I Tried the 1/5th Rule to Stage My Home (My Agent Swears By It!)

published Jun 7, 2024
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Credit: Minette Hand

Ahead of listing my home this summer, I did a walk-through with a home stager who shared a golden rule of staging with me called the “1/5th rule.” According to this rule, your storage spaces — like your kitchen cabinets, hallway closets, and more — should be thinned out of your wares so much that they’re only one-fifth full.

Walk-in closets, she explained as an example, should only be about half occupied with my own clothing, but it would be better if they were even emptier. That’s because people who are looking at my home want to imagine that when they move in, they will have so much space that they, too, can live their most organized, color-coded closet lives. 

(In order to propel this fantasy, I had to move my dresser out of my primary bedroom to make the room look larger, so — TMI, dear reader — my underwear is secretly stashed in a folded pillow case on an upper closet shelf that requires a step ladder to access, and life doesn’t feel all that organized right about now.) 

So while the 1/5th rule may be causing me some personal pain, I’m taking all of my stager’s rules to heart because the numbers show that these types of tips and tricks can pay off: One in five buyers’ agents said that staging a home increases the dollar value offered between 1 and 5%, compared to similar homes in the area that aren’t staged, according to a 2023 report from the National Association of Realtors. Staging the living room leaves the biggest impression on buyers, according to the report. But the primary bedroom and kitchen aren’t too far behind. 

Thinning out my primary bedroom’s closet wasn’t too difficult of a task, but I can’t imagine this same rule could practically apply to big-city, teeny-tiny closets or for couples who share small closets. In my hall closet, I removed all of my mismatched pool towels and neatly folded my very best bath towels and placed a coconut-scented bath amenity on one of the shelves. 

Credit: Brittany Anas

For me, the real challenge of thinning out storage spaces came about in the kitchen. What I lack in restraint for buying clothes, I more than make up for in buying every kitchen hack tool that has ever crossed my TikTok feed. A mini melon scooper! A vegetable chopper and cumbersome salad spinner! My precious kitchen gadgets and servingware are temporarily tucked away in storage, but my well-organized navy blue Caraway pans and canvas lid holders made the cut when I was organizing my kitchen.

But as tough as it was to follow the rule, it was important to do. Buyers want to see how deep and wide cupboards and cabinets are, and see how much storage exists, says New York City-based home stager and professional organizer Barbara Brock, founder and CEO of Barbara Brock Inc.

Credit: Brittany Anas

If you try out the 1/5 rule, remember to make what you do keep in your closets as tidy as possible. “When potential buyers look at closets, cabinets, or any storage space and it’s messy, they tend to think that a seller has not taken good care of the house or apartment,” Brock says.

And pay special attention to your coat closet in the entryway or foyer. It’s usually one of the first places inspected by buyers, says Ilaria Bario, owner and CEO of Barion Design, a virtual staging company. You don’t need to KonMari your home, but try to resist the urge to store shoes, ironing boards, or out-of-season clothes here and consider putting things away in storage in the meantime. 

Credit: Brittany Anas

Assigning a clear function to each area can help your sell home faster (and help make packing easier, too). 

“Avoid the pitfalls of storing incompatible items together, such as toys with cleaning supplies or food with old photo albums,” Brock says. “Instead, store these items in their designated areas, neatly organized to occupy about half the available space.”

Even if you’re not utilizing a professional stager for your space (and I did!) this simple tip can help buyers imagine themselves in your home — seeing it as both lived-in and a blank slate at the same time.