So you want to have a clean sparkling house for real estate showings, but you feel overwhelmed by all the junk you need to sort through to make it happen.
Before you tackle deep cleaning, you will need to declutter your house. It is possible to tackle this feat in one marathon de-cluttering weekend, or you can spread it out, but if you're close to entering into a contract with a realtor, time is of the essence. To minimize the overwhelm, try following this seven-day plan to declutter your home. You will be glad you did!
Day 1: Organize Your Closets
The general rule for clothes is if you have not worn it in the last year, send it to the thrift store. There are exceptions, though, like the suit you wear to weddings or that special pair of shoes. Also, if it doesn't fit, throw it out. And if you have never worn it because it doesn't really look good - toss it. Go through every article of clothing in your closet and drawers and sort them into groups. These are the categories:
Keep the clothes that fit, looks good, and you will wear within the next year.
Consign quality clothes that you no longer need.
Donate all other clothes that are in good shape.
Throw out the rest or use the material in another way.
Each family member should go through this process – kids may need guidance.
Day 2: Organize Your Kitchen
Some kitchen clutter is tucked away in the cabinets, but you can also see clutter right in front of you on the countertops. Tackle the cabinets first. Here are some tips:
Pots and pans - Separate pots from pans. Stack pots and store tops separately.
Tupperware - Match all tops to bottoms and throw out any extras. Get rid of any stained containers. Kids love this sorting job. Keep the best storage containers and get rid of repurposed food packaging like ice cream containers, etc.
Utensils - Go through of your kitchen tools to see if anything needs to be tossed. Like clothing, if you haven't used it in the last year, get rid of it. Whatever you keep, be sure to store it neatly.
Now that you have made some room, place small appliances in cabinets instead of leaving them on the counter-tops. The only items that should be on your counters are those you use every day, like the coffee maker. Appliances you don't use every day should be stored out of sight. Especially do your best to keep all food in the pantry or in cabinets. Eliminating clutter on your counters makes them much easier to keep clean.
Day 3: Organize Your Bathrooms
Your bathroom probably has plenty of clutter in the cabinets and on the sink counter. Pull up a stool and start with the cabinets, drawers and closet. Here are some tips on cleaning out these areas:
Toss any medicine past its expiration date. Sunscreen and other items may have expiration dates as well. Throw out all expired products.
Go through your makeup, hair care products, and personal care items. Throw out all items that have gone bad or you won't use.
Keep similar items together, for example extra shampoo, conditioner and hair spray.
If you do have a linen closet, go through those and pull out anything too dingy to use.
Store extra toilet paper and tissue out of the way, for example, on the top shelf of the linen closet.
If you have a lot of clutter, keep what you absolutely need in the bathroom, and place the rest in a storage bin that can reside in a closet or attic.
Once you have weeded out the bathroom cabinets, look at what is on your sink counter. Every day items such as toothpaste, deodorant, makeup, hair products, medication etc. should be kept in a drawer or in small bins that you can store under the sink. The more hygiene products you can keep out of site during a showing, the better.
Day 4: Organize Your Books, Magazines and Toys
Devote day 3 to all of your miscellaneous STUFF. Do you have piles of magazines and boxes of old books that no one reads? Is the toy box overflowing with toys your kids outgrew three years ago? Here are some tips on organizing these items:
Toys - Sit down with your children and go through all the toys. Create three piles - to keep, to donate, and to throw out. (There is a great Berenstein Bear book about the bear family sorting through all their excess and giving to the needy. You might want to read it to your kids to get them motivated.)
Magazines - If you have a huge pile, the first thing is to take note that you do not need to renew all the subscriptions. Next, make a small stack of ones you will actually read soon and another stack for ones that need to be recycled.
Books - You should not have any boxes of books laying around. Go through the books and neatly shelve the ones you want to keep. Consider donating the rest to a school or library.
Miscellaneous items - Take a good look at all your knickknacks, collections, and other "dust-collectors" to see what you should keep, what you should store, and what needs to be tossed. Store as much bric-a-brac as you can. Remember, you'll be able to display it again when you get your new house.
Day 5: Organize Your Bedrooms
After the work you've done on days 1-3, your bedrooms should not have much clutter to deal with. Take a little break on this day of light decluttering. Here are some tips:
Ideally, there should not be anything under your bed.
Pay special attention to the tops of your dressers and bed-side tables. Keep out only items that you need daily access to and special items, such as framed pictures and vases, and store the rest.
Stow a large laundry basket in a hidden corner or closet to keep dirty clothes tucked away until laundry day.
Day 6: Organize Your Attic and Basement
It is time to tackle the junk havens - the storage areas of many things you probably don't use or need. Remember, prospective homeowners will want to check out the condition of your attic and basement, inspect electrical panels, etc. Make it ease for them. Tips:
Broken furniture - Schedule a time for it to be fixed or get rid of it.
Clothing - If you store seasonal clothing, go through it all to weed out what does not fit or look good. Hang up coats and other clothes on a portable hanging rack to save space.
Holiday decorations - Store in large plastic bins and stack them together.
Luggage - Keep only the suitcases and bags that you honestly will use. Donate the rest.
Sports gear - Make sure tents, sleeping bags and other equipment are packed tightly and consolidated in one area.
Day 7: Organize Your Garage
You house is almost completely decluttered, and the only area left is the garage. For some, this may be an all-day job. Here are some tips for getting your garage organized:
Peg boards are good for hanging tools on the wall.
Use large hooks to suspend bicycles or other large items.
Hang garden or yard tools (shovel, rake, hoe) on the wall.
Shelves are a great way to organize the garage. Consider installing shelves along the walls or purchase plastic shelves from a super center or home improvement store. You also may find some sturdy wooden shelves at second hand stores.
Congratulations! It's been a busy week, but trust that all the effort you just put into de-cluttering your home will make it easy to clean and keep clean - and likely attract a buyer sooner than later!