If the world were a perfect place, we’d all have lots of time to prepare our houses for sale. We would have months to decide which renovations and updates we would make, and plenty of time to study the costs and potential return on the investment for such projects. Unfortunately, the world is not a perfect place. House stylists we know assure us that a job offer, a death in the family, or even a change in marital status can prompt the need to move quickly. Those same stylists also say that prepping to sell can be done well and with haste if you remain calm and keep focused.


This may be the most difficult of all the house prepping you’ll have to do. We humans seem to cling to our stuff – even the stuff we don’t particularly care for. However, decluttering is essential in the process of preparing a house for sale.

Do this job as you would any other big project. Take it one step – one room or one cupboard – at a time. As you pick up item after item, think about when the last time you used a particular article was. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself. If you have not worn or used something in six months it is non-essential. Dispose of it. By all means donate good used items. Junk the rest. Resist the temptation to add a pile labelled “garage sale”. If you only have 30 days, you probably won’t have time to hold your own sale, again, be ruthless and stay on track.

If an item is non-essential get rid of it. Some items like Christmas decorations and seasonal clothing get a reprieve from this purging, but everything else has to go. This makes the job of packing so much easier and cheaper, especially if your plan includes storing your stuff for any amount of time.


If your situation is such that you will be showing your home while you still live in it, you’ll need to take the step of depersonalising your space. Potential buyers don’t want to be reminded of your family, your religious beliefs, or your political bent. They want to see a house that they can claim as their own that is in no way “branded” by others. Remove all personal photographs, art that may not have general appeal, trophies, and the crayon drawings affixed to the refrigerator door. You want to create a clean canvas upon which the new buyers can project themselves and their lifestyle.


The clean canvas you’re creating probably should not be painted hot pink. Even if it is your favourite colour, it may be off-putting to others. Invest in a big bucket of paint in a neutral colour and paint everything.  A pristine canvas is what your buyer wants. (Neutral paint, by the way, is not automatically dull or ‘vanilla’. Neutrals can be beautiful and warm. This is, of course, precisely what you want.) This will also serve to eliminate the ghosts of family past – meaning those tell-tale areas where pictures of Grandpa’s deep sea fishing expedition used to hang.


It’s worthwhile to consult with a professional stager even if you only plan to have one or two rooms done. House stylists know all there is to making a house appealing in the eyes of today’s buyer. The less staging you plan to do, the better qualified your stager should be. Choose one who has decades of experience, not just months or even years. The more practiced the stager is, the better your chances are of solving any little design flaws or problems your house may have.

A good stager can also give you tips to help with other areas of the house. Street appeal, your house’s first impression upon prospective buyers, is a critical element in the preparation of a house for sale. The stylist will offer suggestions as to what needs to be done to make that first impression a spectacular one.

Professional staging is a cost-effective step in the preparation of a house. Statistics prove that the more and better the staging effort, the better the final sale price. Staging also helps to sell a house quickly, which is particularly important if your time is limited. Professionally staged homes sell in a matter of weeks rather than months.

In our imperfect world, a move can be a sudden, not always happy, surprise. When and if that happens to you, stay calm. Know that house stylists can make a quick move a nearly painless one. Consult with a professional before you get one step deeper into the sale of your house and stay focused. You’ll be fine.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of Scyon cladding.

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