Putting our house up for sale has taught me a lot about how to keep our home clean and in ‘show worthy’ condition. At any point in the day our agent could call us up and ask if someone can come look at the house. They give us anywhere from 1 to 24 hours notice and with two little kids and three pets it’s been a HUGE learning experience in efficiency and time management. While this pace is a lot to keep up day to day…I hope to retain some of these habits even after the house is sold to make it easier to clean and stay on top of it all.
THROW OUT EVERYTHING.
I’m not kidding. Go through every cupboard, every closet, every drawer and throw out all the crap you haven’t used in six months or more. You will be AMAZED how many bags you’ll toss out. We threw out parts to toys we didn’t have any more. We threw out and recycled dead cameras, old computer parts, warranty paperwork from long dead appliances. Stuff we’d been storing for years we realized we really didn’t need it. We threw it out and all of a sudden we had places to store things we did need. Things that were sitting out on counters or on top of the fridge or cluttering up tables we could now put away.
It made a huge difference because it’s impossible to clean easily if every surface is covered in stuff. Make space so you can clear your surfaces and when your surfaces are clear keep them that way.
Scrub your bathrooms, scour the kitchen, dust all those places you normally don’t pay attention to. Do a really good vacuum. The deep clean is important because from now on you’ll be doing a light clean every day or second day and if you don’t start with a clean house you can’t keep it clean easily. During our deep clean we even went so far as to re-paint some doors.
Catch up on laundry.
Get it ALL done. You can’t do this if you have a back load of laundry. Just resign to getting it all done over a day or two. Wash…Dry…Fold…Put Away…Repeat. Start with clothes, move to sheets and towels and finally do your table cloths and any curtains that need washing.
At this point, your house will look pretty amazing and you’ll wonder why you don’t always keep it looking so nice.
After you’re caught up you need to keep on top of laundry so it doesn’t pile up again. I found the best way to do this was to get rid of all the hampers. You heard me…do it. We used to have a basket in our room, a basket in the kids room and one downstairs. We would only throw a load in when a hamper was full but the problem with this was:
- we always had dirty laundry sitting out in our rooms and
- we always had a back log of three or more loads (our hampers typically fit a load and a half worth of laundry.)
Obviously, when you’re showing the house it’s not ideal to have dirty laundry sitting around. After we got caught up I took all the hampers away. It made more space in our bedrooms and kept everything looking tidy.
Keep one laundry basket. ONE. At the end of every day, put the basket in a central place (I put ours at the top of the stairs) and ask everyone to put their stuff in it as they are putting on their pjs. If they take it off, it goes right in the basket. There is no deviation from this rule.
After the kids are in bed…shower.
As soon as you’re out of the shower and before the steam dries up, grab a towel to wipe down the shower, then the counters and sink (buff that tap!) and finally do a quick sweep on the tank/back of the toilet. Please don’t scrub your toilet with a towel….I’m just talking ‘hair sweep’ here people.
Throw the towels in the basket and put a load in the washer.
In the evenings I try to do a quick walk through of the house. Throw out any paper, garbage or general ‘crap’ that accumulated over the day. I put stuff away in the cabinets and clear the counters. I might do a quick dust and I make sure the dishwasher gets loaded and put on. I usually put away a back pack or any toys that are out of place too.
First thing in the morning, while the kids eat breakfast I empty the dishwasher and put that load of laundry in the dryer.
Breakfast dishes go straight in the dishwasher and I wipe the counters /sink with paper towel and windex.
Now it’s time to get the beds made, kids dressed, teeth brushed etc.
After everyone is dressed I put any dirty pj’s in the laundry basket and stash the basket in the laundry room. I quickly sweep the floor. After everyone is done in the bathroom I grab a paper towel and some multipurpose windex and wipe out the bathroom sink. If the mirror is spotted I give it a quick wipe too (I use vinegar on my glass as it streaks less.)
That’s pretty much it. During the day, if we don’t leave the house, I try to keep the kids in one area (tv/play room) so it’s only one room to clean up. After lunch / dinner the dishes go right into the dishwasher and I wipe out the sink.
I spot clean a lot. Especially under the highchair.
Before bed, the load of laundry from the day before gets folded and put away…
Once a week clean the toilets and wash the sheets and do a good vacuum (we vacuum about twice a week because of the cat hair but if you don’t have pets then once a week is plenty.) Wash any hard surface flooring (I use a steam mop.)
That’s about it. If you’re keeping up daily then there isn’t a mad rush to do a major clean on the weekends.
