If you’ve been following along, you probably know we recently listed our house for sale (and sold it)! Going into the process, the thing I was most worried about was how in the world we would keep the house clean while selling. On a normal daily basis, I struggled to keep it tidy with two messy kids running around all day, so I was nervous to see how we’d keep it ready for showings at a moment’s notice! To be honest, I feel very fortunate in hindsight that the process was extremely abbreviated for us since we got an offer on Day One and the inspection and appraisal were completed the same week – so we really only had to keep the house sparkling clean for a little over a week. I wanted to share some of my tips and experience in case you are planning to sell now or in the future!
Tips to Keep Your House Clean While Selling
1. Start with a Deep Clean
We were fortunate in that our Realtor had a cleaning service come out and do a very deep cleaning days before the house went on the market (and before the listing photos). I don’t know if all agents offer this, but if they don’t, it’s a worthwhile investment for you as the seller to have someone (literally) do the dirty work for you! I have a cleaning schedule that I try to follow weekly, but I rarely think about dusting the corners and trim or even the ceiling fans for that matter. It was nice to have cleaning pros come in and do all of it at once, which makes it easier for me to maintain while we wrap up the selling process.
2. Declutter Your Home
One of the first things we did when we decided on listing the house was to declutter some of the messier areas of our house. We had a room upstairs that was entirely filled with boxes and things we never use, so we spent a day going through it all, deciding what to donate, throw away or pack up and put in the attic while the house was for sale. I had already done quite a bit of decluttering earlier this year, but things can get messy again quickly, so we had a bit of work to do. We ended up taking a car full of things to a donation center, and will probably have even more to give away once we start packing!
3. Clean Out Closets
This goes hand in hand with decluttering, but even if you aren’t planning to donate things from your closet, it’s a good idea to store things out of sight to make the spaces look bigger. Our Realtor said to make our master bedroom closet look as large as possible for listing photos, so that meant taking out luggage, winter clothes and coats and other bulky items that didn’t need to be in there.
4. Have a Daily Routine
We learned quickly that house showing appointments pop up out of nowhere – the house hit the MLS around 9am and we had a call about an hour later requesting a showing at 11:30. Needless to say, we really weren’t prepared and had to rush around making sure everything was in its place! The best way to tackle it (for us) after this was to clean as we went throughout the day and do a final clean-up at night before we sat on the sofa to relax. So, starting first thing in the morning:
- Make beds as soon as you get ready
- Make sure the dishwasher is loaded, running and wash any other leftover dishes
- Put a load of clothes in the washer and/or dryer
- Wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters
- Put small kitchen appliances in cabinets to declutter counters
- Clear off bathroom counters and put in cabinets/drawers (makeup, hair products, etc.)
At night, we followed a similar routine:
- Load the dishwasher and start a cleaning cycle
- Move clothes from washer to dryer as needed
- Fold laundry
- Wipe down counters
- Vacuum, sweep and/or mop as needed
- Put away all toys where they belong
- Go through any papers or mail on counters and put away
Keeping these things under control really helped us stay on top of cleanliness and organization for a week and a half while we had people in and out (starting with listing photos and wrapping up with the appraisal).
5. Burn a Welcoming Candle
Keeping the house sparkling clean in itself made the house smell great, but we made sure to burn a delicious smelling candle about an hour before we had any showings, too. That was something I remembered from the past two times we’ve bought houses – the houses that seemed coziest and most welcoming were those that smelled really good when we walked inside.
6. When In Doubt, Grab a Laundry Basket
This is a great last-minute hack – if all of the above fail you at some point and there’s some left-behind clutter, grab your laundry basket and walk the house right before a showing. Put all of the clutter in the basket and stash it in your car when you head out! This is a great way to capture toys, mail, dirty clothes, etc. that may have been left behind throughout the day.
My biggest piece of advice to keep the house clean while selling is to simply stay on top of the clutter – it’s easier said than done, but maintaining a certain level of cleanliness means that you can grab the kids, pets, etc. at a moment’s notice and head out if someone wants to see the house in 30 minutes. I went into the process with an open mind and decided it was worth the temporary displacement if that meant we could sell our house quickly – though I wasn’t expecting selling in a single day, but hey, I’m not complaining!