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How to Stage Your Home on a Budget

How to stage your home yourself

It might seem impossible, you might think “well I can’t afford to hire a professional to stage my home, but I need to get it sold!” Beeeeelieve me, I know.

Last fall, we decided we wanted to sell our house in Oregon (which we bought with a zero down payment mortgage) to move back to Minnesota. We were terrified, because we had never sold a house before. The whole idea of it was scary but our realtor assured us she would guide us through the gauntlet.

First things first-we had to get the house ready to be listed. I want to share some tips I learned along the way so you too can learn how to stage your home yourself!

It took me about 2-3 weeks to prepare the house to sell. From the moment we found our realtor to the moment it hit the MLS. Once it was listed we braced ourselves for a long and drawn out sale process.

My parents sold their house the year before and told me it took them 51 days and 30+ showings to sell their house.  We listed the house on Thursday morning. We had 2 showings set up for Friday (the very next day) and 2 more for Saturday.

After 3 days on the market we accepted one of two full asking price offers. And they were way way more than what we were expecting to get for our house.

It happened that fast.

Now, I’m not going to guarantee you that by following these tips, your house will sell as fast as ours did because every market is different.

What I can share with you though are some tips on how to stage your house and how to make this process as cheap and easy as possible.

how to stage your home 1

Important tips to stage your home on a budget

Change your mindset

The minute your house is listed, you gotta realize the cold, hard truth:

This is not your house anymore.

This might sound harsh, but no one loves your stuff as much as you do. Buyers do not want to see your great grandmother’s collection of Bradford Exchange porcelain dolls or your 1990’s poofy valances.

Your new mantra is clean and modern.

Keep it simple, make it a blank canvas for people to imagine their own furnishings. Remove family photos, hide the dog bowls and ditch the kid’s name plaque on the wall.

The moment your listing hits the MLS, the house no longer belongs to you. It might sound weird, but trust me on this: the more you can separate yourself from the emotional ties to the house the better you will be. This is for several reasons.

First of all, if you keep thinking of it as “your” house it’s going to prevent you from removing all traces of your personality from the home. Buyers can’t always see past your “stuff” and therefore have a hard time picturing it as THEIR home.

If they can’t imagine their life in that house, they aren’t going to buy it.

Second, emotional attachment is the enemy of savvy sellers. You want the buyer to purchase with emotion. The “OMG I HAVE TO HAVE THIS HOUSE, TAKE ALL MY MONEY” reaction.

If you get caught up in YOUR emotions you might let a potential buyer slip away.  Get rid of your “stuff”. Pack it up, put it in storage. Keep the basics and a few decor pieces (which we will get to in a moment). Paint any crazy colored walls. Start to stage your home with a blank canvas.

DIY staged fall mantle

Start packing ahead of time

This ties in with the previous tip, but is important enough to be mentioned on it’s own. Not only should you pack up the things that make it “your” home, but also you should pack away anything that’s not going to be needed. This will not only help you pack faster when it’s time to actually move, but the benefit is multi-fold.

If you walk in a house that has small closets jammed and overflowing with clothes and boxes of randomness stacked to the ceiling in the guest room you are going to automatically assume the house is too small for you.

But if the closet is half full and those boxes are put away in a storage unit (or the garage) your buyers will imagine the space to be much larger than it really is. Plus as previously mentioned it will make the staging process much easier and more effective.

how to stage dining room 1

Use what you own to stage your home

Ok so this might seem counter to what I said above about removing your personality but it’s not really. Look through what you have that would have mass appeal. For example, a simple vase or stack of well-placed books are simple touches that keep a place looking like a home (as opposed to a cold, vacant shell) but are anonymous enough that anyone can see themselves living there.

Find simple touches like a candle holder, a bowl of fruit or basket that look pretty and “homey” without being too specific.

Along these lines, make sure that anything that DOES stay visible is clean, dusted and in good condition.

Make sure that your furniture is in good shape.  If your sofa is saggy, this post will help you do a quick DIY couch fix!

Buy inexpensive staging props

I did purchase a few things for staging my home, but in total I spent less than $70 for the whole thing. I searched Goodwill and other thrift stores for things that could be painted or used as is. Everything else was stuff I already had that was re-purposed from another room or pulled out of storage.

