Defining clutter is often subjective … one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Yes, unless you are getting your home ready to sell. At this juncture you will need a more critical eye and discerning judgement. You must also give yourself permission to “let go”. Let go of things that you no longer love or use. Let go of things that you have been meaning to fix, sew, paint, or whatever you never found the time to finish. You’re moving! There’s no reason to take excess baggage with you. So with that in mind, let’s tackle an easy room first … the kitchen.
Open a cupboard. Now empty it. No, I’m not kidding … empty it. Now put back only what you will use in the next six months and only fill the cabinet 75% full MAX (be sure to wipe down the inside before returning anything). That’s what you want all your cabinets to look like when getting ready to sell. If you still want to keep everything that didn’t meet the criteria, you’ve got your first box ready to pack and put into storage. If what’s left can be donated or tossed, get two more boxes and start loading them up.
Let’s try another one. Go to the cabinet where you keep your plastic containers. What? You have two cabinets that hold plastic containers? Three? Take heart … it happens. Do you have plastic containers that you only use during the holidays to store all your delicious baked goods or large plastic bowls that you take to picnics and potlucks? Just resolve that baking season is over and that you won’t be taking large plastic bowls to a picnic or potluck while your house is on the market. Chances are that these large items have been living in your lower cabinets. Pack them now because we’re going to need that space when we start clearing the countertops. Small containers? Toss mismatched pieces and only keep the best containers … you know … the ones that don’t have tomato stains. Quite possibly your collection will be reduced by half.
How about all those baking dishes, platters, and serving pieces that you only use for the holidays? I’ll bet that you have another box or two to pack. Work your way around the kitchen and set a goal of at least one or two totally (or nearly) empty cabinets, preferably lower cabinets … we’ll need them soon.
Before we move on, do you have décor pieces or fake plants on top of your cabinets? Remove ALL of these items. These things tend to look like clutter in photos and reduces the airiness of the space. You’re not selling your décor. You want buyers focused on your beautiful cabinetry, counters, and SPACE.
On to the countertops. Move everything from your countertops to the kitchen table or set up a card table to assist. This is where it gets scary. Assess each item like we did with the plastics, but I already know your dilemma. Most items on our countertops are there for a reason … we use them daily and IT’S CONVENIENT! This will be your first dose of brutal reality … selling a home just isn’t convenient. But you can ease the pain by putting your small appliances like the toaster, mixer, and blender in the cabinets that you emptied near where you normally use them. This will give you a place to quickly stow these items for showings and open houses. What about the coffee pot? I can’t live without my coffee pot either. However, mine isn’t exactly a showpiece. If yours is less than new, clear a space in a lower cabinet just like you did for your other small appliances. If you’re thinking of buying a new coffee pot, this is a great time to do that. Set up a coffee station to include some nice mugs, creamer and sugar set, maybe a cup or small vase with spoons and all arranged nicely on a tray.
So what’s left on your table? Canisters, a knife block, a paper towel holder, other miscellaneous “stuff”?
♦ If your canisters are new and contemporary, place them back on your counter. If they are mismatched convenience pieces, it will be best to either buy new canisters or store these items out of sight.
♦ Knife block? Store it! It doesn’t matter if you have the best set of knives money can buy, these are potential weapons and you just don’t want to leave them sitting out during showings.
♦ Paper towels? Free-standing paper towel holders are really not “haute décor”. Stow ‘em.
♦ You’ve got some beautiful vases that you keep handy for fresh flowers. Excellent! Keep those out so that your Home Stager can review them (you DID hire a Home Stager, right?).
♦ Other miscellaneous “stuff”. Unless it’s something that you use regularly, find an empty drawer (you’ll have one soon) to store these items. If it falls into the category of “decorative”, see Part 3 of this series “Tchotchkes, Memorabilia, and Collections … UGH!”
Ok … you’ve knocked out the cabinets and countertops. If you’re fortunate enough to have a large pantry, you’ve got another large area to work on. Even if your pantry is only a large cabinet, the first order of business is to purge all the expired food. Easy-peasy. Half-used food items should really be decanted, but this is also a great time to cook and freeze some meals that you can eat on days when your house is being shown to save time cleaning up the kitchen. Put loose envelopes and small packages in baskets. If you buy bulk products at wholesale clubs, you may want pack excesses that won’t expire in six months and put into storage (climate-controlled storage only) or consider donating to a local food pantry. Again, you want your pantry to be 75% full OR LESS. Buyers love tricked out pantries, but clean, organized, and a look of spaciousness will also make them smile.
Refrigerator. Another easy, but often overlooked place that clutter accumulates. Remove every magnet, every photo, every coloring masterpiece, and every schedule, calendar, and note. Nothing should be on the top either. It should look like you just rolled it in off of the showroom floor.
Some kitchens have a natural “command center”, often with a small desk area and a place for a chair or stool. If your kitchen has this feature, be sure to stow personal items and calendars that may have personal information written on them. A charging station for phones and tablets is a great idea for this area. Incorporate one with a few decorative items to showcase this space.
And last, but not least, drawers. Yes … buyers WILL look in your drawers, so that junk drawer that you think no one will see had best be wrangled. Use our 75% metric on each drawer and pack duplicates that you can live without for a while. Remember … neatness counts big here.
Although the kitchen is one of the easiest rooms to declutter, it is also one of the most time-consuming. That said, I leave you with your homework. Watch for Part 3 of our decluttering series … “Collections, Memorabilia, and Tchotchkes … Ugh!”