Designate a room or two if you can, to be ‘non-kid’ rooms. I won’t let the kids play in the upstairs living room and I’ve also tried to keep them out of the downstairs bathroom. It just means that now we’ll have two rooms I don’t have to think about. They should stay pretty clean and I just dust / vacuum when warranted.
This only works if everyone is on board so lay out the rules and make everyone stick to em. This means no leaving stuff lying around willy nilly. If say, my husband, leaves his pj’s on the floor I ask him to pick them up and put them away. If my daughter leaves her toys out I ask her to clean them up. If you constantly pick up everything, not only will people think they don’t have to clean up after themselves but you’ll also lose your mind.
This is a team effort and everyone has to participate. THERE IS NO REASON TO NOT HAVE HELP. It’s just as easy for laundry to be tossed in the basket as it is for it to get tossed on the floor. DO NOT let people get away with not helping. My 4 year old is capable of doing a lot and she likes to help. I just have to guide her.
For your deep clean you’ll need your standard favorite cleaners – toilet scrub, soap scum remover, furniture polish etc. Once you’re on daily maintenance you’ll find you aren’t using harsh cleaners much at all.
Stock up on:
- Dish Soap ( I use it for spot cleaning the floor if the baby makes a really sticky mess and on walls etc.)
- Vinegar (it shines glass nicely and gets rid of finger prints on windows. )
- A dry duster (I like the swiffer type)
- Multipurpose Spray (I like the windex type but I only use it on counters, sinks and things like garbage cans. I don’t use it on mirrors because it streaks.)
- Paper Towel
- Laundry Soap ( you can’t afford to run out!)
Like I said in the beginning…I have no intention of having a ‘show perfect’ home after the sale process is over. BUT I’ve always struggled with how to stay on top of things so cleaning isn’t taking up a whole day on the weekend. Once we can relax a little I think I’ll still keep us down to one laundry hamper and I’ll make it a habit to wipe down the sinks more often…it sure is nice having clean sinks!
The other thing I want to work harder to maintain is clutter. I always thought I was good at throwing stuff out but this process has shown me that I was obviously wrong!
Over the last few weeks I’ve learned the key to keeping a clean(er) home and not having to slave all weekend is:
- Never let Clutter take over
- Never let Laundry pile up
- Always Maintain!
I hope my experience has helped you too. If you have a tip I’ve missed please leave it in comments 🙂
you just gave me a better appreciation of all those homes we’ve been viewing. That sounds like a scary amount of work but its just for a short while so I guess it works itself out.
it has been a crazy ride! It is astonishing how much mess two kids can make in an hour or two!
Ha ha and I think 3 boys some how creates 10 times as much lol
Wondering what your routine is now lol
Great tips. Upkeep really makes a HUGE difference.
Now? The routine is that my husband does the laundry on Sundays and I put my feet up 😉
Great post! This will definitely be handy when we sell this home to move into our final home that we will die in. I’m already dreading that!
haha, you sound like you’re in your 80’s 😀 Thanks for reading Nichol!
1. Just reading this made me exhausted. Even though I had a house for sale for the last 11 months out of 13.
2. ONE laundry hamper. Hahahaha. That’s very funny.
you have more kids than I do…so you likely have two loads a day. Two hampers is still better than three!
Great tips all around. Just remember it is a short term inconvenience for a long term gain
absolutely…it’s no way to live day to day but for the short term, it’s do-able!
I loved reading this article and completely agree with you! I always watch those “sell this house” shows on hgtv and they say declutter, clean daily…etc. I finally listened to them and got the closets totally cleaned out and even went to ONE laundry hamper too. It worked! Our house sold very quickly! Now we’ve moved to our new home and I am still doing the same routine and my kids have even gotten used to making their beds daily and putting their dishes in the sink. I do a load of laundry a day and it takes no time to get the house clean since it’s pretty much already clean! Great advice!!
I’m excited to hear you’re keeping up post sale…I hope I can too!
Great article and so true. I have taken out literally 25 60 gallon bags of clothes out of my five children’s closets. It’s better now, they can see their close and there’s less that lands on the floor. Next on my list is my bookshelves. I have tons of books…and with Kindle and Nook and other e-reader….I can get rid of them too. I especially like the 6 months rule.
Rachel Vanderveen says
You’re brave! When we listed our last house, I cleaned it into mint condition, packed up my van full of kids, and left town for 2 weeks until it sold! I knew I could never keep on top of it, but having it show 10/10 certainly adds to the value of the home, and it’s WELL worth the effort!