage using a stager -- to be "your bad guy" to tell the homeowner the sensitive things about preparing their house for the market.  Why should the Broker have to do that? You all have enough to do without getting the Homeowner's emotions stirred! Delegate to an ASP stager and it's a win win for  all! I refer to decluttering as 'paring down' &/or 'deleting.'

Great post, Angela and Stephen Hardiman!

Jan 15, 2015 02:21 PM
Gloria Laughton Allston

I had a case where the homeowner got insulted when I suggested she clear away her memorabilia that, in her opinion, made the house a home.  Perhaps my timing was off because I did not get the listing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Jan 14, 2015 09:47 PM
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Yes, I do.  And decluttering to me is to move everything off the tables and counters and remove all the personal pictures.

Jan 14, 2015 07:16 AM
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents

They usually do not know and some even get offended by it. It takes some careful use of words and explainging in some cases. 

Jan 14, 2015 04:34 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Declutter may not be the best word to use.

Jan 14, 2015 03:05 AM
Raoul Loustaunau
EXP REALTY - Phoenix, AZ

I agree with Praful and Dee even thou i had had some looks when i tell them about what they needs to be done to make home presentable to potential buyers.

Jan 14, 2015 02:58 AM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

May be I am lucky Angela & Stephen Hardiman - they never said 'NO' - and if they did not, they know they will not get their price (As per market value, of course!)

Jan 14, 2015 02:41 AM