Staging Your Home--What You Should Leave Out

Home Staging Tips

Protecting Your Home’s Image When Selling

Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of home staging, there are certain fundamental quick-checks you should do around your home. Without it, your staging will initially look interesting to the buyers, but upon closer inspection, these small but overlooked items will stand out to a buyer in the wrong way, diluting the staging and highlighting you, not your home.



1-Less Is More

Remove all excess art works, books, nik-naks and toys if any. Art should be neutral, and fit the space correctly. It should also be hung properly. If in doubt, have a look at this guide to hanging art by Bob Vila. Art should be tasteful and appropriate. Toys should not be strewn around and collections, whatever they may be, should be put away. No one needs to see your entire spoon or teacup collection set. If the object is not going to swing or enhance the sale, time to pack it away. I once had a client that had over 300 pieces of art hanging in their home, and over 1000 books on history, the armed forces or hunting. Their home looked like a gallery! Buyers are there to buy a home, not feel like they are in a museum or library. One of your most important objectives when selling is your home, is to keep items to a minimum in order to keep the seller in buying mode–not distracting them with what is not for sale is key!

2-Remove Anything Questionable

On one recent home staging consultation for a home seller that was into hunting, I had to mention that it would be best if he removed the dozens of taxidermy animal heads hung all over his house. While he was proud of his home, he understood that anyone from small children to a vegan could be visiting his home and find such things hard for them to see while on a viewing. He also had hundreds of bullets on display in the basement, and several gun safes. Again, such things evoke strong feelings in certain home buyers, so I suggested he put away the ammunition (especially if children were on viewings) and we camouflaged the gun safes so as not to advertise the numerous guns in the home. Another lady and her daughter had dozens of bras hanging behind the door of their respective bathroom doors. Repeat after me: ‘Bras Don’t Sell Houses’ ladies. One home seller I worked with had 1970’s calendars of ‘undressed ladies’ hanging up in his garage, which he told me were ‘vintage’. When I explained that parents with accompanying children would object to such things on a viewing, he understood and promised to remove them; he did not yet have children of his own so it had never occurred to him to remove these ahead of sale nor consider his wider audience.

3-Religious Items

Now this will depend strongly on where you live to be honest. I work as a home stager in Calgary, a city that has a very diverse cultural population despite its less than 1 million inhabitants. Certain homes I have been to have had numerous shrines, posters or pictures of divine individuals on display. Another house for sale that I went to was used weekly for teaching a particular religion to children, with celebration objects and hundreds of books all displayed in the living room. In a way it made me feel as if  I was intruding, such was the sense of holiness and respectfulness of the room. Think of how you may feel if you were to enter a church; you might perhaps feel hushed, or some emotional feelings or memories come up in you. Remember at all times when selling, we are to be as neutral as possible with the overall setting of our homes.

Some people are religious, some people are not, and when they walk in to a home that is heavily decorated with religious items, it can create certain feelings in some potential buyers. Some small displays of religious items are fine, but bear in mind that you never know who will be coming through your door for a viewing.We want the viewing experience to be as neutral as possible, so limiting numerous religious objects helps keep your potential home buyers focused on your property, as opposed to your religion; and to be honest, your religion (if you practice one) is personal and special to you, so therefore your private business anyways.

I always mention to clients that ‘There is the way we live, and there is the way we sell’.™  Imagine if you owned a store; you would only be showing and highlighting the objects for sale, not your personal items. Store owners specifically design this way; to sell to as big an audience as possible, not reveal their personal or private parts of their lives. Your home should be set up the same way, to appeal to whatever type of person walks through your door.


No one will ever love and adore your pets as much as you. When it comes to home staging, it is a must to put away your pet’s belongings each and every time you have a viewing, and to keep your home from looking (and smelling!) like they rule the roost! For dogs and cats, it is very important to put away all food bowls after every meal. Do not leave large bags of pet food on display, or any pet toys or leashes. This includes any pet beds, or cat-scratching posts. Why? Well, many potential home buyers have pet allergies, or a close family member or friend does, and they may be concerned that this will translate as allergies for them or their nearest and dearest or dander or fur for them to contend with after you move out. Cat boxes too can be smelly; one trick I use it to tell home sellers to take a cardboard box and keep it handy to put over top of your cat box before you leave for a viewing–not only does it mask any odor, but it also keeps it out of sight. Keep cat boxes scooped daily while on the market. As for fish or small animals like birds, rabbits or hamsters, keep their cages/bedding fresh at all times, and secure. And don’t leave your cats or dogs in your home during viewings. Some people are afraid of dogs, and some dogs (or cats) are afraid of strangers, which may cause them to run out the front door if they seize the opportunity. You do not want your pets to run away during a viewing. Barking dogs can turn off buyers, and dogs or cats can bite children, which is a sale-killer on the spot.

So when selling your home, and getting ready to stage it, remember:

1-MINIMIZE: Objects, Questionable Items, Pet Belongings

2-Show off your home like a business when selling by depersonalizing.

3-Highlight what is for sale, reduce unnecessary objects that are not.

4-Think like a show home; if you wouldn’t see it on display in a model home, then tidy it away where feasible.

Good luck and hopefully with these tips you will be well on your way to staging your home and selling it within no time!

bio tinyMonique Shaw is Lead Designer and Owner of Homes Sold Beautifully, Calgary Home Staging & Design, in Alberta, Canada. She has numerous pets of her own and has moved and lived in various cities and countries. She has won numerous awards on and is a member of the Real Estate Staging Association.