When we decided to move, I began scouring the internet for ideas and tips for staging a house. And I found a ton of them until I found ourhomelove.com which had everything I love, all the way from the best espresso machine to vacuum cleaners. We decided to get rid of furniture, clear out our closets, remove personal items, touch up the paint, and many other things.
What I couldn’t find with any of my searching was any idea of how to do all this staging with kids. I mean, it all sounded great, but kids have a lot of junk! And how is one supposed to hide diapers, bibs, placemats, etc.?
I also couldn’t find any advice on how to keep a house clean for the weeks/months that it takes to sell. Kids are messy! It’s hard for me to keep the house clean enough for ME to stand, much less for a potential buyer! Cleaning a house with kids in it is, as they say, like trying to make a smoothie without a blender top. And we have 4 boys. Impossible, much?
So I had to come up with my own list, made through much trial and many errors.
1. Clever Storage: There have to be a couple of places to stash those last minute items that you use all the time. They can’t remain on counters, but they do have to be close by so you don’t pull your hair out in frustration while living in your staged house.
We have a special deep drawer in the kitchen for me to quickly put away the boys’ huge place mats (to keep the tablecloth clean– invest in THESE ones from Green Sprouts because they’re sturdy and have a lip all around them to keep in spills) and bibs. Normally, these things are on the table or in the dish drain after cleaning, but they aren’t part of a staged house. We use them ALL the time when we’re home, so they still needed to be accessible. We have diapers and wipes stored in a desk drawer. We have our Expedit with bins in the laundry room for shoe storage.
2. Oven dinners only— Jesse was actually the one to think of this and insist on it. He noticed how much time we were spending cleaning our stove top, and wondered if it would be possible to only make oven dinners. If we had thought of this sooner, I would’ve started making casseroles a few weeks ago (we have vegan and gluten free restrictions to consider in our family, so store-bought is tricky. Try our delicious and easy Thai Quinoa Casserole!). Dinner cleanup is hard when your kitchen needs to remain picture perfect for a showing at any moment, so make it easy on yourself.
3. To go bag for kids— Basically, make sure your diaper bag is on steroids for a few weeks. Given the fact that gluten and dairy free snacks and lunches are hard to come by for the kids, I keep ours stocked full of snacks and juice for the road, ready for us to leave at any time of day with just a moment’s notice. Don’t wait until the realtor calls asking to show the house, have it done ahead of time. I’ve also packed ours with a few favorite toys for the kids.
4. To go bag for adults— For some reason, I can remember to get the kids dressed with their stuff. I can remember to leave the house perfect before we run out the door. But I can NOT for the life of me remember some of my own essentials. Full disclosure– I’ve even been forgetting to put on deodorant in the mornings! There’s only so many things my multi-tasked brain can remember. So I’ve decided to pack myself a to-go bag, much like the diaper bag for the kids. I’ve packed a phone charger, makeup, snacks and water for me, and, yes, deodorant.
5. Keep Just A Few Toys– Put almost everything into storage. I wrote about how creative our kids’ have gotten in our “minimalistic” home as of late. I know that even if the kids destroy everything, I can get the toys cleaned up in 10 minutes.
Here’s a big one– Do NOT leave any art supplies in your house. None. Keep pencils and pens out of reach. Creativity can come later, after you move. You do not want to get a call from the realtor asking to show the house, right after one of your kids has drawn all over your rug or wall (not that I learned this the hard way…).
6. Find a “safe house”– Early on in the staging process, when you’re cleaning everything out and packing boxes, you’ll need somewhere to put it all (your garage should be empty). We were lucky enough to have my parents 2nd garage just 2 miles away, but you could also ask a good friend. If worse comes to worse, rent a storage unit for pocket change every month. It’s worth it.
This place can also be where you can go to hang out, unannounced if the weather is bad or your kids need to nap somewhere. Just make sure they’re a really good, really flexible friend 🙂
7. Cleaning Supplies– This one may seem obvious, but especially with kids you will need to make sure that the vacuum, broom and mop are in spectacular working condition. You will be using all 3 of those puppies on a daily basis when you’re making a mad dash out of the house. The last thing you want is your vacuum to get clogged and leave your house smelling like burning rubber (isn’t that the worst??). Our mop has a trigger-operated sprayer that I fill with awesome smelling essential oils, so I never need to worry about the batteries running out or where to dump the mop water.
