OK, it’s confession time: I haven’t even been in my house for a full two years yet, and it’s already time for a decluttering session. Maybe part of it was moving into a place that didn’t need much work (oh I know, poor me!). When we moved in, my husband and I just got unpacked and settled as soon as we could without putting a lot of thought into how to organize our stuff. On the flip side, it could be the boxes we never unpacked in the move before last, which we just trucked along to our next place where storage was much more plentiful than before. But Amanda Sullivan, author of Organized Enough: The Anti-Perfectionist’s Guide to Getting—and Staying—Organized (De Capo, 2017), would probably point to her belief that pretty much everyone needs to incorporate the habit of continually of decluttering into our daily lives.
“Your home is a living, breathing thing, like a garden. You must constantly weed and winnow items because, with no effort on your part, it will always be growing,” she writes, suggesting readers keep a dedicated bag or box for getting rid of unneeded items.
But what if you’re dealing with sellers who haven’t employed this trick and have years of built-up reservoirs they need to purge before putting their home on the market? Honestly, I’d recommend picking up a copy of this book for them. I was only a few minutes in when I was inspired to go home and tackle my closet.
Despite being the owner of the intimidatingly titled professional organizer/coaching business The Perfect Daughter, Sullivan is exceedingly nonjudgemental and concentrates her advice on making homes livable, rather than immaculate. Indeed, Organized Enough hangs on the principle of FLOW:
- Forgive yourself. “Having a disorganized home does not mean you’re sick or dysfunctional,” Sullivan assures readers.
- Let stuff go. She suggests beginning with with the easy stuff (which is why I’m headed to the closet and not those unpacked boxes in the basement) that will make the greatest visual impact.
- Organize what’s left. Don’t head to the Container Store until you’ve accomplished the above steps! You have to take stock before you know what you need.
- Weed constantly (addressed above).
So keep this one in your back pocket for clients, but I’d also suggest real estate pros read this book on their own. The chapter on seeing one’s home as a stranger is particularly helpful for industry insiders such as yourselves. Sullivan also includes tips to motivate specific types of people (photo journaling or Pinterest boards for the visual learners, using a notebook to craft a narrative of change for the storytellers, questions to ask for those who prefer to talk it out interpersonally, etc.).
Here are three ideas from Organized Enough you can use to help your sellers who need some organizational assistance.
- Ask sellers to take you on a tour, pointing out where they see systems as working and where they aren’t. Meanwhile, take note of places where random things are being squirreled away, spaces aren’t being used to their full potential, or where dust might be gathering. These are spots that can easily be targeted first. Sullivan also suggests looking at spaces through mirrors and photography to help bring a fresh perspective.
- Connect clients with practical solutions for letting go. Put together a handout or resource page on your website that includes contact information, drop-off times, and details about what kinds of donations different charities in your area will accept. Some may even offer free curbside pick-up. Gather a list of links to local groups where neighbors give away or sell used goods (Nextdoor, Freecycle, Facebook parent groups, etc.). Also, find out what the rules are in your area for how to dispose of certain items such as electronics or paint.
- Help them recognize the source of their clutter. Sullivan notes that most overstuffed homes can be traced back to fear. She goes over the different anxieties that feed into this in detail, which can be very helpful to getting to the root of the problem and closer to a lasting solution. In fact, some your clients might be highly organized people who let the ideal of perfection become the enemy of “good enough.”