I feel like I’ve been talking about moving now for about 10 years. The reality is that it was a brief mention back in April when we knew it would happen eventually and then, in early Autumn, we decided, actually, let’s do this thing. And so we’ve essentially been in ‘getting prepared’ mode for about 5 months. That sounds like a long time now that I think about it.
I thought I’d share some tips on what we’ve done so far to prepare for the move if you are considering doing the same. We have lived in this house for 7 1/2 years now but prior to this, I was an avid mover. In fact, when I counted up my moves over a 20 year time period, I realised I’d actually moved 20 times in 20 years.
Included in this was moving very short distances (across towns in the US, across counties in the UK), longer distances (from Pennsylvania to Denver, Colorado and back; from Pennsylvania to LA for 5 months and back; from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin – I didn’t return to PA after that thank god; then in the UK, from Kent to Manchester) and even longer distances (from Wisconsin to England). I like to think I got pretty good at moving house.
And while this house is definitely bigger than any previous home I’d lived in before (I was mostly a flat/apartment-dweller in previous moves) and we have a shitload more things this time around, the basic approach remains pretty similar. I thought I’d just start off this series with talking about what we did before we even put the house on the market.
Get Any Projects Left Remaining Ticked Off the List
Before you even decide to put your house on the market, if you have unfinished rooms or spaces that need a lot of work you need to get those jobs done. It was like a fire had been lit underneath us knowing we had a very specific date in mind to put the house up for sale and we knew that everything needed to be done and dusted (or, perhaps not dusty at all) when we finally had the estate agents around to value our property. We didn’t want buyers to be put off buying the home due to the state of our hallway which had never been touched in the years we’d lived here and the carpet in the bedroom was stained and horrible and had to go.
Over the course of a month or so, the carpet in the bedroom was ripped out and we finished the flooring to match the rest of the house. In the hallway, the carpet on the stairs was replaced, the flooring sanded, stained and finished and the whole space got a bit of an inexpensive makeover.
But there were other small things we tackled as well like oiling the squeaky door in the dining room and replacing the pesky spotlight in the bathroom that had blown out but we’d not got around to replacing. It’s these little things that you may no longer notice but I can promise that buyers will. Small jobs may seem trivial and a waste of time (“surely someone isn’t going to not buy my home just because of a blown lightbulb!”) but it leaves the impression that your home hasn’t been cared for (even if it has). If you neglect the little things, your buyer may understandably ask, “does that mean you also neglect the big things?” Don’t give them any reason to question how much you’ve really cared for your home.
Clear the Clutter
I’ve been going through rooms and clearing them out systematically now for months. Each problem room and area has been tackled so far and the sooner you can start this process the better. I created three piles in every space I was working in: one to keep, one for the skip, one for charity/to give away. Obviously, you might want to consider a fourth pile: one to sell. I didn’t really have anything of high value that I wasn’t keeping so I didn’t bother with that one!
How to decide what goes into each pile or whether to keep it? While I can be pretty ruthless about editing, it can be a struggle at times to let go of items. I actually published this previously over on Oak Furniture Land’s blog but I thought it bared repeating here. I would recommend asking yourself 4 questions before deciding what to keep and what to get rid of:
Is it useful?
Of course, you’ll probably want to keep those items you use on an everyday basis. But what about things like that old sandwich maker that’s been gathering dust at the top of the kitchen cupboards? That can go. But the high-end food mixer you spent £500 on 2 years ago that’s only being used every couple of months may be another story. So, keep in mind how much you’ve used something and further, how much it would cost to replace. The worn-out bathmat that’s seen better days may be useful but may be more bother to take it with you. For low value but practical items that have seen better days, it may make more sense to just replace it once you move.
Is it valuable?
While the collection of original 1980’s Star Wars Lego figures may not be particularly useful, they might just be worth some money in the future. The same goes for the things like original artwork or antiques which increase in value over time. If you still like the item and you still wish to have it than carefully packaging these up for your next home might be a good idea. On the other hand, if you are hanging on to the old silver platter that Aunt Josephine gave you for your wedding 15 years ago that’s never been used (and you don’t particularly like), then perhaps it’s time to sell it on and use the money to fund your move.
Rather embarrassingly, I insisted on hauling my huge collection of nail polishes with me when I moved from the US to the UK. Seriously – what was I thinking?! These low-value items took up valuable space and I ended up replacing them in time as my tastes changed anyway. So, bear in mind the longevity of the items and whether they are actually worth the space they’re taking up, no matter how small.
Is it beautiful?
There are plenty of ways to add personality to your new home and decorative items are a great way to do that. So, if you have some items around – perhaps a gorgeous vase or decorative frames that you still cast your eyes over and bring you joy, there’s no reason not to take these with you.
You may find you are holding on to things, however, that you no longer really love or no longer fit in with your style. If the item is still in good shape but is not worth a particularly large amount, then consider a charitable donation. Consider as well selling the items online – either in local Facebook groups, online auction sites or online selling websites to make some extra cash.
Is it loved?
And finally, those sparkly vintage dresses your mum gave you from when she was young may not be something you wear now but probably hold sentimental value. Perhaps you are a bibliophile and your books bring you great joy. There is no reason to rid yourself of your large collection (although an edit may be in order if there are books you didn’t like or never read).
