Getting Ready for the Big Move

Dear Ms. Chaos,

I just found out from my husband that we are being transferred to Houston.  Please help!!  We have been living in this home for over ten years and have accumulated way too much stuff.  I need to have this house ready to put on the market in a month.  Where should I start?

Anxiety ridden and Terribly Overwhelmed,

Ms. Thibodeaux


Dear Ms. Thibodeaux,

Congratulations on your upcoming move to Houston.  It’s a very nice city with lots to do and plenty of Cajun people so you will fit right in!  Also, spring is the perfect time to put your home on the market as families will be planning where they want to live come the end of the school year.

I recently helped a friend get her house ready for the Houston real estate market and thought perhaps I should share some of the tips we discussed.

1. Fix anything that is broken and complete unfinished home projects.

Prospective buyers are getting a sense of how much care and maintenance you have put into your home.  Neglected maintenance and unfinished projects that are easily spotted will leave them asking what else needs tending.  

2.  Keep everything neutral to appeal to more buyers. 

You want your home to appeal to the largest number of people.  If time allows, consider a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color but for heaven’s sake, let that paint dry before shutting any doors.  I just looked at a potential rental house that was freshly painted and several cabinets could not be opened because they were painted shut!  Needless to say, we passed on that house.  

3.  Remove any holiday décor before the real estate photos are taken!!!

Holiday décor is a huge part of Southern homes and I am NOT advocating for you to stop decorating while your house is on the market. (Well, maybe I kind of am…LOL).  We want your house to sell and sell fast but in the event it does not, you DO NOT want your Mardi Gras or Easter decorations in the real estate photos being shown in August.  That will give prospective buyers the idea you have a lot of room for negotiation in the selling price.  

4.  Remove personal collections and photos.

This is widely spread advice that I cautiously buy into because you want your house to have a soul and if you strip all indication of life from the house you are in essence stripping its soul away and oftentimes that is what sells the house.  However, that being said…

5.  Declutter.

I cannot stress this last point enough!!!!!!!

We have bought and sold many homes and our homes sell fast.  I am not boasting it’s simply a fact that I pray I have not jinxed myself in exposing.  Our homes have oftentimes sold for asking price and they have all sold FAST.  We have sold a house with a teal wall and personal pictures.  We have sold houses with things that needed fixing on the inspection report.  What we have NEVER done is sold a cluttered home!

I feel the number one thing you can do to sell your home is to declutter it.  Buying a house is very different from taking a home tour.  It requires diving into the bones of a home.  How many closets are there?  How big are the closets?  Does the home have a pantry?  If not, are there enough cabinets to make up for the lack of pantry or can you add a shelving unit to suffice as a food pantry?  How many shelves do the cabinets have and are they adjustable?  Does the house have a coat closet and a linen closet?  Buying a house requires investigating the bones of the house.  Potential buyers will be confirming whether your home will work for their needs.  

Potential buyers will be looking at and in your private spaces…your cabinets, closets, garages, storage buildings, attics…and for many people these are the areas that have experienced the greatest neglect over the years.    

Let’s face it family life gets really busy and sometimes all we can do is stuff our stuff into a drawer, closet, garage, or attic to get to the next thing.  

You need to go through these areas.  Purge anything you do not plan to keep.  Quite simply stated, there is no sense in paying to move things you don’t need or use.  

That being said, you may not wish to get rid of some of your belongings that are at the moment translating as clutter as you may be planning to purchase a larger home.  For this reason, you may want to consider temporarily renting an offsite climate-controlled storage unit.  

For our last move, I took all of our holiday decorations and moved them to an offsite storage unit.  This freed up space in our attic and garage and was an easy decluttering move.  I also packed and moved to said storage unit our table linens, many of the bed linens in our linen closet and just about anything else we were not using on a daily basis.  I moved anything that did not add to the design appeal of our home.  I put my numerous scrapbooks into plastic bins and moved those to the storage unit along with scrapbooking tools and supplies.  I certainly would not be scrapbooking in the middle of showing our home. 

Basically, anything you will not be using and anything that contributes to the look of clutter should be moved.  If you have a spot in your home for these items and they do not look like clutter then by all means keep your stuff in that spot.  What you are trying to avoid is the avalanche when someone opens a closet or cabinet door.  I was recently searching for a home and was looking at a very beautiful home…beautiful on the surface.  I opened an upstairs closet and almost suffered injury from a potential avalanche.  Needless to say, I did not open another closet or cabinet and I did not buy that house!

I have found developing a plan and going room by room is the best way to get to all of my spaces in an efficient manner.  Get ready, this is a process and it will get messy before it gets better.  

I imagine I am the buyer as I go through each area. 

 What do I love about this home?

Why would I buy this home?

Then I try to think of ways to showcase what prompted us to buy our home.  As I finish cleaning, decluttering, and staging each room, I take a moment to snap a few photos and I study those photos.  Similar views will be the first impression a prospective buyer will have of your home.  Oftentimes, “less is more” is a good mantra when preparing your home for the market.

Finally, sit down with your family once your home is ready for the real estate market.  Explain the importance of your move and the difficulty of living in a home that is for sale.  Express the need to minimize the length of this process by getting the house sold sooner rather than later so you can all get back to normal.  It is critical to get everyone on board with this notion.  


Ms. Thibodeaux, I wish you the best of luck with your move.  Please let us know if we can help with the decluttering phase in Baton Rouge or the unpacking in  Houston.  


Warmest regards,

Lisa Clement

Chaos Organizing



Pro Tips:  

  • Get a few empty laundry baskets.  When you get those last minute calls, simply throw all the clutter into these baskets and put them in your car.

  • Keep extra  trash bags on hand so you can empty all of the trash cans before buyers arrive.  Put the trash out.

  • Take family members and pets with you when you leave and by ALL means LEAVE.  Nothing is worse than trying to view a home when the homeowner is present.

  • Be game ready at all times!!

Need more tips or help in preparing for the big move?

Give us a call!