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When In Doubt, Throw it Out!

When In Doubt, Throw it Out!


Dr. Benjamin Franklin once said, “When in doubt, don’t.”  George S. Patton exclaimed, “When in doubt, ATTACK.” Mark Twain the noted humorist also entered the “When in doubt” stakes by saying, ‘When in doubt, tell the truth.”  But the wisest “When in Doubt” line was mouthed from the great Mom, Bette Sue Lichtenstein, who bellowed, “When in doubt, throw it out!”

Staging a home for a Seller is not easy. If we are lucky, we find Mr. and Mrs. Neat but often people have been there a long time and have collected a lot of stuff.  Amazon and the pandemic made this much worse.  People get weirdly attached to their stuff because of memories, nostalgia, and loss. Hoarding is more commonplace than you’d think.  People don’t want to hoard but oftentimes children’s rooms become a sanctuary like a Wooly Mammoth arctic permafrost shrine to whatever year they left. Which is why you need to discount Twain and blur the truth.

Here are 5  “When in Doubt” strategies that you must use when getting a home ready to sell or even to live your current life a bit more peacefully….


  1. Call in the family

One client of ours, years back lost a spouse and the kids moved out. The father, arguing with the son over getting rid of 3 unopened sentimental crock pots for half an hour, was going nowhere. That’s when you have to break your inner Twain good intentions and veer into white lies and just go with Bette Sue Lichtenstein or the UK politician, Andrea Leadsom, who remarked, “When in doubt, cook a Sunday roast.”

To solve the crockpot attachment, take Garry Marshall’s revealing advice, “When in doubt, bring in the relatives.” In the case of the 3 opened crock pots in the kitchen, we brought in the grandkids. Going off to college and having their own apartments meant they were in need of stuff.  Suddenly, the crockpots, pans, cups, bowls, blankets, March of 2014 expired jam,  you name it – flew out like Franklin’s lightning bolt. Off in an SUV I went and to Goodwill went the crockpots and 50 other garbage bags full of stuff. The fantasy of the grandkids cooking up Sunday feasts did the trick.


  1. Strategy

Catherine O’Hara had a “When in doubt” mantra. “My crutch was in inprovs, when in doubt play insane because you didn’t have to excuse anything that came out of your mouth if it didn’t make any sense.” Now I’m not telling you to go all looney, but the point is to have a plan.  Map out a strategy to get rid of stuff. Cleaning out a kitchen can be daunting. Garages, closets, bedrooms, etc. If you tackle the kitchen one week and the office the next week and then the garage the third week, things will start to disappear. As they say, take one bite out of the elephant one day at a time. Once you start, the momentum picks up and it won’t be so overwhelming.


  1. Give yourself a gift

Bill Blass says, “When in doubt, wear red” and Radhike Apte explains that “When in doubt, wear black.” And Whiteny Port says, “When in doubt put on a floral dress and ankle boots.”   They are all right. Time for a new wardrobe. The primary closet is often the most daunting. Put on a few pounds like yours truly and you have a mess. Those slacks and shorts don’t fit like they used to.  Best thing you can do is give yourself a gift.  Giving yourself a gift of buying some new clothes now and throwing out all the old clothes is the way to tackle this. First, you won’t have the accumulation of all the old out of style crap and will now have a new manageable wardrobe. When you lose the weight, you can alter some of the clothes and get yourself a gift of a new wardrobe.


  1. Style changing

Letitia Baldrige writes that “When in doubt, look at what everyone else is doing.” She is right. I’ve seen people hang on to giant big screen tube TV’s or old 1990’s furniture thinking someone will buy them. THEY WON’T. Worse, they hurt you as no one can get that hideous bedspread out of their head.


  1. Make it disappear

Finally, the advice of James H Boren has the most sagacious mind of all.  He said, that “When in doubt, delegate.” During the pandemic we had one home and sentiment was so bad that things weren’t thrown out at day of closing. We had to break apart a sectional sofa with a Phillips screw driver and heaved and hoed it over the upstairs banister. Then we dragged it to the street piece by piece. In a suit. At 93 degrees! At ECHO, we offer a white glove service, one of our 57 promises in our Home ECHOnomics Guarantee. And you need white glove service more than you think. Moving is #3 on the stress list behind death and divorce. However, the stress of moving can lead to move up and manifest into #1 and #2. That is where we come in and help with the dumping.


If this is all too much, take Deepak Chopra’s advice. “When in doubt, doubt the doubt!”


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Jeff Lichtenstein, originally from Chicago, got his start in the home furnishings textile business where he traveled over 35 weeks a year selling fabrics. After the family business was sold, Jeff moved to Florida and became a real estate agent. Today he is the owner and broker of Echo Fine Properties, a luxury residential brokerage voted best brokerage of the year. Jeff manages a non-traditional model of real estate that mimics a traditional business model. Echo has 80 agents, an average of one million dollars per transaction and over 500 million in annual sales. Between traveling for work and annual family trips to national parks with his wife and 2 now adult children, Jeff has visited 49 states. He is also one of the few Chicago White Sox fans you’ll ever meet.  Some publications he has been quoted in.

Author of business & leadership book How Making a Sandwich Can Change Your World –  The Amazing Success of the PB&J Strategy – Available to Buy Now!

Feel free to ask him a question directly at [email protected] including a complementary  valuation of your home.

Posted in Open House Blog, Real Estate Tips on July 5, 2024 at 12:17 pm.


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