I Sent a Home Stager Photos of My Kitchen — Here’s What She Told Me to Get Rid Of

published Aug 8, 2022
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Credit: Sarah Magnuson

In my condo, the kitchen is not simply a kitchen — some days it’s an office, others a workshop, a first aid station, or a general dumping ground for any and all of life’s minutia. As a result, this space collects a wide range of clutter that can be hard to maintain day-to-day. A chaotic tablescape of unopened mail, a plate of carrots mid-peel, my dog’s Kongs in various stages of preparation, and strips of tin foil for removing my no-chip manicure makes the kitchen island feel less like a countertop and more like a living, breathing organism. 

I know my situation isn’t an isolated one. Kitchens bear the brunt of an unrelenting stream of stuff. And for those in the process of selling their home (or for those who have house guests coming for a last-minute weekend stay), you need a way to pack up the circus and stow it out of sight.

About a year ago, I sold my condo, so I know personally that a staging task of this magnitude can be downright overwhelming. When Apartment Therapy assigned me a little experiment — send a real-life home stager photos of my real-life, middle of the week-level messy kitchen — at first I thought, “No thank you!” The vulnerability! The judgment! The horror!

But then I thought…  Hey, what’s the harm of a little experiment to help our readers declutter real-life messes, from the eyes of an expert?

For this task, I enlisted the help of the very merciful and knowledgeable Amanda Lewis, owner and lead stylist of Denver-based The Den Rentals. “When it comes to kitchen staging, I personally opt for less is more,” Lewis says. “I don’t like the decorative elements to feel too contrived or outlandish.” (Let it be known that I am an accidental maximalist and outlandish is my middle name, so I’m very grateful I’m not actually selling my home and all I have to do is envision the end result.) 

For those who actually do need to start staging to sell, Lewis’s advice is simple: Less truly is more. “The main goal is to allow potential buyers to be able to scan the room and get a sense for the counter space without interruption,” Lewis says. Readers, believe me when I say, my countertops are interrupted. In addition to my former-barista fiancé’s espresso setup, I also currently have a box of donations, and, for whatever reason, a hummingbird feeder gracing my counter. 

Credit: Sarah Magnuson

First, Lewis recommends tucking away any potential turn-offs. In addition to moving my trash from the stand-alone receptacle to one that can stow away under the sink, she encouraged me to conceal my little puppy problem. Lewis recommended I move my dog’s food and water bowls, saying, “A lot of people have pets, but as soon as they see a trace of a pet, they will immediately start looking around with a fine tooth comb. Plus, you don’t want to turn off the potential buyer pool that are not pet people.”

Credit: Sarah Magnuson

Next, Lewis recommends paying attention to light sources and any ways that sellers are dealing with too much or too little light. Says Lewis, “Tuck away all items on the countertops, especially the lamp as you don’t want to call attention to the fact that there may not be enough light in the space.” Especially with clear countertops, a single lamp would be a dead giveaway that I’m not a big fan of our current overhead lighting. She adds, “Push the window shades all the way up to allow as much natural light in as possible.”

Credit: Sarah Magnuson

It’s always a little strange walking through a stranger’s home, peering at their belongings, and wondering if you could see yourself buying that house. Our expert suggested taking small measures to make the kitchen feel not so lived-in. Says Lewis, “Tuck away all dish towels, dish soap, pots and pans. No one likes to be reminded of cleaning and doing house chores.” She’s right: I’m thinking about all my dishes right now as I’m typing, and ugh, I don’t want to deal with those! 

Lastly, Lewis suggests that sellers tone down the personality in their homes, perhaps dispersing it to other spaces, if that’s possible. “Remove all magnets and pictures from the front of your refrigerator,” Lewis says. “It’s best to leave it completely clear.” My Realtor also recommends this practice, not only so that potential buyers could better envision themselves in my home, but also to discourage them from seeing a vacation photo, diploma, or ticket stub and making assumptions of my financial situation that would potentially be weighed in their offer. 

Credit: Sarah Magnuson

Lewis recommended I take my vintage Coca Cola crate and repurpose it off the refrigerator. After removing all of the items from atop the fridge, she says, “In an effort to utilize what you already have to add a simple decorative touch, I would try moving the Coca Cola crate angled in the corner of the countertop.” This helps guide the eyes away from the appliance and toward the now open counter space

With the crate moved to the counter, the focal point highlights the open space surrounding it. She adds, “Place a potted plant in the crate with a stack of books” and “utilize all of your potted plants throughout the rest of the home for pops of green.” 

Take it from the expert — less truly is more when you’re hoping the next buyer to walk through your door is the one. When in doubt, take it out, and remember, you won’t be decluttering and re-cluttering forever, especially with expert home staging.