Clear clutter when selling your home

Get over the 'what if I need it?' syndrome

The simple act of cleaning and decluttering before putting your home on the market can add thousands to your selling price, according to the HomeGain 2012 National Home Improvement Survey. Besides showing your home as a more spacious, blank canvas for the next homeowners, a big purge means that when it's time to move, it'll be easier and cost you less.

When faced with rooms full of amassed bric-a-brac and basements and storage lockers bulging at the seams, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Where do you start? And how will you get rid of it all? We turned to two local professional organizers for advice.

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Start the purging process at least a month in advance- longer if you have a large home or have been living there for a long time, recommends Rowena List, a professional organizer and image consultant, and owner of Getting It Together.

"Give yourself enough time. Most people underestimate how long it will take to declutter a home."

Limor Friedman, professional organizer and owner of Vancouver In The Box, advises spending at least a couple hours per day in the month leading up to the open house sorting and getting rid of stuff-starting with the easiest jobs first.

"Before digging into the crawl space, where you store old memories and photos, start with the present-with the stuff that you see every day and are less attached to," says Friedman, pointing to items like chipped dish sets, old clothing and children's toys.

"After the first 'sort and purge,' you will feel so much better. Then you will be ready to tackle the past-the old items you have left in the basement or the attic."

Once you've decided where you'll start, it's time to get ruthless. List suggests arming yourself with plenty of heavy-duty black garbage bags, then designating sorting areas: donate, sell or consignment, and toss.

Items such as broken and rusty appliances or torn or stained clothing headed for the trash pile are the easiest to determine. Deciding what to keep versus what to donate, sell, or even recycle can be tougher.

Evaluate each item and ask yourself what purpose it serves. Is it irreplaceable? When was the last time you used it?

"What are the chances that your next new printer will come without a cable?" says Friedman. "Recycle the old cables you held on to for years."

Remember the end goal

"Only keep what you need, use and love," says List, noting that people tend to use only 20 per cent of their things 80 per cent of the time. "Most people live in fear of 'what if I need it?' I support my clients in living with a faith-based mentality: believing that what they have is what they need... once we do the sorting."

Once you've determined what to lose, start offloading your cast-offs before you lose momentum. Here are some resources to help you along your clutter-busting journey:

Toss/Recycle/Donate It

Things such as expired medication, batteries, antifreeze, or broken appliances have to be disposed at the appropriate depots. Find out what goes where:

. Metro Vancouver Recycles: Select a material type and enter your postal code for a list of depots, charitable locations, and consignment stores near you. Or download their free mobile app.

. Vancouver Reuses Recyclopedia: Find out where to recycle everything from asphalt to art supplies.

. GVRD's "101 Things to Do With All Your Old Stuff"

. Join people around the world getting rid of stuff on this grassroots community page.

There's no shortage of charities to which you can donate clothing, household goods and small appliances. Some of them, such as Big Brothers and the Canadian Diabetes Association, offer free home pickup.

Sell or Swap It

It doesn't cost anything to create listings on classified sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. And so long as you take a good photo and price your item in line with other items, you can offload large pieces of furniture in less than a week. Free items can go really fast. Bonus: you won't have to haul it away. Also check out:

. Secondhand Savvy: Search freelance writer and mindful-consumption advocate Jo-Anne Lauzer's blog for local rummage/thrift sales, auctions, flea markets, and antique shows.

Outsource It

Fed up with pre-sale decluttering and junk removal? Enlist the help of a pro here:

. Professional Organizers in Canada


Resist the temptation to sort and purge on the other end. "Do it all before you move," says List. "You will feel less stress and have more energy, time and money." is a real estate search website for Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

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