There is an emotional component to selling any home, but selling a home you love — whether it’s the first house you bought with your spouse, a loved one’s home or even the home you grew up in — is especially tough.
And those feelings are only complicated when you need to depersonalize the home before staging it to sell. How do you remove yourself from a home that’s so full of memories?
It starts with getting into the right mindset. Here are some tips for getting into that mindset so you can give a home you’ve loved a proper staging — and goodbye.
First, Take Time to Say Goodbye
Design Sponge copy editor Kelli Kehler has a beautiful story of how she felt when she bade farewell to her family’s home after her father passed away, and her mother decided to move.
It wasn’t easy. “[The house] reverberated the sound of Dad’s favorite Van Morrison songs,” Kehler writes. “It wore the tread of visitors trickling in and out to spend time with us. It echoed the crying — it amplified the laughter. It kept bending and creasing, like a giant old sweatshirt, to be exactly what we needed when we didn’t even know what we needed.
“And it continued to wrap us in its walls, even after Dad passed away in 2011. The memories were suddenly immortalized. Our home was unconditional and selfless. A steadfast confident. A man in the storm.”
If the home you’re about to sell feels the same way to you, here are three thoughtful things you can do to honor your home’s memory before you start cleaning, depersonalizing and staging it to sell.
Take Stock of What Your Home Has Meant to You
Columnist Marni Jameson recommends taking a moment or two and acknowledge the connection you have with your home. “You don’t have to believe in auras and ghosts to understand that homes are more than sticks and bricks,” she writes.
“Feelings of grief as you let go of a home are natural because we leave a piece of ourselves in every home we’ve lived in. To fail to acknowledge that is to fail to understand the meaning of home.”
Remind Yourself Why It’s Time to Say Goodbye
Remember, you have a good reason for moving onto a new home. Don’t let grief distract you from the fact that you’re trying to move yourself into a better situation.
“Look at the flaws of what makes it not the perfect home for you,” says Daryl Cioffi, co-owner of Polaris Counseling & Consulting says. “Is it just too small for your family? Does your Great Dane need a bigger backyard? Ask yourself, ‘How can I close this chapter?’”
Keep a Souvenir of Your Home
Take a physical reminder from your old home, and find a place for it in your new one. An especially nice option is to take some seeds from any plants in your old home’s yard.
“I’ve often found myself leaving behind gorgeous plants and fruit trees that I’ve spent years nurturing,” says realtor and author Monica Rivera. “Repotting smaller plants or taking seeds from the fruit trees is a great way to say goodbye and take a little of your previous home with you. I have a loquat tree that I’ve regrown through three homes, and it is absolutely gorgeous.”
Embrace Memories Over Mementos
When decluttering the home of a recently passed family member or friend, it’s tempting to want to hold onto everything you find because of the memories those things represent.
But you don’t need to keep these things. After all, it’s the memories you will ultimately cherish.
Still, it’s as hard to part with these things as it is to part with a well-loved home. So, you must also find a way to honor the memories these things represent while still giving yourself permission to let them go.
Several years ago, Erin Rooney Doland had an excellent series at Unclutterer on what to do if you inherit a piece of real estate. In the first piece in that series, she told the story of her grandfather’s overalls, which he wore all the time — and which the family struggled to part with after he passed.
“Seeing the overalls reminded us so much of him that we couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of them,” Doland wrote. “For days, we avoided the closet.”
Finally, another member of the family had a bright idea: Get everyone to put on a pair of the overalls, head out to the corn field and take a family photo. Afterward, it was up to each person to either donate or keep the overalls.
“The overalls were no longer in the closet, and we now have treasured photographs of the family celebrating my grandfather’s life. If I had a dozen pair of quintessential overalls in my closet after my death, I would want my family to treat them in the exact same way.”
Remember To Depersonalize
A home that’s been lived in for years, maybe even generations, has so much personality in every nook that you become accustomed to these little details. As such, when you’re staging or showing the home to potential buyers, you might not even think to remove them.
Here are three commonly overlooked personal touches found in a home that can distract potential buyers from imagining themselves living in your home.
You would be surprised how often home sellers get so used to their family photos that they forget to take them down when staging their homes. But these need to be temporarily stored, especially older black and white portraits.
“Whether they are of beloved family members or simply a collectible, they can seem eerie to people and should be temporarily relocated,” the team at Farm Bureau Financial Services says. “Similar to other collectibles, they can detract the buyer’s attention from the rest of the room and the home.”
Reminders, Report Cards or Artwork on the Refrigerator
Most of us tend to put appointment reminders, doctors’ phone numbers or our children’s artwork on our refrigerator doors. As with family portraits, we get so used to looking at these things that we forget to take them down when potential buyers come by, Jen Fancher at the blog Noting Grace writes.
But make a point to take them down. Not only might they distract buyers, but things like medical appointment reminders might contain information you don’t want to share with strangers.
Any Traces of Pets
Not all buyers will be cat-friendly or dog-friendly, and seeing chew toys or litter boxes might just be a deal-breaker for some people.
Further, pet odors might cause some buyers to immediately turn around at the front door. “If you have a pet, be on odor alert,” says DC-area realtor Allison Goodhart DuShuttle. “Ask your agent or a good friend to give your home the ‘sniff test.’ Consider steam cleaning any rugs in your home. Be extra vigilant about cleaning up after your pet while your home is on the market.”