It’s also important not to have any cleaning supplies, not even hand or dish soap, left on the counter. I bought a plastic caddy at the dollar store for all the things I normally keep by the kitchen sink. That way, I can stash it underneath the sink during a showing, but still have it all on the counter when we’re all home.
8. Just a week’s worth of clothes– We went ahead and cleaned out most of our clothes (a good excuse to get rid of things we haven’t worn in forever!), leaving only a week or two’s worth total in our drawers. This was also necessary because we decided that having two dressers was making our master bedroom seem smaller, so we sold one of them. I cleaned out most of my dresser and now Jesse and I share it easily. Our closet now feels only about half full, which is good for staging (your storage areas should NOT look maxed, or it’s a huge detriment).
Having just a week or two’s worth of clothes out not only makes it easy to find clothes, but it also makes laundry easy. I can get laundry for a household full of 6 people done in two loads– light and dark– and put it all away, all in under 2 hours. There’s nothing worse for a staged house than piled up laundry!!
9. Tackle just one or two extra deep cleaning items a day to freshen house— It’s too much to EVERY thing EVERY single day. After our initial deep cleaning in the days leading up to listing our house, I’ve decided I only have time to get to one or two extra tasks a day, whether that be using our Magic Clean eraser on the walls, washing the windows, or dusting. It’s all about being realistic and not stressing yourself out.
10. Plan lots of activities out of home– I scouted out a few activities ahead of time, writing down opening and closing times, collecting cash and gift cards, etc. I knew I’d need places to be with the kids when someone wants to see the house, and driving around in circles does NOT sound appealing. So far, we’ve been getting our “park” and “feed the ducks” fix on. I also decided to use these times to catch up on dr. appts. and errands that I’ve been putting off. I’m kind of a home-body, so all of these showings have forced me to get out and give my kids a taste of the big world 😉
11. Clean the shower while IN the shower— I saw this trick somewhere a long time ago, and it really IS a timesaver. Does it get rid of hard water spots? Well, no, but if what you need is a quick wash for dirt or dust, just fill one of those sponge-holders with some soap and keep it near the shower. Every time you shower, give the tub a quick scrub down! And remember, it needs to get stashed away before a showing, along with ANY and all soap or shampoo (nobody wants to see personal care items in a shower…especially razors and toothbrushes, ICK!).
12. Spot clean and freshen carpet– My favorite trick for getting our house to smell nice is to mix 1 part Borax with 1 part baking soda in a sugar shaker, then add 10 drops of peppermint and lavender. I sprinkle it on the carpet, then vacuum it up 10 minutes later! The house smells so fresh afterwards, without overpowering anyone (good to know, because air fresheners are a NO when it comes to showing a house, apparently. It sends the message that you have something to hide.) For other Pinterest cleaning tips, you can read my list and reviews here.
As far as spot cleaning, sprinkle baking soda over a stain, then pour vinegar on top. The chemical reaction causes bubbling, which lifts the stain, then you scrub for a minute. Just make sure to vacuum once or twice afterwards!
13. Start the organization/clean out process early– We began the process about a month or so before ever trying to pack up or stage. We made a list of the furniture that we didn’t need and also a list of stuff that cluttered up the house. And we just started listing and selling, listing and selling, taking car load after car load to the thrift store. I’d say we spent at least two full Saturdays just devoted to cleaning out and selling. It made the packing and staging a BILLION times easier.
A piece of advice our realtor gave me was: “You pack twice: first, when you stage your home, and next, when it sells and you’re moving out.”
14. Last minute cleaning– This is my checklist for the ten minutes prior to leaving the house. Go ahead and print it off!
15. Easily-made Beds– When we started staging our house, I replaced the boys’ cartoon character comforters with blankets that matched the curtains. Then, I decided that they would sleep on top of the blanket, using their comforter as a blanket and then folding in the morning and shoving it under the bed.
At first I thought I was perhaps just being lazy. And then I realized that this was a brilliant idea! Making 5 beds in a morning while in a rush is stressful and hard (especially since most showings occur early in the morning before people go into work). This trick considerably cuts down the time spent making beds!
There you are! If you have any tips to add, feel free to write them in the comments!
5 Things I’ve Learned While Staging Our Home
What’s Your Spring Cleaning Routine?