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Store, Pack or Pitch?

As you clean and organize, you’ll probably notice a growing stack of clutter left in your wake. Decluttering is a hefty task, but essential to a quick sell. Learn how to differentiate amongst the things you need to put in storage, pack up or donate to the trash can.

Start with a Pile. Go through a room and remove anything you find distracting or cluttered, including items stuffed in drawers and cabinets. Dump all of these belongings in a pile. Set up stations close to the pile: an area for items to keep, a box for donations, storage bins and trash bags. Sort through your pile one item at a time. Decide the fate of each item and place it in its appropriate receptacle. Take the things you’ve decided to keep, and pack them up early or rearrange them tastefully in the room.

Follow the One-year Rule. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to trash, ask yourself “have I used this in the past year?” If the answer is “no”, donate it or toss it. If the item is rarely used, place it in storage.

Kill the Sentimentality. Certain things are hard to pack because of emotional attachments. But buyers don’t care about your kid’s report card or the band you saw in 1992. You see memories, but buyers see messes. Pack up personal belongings when you’re selling your house. Save the keepsakes for your new home.

Function Stays. Once the pack-rat mentality disappears, it’s easy to fall into a slash and burn frame of mind. Don’t be too merciless or zealous with your storage and disposal. Some items might be needed and do little good in a trash can or box in the attic. Keep functional things – like band-aids and scissors – on hand but out of sight.

Think of the Children. Toys and games tend to create flashclutters. Keep favorites stored, but easy to get to when the open house is over and it’s time to play. Donate toys that haven’t been used in six months. If your children are old enough, have a discussion about storing or donating certain toys, and get them involved with decluttering their most precious possessions.

Beware: Clutter Migrates. As you sort through the clutter, a few items may just need to be returned to their rightful places,like DVDs in the filing cabinet instead of the media center. It’s okay. Home organization keeps similarly functioning items grouped together. But don’t get carried away. While decluttering one room, you might be re-cluttering another. If you find piles shifting from one room to another, it might be a sign that stuff needs to go.

Go Paperless. If you haven’t gone paperless with your billing, now’s the perfect time to make the switch. Stop clutter before it’s even sent to you. You should only keep previous bills for one year. Anything older, trash it.

Redefine your junk mail. Fliers and credit card offers might be tossed immediately, but catalogues, magazines and newspapers might still be lying around. Also, trash the mail you send to yourself like reminder notes, grocery lists and dated paperwork from your job.

Store keepsakes like homemade cards, children’s artwork and memorabilia. And keep the important stuff with you: birth certificates, tax returns and receipts, mover’s workbook, etc.

You Can’t Pack That. In some instances the choice of what to keep is made for you. Things like propane tanks and houseplants will not be moved by professionals. Know what not to pack and give these items to friends or family, or donate to a charity.

Don’t Give Up. Decluttering an entire home is a tedious project. Don’t get discouraged. Give yourself a long break after completing each room. Listen to music to pass the time – an MP3 player creates very little clutter. You’ll be logging a lot of hours, so budget for a few days. A rush job never leaves a house organized or tidy.

If you’ve perfected clutter extermination, master more cleaning and organizing arts that help house sellers.

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