Six steps to livable, attractive spaces.
Woman organizes clothes in living room of her home

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As homeowners hunkered down during the pandemic, many accumulated more possessions—supplies to work from home, utensils to cook more, games to relax. All the extras increased the need to get organized. To homeowners who are getting ready to sell, recommend these steps to kickstart decluttering and maintain a market-ready space.

  1. Purge. Before finding a home for everything, assess what’s to be kept. Homeowners should touch each object or paper once, and decide whether to save, pitch, sell, or donate. They can scan, digitize, and save to the cloud their important documents and sentimental photos to pare more, says Marco Angelucci, design director at Philadelphia-based Marguerite Rodgers.
  2. Organize. Advise homeowners to keep often-used stuff in sight near where it’s used and put away what they don’t need often, but still keep it visible—on a wall or in labeled bins in a closet, attic, basement, under a bed, or on shelves no more than 14 inches deep so nothing gets hidden, says Charlotte, N.C., designer Laura VanSickle, owner of a Closets by Design franchise.  
  3. Style. Retailers offer myriad storage products to enhance decor: baskets for a country-themed bedroom, colorful bins for kids’ closets, matching plastic containers for a refrigerator, pegs that separate dishes in drawers.
  4. Get help. For owners who find it hard to start or become stuck, there are experts. Real estate agents and stagers are adept at decluttering, often advising not to put more than three items on counters. Designers are detectives who know how to find storage such as dead space underneath stairs or furnishings with tops that open. Members of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing offer more advice and can be found through its website,   
  5. Practice. To avoid starting over repeatedly, urge homeowners to return things to assigned places after use, curtail buying, and share what they don’t need through groups like the Buy Nothing Project.
  6. Reassess. People’s needs change, and so does what they stored. “When you have young children, you may need a cabinet for sippy cups and art supplies. When they’re older, you need space for backpacks. Adjust how you live,” says Raleigh, N.C., designer Leslie Cohen.

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