Housecleaning for A House on the Market

Whoa, calm down, I am not moving! But I have lots in the past and a reader emailed me (ages ago, sorry!) and asked for my tips on keeping a house clean and organized for showings while also having small children. (Hi, Elizabeth! Sorry it took me so long to write this! I hope your house has already sold and this information is no longer necessary!)

First of all, you should start packing. Get some boxes (I highly suggest buying all the same size new boxes for this) and put away all the loose things in your house that you can. Things like knick-knacks, some of the decorations, family pictures, and random stuff. You want as many clear surfaces as you can get. It will make your house look bigger and it will also be easier for you to keep clean. Stack these packed boxes very neatly in your garage (or preferably, a neighbor’s garage).

Put away about 90% of all the kids’ toys in the same way. Sorry, kids! And try to make the ones that stay out be the pretty toys, like the wooden ring stacker instead of the noisy Mickey Mouse Clubhouse computer. We are trying to make it look like pretend, magazine children live here!

As much as you possibly can, hide all evidence of pets. We had to leave our dog crates out, but I put away all the toys and food bowls and beds. If you can make it look like pets don’t even live there, all the better.

Don’t forget to organize things like closets and the pantry. Guests that come over may not open your cupboards, but unfortunately, potential buyers will be looking at storage and have every reason to.

Spend a whole day cleaning the house like crazy. Or hire yourself someone else to do it. You want the house to start out squeaky clean because starting now, you will be maintaining instead of cleaning.

Now, on a daily basis, you need to start cleaning and organizing every morning and night. It sucks and you will be tired. I got so sick of wiping off the edge of our bathtub. (I have no idea why that one sticks in my mind, but it does.) Before you go to bed every night, the house should be in showing condition. If your kids’ nap, I suggest using that as the other time during the day that you put the house back into showing condition. (Hint: start cleaning up, put the kids down, then finish the last bits of cleaning and then SIT DOWN. Clean house and a rest.) It is WAY easier to do this a lot of times instead of doing it all in a rush before you get a showing. Our showing information said that we required an hour’s notice before a showing, but I was actually able to have the house ready in about fifteen minutes. That gave us time to get out of there and allowed a little cushion.

When you leave for a showing, obviously make sure that every single thing is picked up and put away. Matt was working from home when we had our house on the market, which was difficult, but all of us loaded up into the car when we had a showing. We have dogs, so we took the dogs with us. (As should you. No pets in the house. Exception: things in cages, but unless it is a fish, hide it. Hamsters/gerbils/mice/snakes get shoved under the bathroom sink. Decorative fish tanks can stay out. Very few people are bothered by fish, but lots of people are bothered by rodents or reptiles.) Before leaving, microwave a bowl of water with a few drops of vanilla in it. Put the kids, pets, and husbands into the car and do one final walk through of the house, making sure that bedspreads are straight, cabinets are closed, and pillows are straight.

We usually went to a park if it wasn’t too hot, or Petsmart if it was, since there aren’t a lot of places to kill two hours with two dogs. When we came back, we would drive past our house first and make sure there were no cars in the driveway or street in front of it and then I would run in quickly to check to make sure they had been and gone before we unloaded and went in. (The realtor ought to leave a card on your kitchen counter and the only time one didn’t, a kid played with Elizabeth’s toys while his/her parents were looking at the house.)

Anyway, good luck selling your house! Any questions?