Once you’ve decluttered and deep cleaned, the final piece of the puzzle is to depersonalize. While the first two are relatively straight forward, I’ve found a lot of bad advice out there on the subject of depersonalizing. Sometimes staging advice articles will announce that you must neutralize your home in order to sell it. Spray it white! Remove all traces of your personality! Sound awful? I certainly think so.
The difference between depersonalizing and neutralizing
Imagine your favourite public spaces. Are they neutral? I suspect not. One of my favourite public spaces is the Central branch of the Kitchener Public Library, particularly the foyer, where there is a massive, pink public art mobile hanging from the ceiling. It is anything but neutral!
What makes public spaces distinct from private ones, stylistically speaking, is that they are designed for a wide audience. Anyone should feel welcome and comfortable in the library, so even though the art is not neutral, the spaces of the library all together offer a wide variety of features that address the needs and tastes of a whole community.
When your house is for sale, it becomes a semi-public space, and depersonalizing prepares it for that. Depersonalizing is a process of redesigning the elements of your home to prioritize the broad needs of a public audience rather than the personal needs of the people who currently live there.
When you do this successfully, people who come into your home will feel like there is space to imagine their own lives. In fact, every potential buyer is imaging the homes they view in terms of the life they could live there. Depersonalizing helps direct that imagining away from you and the life that you live to the viewers and their goals and their aspirations.
I have three guiding principles for depersonalizing:
Principle 1. Remove Evidence of the Everyday
When you were a kid imagining the grown-up life you would have, did you imagine dirty laundry and tooth brushing? Probably not. You don’t want viewers to come into your house and start imagining your morning routine, or that weary slog between getting home from work and getting dinner on the table. You want them to imagine the parties, the perfect reading nook they could create over there, the fun they’ll have with their kids. You do this by removing the things that remind them of the daily grind and highlighting the spacious, bright, and pleasurable aspects of your home. Things to do for this include:
When preparing your house:
- Remove most of your decorative knickknacks and mementoes. A few, arranged into a vignette can anchor a room and help tell a story.
- Reconsider furniture groupings or arrangements of your space that suit a very personal set of needs (a home office nook in a bedroom, a furniture placement that makes something you do convenient but makes walking through the house difficult)
- Paint using colours that highlight the best aspects of your home, soft colours for bright rooms, neutrals in rooms with great wood features. Even a splash of something bright or dark here and there can work. Colours that coordinate well with your home’s features and your furniture and art are going to create an overall impression of a pleasant, functioning space. Sometimes white is right for that, but sometimes it isn’t.
And while your house is on the market:
- Never leave traces of meals, wash all dishes and put them away in cupboards before showings.
- Keep laundry in a covered basket in the laundry room; put away all clean laundry immediately.
- Keep personal toiletries in covered basket or bin.
Principle 2. Minimize Distractions
It’s also important that clients not get caught up in imagining the interesting aspects of your life instead of their future. Personal items can spark conversations amongst buyers that have nothing to do with your home, and prevent them from focusing on its features. If they spend their time reminiscing about the school you both went to or the vacation spot you both love, they may not notice the details of your home. In addition to the items already listed, remove distractions by removing:
- School diplomas and degrees
- Trophies and awards
- Children’s art (even framed) and other evidence of their accomplishments or work
- Vacation photos or memorabilia
Principle 3. Protect your privacy
When we do a staging consultation, clients are often surprised when I open a cupboard or cabinet and point out that their prescription medicine is on display. These things are kept private from guests simply by shutting a door, but home buyers are not guests, and what is private in a “home” is not necessarily private in a “house on the market.” To protect your privacy:
- Pack away family photos.
- Dispose of expired medicine.
- Put prescriptions you need in an enclosed basket or box in the appropriate cupboard
- Secure personal calendars, medical and school information, and anything else you would prefer to keep private in a locked file cabinet, safe, or lockbox.
Learn more in our Fundamentals of Staging series:
Fundamentals of Staging part 3: Depersonalizing (you are here)
Have you read all of the Fundamentals of Staging and still want more? You can check out our staging tag, or Contact Lenore for a personalized staging plan that makes sure you spend your time and effort on the most effective ways to create a story for your target market, and sell your home.