If you are in the process of staging your home, “house cleaning, decluttering, and tidying up” are words that likely come to mind. Staging your home helps ensures your home sells as quickly as possible. Buyers will open every cabinet, closet, and door, and dissect every detail.
Your mess needs to be minimal. Cleaning your house is one thing, but if you want someone to look at your house and buy it, you need to clean your house as you have never cleaned it before. You need to decide on what to get rid of when decluttering, how to properly store it, and how to minimize the clutter in your home.
Below are some tips to help with the process, and give you an idea of where to start.
Cleaning Up the Exterior
First impressions matter. The outside of your home is the first thing buyers will see when they pull up to the house, and it’s the place where the first impression is made. The exterior of your house and your yard are two faces of your home, and you want those faces to shine.
Keep your yard trimmed and well-manicured, make sure you don’t leave stuff lying around in the yard. You don’t want your yard to look like a junkyard. Clean up some of your hedges if you have any, and make sure all gardens are well-groomed and free of weeds.
Pressure wash the outside of your home. While pressure washing, pay special attention to the windows, removing any residue so you can take advantage of your home’s incoming natural light.
Cleaning Up Paperwork & Letters
Let’s be honest: many of us can’t work with a desk covered in paperwork. Most people work best when their desk is cleared so they can focus on the task at hand with minimal distractions. The same goes for your sellers.
Take some time to file away things like you should. Go around your house and pick up all of the random bits of paper you have lying around—bills, invoices, receipts you plan on saving, checklists. File those away some place they belong, like the drawers of your desk or in a filing cabinet. This will help you immensely.
Any letters you have lying on the table, counter, nightstands, or end tables should also be rounded up. See if you can invest in an inbox for letters that you aren’t ready to throw away, and throw away old mail (looking at you, expired coupons).
Letters and paperwork strewn about the place don’t send the message of peace and relaxation in your home that you want to convey. You are selling a place of rest, not a place of business. The change will be noticeable.
Getting Rid of Personal Decorations
Buyers try to visualize themselves living in your house, so do what you can to neutralize the decor. Some family photos are fine—you want to sell your house to a family, after all—but you want them to see themselves there, not you. As much as you love the photo of your Aunt Betty and her 97th birthday party, your buyers will be less impressed, and they want to imagine their family pictures there. It may feel lifeless, and cold, but the idea is to counterbalance the entire space. You are catering to the tastes of many different potential buyers when you show your house, so you want to give each of them a blank canvas to project their ideas upon.
Since you are selling your house, anyway, this is probably a good time to figure out what stuff you want to go ahead and try to store away, which ones you want to replace when you move, or which things deserve to be “retired.” This will relieve some stress during the packing phase, as many of your accouterments will already be packed away!
Cleaning Out the Closets & Other Storage Areas
This may be the most difficult one. You know those old suits or dresses that have been hanging up for months that you can’t or won’t wear? Maybe start packing it up now. Look in the kids’ closets, pull out clothes they can’t fit in, shoes they don’t wear, and old toys. The idea here is to give the illusion that you have more space than you need.
Again, buyers are going to check every inch of your house, and they want to find out if they will have enough room for storage. Opening up a wardrobe to find it stuffed-full of clothes won’t help your sale. Opening up a closet to find it open and airy might make them think, “Oh wow, this closet is spacious!” It’s all about perspective.
Other storage areas need to be addressed as well! The shed in the backyard should be well-organized and free of junk. Any yard tools and equipment need to be packed away or organized so that your potential buyers see how they can utilize the space in the shed.
The garage is another important place to check if you have one. Some of us use them as workspaces, some people use them as the box storage area, and others use it to store their car. Make sure yours is spotless and void of any clutter or junk that might hinder your sale.
Clearing Up the Bathrooms
The bathroom is where people spend a good amount of time. You want this room to seem as though it's effortless to clean. As such, a minimalist style in your bathroom is a must for showing your house.
First off, clean up all of your toiletries. Get rid of old bottles lying around on the counters or in cabinets. Throw out makeup that is past its expiration date. Put things away when you aren’t using them or when you know they won’t be used for some time. This will help you maintain the “effortless” cleanliness in the bathroom.
Another great tip is to monitor towel storage. If your towels are stored in a cabinet where they aren’t seen at a cursory glance, make sure you organize them. If your towels are on a shelf, make sure you doll those things like your life depends on them. If you’ve never cared about folding towels, make that your new hobby. Learn the art of the folded towel, and your shelf will look beautiful!
Also, clean the shower, tub, toilet, sink, countertops, and floors regularly. The goal here is to minimize smells. You want this room smelling as fresh as you can get it. You want potential buyers to feel relaxed in the only room they’ll truly be alone in.
How to Organize a Room with Too Much Stuff?
One question many people don’t know the answer to is how to decorate if a room has too much stuff. Simply put, the best way to organize is to remove some of the clutter. If the room is your kitchen, store away rarely-used appliances in the pantry or cupboards. If the room is a sitting room, consider putting some of the furniture in a storage unit—or sell it—to clear out some space. You want the rooms to feel as big as possible, and a room crowded with stuff gives the illusion of it being small and stuffy.
Your house should be a blank canvas. If you have too much furniture in one room, the potential buyers will have a hard time deciding how they feel about a room, because they can’t visualize how they will use the space. Have a sales-minded approach. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes: would you want to see a house crowded with too many items when you go to a showing?
Selling Household Contents
So you’ve cleaned out every nook and cranny in your house, and you’ve stored away all the things you want to keep, out of sight. Now, you’re just left with all of the stuff you don’t want to keep. What do you do with it? Selling it is a great way to get rid of the stuff. So how do you go about it?
eBay is a great place to sell stuff: they have a thriving community, with millions of users and things to buy and sell ranging from human skulls to old Beatles’ albums. There is always a market for second-hand furniture and decor on eBay.
Sell things on social media. Facebook is a great place to get rid of the things you can’t or don’t want to ship. Most of the time, if it’s in good enough condition, someone will pay you to pick up the furniture that you would have otherwise thrown away! There is always someone willing to buy stuff on Facebook Marketplace, it’s just finding the right person and the right price.
When all else fails, just donate the things you can’t seem to sell. So many halfway houses and donation centers will take the things you don’t want and give them to people in need. Don’t give them to places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Instead, give it to a local donation center or somewhere that won’t just mark up your unwanted items. Give your old stuff away to a family in need, and feel good about yourself in the process! Maybe the good karma will pay forward and help you sell your house!
The process of cleaning up your house for showings can be a difficult one: like cleaning, but worse. No one likes it, and it is never fun, but it is necessary. Once you get done with it, your house will look so much better and you will sell it that much faster. Selling it faster will put money in your pocket, and help ease your future endeavors. What’s a little bit of cleaning and elbow grease compared to financial freedom, and a sizable down-payment on your next house?