Get crafty, upcycle, hit garage sales but DON’T overdo it. You don’t need a lot of accessories. Keep it simple but cozy.

Living Room Staging Tips

Don’t get TOO caught up here, but home magazines and Pinterest can be really great resources. You are looking for clean and simple with just enough decor to make it feel cozy instead of institutional.

The “Fixer Upper” style is really popular, but don’t get carried away. You don’t want to alienate buyers who aren’t into the same style as you. Don’t go buying a bunch of stuff either, which brings me to my next point…

how to stage your living room

Kitchen staging tips

Clear off countertops, remove small appliances and place in cabinets or storage. The more countertop that is visible, the larger the kitchen will seem.

Use baskets and bins to create decorative storage, and remove any extra dishes, pots, pans etc. to again elude to space.

Nothing screams “THIS KITCHEN IS TINY” like overstuffed drawers and cabinets spilling out onto the counters.

Make sure there are no dishes in your sink, and that the trash is empty before showings. No smells is the goal.

how to stage your kitchen

Bathroom Staging Tips

What’s the ONE thing I bought new when staging our house?


People are big into “spa-like” bathrooms and since our bathrooms were TINY I knew I had to think of something to make it seem more inviting and fabulous. I found a great sale on towels and bought fresh, white, fluffy new towels that were put out ONLY for showings. No one wants to see your grubby used towels hanging up!

After the house was sold, of course we put those towels into our regular rotation, so they were not wasted.

Put away your toiletries, and clear off those countertops. This is especially important if you have a smaller bathroom. Clear surfaces create the illusion of space, plus buyers won’t love seeing beard trimmings and half squeezed tubes of toothpaste everywhere.

how to stage your house master bathroom

Don’t forget-bring your pets with you when you leave for showings if at all possible. It’s a pain/inconvenience but it makes the experience that much easier for the buyer.

Plus you don’t have to worry about a spazzy realtor accidentally letting your cat outside.

Keep a canister of Clorox wipes and a stick vac handy so you can do a quick clean swish before showings and stash them in the garage or take them with you when you leave.

When it comes to scents (good and bad) it’s best to keep things to a minimum. A light, fresh scent is fine, but avoid heavy sprays and masking odors. They often exacerbate the stink and many folks are sensitive to perfumes.

Making sure things are clean will go a long way to keep the house smelling good, and a SMALL spritz of Febreze will help keep things fresh!

I find a non-toxic DIY carpet sprinkle to be the best home air freshener.

You want the house to look effortlessly put together and polished any time you have a showing. Putting the house’s best foot forward is sure to land you a quick (and profitable) sale.

And that my friends, is how to stage your house on a budget!

How to Stage Your House on a Budget. Yes it's possible! I staged our house for less than $70 using mostly stuff we already had and we sold it on DAY THREE of being listed with multiple full-price offers! It's not as scary as you think to DIY your home staging.

Did you learn something helpful? Pin this on Pinterest to help others find this info!


Wednesday 5th of February 2020

I have a plate rail around my sunroom with things on it. Should I remove everything so it just looks like wall or try to find only a few neutral items. It is a long narrow room so I thought maybe only a few would look odd.


Wednesday 14th of August 2019

When my friend would get a 5 minute notice of a house showing she would toss anything lying about into a laundry basket and pop it in her car and take off. Newspapers, magazines, kids toys, shoes by the door...out they went! It worked like a charm for her so she never lost a prospective buyer by putting them off a day.

Leslie S Hopwah

Wednesday 23rd of January 2019

Love your article I am in the process of listing our home. We are seniors with a lot of STUFF. I will use your tips. Thank you for reminding me it is not my house any longer. Wish me luck!


Sunday 7th of October 2018

Great advice!!! I laughed out loud at the Bradford Exchange comment! I am literally in the middle of prepping our house to go on the market and I keep checking articles to make sure I’m on track. I can only dream of having your experience, but I can try!!


Friday 6th of July 2018

Great article. Should we leave some lights on or all lights on around house? Leave all blinds open completely or half way?