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How we prepped our home for sale

It's been just over a month since we sold our home, and thankfully it was a quick process. The last time we sold in 2013 it took us 8 months! Selling your home is a lot of work - getting it ready and then keeping it clean for showings....and when you have kids and pets it's even harder! While we had been casually looking at homes for probably about 2 years now, when we actually decided to list and sell, it happened fast! Once we made an offer on our new home, we needed to get our house on the market as quick as possible. I go into detail about how the sale came about in this post, if you want to catch up on that part of the story.

Today I wanted to share the details of how we prepped our house for sale, all on a really tight timeline!

Give your house a thorough clean

I feel like this is an obvious one, but you are going to want to scrub your house from top to bottom, both inside and out. If you can afford to, hire this one out to save yourself some time - there is so much to do and taking this off your list is a huge help.

I hired a cleaner to help me scrub the inside of our home...all of the obvious things like floors and toilets, but also the baseboards, windows and blinds. We also hired Shack Shine to scrub the outside - they washed the windows, the glass overhang, the siding, our deck and our gutters.


After cleaning, this is the second most important thing you can do to make your house look it's best for potential buyers. If you have time for nothing else, focus on cleaning and decluttering! Clutter is such a visual distraction for potential buyers, and it can make your home look smaller.

Tip: the less stuff you have in your home, the easier it is to clean and keep clean.

When it comes to clutter, I think there are two types - everyday clutter and accumulated clutter. Just like it sounds, accumulated clutter comes from accumulating "things" and not taking the time to purge as you go. Most people have this to some degree, especially if you have kids. I spent a good week tackling all of our "problem areas" which were suffering from accumulated clutter. The basement rec room, our storage closets, the garage and our family desk area were all a little out of control. We focused on one space one at a time and it didn't take us that long to whip these areas into shape! Whenever I tackle an organizing/decluttering job, I grab a bunch of cardboard boxes and a garbage bag. Then I pull each and every item out and it goes into one of the following piles: keep, donate, garbage or sell. Because we were working on a pretty tight timeline, I didn't worry about selling anything, I just gave things away to other families or donated them.

Then there is the "everyday clutter" that we all have and this is made up of things that actually serve a purpose but don't necessarily look visually pleasing. Everyday clutter can be tricky when it comes to staging your house for photography and showings, because these are items that you actually need, but don't want visible.

When it came time for the real estate photos and showings, my goal was to make each room look as tidy and clutter free as possible and so first of all, I hid things like laundry baskets, the dogs bowls/toys/beds and small appliances like fans/noise machines. In the kitchen I cleared almost all of our appliances off the counter and displayed a few "pretty" kitchen items like canisters, a bowl of lemons and a pretty cookbook.

I would usually just make a pile of "stuff' and hide it in the nearest cupboard, closet or drawer for showings. The night after our real estate photos were taken, my family was like "where's my phone charger/laptop case/toothbrush/retainer/noise machine/homework" and the list went was actually kinda funny! But I think you can agree having all of this visible clutter hidden away makes for great photos!

Address the layout and functionality of each room

If you have too much furniture in a room, it can make the space feel cramped and small. Try and keep the furniture in the room to a minimum. A good example of this is in Stella's bedroom.

A few months ago we set squeezed a desk into her room for her, even though as a designer, it was killing me - it was not pleasing to my eye, but very functional and necessary. Girlfriend loves to play games online with her friends and she is LOUD! Seeing as this is her main form of social connection during this pandemic, we needed to create a space for her to play with friends that was out of our earshot. However, when it came time for staging and selling, we pulled the desk out of her room and set it up how it used to be. This meant a few weeks, once again, of having her take over my desk in the living room and being forced to listen to her shouting out minecraft strategies to her friends. Sigh.

The other space we changed for the purpose of selling was our basement rec room. My husband and son set up a workout bench in our basement awhile ago. While functional for them, this was located right at the bottom of the stairs, and would be the first thing buyers would see when they came down the stairs into the basement. We relocated that stuff to the garage and I set up a little "play area" as I knew we were trying to appeal to families with kids. The photographer that came to do the listing photos actually forgot to capture this space so I don't have a picture of it, but here is how the same area looked when my kids were younger and we used it as their playroom.

Attend to repairs

Every homeowner has that never ending list of little things that need fixing. We had a knob that needed gluing on the bathroom cupboard, some trim that came loose around the fireplace, a broken light fixture outside...just little things that we had been putting off. We spent a day going through the house and addressing all those little repairs.


This is something that can be a tough call ... should you repaint? If you have the time and budget to do this, I say absolutely. Giving your house a fresh coat of a light, neutral color throughout will make your home look amazing. We had recently re-painted many areas of our home when I was getting ready for our feature over on The DIY Playbook, so I felt like we were in pretty good shape. However, there were some walls and doors that hadn't been addressed in awhile and were looking a little banged up thanks to the kids and the dogs - so we had my favorite painter come in for a day to touch things up where needed.

Landscaping & Patio Styling

Because it was the beginning of March, our landscaping was looking a little sad. My husband put some fresh mulch down at the front of the house and I went to Home Depot and bought some colorful plants for our planters to add a little life. This was inexpensive but I think went a long way to making the outside look as good as possible! This large planter on our upstairs deck was filled with lavender last summer and looked so pretty. I stuck whatever this purple stuff is in with it to give it some life and color.

We had all of our outdoor patio furniture stored in the garage, and we decided to haul it out and set it up. Even though the weather was "meh" at the time, I felt like it was beneficial to showcase our patio off the family room because it is such a great space in the warmer months! You can read more about how I decorated and styled our back deck in this post.

In Review

As I mentioned, we were on a really tight timeline to list our house...we had a subject-to-sale offer accepted on a Friday and we listed our house 10 days later. There are so many things you should do to get ready for the Real Estate Listing photos and then for the showings, it can feel overwhelming. Here is our house prep to-do list:

My best advice is to hire out what you can to give yourself time and energy for the jobs that are harder to delegate like decluttering and focusing on the layout of your home. We hired a painter to do some touch ups, we hired Shack Shine to clean the house and we almost hired 1-800-GOTJUNK to haul away some stuff from our garage, but in the end we had time to take our donations, recycling and garbage away ourselves. Yes, it can feel expensive to shell out for these services, but when it comes to marketing your home for sale, all of these things are totally worth it. The weird part about listing your house for sale is that you have to try and think of your home, not as your home anymore but as a product for sale.

This post is running a little long and I haven't even touched on the fun stuff yet - simple staging tips and ideas to make your space look pretty! I have decided to write that as a separate post and will be sharing it soon! Let me just leave you with a shot of the pretty flowers I bought for the listing photos:

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions leave me a comment below!


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