In The Face of Clutter: A Real Estate Perspective

Tuesday Nov 01st, 2016


As a Real Estate Professional, my clients include those who want to up-size and down-size for a variety of reasons. Anyone going through the process of preparing a home for sale knows there usually is one universal task they must contend with: the need to de-clutter. In some cases that task can be relatively simple, while in others it can seem monumental – or even insurmountable.

Any Real Estate Professional  will advise you that prospective buyers are distracted by cluttered walls and surfaces, put off by stuffed, disorganized closets, and disconcerted by rooms with too much furniture as it tends to make space look small and cramped. If you are planning to sell your house or that of a loved one, ask your REALTOR® for assistance in preparing the home for sale. A simple, clean, efficient home holds tremendous appeal for a potential buyer, as it creates a more spacious and welcoming environment.

The first step in the process is to determine the support and resources you will need to successfully accomplish this task. Carefully analyze the time and effort required – and from there, determine whether this is a task that the family can manage alone, or if this is something you will require outside resources to accomplish. So where do you start?

Your Own Home


Everyone accumulates excess in their home. Over the years, rooms gradually become filled with extra furniture, dishes, books, garden equipment and paperwork that you don't use and barely notice. As you look around, you realize that you no longer need many of the things that are taking up space in closets, cupboards, spare bedrooms, basements and garages.


Regardless of whether or not you're planning to move, it's always a good idea to make a fresh start in a simplified environment. Lighten up. Reclaim your closets and cupboards! Find satisfaction in donating your unused and unwanted household goods to a charitable organization. If you are planning to sell, a Real Estate Professional can help you sort out what you need to keep, and help you put a system in place to organize the remaining items in your home. When you see the end result, you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. 

A Relative's Home

The Transitioning Process

Based on demographics and statistics, many adults in the Baby Boomer generation are now either looking after their aging parents, or facing the emotional and physical task of transitioning their parents from a long-time family home into smaller quarters or an assisted-living facility. For many families, a parent transition can be an overwhelming, emotionally draining, and sometimes physically challenging ordeal. Transitioning requires family members to provide both emotional and physical support for their elderly relative[s]. This includes ensuring that their home and the possessions they've collected over the years are handled with respect. Homeowners of any age and circumstance often find the process of transition overwhelming. Not only does this involve managing a relocation, but often includes preparing the home for sale, as well. A Real Estate Professional with a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation is trained to walk families through every step of this process, lending ears, hearts and hands to assist in a successful transition. Their professional expertise includes knowing and understanding the symptoms and behaviours associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease and how this can change or complicate the task at hand.

Estate Sales

Sometimes a family is faced with the overwhelming responsibility of looking after the estate following the passing of a loved one. Preparing a home for sale at this time can be very emotional. Family rifts can occur about the simplest of decisions, including how to divide up and de-clutter personal items from the home. Your Real Estate Professional can assist you in managing the work required, and can provide you with the resources you need to make this huge emotional task less stressful and more productive, all while fulfilling the goals of the family estate.


Depending on the situation, most homeowners or their family members must eventually face the de-cluttering process in order to prepare a home for sale. Here are some of the most common stumbling blocks to letting go:

  • I may need that some day
  • This must be worth something
  • It reminds me of that (person, place, event) that meant so much to me
  • I’m saving it for my children

As an outside resource, your Real Estate Professional can assist you in making these difficult choices, keeping you focused on practical issues while ensuring that you or your relative continues to be surrounded by the items that mean the most to you and them.

Packing during the de-cluttering process will save you time, money and stress for the eventual move. As you are de-cluttering, sort and pack non-essential items, determine which boxes will go to the new home, which ones will go to family members or friends, and which have been earmarked for charitable organizations or will be sent to the curb for disposal.

Overwhelming Clutter:

Compulsive Hoarding Shhhh….not one wants to talk about this issue. But trust me – in my experience, it truly does exist. This is not about passing judgement or analyzing how it got to the way it is – it about being keenly aware that hoarding is not just about the “stuff”. With the increasing popularity of the TV show, Hoarders, more and more people are becoming educated about the reality of hoarding. Compulsive hoarding is the excessive acquisition of possessions (and failure to use or discard them), even if the items are worthless, hazardous or unsanitary. Compulsive hoarding impairs mobility and interferes with basic, day-to-day activities such as cooking, cleaning, showering and sleeping. A chronically-disorganized environment is never healthy, but can be particularly dangerous for seniors or people with mobility issues. Unlike what you see on television, my personal experience has taught me that a compulsive hoarder cannot be forced to let go of his or her belongings through the invasion of a team during an intense period of time. It usually takes some sort of crisis (such as an eviction, or a health, safety, fire or child custody issue) to motivate the hoarder to ask for help. But even with a strong incentive, hoarders still struggle with the pain of letting go, and if pushed too quickly, can resist and relapse. There is clearly an emotional component to this disorder that requires support and attention beyond getting rid of the clutter.

How a Real Estate Professional Can Help

Often it is not the hoarder who typically asks for help, but rather the family members involved. A Real Estate Professional can act as a support and a resource to help the family create a more manageable living environment. If there is a deadline imposed by an outside service (such as the health department or a town by-law authority), your Real Estate Professional should be able to work equitably with all parties to achieve a reasonable resolution within the specified time frame. Starting is always the most difficult part of the process. On top of preparing the property for sale, it is also important to ensure there is a mutual understanding of the goals so that all parties can develop a reasonable plan to achieve those goals. The process can be roller coaster ride of emotions that not everyone, including the family members involved, can always fully understand and accept. While it's never perfect and doesn't always go according to schedule, with patience and encouragement, progress can be made.

In Closing: The Simpler, the Better

As you can see, there are a number of different issues that come into play when preparing a home for sale. Regardless of the situation, the key thing to remember is that a simplified, well organised home will stand out from the other properties on the market, which increases the chances of connecting with the right buyer in a short period of time. While the work required to achieve this may seem overwhelming, working with your Real Estate Professional can help you accelerate the schedule and help you get the property ready for market as quickly as possible.


Your Real Estate Professional may be able to provide you with resources and guidance in helping you prepare to a home for sale. If not, call me to see if I can help you. Pending your situation, you may consider hiring services of professionals who can help with the following:

• Simplifying closets, cupboards, basement storage rooms, garages • Obtaining competitive quotes for moving • De-cluttering main rooms, walls and surfaces • Reserving freight elevators • Holding one-on-one sorting sessions to distribute unwanted household contents • Designing organizational systems for paperwork, bill payment and daily needs • Contacting auction houses, charity organizations & cartage companies • Supervising the move and unpacking • Changing accounts for telephone, cable, utilities, and the Internet • Placement and organization of the new space • Arranging waste removal • Cleaning the home prior to closing • Taking inventory of paperwork and other important documents • Creating a “memories book” of treasured items • Booking a storage facility • Packing contents • Providing Garage Sale signs • Providing guidance on Government Programs and Support Groups

For more information on how a Real Estate Professional can help you, call Denise Dilbey, Broker for a free consultation. 

Denise Dilbey, Broker

Royal LePage Meadowtowne Realty, Brokerage Independently owned and operated.

Proud Member of the Brampton Real Estate Board, Oakville Milton Real Estate Board, Guelph and District Association of REALTORS®, National Association of REALTORS® NAR, Canadian Real Estate Association CREA and Ontario Real Estate Association OREA

Direct: 416-919-9802


Serving Town, Country and Farm Sellers and Buyers


* Seniors Real Estate Specialist, NAR  

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