S

o you're heading down the track of selling your home. But it doesn't really look like the beautifully-made up homes you see in Canadian Living (more like a version of clutter plus stuff-we-don't-know-what-to-with). Enter the staging concept - ahhh!

Decorating vs Staging

It all starts with good design. The principals of good interior design are universal but there's a big difference between decorating vs. staging. Decorating is for you personally, while staging is to attract a "new you", aka that special someone who will be the new owner of your home. When decorating your home, your focus is on how your family lives in the space, making your space more usable and tailoring it all to your taste. The result is a super personal space with all your family photos proudly-displayed. When staging your home, it's all about showing the home to attract a new owner. It's about directing traffic to your home's best assets and depersonalizing everything so potential new owners can mentally hang their family photo on your (their) walls. Most home stagers offer (after you move in) interior decorating too. It’s sort of a side shoot of the same principals after all. The purpose of decorating vs. staging is different, but good design is the same.

Don’t hide the fact that you’re a family

When you think about staging your home, you might feel the need to hide the fact that you’re a family. While depersonalizing is important because you want the buyers to see themselves living there, staging your home like your family is enjoying the space is, in most cases, a benefit. You don’t need to pretend you aren’t a family of four living in a condo, but you do need to stage like you’re an extremely well-organized family of four. As a bonus, owning the fact that you’re a family provides an easy answer to the obvious question of why you may be moving.

Plan a toy vacation

Is there such a thing as travelling light with kids? As modern parents, we all suffer from toy overload and we don’t have the space our parents did to kick us down to the unfinished basement to roller skate. The reality of staging your home as a family is you’ll need a game plan for hiding toys. Besides the classic "thinning and binning", try this. Grab a few large rubber maid storage bins that fit in the trunk of your car (or mini-van), stray toys can easily be swooped up into the storage bins, and store them in your vehicle, leaving your home "show home" ready. For larger items, excersaucers, ride-ons, and gigantic stuffies,  plan a "toy vacation". Whether that is staying in a “hotel” i.e. a storage locker or they are heading over to grandma’s, the toys can go on vacation while your home is staged and will be back once the sold sticker is up. Or they might just meet you in your new home if they are having too much fun on vacation?

The instant pot and other small appliances

The instant pot has become the new stand mixer as a countertop accessory. It doesn’t look as stylish as a colour pop mixer but it sure is practical. When your family is staging your home, "to hide or not to hide?" often becomes the question. If you can’t temporarily part with your instant pot, slow cooker, rice maker, toaster oven, Vitamix, hot water dispenser (phew, the list goes on…), you’ll need to find a place to stash them. Kitchen counter space is at a premium so when it comes to staging your home and small appliances - less is more. Try your best to stow them, but at the end of the day, I get it, our family also has an instant pot, toaster oven, air fryer, waffle maker, steamer and rice cooker.

Sorry - you can’t stage with your children’s art

Heartbreaking, I know, but you can’t stage your home with your kid's art. Unless you're Marla Olmstead’s parents or gave birth to a child prodigy that’s selling to a multinational audience, personal works of art need to come down because they are, well, too personal. The same goes for family photos.

Expectations in the bedroom

Have more than two kids sharing a bedroom or have the crib in your own room? This is one of the hardest parts of staging your home as a family. You're already not getting any sleep but we’ll have to create the 21st-century parental bedroom fantasy - that everyone sleeps in their own bed. We all have the crib set up in our master bedroom but that probably wasn’t our fantasy before we had a baby, so during the selling process, you’ll have to make the bedrooms look traditional. Toddler beds are also another point if you’re not ready to transition into a big kid bed consider staging with a full-sized bed and adding the toddler bed as a secondary. The largest issue with families buying homes is figuring out if the furniture will fit, so it’s important to stage with full-sized beds and at least a queen bed in the master.

Go ahead and hide things under the bed

The classic childhood cleaning technique of stuffing everything under the bed - monsters included - and pulling down the bed skirt, is totally okay. I can safely say I have never had an open house guest get down on their hands and knees to peer under the bed. This is the one fun thing you can get kids on board with when your family is staging. The home inspection is a whole different story, so for the open house it’s fine, but when it comes to the buyer’s home inspection day, make sure you clear out the monsters.

Remove baby gates

If at all possible take down the baby gates. Although us parents know how to navigate a baby gate, not everyone is part of this parental fold. If you have baby gates at the top of a staircase, the non-baby gate familiar will be tempted to step over the gate rather than investing the mental energy into figuring out how to open it. We would rather not have the paramedics be the final guests at your open house when someone tumbles down the stairs but we also completely respect and appreciate the need for you to keep your family safe, use your best judgment when weighing in on staging your home and the safety of your family.

The family pet

You love your pets. But other people might not love them quite as much. So while you're staging your home, pets and all evidence of pets, including food dishes, litter, brushes, leashes, pet hair and pet smells should be removed. We are not just talking about dogs and cats, it’s just as important to have hamsters and birds stay with a friend. Leaving a dog or cat in a kennel at home can come across negatively to buyers. If you have no other option than a kennel, please make arrangements to have your kenneled furry friends at a friend's place. So, if you planned to ask the parrot to repeat what the buyers said during a showing, think again! The only one who gets the free pass to stick around while you're staging your home is the goldfish.

The elephant in the room; the stroller

We all store our stroller in the entranceway, it’s convenient and inconvenient at the same time, but staging your home is the time when it needs to be stowed elsewhere. It’s that elephant in the room nobody talks about when you become a parent - how closely tied you’ll be to the stroller.

Potties are personal

When you're staging your home, depersonalizing is the top priority. That means the signing potty has to be out of sight, potty seats, bath toys and in general, toothbrushes (like anyone is going to tell you if they knock it on the floor during a showing - eww!) hairbrushes, and shaving stuff all should be out of sight in your bathrooms. Leave the bathroom counters to display some gourmet soaps that we all know are simply a fantasy.

Carpets

Raise your hand if you have your carpets steam-cleaned? Good Housekeeping recommends twice a year…<no hands go up>. It's impossible to have perfectly clean carpets when you have a life with kids. It's really an impossibility. You will need to have the carpets cleaned when you're staging your home. As a family, home buyers will be asking if you have had your carpets regularly cleaned, they know as well as you do, small humans are messy. If you hire a professional carpet cleaning company, they can clean around your furniture. You don’t even have to move your stuff (except kids' toys of course). It might seem like an unnecessary step but it’s the cherry on top of your beautifully-staged home.

Get everyone involved

You are going to need everyone’s help to get your home "show home" ready. This might mean grandma watches the kids or you bend the screen time rules a bit while your home becomes "eat off the floor" clean. It might be more productive to get everyone out of the house and treat yourself to hiring a cleaner? Whatever your action plan, staging your home as a family means working together as a family.

It won’t look like your home anymore

Staging your home can be hard on kids because it stops feeling like their home. Furniture has moved around, and their treasured artworks and pictures of family members have been removed. There are not enough toys and something seems wrong about the whole set up. Mom and Dad, on the other hand, are probably loving every minute of the neat and tidy set up. Maybe not loving the part about having to clean up every weekend though!

Staging your home for selling is more of a mindset than anything else. Three things to remember that will help you get through the stress: it's temporary, it has a defined purpose of attracting buyers, and your home will look AMAZING every weekend! Now, sit back and relax with a glass of wine in that perfectly-arranged living room.

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