How to keep your house clean and tidy when it’s for sale

Keeping your home clean and tidy is hard enough. But when you’re trying to sell your home, it needs to be show ready every day. A clean, uncluttered home sells faster. And the less time your house is on the market, the less time you have to spend keeping it super clean and tidy!

How to keep your house clean and tidy when it’s for sale

Clear the clutter

One of the best things you can do to attract buyers and make your life easier is clear out the clutter. By clearing the clutter, your house will seem more clean, even if there is a little dust here and there.

Pack up everything you don’t need and use. Donate what you can. If you need to keep some items, store what you don’t need elsewhere. Rent a storage unit or borrow a friend/family members’ basement or garage. Alternatively, store unneeded items in totes neatly stacked in the garage or basement.

Keep floors and tables clear

Try this rule: don’t store anything on the floor. As this article states, tidy people just don’t store things on the floor. You’ll be amazed at how clean your home feels by doing this one thing.

Another rule is to keep tables clear. Though you may have a handful of decorative items on side tables (no more than 3!), keep everything else off of those tables!

Floors and tables (and chairs and beds) can be clutter magnets. Have you ever noticed how clutter attracts more clutter? Once it becomes acceptable to put “stuff” somewhere, that area seems to spontaneously breed more stuff. If you’ve ever had a junk drawer, you know what I mean. Be mindful of the areas in your house where clutter multiplies and give those areas daily attention.

Bonus: Less stuff on the floor and tables will let you breathe easier, relax better, and clean effortlessly.

Limit the overwhelm

It’s stressful to look at an entire room and not know where to start. Take it room by room, task by task, item by item. Complete each task before moving on. It helps me to write down exactly what needs to be done and check it off as I go.

Figure out a method that works for you. Some people do top to bottom, bottom to top, or window to door. Or you could start by cleaning up all the clutter (put it in a laundry basket), then dust, scrub, and vacuum (and then put away or pack up all the clutter).

Set a timer

You would be amazed at what you can do in very little time. Break up tasks into 5, 10 or 15-minute increments. Set a timer and do as much as you can before the timer goes off. By breaking up tasks into manageable time frames, cleaning and tidying are much more tolerable.

Whenever I feel like things are getting out of control and I don’t want to “clean house.” I’ll just dust the main living area, which takes 5 minutes. Then, later on, I’ll tackle the bedrooms – another 5 minutes.

Clean up and tidy as you go through your day

Don’t save up all the cleaning and tidying to be done all at once.

Try a new rule. If you can do something in 5 minutes, do it right away. This rule has been a great way for me to keep up on the little things, like putting the dishes in the dishwasher, the laundry in the basket, and keeping the papers and mail under control.


  • Clean up the dishes after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t leave them on the counter or in the sink for later.
  • Put clothes in the laundry basket or hang them up immediately after you take them off.
  • Put lotion, hair brushes, and other toiletries away as soon as you’re finished with them.
  • File the day’s mail as soon as you get it in the house.

Start and end your day tidy

Do a quick 15 minute clean up each morning and another 15 minutes in the evening. This, alone, will help you stay on top of things. (Remember that timer?!)

Have you ever heard of Flylady? Her motto is “You can do anything for 15 minutes”! Do your 15 minutes twice a day, and you’ll be astounded at the results.

Enlist help

Ask kids and other family members to do their part. Kids can rinse their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. They can put away their toys. Everyone can have a daily chore. It could be fun. Set that timer and make it a game. Reward them.

You could create a chore board and rotate duties among members of the household each week. For example, one person is in charge of vacuuming for a week, while another is in charge of cleaning the bathrooms. And then you switch to a new chore next week. Younger kids could join in by doing chores such as dusting, picking up toys, etc.

My friend, Jillian, has five kids. When toys became a problem, she found a great solution. To keep the toys under control, try out her rule of 3 x 3: Minimalism with Kids.

When time is short

What about those last minute showings? What if you don’t have time to get everything done?

  • Use a 5-minute rule. Hit the worst areas in each room in 5 minutes.
  • Focus on kitchen and bathrooms. Countertops should be clean and clear, towels should be folded, tile should be clean. Dishes and toiletries should be stowed.
  • Take care of the trash. Other people’s dirt and trash are gross. Empty trash cans and make sure there’s no hair (yuck!), lotion, food crumbs, or tissues lying around.
  • Pick up the toys. If there’s time, keep the toys confined to one area.
  • Keep a ready-bag at the door. Keep a bag for the kids and the dog’s leash at the ready to leave in a rush.


Don’t miss the opportunity to give your buyers a great first impression. If you don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. Our expert interior designer will handle all the details to make staging your home a simple, budget-friendly process. Contact us with questions or to schedule your consultation. We’re here to simplify the selling process for you every step of the way.

image credit: Pixabay


About the Author:

Amanda has lived in the Des Moines area since 1999, where she and her husband have bought and sold a handful of homes over the years, including a recent flip. Amanda enjoys writing, obsesses about personal finance and is fond of looking at houses. She loves sharing useful tips and info to make life easier for anyone wanting to buy or sell a home. In her spare time, Amanda cherishes time with her family, volunteers with IHYC, gardens, hikes, and practices TaeKwonDo. You can read more of her writing at whywemoney.com