Whether you’re staging your home to sell, or just freshening up for yourself, here’s how to do it for free in 6 easy steps!
When I’m not working on my own house or one of our flip houses, you can often find me helping other people get their houses ready to sell. One thing I’ve learned along the way is it’s ALWAYS worth it to stage your home before putting it up for sale.
But if you don’t want to hire a stager, you can totally do this yourself with these minimal home staging tips.
What is home staging and why do I need it?
If you are trying to sell your house, you need to stage it, which basically means decluttering, moving furniture, and tweaking a few things to appeal to buyers. The good news is you don’t have to spend a lot of money on professional staging, if you have your own furniture still in the home.
If you aren’t selling, it can still be helpful (and fun) to re-stage your house every now and then, just to remind yourself why you love it, and make it work better for you.
Staging basically covers all the fun parts of redecorating, without any of the hard parts of remodeling. We won’t be painting or tiling or demolishing anything today (much to my dismay). We’ll just be working on the pieces of your home that you can easily move and change without calling in a plumber or electrician.
What is minimal home staging?
No, it’s not bringing in minimalist style furnishings to stage your house, or getting rid of everything you own and taking a vow of poverty. It just means doing the bare minimum work, for the maximum payoff.
Depending on the state of your local real estate market, you may not need to go all-out to stage your home to sell. Right now, I personally live in a ridiculous seller’s market. That just means there are less houses for sale than there are buyers, which means it’s easier to sell a house if it’s priced correctly.
Even in a seller’s market, home staging is important for showing buyers the full potential of the home and how it might be functional for their family. However, when houses are selling easily, you can get away with less staging, and that’s what I call minimal home staging.
I’ll show you my insider secrets of how to do it, without buying a single piece of furniture or decoration.
6 Secrets to Minimal Staging
Here they are briefly in a quick list form:
- Clean like your mother-in-law is coming for a visit
- Let there be light!
- Open the windows, or at least the blinds
- Create floor space
- Strip away “personal”ity
- Add some neutral style back in
Ok, I know I promised you simple secrets. The secrets are simple, but the work to get there might take a little bit of time and manual labor. Here’s what each step involves:
Clean Like Your Mother-in-Law is Coming
First, let me state for the record that neither my mother-in-law nor my own mother are overbearing when it comes to how I manage my own home, thankfully. They are both wonderfully gracious non-judgmental women who I’m always happy to see at my front door.
But imagine that yours isn’t, when you’re staging your house to sell.
Declutter and clean like your life depends on it. Do all the cleaning you would normally do, and then look for creative ways to clean even more. You can make this easier on yourself if you do a serious de-cluttering first. (Less stuff means less to dust and clean around.)
I covered whole house cleaning in this post, but here are a few hot spots to aim for:
- Fresh towels in the bathrooms (check the hand towels often)
- Degreased kitchen countertops and kitchen gadgets (that toaster shouldn’t have visible crumbs, nor the coffeemaker stains)
- Washed windows with no water spots
- Swept entryways and patios
- Dog crates and/or kitty litter put away
- Everything wiped down in the kitchen and bathrooms before you leave every day
Let There be Light!
Good lighting is probably the most important subliminal message you can send to prospective buyers. (And even if you’re not selling, it’s the best way to give yourself a mood boost.)
Adding a floor lamp or table lamp in seating areas and near beds makes the space feel cozier. Ceiling lights are fine, and helpful for adding light, but they don’t always add ambience and sometimes can even feel oppressive.
Try to add diffused lighting at eye level in the main areas throughout your home. (Diffused lighting means covered by a shade, like a lamp.) This will make it feel more intimate and warm, as well as brightening up dark corners.
When you leave the house for a buyer to come in and tour it, turn on all the lights, even in the daytime. Even a room with ample natural light can benefit from decorative lighting.
For more lighting tips, check out this post on kitchen lighting options.
Uncover the Windows
This one is closely related to the lighting secret above. Never underestimate the power of natural light, and try to get as much of it as possible in your home. People might choose to tour your home based on its functionality, but they’ll fall in love with it over the feeling they get once they set foot inside.
We spend a lot of time with our windows covered for privacy, which makes sense, but when staging your home for buyers, forget about privacy and throw open those shades or blinds.
Unless you have a terrible eyesore right out the window, get the window coverings out of the way to let that sunshine in. (Our last flip house had a neighbor next door with a giant derelict red and blue play fort right outside the living room window. We made an exception for that window.)
The combination of sunny natural light, and cozy indoor light can be a strong pull for people who are looking for a bright and open space for their family.
And if you’re not selling but just staging for your own enjoyment, consider opening your blinds in the morning to let that light in. It’s good for the soul!
Create Floor Space
No matter how roomy or how “cozy” your house is, you can create the illusion of more space by grouping furniture together to open up more floor space.
(Of course you can help yourself here too by decluttering and getting rid of unnecessary furniture pieces.)
When we live in a space for a while, we tend to spread out into every nook and cranny of that space. Your living room may have started with a couch and a chair, but now it also has an extra couch, a few end tables, a piano, a bookshelf, and assorted toys and beds for the dog.
Oh wait, that’s MY living room.
These items tend to fill unused space over time, spilling into the edges of the room and leaving no breathing room or empty space.
But your buyers need to see that they have room to move around and imagine their own furniture. You can help them with this by grouping your furniture closer together and opening up empty floor space around the room.
Rather than spacing items out evenly, try pulling a few together in clusters. This will make the room feel larger and more functional than couches and chairs on all the walls.
Bonus Tip: This same concept applies to your countertops in your kitchen and bathrooms. Get rid of everything but the basics, and group what’s left into small collections, rather than spreading it around.
Remove Personal Items
This is Home Staging 101, but it’s usually the hardest step for homeowners. (You can skip this one if you’re staging for yourself instead of selling.)
When a potential buyer comes into your home, they need to be able to imagine themselves living there with their family. But when they see your personal items like pictures, quotes, and even fridge magnets, it disrupts that psychological process.
So take down and store all those family photos, kids’ artwork, and framed sayings that mean so much to you. It’s hard but I promise it will help sell your house.
When you live with things a certain way for a while, you stop “seeing” them. This can make it hard to pick out the items you should remove for selling. You can help yourself with this by having a friend over to point out the items that you don’t even consider personal.
By the time you’re done, you’ll be feeling vaguely unsettled by how little your house feels like home. For some people (myself included) this can feel downright uncomfortable. This means you’re doing it right.
Add a Few Decorative Details
Now that all your personal items are gone, the house might feel a little sterile. This may not be a bad thing for staging, but it wouldn’t hurt to add a few homey touches, as long as they are style-neutral.
What is style-neutral? I have a friend who recently asked for my help in decorating and his only request was that I didn’t make his space look like “Hobby Lobby threw up” in it. That is the basic idea of style neutral – nothing too style specific.
You can achieve a neutral yet warm feeling in your home by adding:
Don’t go crazy adding decorative touches. You probably need less than you think, and remember #4 above, about creating blank space by grouping items together.
Minimal Staging, Maximum Payoff
So that’s it – the bare minimum needed to get your house quickly ready to sell without going overboard with full staging.
It comes down to: less stuff, more light and space, and super clean. If you get the basics down, and the market is moving pretty well, you should be able to sell your home quickly with minimal effort.
If you’re selling your house, you may also be searching for one. Check out my free house hunting worksheets to make that part of the process easier too!