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Ask the Stager

How to stage a house: Kill the clutter

A living room after it was decluttered and staged.
A living room after it was decluttered and staged.Adrian Bryce Diorio

Q. Thanks for offering so much insight with your column. Love the tips. We live on the Cape and are looking to sell our family home. We’ve collected many decorative items over the years and need help minimizing. How should we start?

A. Thanks so much!

When a home is set to hit the market, the first thing I always do is evaluate everything room by room, then I minimize and consolidate. Once you have an idea of what’s staying, going into storage, or being thrown out, it makes it much easier and less overwhelming. Have you ever considered this process before? For the house shown, we sorted into piles. This made the situation much less stressful for the homeowner.


In these images, I started by removing all of the decorative items from the rafters. Over time they collect dust, smell, and, most important, crowd the depth of the room by overpowering its best features, in this case, a cathedral ceiling with rustic rafters — easily a selling point in any home. The fireplace is the main feature at eye level, but these rafters bring you into the room and elicit nothing but warm vibes.

The homeowner and I laughed when we took down the “simple” knickknacks. This space is anything but simple, I said. All of these knickknacks were either tossed or donated (I always encourage clients to donate items they aren’t keeping).

The next task is one of the most difficult: removing religious artifacts and family photos. You’re probably wondering Why do we have to remove everything that represents us? Well, you want to give everyone a streamlined impression of your home. You want potential buyers to imagine themselves living there. These artifacts create clutter and detract from the focal points. I keep at least one of the best family photos on display, which my clients really appreciate. I think one professional photo in a pleasing frame gives that impression of “home.”


I switched the love seat and sofa to make the space appear larger. I added a chest to serve as a coffee table and moved an end table to the right front side to bring the room together. I added a valance on the right side to match the window on the left. I used the beaded garland on the fireplace mantel. I knew it would add subtle texture and not distract. The candles in the fireplace were the perfect replacement for the globe, which now sits on the end table.

I found a large framed picture in the attic, which better suited the wall over the fireplace. Have you ever found accessories stored away that you completely forgot about?

And, voila, you now have a cozy family room that any buyer would love to relax in. I think tonight would be a good night to light that fire.

See a before and after here:

Adrian Bryce Diorio is the managing principal of Art of Staging Inc. Send questions to Address@globe.com and follow him on Instagram at @artofstaging.