When preparing your home for sale, some stagers will recommend that you completely neutralize your environment, removing all family photos, taste-specific items, collections, etc. And for a lot of home sellers, the thought of going through that process sounds terrible.

Here’s my philosophy on the issue: while it is important to create an environment where buyers can visualize their own things, no buyer wants to live in a completely artificial space – not you, the seller, and not your perspective buyers either. The trick is to get your decor to a place where it’s universally inviting, but also retains some personality. It’s a delicate balance.

Here’s a quick checklist of areas most sellers need to depersonalize, with notes on where there’s room for compromise:

  Family photos – It’s ok to keep a select few to add to the overall styling of your room. Good choices include those with more than just people… for example, a few framed vacations photos featuring beautiful landscapes, particularly if the colors coordinate well with your décor. Generally speaking, multiple-photo frames should get packed away, as should collections of mismatched frames.

 Unique artwork – Appropriately placed, unique artwork can add character and appeal. Stick with family-friendly subject matter (kids attend showings, too) and, as with the family photos, you may need to scale back on some pieces and/or move things to places where they amplify the décor.

 Collections – If they could be distracting, pack them away. The goal is to merchandise and sell the features of your house, not your stuff.

 Books – Books are great for staging, but too many can be overwhelming. Start packing most of them, and retain those that are in good condition that can be used in the overall décor. Using tasteful objects along with your books can add visual interest to built-in bookcases or occasional tables.

 Kitchen appliances – While it’s best to keep your kitchen countertops mostly clear, an appropriate display of kitchen appliances, like a colorful Kitchenaid mixer, can get buyers excited to work in your kitchen.

 Bathroom counters – These should be left free of any personal items including tissue boxes, but soaps and hand towels can stay.

 Bedside tables – It’s fine to keep a book on your bedside table, but be careful of titles that may offend, such as anything political or overly provocative.

 Window treatments – We all like our style. However, we’re not buying the house, we want to appeal to the greatest buyer pool possible. Flowery, out of date styles should be removed. It’s better to have an untreated window than one that dates your house.

 Lighting – You may love your vintage chandelier, but replacing it with an inexpensive more modern fixture may attract more buyers. And as a bonus, you can pack yours away and use it in your next place. Take a glance at your other light fixtures too – for a small investment, new fixtures can add value in a buyer’s eyes.

I can’t over emphasize this: every house, and every homeowner’s situation, is different, and those differences affect how we approach staging and showing each home.
So while the above are areas bound to come up for discussion in a staging consult, they’re not areas where I (or my recommended stagers) like to draw hard lines in the sand.
If you’re thinking of listing in the near future, but not sure where to start with your house, my recommendation is to reach out to me 4 to 8 weeks before you plan to list. That way, we can have a high-level discussion about some of these items, and you can take your time with the depersonalization process. Then, just before the house goes on the market, we’ll refine the staging, adding those final decorative touches to entice a buyer and get you moving to your next adventure!

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