If something has no real practical use but simply brings you happiness by owning it and would be difficult to replace, then a ruthless clutter may not be the answer here as you may only regret getting rid of it.
Give the Whole House (including any outside areas) a Good Clean
This should be a given but after viewing a few properties when we were searching for our new home, it may be a memo that was missed by some. Your home will always look best when it’s clean and with all that clutter gone, it really does make it easier to set an afternoon aside the whole place a clean from top to bottom without tripping over a lot of extraneous stuff.
If you are struggling, then consider hiring a cleaning company which can do deep clean for a set price. While it may seem a waste of time or money, it could mean the difference between getting your asking price and your house languishing on the market for ages. Time is money, people!
We also spent some time cleaning and clearing up outside. This meant cleaning and washing down the front tiles, cleaning the door and shining up the hardware and trimming and clearing any leaves in the front patio. In the back garden, we simply gave everything a good tidy up. As it was November, the garden had mostly been packed away but we still had a few potted plants about, the deck and pergola areas were swept and the tables were cleaned and everything was nice and tidy.
Before Viewings Prep
We were incredibly lucky to have sold in less than a week. I was, of course, hoping we’d sell quickly (Manchester’s housing market is a bit crazy at the moment) but we did have a number of viewings and I got into a routine to prepare because despite the house being clean, life just gets in the way. It would probably take me about half an hour to get the house ready but essentially my routine consisted of the following:
As soon as I’d start cleaning, I’d light some nice-smelling candles in every room (including the hallway/entrance and bathroom) so they were burning as I was working away. I’d do a huge tidy up, returning items where they belonged, the bed would be made, the cushions on the sofa were plumped and remotes stashed away, I’d remove the throw on the sofa that we use because of the dog (seen above!), I’d do any dishes that were in the sink, dry them and put them away. I would normally do a very quick vacuum as well just to pick up any pet hair that may be lingering! The bathroom would get a quick wipe down, all the dog toys and pet beds were put away, one of the cats’ litter trays and their food and water bowls would be stashed in the shed and I’d change the litter on the remaining (covered) tray.
A few minutes before they arrived, I’d blow out the candles and put the dog on the lead and take him for a walk so I (and the dog) were out of the house when the estate agent arrived.
The Advice We Ignored
Now there was some pieces of advice that I had read that I kind of ignored. I’m not saying that you should ignore it, I just found that it really didn’t matter and our house sold quickly, maybe despite these things!
To be honest, we don’t have twenty pictures of ourselves all over our walls. We don’t have children so there are no family holiday shots or a huge canvas with everyone in matching tees and jeans. If you do have these things, then yes, I can totally understand taking them down whilst the house is on the market. I have one picture in my dressing room on the shelves of Wayne and me on holiday and to be honest, I completely forgot about it. Didn’t seem to make any difference!
Clearly, my house reflects my personality in the way it is decorated which leads us nicely to the next bit of advice that I also ignored…
Again, this is probably good advice but personally, I wasn’t about to start removing bold wallpaper or repainting rooms just to neutralise them. My style may be pretty bold but it’s well-curated and I don’t have anything out on display that I don’t personally love. When our estate agent originally viewed the house, he fell in love with it (one of the reasons I went with them!) and assured me there was no need to redecorate. I think if you are pretty confident in your style and you know how to execute your style well, then buyers will see a home that stands out for all the right reasons.
The number of homes we viewed or looked at on Rightmove which were all in very bland neutrals with brown sofas and beige carpets would make your head spin but I’ll be honest, they all started to look the same after a while! The house we ended up buying sports a bold colour in the living room and it was decorated tastefully – it certainly wasn’t bland and it stuck out in my mind because it was so different!
Show off rooms as they are meant to be used
Lastly, our home is a three-bedroom property but only one bedroom was being used as a bedroom – the master. The other two rooms are my office and my dressing room. At the beginning, I really worried about this because everyone tells you to that rooms should be shown off as they are meant to be used. If it’s a bedroom, it should have a bed in it! But well, I need my office to work out of and I don’t have the space to transfer all the stuff in my dressing room into different rooms. So we had to just ignore that bit of advice. What I did do was give my office (the 2nd largest bedroom) a good clear out so that it was a lovely open space with lots of room instead of a cluttered mess. I also made sure the dressing room was all well organised, surfaces were clear and the space was shown off at it’s best.
The fact the other rooms weren’t shown off as bedrooms didn’t seem to affect anything. In fact, we viewed plenty of properties were the homeowners were using upstairs rooms as storage and offices. It was pretty clear they were bedrooms so the idea that people just are completely unable to picture a room being used as a bedroom if it doesn’t have a bed is a little silly. As long as the room isn’t packed to the rafters with stuff and it’s easy enough to walk in and have a good look around, then how big of a deal is it, really?
So those are just some of the ways we prepped to put our home on the market and what advice we ignored for various reasons. Since we’ve agreed a buyer on our house and we’ve found a house we will be moving into, we’ve done even more to prepare for the move including a massive clearout of our ‘problem areas’ – the shed, the downstairs storage area and the loft! I’ll share more in an upcoming post so stay tuned for that!
Your turn now: What things have you done to prepare for a move? How do you decide what stays and what goes when de-cluttering? Have you ever ignored any advice you heard?