Declutter Your Home

Cluttered pieces of blocks

Declutter Your Home

Removing junk and de-cluttering is one of the ‘must-do’s before your house goes up for sale. But to get the job done efficiently and professionally is a different story. Let’s take a dive into the topic of house de-cluttering and junk removal.

The Issue

Our overly-cluttered society is a result of some dramatic changes in modern living that have developed over the last fifty years. Houses / living spaces are continually expanding and getting bigger. Since homes are bigger, there’s lots of room for owners to keep buying and collecting items. Globalization has resulted in lower product costs for consumer goods, making buying them more accessible for the average consumer. As well, if something – perhaps the toaster – doesn’t work well anymore, we just buy a new one, whereas in our grandparents’ time, that toaster would have been repaired. The same is true of everything we buy – clothes, shoes, furniture, computers. Everyone is buying more stuff for less money, and speeding up this clutter problem. The recent impact of online shopping can’t be underestimated either: with just a couple of clicks of the mouse, that fancy do-hickey with the latest features that caught your eye is speeding its way to you. And you never even had to get out of your pyjamas!

Despite our larger homes, people are now finding they have virtually no room left to fill up. In conversation with a furnace repairman, I asked him if the basement areas he sees when working, are as full as the ones I run into, and he replied that most are like ‘war zones’ with little or no room for him to move in. And that is on top of a garage that is likely full to overflowing as well.

What De-cluttering Means for Home Sellers

Home buyers don’t like other people’s clutter. Messy environments distract buyers from the functionality of the property, make the home seem small and lacking in sufficient storage, and cover up the interesting features of your home.

It’s hard for buyers to take in pertinent details when all they see are visual roadblocks all around them – to see past the clutter. People entering your home should be able to walk around freely. In our experience, areas almost always needing immediate clutter attention are basements and garages.

In Joshua Becker’s blog, becoming minimalist, he provides some very interesting research that shows just how ‘cluttered up’ and unmanageable North American homes have become.

Although the statistics listed here are from south of the border, you can be pretty confident that the Canadian numbers would be a close reflection of the American results:

  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).
  • The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past fifty years (NPR).
  • 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have any room to park any cars inside them, and 32% have room for only one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).
  • The USA has upwards of 50,000 storage facilities. Currently, there are 7.3 square feet of self-storage space for every man, woman, and child in the country. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self-storage roofing (SSA).

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of junk in the average home. De-cluttering is not an exercise that can be put off indefinitely. Selling, giving away, or disposing of items you may have had for years and years is hard physical, and even emotional, work. While it’s not easy to start, once underway, magical things begin to happen.

Furniture can be particularly hard to deal with. A furniture refinishing & reupholstery craftsman told me his customers sometimes have unusual relationships with their furniture pieces. He’s recovered and refinished the same furniture multiple times for some customers. And not all of this furniture is of great quality or even worth rejuvenating. His clients just can’t seem to part with these inanimate pseudo-family members. Whether it’s because that decrepit sofa was inherited from Great-Aunt Suzie, or because it’s just been a part of their living room and their life for so long, they just can’t get rid of this old stuff.

Let’s face it: de-cluttering is tough.

De-cluttering Tips

When you finally decide you must start downsizing, here is a strategy to make it easier:

First, take a picture of the rooms or areas that need de-cluttering. You might need these images later. Then, designate three collection areas for items that need to be removed from the premises. Place these items into the three pile areas under handwritten signs that state:

  1. I can’t part with this
  2. Someone else could use this better
  3. This has to go for sure

The 1st pile is made up of what you want to take with you to your new home, but also what you don’t immediately need every day. Pack these items up, and store them neatly, but out of the way, in a safe place.  If your garage and basement have yet to be cleared, perhaps a rental storage unit is the right place for these items. Another alternative is portable storage bins that can be dropped at your house for packing, and later taken to your new home. This will stop you from moving things around two, three, and four times during the de-cluttering process as you work your way around your home. Make sure to label every box or container with the room you intend it to live in, and the contents. A little organization here will pay big dividends in the future.


The 2nd pile is made up of what you would like to donate or give away. The Salvation Army, local woman’s shelter, furniture bank, or Value Village will likely take most of what you have in this pile. Some items (like computer equipment) can even generate a tax receipt when you donate it. Don’t want to cart everything away to donate? Some organizations will schedule a pick up if you’re donating large items. Alternatively, it’s amazing what will disappear when you put items at the curb, featuring a large “FREE” sign!


The 3rd pile is basically junk. Taking all this material to the dump on countless runs wastes time and tests the patience of even the most dedicated de-clutterer. A much better idea is to get a disposal bin. Prepare to be amazed at how high this pile might get.


If it seems like a good idea, you could show family members the piles before you move anything out of your home to get their input about what should go. Before you do this, though, make sure you share your goal to live in a more serene environment, and stress the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle. Emphasize that you’re not asking whether to keep the items you’ve decided to get rid of. Ask for input only on what else can go. I know people who have saved furniture pieces for decades – to hand down to someone – only to find that they don’t want it at all.


Dave’s Toolbox TIP: If you find it really difficult to decide what goes into which pile, email your photos to your friends and family and ask them what they would keep and what they would get rid of. 


If you’re having trouble letting go, ask yourself, if I haven’t used this in the past year or so, do I really need it? After two years, it really should be goodbye for good.

You don’t have to do it all yourself, either. Prep’n Sell can help you through the process of de-cluttering and junk removal. With our One-Call service you can relax and be sure that the project will be handled professionally and efficiently.