How to Clean Out Your House to Sell When you Feel Overwhelmed!

It felt like it happened so fast.  We had just purchased a lot to build a new home.  Next thing I know, we needed to have the house ready for professional pictures that the realtor could use to sell our house.  With a sudden feeling of OVERWHELM, I sat down and tried to organize how to get the house ready to sell in just a couple of weeks.

As much as I have tried to stay on top of the cleaning and clutter, the reality is that we have too much stuff; half of which we probably don’t need and it’s likely stored in the wrong place.

When it came to decluttering, I knew exactly what our weaknesses were: clothes, documents, kids’ crafts and mementos and toys.  I knew exactly where I needed to start too.  So I took a deep breath, walked to my closet and thought to myself, let the games begin! 

Tips for Cleaning Out Your Closet

an organized closet

Ever walk into your closet and complain you have nothing to wear, yet your closet is bursting at the seams? With styles changing as often as the direction of the wind, this was the situation I found myself in. 

I have to admit, it was a difficult task.  I guess when we say we have nothing to wear, we are not saying we don’t have clothes.  What we are actually saying is that we don’t have enough of what we truly love to wear.

Here’s what you need to do to get started:

1. Block off as Much Interruption-free Time as Possible

It can be quite a lengthy process!

2. Consider Putting on Make-up

Ok you probably didn’t expect that for step 2.

I feel like it just helps make you feel better about yourself when you are looking in the mirror all day trying on clothes! I think if I didn’t do this, everything would have been placed in the purge pile!

3. Empty our your Entire Wardrobe

Take all clothing out of your closet and drawers so you have everything in front of you. Doing this is necessary to be able to see if you have similar looking clothing items that you don’t need two of, and frankly just what your spending habits are. It can be a real eye opener to find unworn clothing with tags still attached.

clothes on the bed, trying them on

4. Start Sorting

With your huge pile of clothing, go through everything and either:

a. Continue to love and return to closet

b. Let somebody else love it and donate it

After completing my closet clean up, I continued to do so for my 2 kids and the husband.  I found purging all of the closets to be a very time consuming task and a little emotional as well!  Every time I held up a pretty dress that no longer fit, I remembered the occasions it was worn on and marvelled at how much the kids have grown. 

Under regular circumstances, I would say if you have a hard time letting go of something now, then keep it for another year or two.  But in the case of selling the house, you have to change your approach because it’s too much to lug extra unnecessary things to a new home. 

putting clothes away for donation

Bills and Other Documentation

Although we have online billing for some statements, for the ones we do receive, they add up quite quickly.  We hold on to them for years for fear of needing them one day.  Because of this, neither of us has really considered going through the boxes of documents and purging the previous years.  I decided to do some reading and check how long we should be keeping these documents for anyway.  According to an article called Financial Documents: What To Save and What You Can Throw Away, these are the following recommendations:

7 Years +

  • Tax returns
  • Receipts related to assets such as home remodeling projects – keep receipts as long as you own the asset

1 Year

  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Investment statements
  • Pay stubs
  • Receipts for large purchases – or for the duration of your warranty

Less Than 1 Year

  • Products under warranty
  • Tax returns
  • Insurance claims
documents piled up

Remember, you will eventually have to change your address on all your bills, your driver’s license, and any mailing subscriptions you are signed up for.  Keep a shoe box of flyers, magazines, and bills you will need to change your address on so you don’t forget anyone. Inside the same box, also keep a checklist so you know who has been notified already.

Kids Toys and Crafts

I immediately put the toys into 3 piles:

1. Keep it

2. Sell it

3. Donate it

The larger more expensive items such as their old bikes and toy kitchen set were in good condition and perfect for reselling.  There were some cute smaller toys that were not worth the price tag to sell so those went into the donation box.

The kids are still so proud of their artwork and crafts that they make.  I often have to hide some of their drawings in the recycling box between the newspapers so they don’t see them and get offended! When you are in a situation where you are moving, its hard to hold on to a bunch of crafts and drawings so not to upset them.  Try to be more practical and less emotional about what to hold on to.

a child drawing

Some questions to consider when looking at each piece of art are:

1. Is it original art? Was it something that was hand drawn or created from their imagination?

2. Does it have any personal connection? For example, it’s a picture of a pet or family.

3. Did they put a lot of time and effort into it?

Another popular option is to take a photo of the art with your phone and then dispose of them.  You just have to be diligent and organized enough to upload the pictures to a computer or external hard drive and have different folders set up for each child.

Organizing the Garage and Basement

I often refer to these areas as the ‘junk hoarding rooms’.  Whenever we are unsure of what to do with an item, we throw it in the basement storage or the garage.  Now we will be paying the price for that careless organizing!

The one thing I did store in the basement was large storage bins to organize all our seasonal clothing for the entire family. Otherwise, anything that has been stored for years and has remained untouched should be donated before moving.  

How to Get Ready for Staging the House

1. Paint Touch-Ups and Repair

We also needed to give the rooms a more clean and polished look so we patched up paint chips and repainted some rooms. Its always best to keep colors neutral at this point.

repainting a wall

2. Depersonalization

  • Take down all personal family photos off walls, even if this means you will have bare walls with nail holes if its not a room you were able to repaint.
  • Declutter shelves of books and any knickknacks. Only keep a few books out.
  • Remove any furniture that you have that looks out of place or doesn’t flow. Its better to have less furniture as it makes the space look bigger. Some examples are rocking chairs, kids playpens, space heaters and fans, any damaged furniture etc.
  • Only keep what you are currently using and need such as shoes, clothing and toiletries. it gives the illusion that you have so much more space in closets and bathrooms, especially if you are still living in the house.
  • Take everything off the fridge – no kids crafts and no reminder notices.
  • Make sure you have no documents out at all or anything which has your, or a family member’s name on it.

3. Close Off Some Rooms

Once I went through and got all the rooms as ready as I could for staging, I actually taped off rooms and didn’t allow the kids or husband to enter! I know it seems harsh, but I really needed to restrict the areas we were living in to contain our mess.

How to Get Ready for Showing the House to Prospective Buyers

Once we were able to get the house in order, we did the following to stage the house for viewings:

  • store all personal belongings and hygiene items in drawers or inside cabinets
  • have new fresh towels out
  • keep bedding simple
  • all kids toys to be out of sight and hidden inside closets
  • all personal pictures put away (family photos and religious artwork)
  • wash all your windows (inside and out…if possible) as photographers will be taking the photos with the windows opened. 
  • make sure that your landscaping is tidy
  • pull weeds, get rid of old planters, dead plants, trim trees and any hedges.
  • get rid of any garbage
  • it doesn’t have to be perfectly landscaped but clean is most important

Its totally fine to use basements and garages as storage during your photography and showings. No one is going to mind too much if you have boxes and bins stacked up.  if you have a storage area in your basement, only use that area, not the entire basement.  If you don’t have storage space in the basement then use your garage. If you don’t have space in the garage or a garage at all, then you need to consider renting a storage locker.

Check out our staging and showing checklists to help get your house ready for your showings quicker!

Don’t forget to check out this article on Tips for an Easy to Clean House Design when you move into your new house!

Leave a Comment