Sep 22, 2017 by - Sarah Chatel

Realtors Selling Their Own Home or Downsizing: Not for the Faint of Heart

Someone told me once that Realtors should sell their home every five years just to stay empathetic to what our clients go through. I would add that moving every five years keeps you from accumulating too much stuff, too, or so it goes in theory! 

Two years ago, I got a hair-brained idea that my husband, Peter, and I should downsize. At the time, I was 58 and he was 59, so in our, then, understanding of what happens when you go over the 60-year mark, I thought downsizing was the next right step in our journey. What was I thinking? Momentary loss of sanity in hindsight. Below are some tips and links to use if you (or a client!) are going through a down-sizing journey. 

Closets and Storage

The process began going through one closet at a time, sorting, organizing and preparing our home to sell. The label maker came out and I organized and labeled the sheets, flat vs. fitted, pillow cases and assorted bedding. My goal was to have my closets look like the boutique linen shop, where I worked one summer. Here is a link to HGTV’s suggestions on linen closet organization:

My husband saw a side of me that he hadn’t seen before. My latent OCD tendencies had been unleashed! He traveled internationally for a Fortune 100 company at the time so he could escape for two weeks a month, which saved his sanity and, I joke, probably our marriage. 


Next came the kitchen. One drawer at a time. Because we were married later in life we had duplicates of most things. To combat this disorder, I brought out card tables to sort things. This proved very helpful. Measuring cups and spoons where one or more of the set had been lost along the way, coffee pots, associated mismatched mugs all found their way to garage sales and what we didn’t sell went to Goodwill. It was cathartic.

Photos, Art and Books

Family photos were the next to go. Boxed and labeled and taken to storage along with the other assorted items we wanted to take with us to our new home. We didn’t have time to organize them the way we ultimately wanted so they went into a box to be dealt with when we got to our new location. Here are some ideas from Forbes magazine on what to do with old photos.

Two years later, we are now sorting through the old family photos and it’s been a fun project now that we aren’t in a time crunch. 

Objects’ de Arte were paired down as well. I was staging my home like I instructed my clients to do. “Depersonalize and clear the clutter!” Now, when I say those words to my clients I say it with more empathy. Here is a step-by-step guide to start the process of decluttering your home now: 

Books were the hardest thing to eliminate. We both have a penchant for the smell and feel of a good hardback book. We had thousands, or at least it felt that way. We’d had them stacked in bookcases which looked like overstuffed library shelves. Here’s a great article from Better Homes and Gardens on making your book cases look like magazine perfect: 

Interior Touches

Painting, plus cleaning the area carpets, topped off the interior transformation. My vendors took very good care of me as I had referred them so often throughout the years. The hardwood floors got a good hand buffing with a product called Rejuvenate.


The garage was the hardest. Tools and all the related accouterments found in and around a garage tool bench had to be sorted and organized. Luckily, prior to moving into our then-home, we’d installed garage ceiling storage racks. Boxes of things could also be tucked up there. Now I recommend those to all our clients.

Yard Work

Tackling the yard, we pulled weeds and planted seasonal flowers. Generally spit polishing and shining the yard and house, which, embarrassingly, had been neglected for a year since my Real Estate business had gotten so busy. Hanging ferns from the porch rafters added just the right touch of “welcome home” to our now amazing and decluttered home. We didn’t want to spend a fortune on our curb appeal so we referred to this article in This Old House:  

The End Results

All of our hard work paid off, although it took six months of steady concentration to get the house staged and decluttered in a way that I felt, as a Realtor, would be acceptable. I held myself to a high standard, knowing that other Realtor friends would show my house. My home and the way it was presented was a reflection of my standards and way of doing business. It was under contract within 48 hours of listing and the client needed a later closing which was great for us since we didn’t have a house to move into. 

Now, we began our search for the right home, master on the main and all, which we found within days of having put our home under contract. Peter and I got to experience that feeling of a house picking the client, a loose metaphor from Harry Potter and his wand choosing, because we’d looked at over a dozen. When we walked into this English Tudor bungalow we just knew it was the next house for us to make a home.  

So, for two years now, we have lived in marital bliss in our smaller home and our basement and attic are full of furniture and collectibles which we ultimately were unable to part with because of the sentimentality. Now, at least, I rationalized, it’s all in one place rather than in multiple storage units. My daughter was home this summer from living overseas and happened into the attic. With no color in her face she came down and said, very seriously, “Don’t you dare die and leave all that stuff for me to go through!”  

Thus the process begins again. This time for our children’s sanity and legacy.  


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