If you’ve ever had your home professionally staged, you might think stagers can perform magic. They have the ability to turn the most dark, drab, and dated rooms into appealing spaces—that people actually want to buy and live in—with a few key strategies.
The same goes for messy homes. A house that looks like it was hit by a tornado simply won’t sell as well as one that looks clean and tidy. Although the cleaning part isn’t in a home stager’s job description, tidying up definitely is. These professionals need to be experts in both design and organization in order to make a house shine its brightest.
Luckily, their methods for sprucing up a space aren’t magic—or secret. The following professional home stagers were gracious enough to share some of their top tips for tidying up a space that you can replicate in your own home. No magic wand required.
Group like things together
If you’re having trouble organizing a space that’s just chock full of stuff, empty out all the storage spaces, clear off the surfaces, and assess what you’re working with, says Andy Stewart, founder and chief creative stylist of Red Cap Productions Inc., a home staging company in New York City.
“Put all the same size soup cans together, all the boxes of detergent together, all toilet tissue, paper towels, etc. Once you see clearly the quantities of each item, you can clearly see what shelf, cabinet, or drawer can handle it.”
This process helps him gauge how much space each grouping of items will physically occupy; then, when it’s time to put them away, “all the puzzle pieces seem to fall into place.”
While glass cabinet doors might be trendy, you might not always like what you see.
“Glass cabinet doors are gorgeous if you are neatly storing beautiful items such as china or glassware,” says Lisa Quinn, founder of Lisa Quinn Home in Nevada County, Calif., and author of “Life’s Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets.” “When you are seeing cereal boxes and canned goods, not so much.”
This also applies to clear boxes, bins, and mason jars, she notes.
“When you can see what’s in your storage, it’s just one more thing to see. It appears cluttered to the eye even though you’ve organized these items. There’s no place for the eye to rest.”
Instead, opt for closed storage, like matching opaque storage bins made from plastic, wood, or fabric.
“I’m a huge fan of closed storage—it can hide a multitude of sins,” she notes.
Remember that less is more
Of all the rooms in a home, “buyers are definitely craziest over kitchens and bathrooms,” say Katie Hilbert and Kari George, owners of the Home Sanctuary, a home organizing, styling, and staging company in Louisville, Ky.
“To help showcase yours, remember less is more. Clear the counters of most items, and let the buyers see clean, open counters instead of every small appliance you own.”
They also suggest removing magnets, artwork, and other clutter from the refrigerator.
“Excessive beauty products, toothbrushes, plungers, and toilet brushes do not need to be on display. When in doubt, clear it out,” they say.
Likewise, put away excessive personal items, especially pictures and picture frames.
“You want the potential buyer to see your space and be able to imagine themselves living there—not wondering where you went on vacation last summer,” say Hilbert and George. “Less is always more.”
We all own personal items that don’t really have a designated spot within our home.
“Items like phones, keys, change, pens, phone cords, lip balm, etc., all end up scattered on tables and counters,” Quinn says.
Her simple solution? Try corralling all these items in one place: a chic tray.
“A small tray on your entry table, bath or kitchen countertop, and bedside table not only make your home look tidier but also make these items much easier to find when they have a specific home.”
Avoid spreading things out
You might think that filling every bit of surface space with decor is the best way to present a certain spot, whether it’s a countertop or a mantle. But Stewart recommends doing the opposite.
“Don’t spread items out across a surface; bunch whatever is next to each other together,” he says. “For instance, if you have a desk and all the papers, picture frames, boxes, etc., are evenly spread across the surface, it may look organized, but it’s really still just a mess in progress.”
For a better look, make small clusters of the items. Group the picture frames, box, and pencil cup together on one end of the desk; on the other, place the stacks of paper close together.
“The end result will have more of the desktop showing through, and the new clusters of items will look well thought-out,” Stewart says.
We tend to hang onto things because we feel like we might need them later, but most of the time these items just pile up and take up valuable storage space, Quinn explains.
“Unless you’re running a restaurant out of your home, it’s unlikely that you need four spatulas. When it’s hard to find a place for your second food processor, it ends up as another unsightly item on the countertop.”
Look at your possessions with a critical eye, and pare down and donate what you don’t need.