Kids and Selling Your Home: 5 Tips For Keeping It Tidy

If you have children at home then you understand how hard it is to keep your house clean for longer than 10 minutes. I'm not exaggerating, here. My husband and I are the proud parents of 3 beautiful children, ages 14, 11, and 10:

We survived the 'diapers, wipes, and burp rags in every room at all times' stage, the 'I have exceptional quads and balance because it's easier to step over the 14 baby gates in our home than to take them down every time I need to enter or exit a room' stage, the 'we are just house guests to the multitude of toys and stuffed animals who live here' stage, and are currently surviving the 'lego boobie-trapped family room, homework lives on the kitchen table, ear-buds live on ... well... every surface, dirty clothes live on the bathroom floor' stage. My husband and I have resigned ourselves to the notion that we will have plenty of time and energy to keep our home clean when we no longer have children at home, and that will be a sad day. So, why not embrace the perpetual mess? Since having children, we have only had to sell one home. At the time, our kids were 5 years old, 20 months old, and 4 weeks old. We were covering multiple stages all at once. I remember feeling totally overwhelmed. How was I going to keep our house "show ready" with 3 small children home all day, every day?? This question lead us to the conclusion that we had to sell that thing FAST. That home had fantastic curb appeal and was located in a great neighborhood. We had two things going for us right out of the gate. All we had to do was price it fairly and keep it clean and hopefully getting it sold fast would come naturally.

The first thing we did was pack up EVERYTHING we could live without and put it in off-site storage. We were blessed with a free storage service called 'Mom and Dad's Garage'. Next, we recruited family members to help us spend one day doing nothing but deep cleaning. I'm talking about every single nook and cranny; basement corners and rafters, walls, windows, the attic crawl space... EVERYTHING. Starting with a clean slate made it much easier to keep it clean on a daily basis. After every shower, the bathroom got a quick swipe. After preparing every meal the dishes were done and counters wiped down. And at the end of every day we spent about 30 minutes picking up the entire house so it was "show ready" if someone happened to call first thing the next morning. We were over the moon when we received an offer within a week of listing, from the first person who looked at it! I recognize, however, that's not always how it happens. So, if you're facing the daunting prospect of having to keep your home clean while trying to sell it, here are a few other tips you might find useful.

1. Pack It Up

Fewer items in the home make it easier to keep it de-cluttered and clean. If possible, store off-site. If not, packing up items in tidy containers and storing them in your garage, basement, or attic is still a great option. And just think! You'll be that much ahead when it's time to pack up the entire house for your move! Let kids help with this. As with everything else, this concept will be much easier for older kids to understand. Where younger children are involved, it's important for them to understand that the items being packed up are not disappearing forever. They're simply taking a little "vacation". Some kids are particularly attached to toys like stuffed animals and dolls, personifying them in their little minds. This makes the process quite emotional for them. Let them decide which items they are willing to "send on vacation". You could even take it a step farther by allowing your child to decorate the box (whether it's cardboard or plastic) with markers to make it feel "homier" to their toys. They can write little notes to their favorite toys and leave them in the box so their toys have "something to remind them" of your child.

2. Jump & Dump Stations

Everything Has A Place & Everything IN It's Place. This is not a new concept. It's the most

fundamental basis for keeping a space tidy. Your goal for the time being is to simplify this for the sake of quick cleaning. You've already packed up un-needed items so you should have plenty of space to appoint a place for EVERYTHING. The hard part now, is to keep everything in it's place, right? There will be times when you are short on time, or don't want to tell a potential buyer "no, you can't come look right now". For these occasions, I suggest using what I refer to as 'Jump & Dump Stations'. Get some stylish containers, like large baskets, and place them strategically in high traffic rooms. These will be designated as your 'Jump & Dump Stations'. You know, someone calls and says "Can we come look at the house in 30 minutes?" so you jump up from what you are doing, gather everything that doesn't belong in that room, and dump them into these containers. Later in the day, when you have more time, you can put all these items in their proper, designated places. If you're going to implement the 'Jump & Dump Stations', it's very important that they are emptied every day. Otherwise, they defeat the purpose.

3. Designated Play Spaces

This tip will help make the afore-mentioned tip easier. If your children are young enough they still play with toys, of any kind, designate a space (or spaces) for playing with toys. Toys do not leave these areas, period. Establish a rule that when kids are finished playing with toys they are to pick them all up and put them away. If you struggle with getting kids to pick up when asked, here's a really effective solution which works for ages about 4 and up: Tell them, "If I have to pick it up you lose it forever/it will go in the trash/I will donate it." When they do not comply you MUST FOLLOW THROUGH. (For this reason, maybe you want to eyeball what's on the floor before using this approach. It's a lot easier to follow through when there's a $5 toy on the floor rather than a $50 one.) This strategy has worked quite well for us over the years. We now only have to say, "Are you going to take care of this? Or would you like me to take care of this?" I will never forget the first time I had to take a box full toys to Goodwill.... and neither will our kids.

4. 10 Minute Pickup Party

At the end of every day throw a 10 Minute Pickup Party with your kids. Set a timer, put on some music, and blow a whistle. Make it fun and young children will look forward to it!

5. Reward Them

The best way to keep kids enthusiastic about keeping your home "show ready" is to reward them when they do a good job. For younger kids, keep a sticker chart. After they receive a certain number of stickers on their chart, reward them with something they'll enjoy; have a one-on-one date with them, let them have a sleep-over, let them choose a craft, CASH! For older kids, a sticker chart may not be very appealing. Maybe a points system would work better. Once they reach so many points, they get a reward.

Diedra Summers
Marketing Assistant
Ramseier Realty Group