From the initial photo shoot to the revolving door of showings, to inspections, appraisals, and everything in between, it’s SO hard to keep a house looking clean and staged while still living in it. I totally get it, because I’m going through the selling process right now. Me, my husband, our teenager, 70 pound dog, two cats, and two baby kittens. And so far, even with two full time jobs, we’ve actually been able to hold down the fort and keep it looking just as good as it did in it’s photo shoot (minus the “box room…).
Here are my real-life personal tips for keeping a house clean and staged throughout the selling process. These things worked really well for me, but always remember to make adjustments based on your exact lifestyle and schedule.
1. Think Like A Home Stager
If you haven’t actually put your house on the market yet but you plan on doing it soon, this is the key to a good start. You’ve got to stage your house. Even if you have the most gorgeously decorated home. Even if you own really nice stuff. And even if you don’t have any extra money for professional staging. You HAVE to do a little work on the front end to make your home look like a house others will want to live in.
Treat it like an Air BNB. If you were staying in a vacation rental, you would never see photos of the owner’s family or their mail on the counter. You’d never see their pet’s beds or their dirty laundry. And you’d never see a bunch of random clutter that doesn’t serve a purpose. Now is the time to turn your home into a house so potential buyers see it as a neutral space, not a visit to someone else’s abode.
Here’s a post I wrote on how I staged our last house to sell in two days. And guess what? I did the exact same thing in this house and we were under contract in just two days. AGAIN! Obviously it works. Or we’re just really stinkin’ lucky.
Some highlights are easy things like clearing your countertops, decreasing the amount of toys and decor on display, and putting excess furniture in a storage building until the move.
2. Get Yourself A Cleaning Caddy
Time is short when you’re selling a house. You could be halfway through a movie and bowl of popcorn, then all of a sudden get a phone call asking for a showing in an hour.
To save you from scrambling, keep all your cleaning supplies in a handled caddy so you can zoom through the house and touch things up without running back and forth to your supply closet. Here’s a post on how to stock a cleaning caddy and what you should keep inside.
And to remind you how important it is to stage a home well, less stuff = less to clean. So purge, donate, and pack up anything that’s not necessary.
3. Wipe Counters And Sweep Floors Every Night
Have you ever noticed that clean countertops and floors can make a messy house feel cleaner instantly? There can be a pile of clothes on the chair, dishes in the sink, and toys oozing out of every basket and shelf. But clean countertops and cleared floors make it feel at least halfway better.
I cleared and wiped down every counter and swept the floors in our house every night before bed during both times we were selling. Even if we didn’t have a showing the next day. And even after showings were over and we were under contract. Because you never know when someone will need to come in. And you never want your buyer to see the house any other way than it was when they fell in love with it and put down their earnest money.
Here’s a post with the things I do every day to keep my home guest-ready at all times, even if I’m not moving. It’s a great resource for both your selling process and regular daily routines.
4. Utilize Your Hampers!
First of all, if you thought you could cram all your stuff in closets and cabinets like you do before surprise guests show up around the holidays, think again. Buyers, inspectors, and appraisers are all looking in your closets and cabinets! There are literally NO hiding places when your house is on the market.
I used clothes hampers to put random items, toys, pet stuff, and electronics in right before time for the house showing, then I popped the hamper in the trunk of our car and headed off into the sunset in hopes that I didn’t forget a dirty sock in the bathroom floor.
We also took our dog’s bed, the litter boxes, and anything else that made it look like people reside here. Of course all this didn’t fit in one vehicle, so we usually put all the “stuff” in one car and the pets in another. Then we dropped off the “stuff” car at our local grocery store to sit for a few hours (with their permission) and we went to my mom’s house to hang out until the showings were over.
If you need help learning how to purge things while you’re planning a move, this post will walk you through how I got rid of almost half my stuff before we packed up our house.
5. Turn ON ALL The Lights
This may sound counter-intuitive, but turning on every single light in the house makes it look cleaner. The brighter it is in the house, the less dust, smudges, and floor scratches will show.
All the imperfections and signs that you didn’t get a chance to Swiffer this morning will be hidden by the harsh brightness of 34 light fixtures blasting through the house.
Also, here’s a reminder right here and right now to make sure no light bulbs are blown out in your house. Inspectors may flip the switch of a burned out bulb and can ding you for “maybe having an electrical problem” even if there isn’t an electrical problem…
6. Minimize Kids’ Toys
Did I just lose you there? Before you say that’s not possible, let me assure you that it is. If you have three rooms in your house that are bursting at the seams with toys, or if your kiddos have a bad habit of making a big mess in 5 minutes flat, hear me out.
No matter their age level, they probably have too many toys anyway. I’m not asking you to go through their room with a trash bag to fill with donations, but I am asking you to do some pre-packing.
Let each kid pick their absolute favorite things that they can play with for hours without getting bored, and put those into a backpack or suitcase to keep out. Then pack up the rest. It’s only for a little while and less toys available means less mess to clean up on the fly. Your kiddos will be fine with just a few toys and art supplies, I promise.
Need help teaching your kids to be ok with letting go of clutter and toys they no longer play with? This post has got you covered.
Do You Have Tips To Add?
If you’ve sold your home recently and had a cleaning hack that helped save the day, I’d love to hear it! Share your experiences below in the comments and let’s get a good conversation started!
And if you’re in the process of moving or will be soon, here’s a collection of all the moving/buying/selling posts I’ve ever written. Beware, some are OLD! Haha!
If you’re not moving now but may be later, don’t forget to pin this for later!
Love this list. I am a Realtor and I love the cleaning caddy idea. I also tell sellers the showing starts at the front porch! Clean out the cobwebs and add a new doormat and fresh hand towels in the powder bath! Great list! laura
Brad - Admin says
It absolutely does, Laura! Not to brag, because she’s extremely humble about this stuff, but Lela once sold a house to a woman who bought it almost completely because of a well-staged, inviting porch. Not a kitchen; not a closet; a porch. It makes an enormous difference, and I’m glad you found the list helpful.
Lee Russell says
This is good, I would be trying some examples, thanks for sharing 🙂