What’s the Difference Between Home Staging and Home Organizing?

While organizing your home before listing it for sale is simple, it may not be easy, especially for those who have lived in one place a long time. There is a difference between home staging and home organizing. Organizing is what you do before staging. Staging is making your home appealing to buyers through furniture placement, color, lighting, and decor. Both organizing and staging together are what create the best results.

What's the Difference Between Home Staging and Home Organizing?

What’s the Difference Between Home Staging and Home Organizing?

Organizing is what you do BEFORE you stage your home. They are different activities. Organizing reduces and properly places your possessions. Staging leverages trends and furnishings to create a model home that your buyers respond to emotionally. Cleaning is yet a different activity; cleaning is removing dirt from surfaces. Do that after organizing and before staging.

Questions to Ask When Organizing Before a Move

Don’t just ask yourself, “Do I want or need it?” Your brain has ways to trick you into saying yes when you really mean no. Instead, ask yourself DO YOU WANT TO PAY SOMEONE to organize, pack, move, and unpack this on the other end of your move? Further, do you have the time, energy, and money to find space for, clean, dust, re-arrange, and ultimately dispose of this thing down the road?

There is a cost to owning things…even if you got it for free. I hang a sign for my clients that says, “Do you want to pay to move this?” That usually keeps them very much on track with their downsizing/pre-move efforts.

How to Organize Quickly Before a Move

  • Organize one space or room at a time.
  • Group things together first; make keep/toss decisions when you have similar things together.
  • Set yourself up with 5 important boxes before you start organizing: Toss/Trash, Donate, Recycle, Shred, and Elsewhere. The elsewhere bin keeps you from getting distracted, as you organize in one space. You won’t leave that space to put things away elsewhere until the end of your project. This is a critical part of the SORT and Succeed system for organizing efficiently.
  • Don’t focus on what you are giving up; focus on your goals instead, and the joy that will come from reaching your goals. Our brains feel losses twice as much as we feel gains, so the pressure to purge can physically hurt unless you are really focused on getting to your goals.
  • Organize with a buddy, either a non-judgmental friend or a professional organizer (like my company). You’ll get better results in less time, and you won’t be exhausted or sick at the end.


Advice You Won’t Hear Anywhere Else About Organizing Before a Move

    • You probably don’t have to buy anything new to stage your home, but you do have to pay attention to what buyers want in a home today, the trends they are responding to, and what features are your home today. Market your house, not your stuff. Put the home’s features front and center, like the fireplace, spacious kitchen, closets, great outdoor view, or whatever else makes your home special. Make sure the home’s features are the focal point in each room, not your stuff.


    • People pay for square footage, so maximize visual space on the floor, which means clearing the floors throughout the home and even in the closet. Get furniture up off the floor by featuring leggy furniture, properly placed.(“Leggy” furniture doesn’t sit on the floor, and doesn’t have upholstery near the floor.) If possible, ensure buyers can walk all the way around furniture, which means pulling furniture away from the walls. The further the eye can travel on a floor without “bumping into” your stuff, the larger a home will feel. Bonus points if you can clear spaces directly in front of large windows and sliding glass doors, as the eye will “travel” through a room and right out into the (bonus) outdoor space. Everyday accessories like small tables, magazine racks, storage trunks, and nick knacks work against you in home staging, and you might find they don’t really work for the way you want to live in your next home, either.


    • It can take a year or more to get organized to move. While a professional team can help you organize and stage in less than a month (and sometimes even in less time than that), it’s usually just too much stress for homeowners to handle a big organizing effort and all the other details that you need to handle for a move. Give yourself enough runway, you’ll be thrilled with the results, and you get to enjoy a refreshed home, too.


    • Don’t just trash everything. Give yourself enough time to ethically declutter, which means sending useful items to donation or selling them, and only sending real trash to the landfill. This advice on decluttering during a pandemic applies all the time.


    • Your decluttering goal should be to leave your house on moving day with no extra trash at the curb. If you can do that, you are well-prepared, and won’t likely end up with clutter in your new home, either.



This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. S & S Cabinets & Closets

    You’ve shared some excellent tips here. It can be so overwhelming to get ready to move, with all of the organizing, decluttering, staging. Good insight.

  2. Nancy C Keegan

    This is very helpful as I prepare to move and I don’t even have to deal with the staging part as I rent the apartment where I currently live. I’ve written down the quote to ask myself if I want to pay someone to pack, move, etc!
    I do have a question. I have a dining room set that I inherited from my parents. I love it. But the six chairs are in varying stages of disrepair, from slightly loose to one that is in two pieces. I thought that I might have them repaired but it hasn’t happened in nearly 20 years. So, I am ready to get rid of them. Someone may want to take up the challenge, so I’ve tried twice to sign up for one of these give-away groups on facebook and can’t manage to join. Can finished wood be used in backyard firepits – so I could offer it to friends for that? At what point do I say “landfill be d*#@med,” “my time and energy is valuable” and just take them to the dump? I know you often talk about the most damage being done at the time an item is made…

    1. Darla

      Nancy, you and so many other people have the same question. Unfortunately, wood that has been treated with paint or stain should never be burned indoors, and shouldn’t be burned in a backyard fire-pit, either. The same reason that you haven’t fixed those chairs (no time, too much effort, not your best skill) is the same reason you haven’t found a taker. If you truly want to avoid the landfill, it’s up to you to repair and enjoy them. There isn’t some “Island of Misfit Toys” where those things can go. Wood chairs can be repaired. If repair is not in your future and you are moving, then the trash heap might, in fact, be the best option for you right now. You actually make that same decision over and over each week with smaller things. This one feels different because it’s a large set and you’ve had it a while. Remember that the brain plays tricks on you, and feels that loss more keenly than the sense of relief you’ll have when it’s gone, especially if you are moving to a smaller place.

      You mention that you haven’t yet tried to give it away, so I’d give that another shot on the Buy Nothing groups, NextDoor, CraigsList Free, and Facebook Marketplace as a free listing. You may find someone who wants the table and chairs that are not yet broken. Let me know how it goes.

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