You realize how hard it is to keep your home clean for longer than ten full minutes when children live in your house. This is no exaggeration (see above photo). My husband and I are the proud parents of 3 wonderful children ages 14, 11, and 10:
We survived the 'diapers, wipes, and burp rags in every room at all times' phase, the 'I have exceptional quads and balance as it's easier to step over the 14 infant gates in our home than to take them down each and every time I have to enter or exit a room' stage, the 'we are just house guests to the wide range of toys and stuffed animals who live here' phase, and are currently surviving the 'lego boobie-trapped family room floor, homework resides on the dining table, ear-buds reside ... well... everywhere, dirty clothes go on the bathroom floor' stage. My husband and I have resigned ourselves to the notion our house will stay clean when we no longer have children living under our roof, and that will be a sad day. So, we shall embrace the mess! Since having kids, we have had to sell one home. At the time, our kiddos had been 5 years old, 20 months old, and 4 months old. We were in the midst of multiple phases. I remember feeling totally overwhelmed. How would I keep our home tidy and ready for potential buyers to walk through at a moments notice?? This question lead us to the conclusion that we had to sell that sucker FAST. Our home had a couple of things going for it. 1- It had splendid curb appeal. 2- It was in a great neighborhood. All we had to do was price it fairly and keep it clean and hopefully snagging a buyer quickly would come naturally.
The first thing we did was gather up anything we could live without and put it in off-site storage. We had been blessed with an inexpensive storage space called 'Mom and Dad's Garage'. Next, we recruited members of the family to help us spend 1 day doing nothing but cleaning. I'm talking about deep cleaning; basement corners and rafters, walls, windows, the attic crawl space... EVERYTHING. Starting with a clean slate made it much simpler to keep it clean. From there, we adjusted our daily habits; the bathroom got an immediate wipe and swipe after every shower. The kitchen was tidied up and counters wiped down after preparing every meal. Additionally, every day we spent about 30 minutes picking up the house, leaving it "show ready" before bed. This way if we received a phone call first thing the next morning about showing the house, we didn't panic. We were over the moon when we received an offer within a week of listing our home! We recognize, though, that is not always how it happens. If you find yourself facing the reality of trying to sell your house with children at home, here are a few other tips you might find useful.
1. Pack It Up
Fewer items in your home make it simpler to keep your house 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 terrific option. An added bonus is, you are going to be that much ahead whenever it's time to pack up the house and move! Let your kids help with this. As with anything else, this concept will likely be much easier for older kids to understand. Where younger children are concerned, it is important to help them comprehend that the items being packed up are not disappearing forever. They're merely taking a little "vacation". Some kids are especially attached to toys like stuffed animals and dolls, personifying them in their minds. This makes the procedure quite emotional for them. Allow your child to decide which things they are willing to "send on vacation". You might also take it a step farther by allowing your kid to decorate the box (be it plastic or cardboard) with markers to make it feel "homier" to their toys. They can even write 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. You've heard this phrase, undoubtedly. It is the fundamental basis for keeping a space tidy. Your goal for the immediate future is to simplify this in the interests of quick cleaning. You've already packed up un-needed items so you ought to have plenty of space to designate a spot for EVERYTHING. The difficult part will be to keep every thing in it's place, right? There will be instances when you are short on time. Don't panic! For these occasions, we 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. You know how this goes. Someone calls and says, "Can we come look at the house in 30 minutes?" You jump up from whatever you are doing, gather up anything that's laying around and dump it all into these containers. Later, when you have more time, you can put all of these items in their proper, designated places. If you're going to implement the 'Jump & Dump Stations', it is rather important that the containers get emptied every single day. Otherwise, you're defeating the purpose.
3. Designated Play Spaces
Designate a space (or spaces) for playing with toys. Toys may not leave these specific areas, period. Establish a rule that after kids are finished playing with toys they are to pick them all up and put them away. If you struggle to get your kids to pick up when asked, here's a really effective solution which works for ages about 4 and up: Inform them, "If I have to pick it up, you lose it forever/it will go in the trash/I will donate it." You MUST FOLLOW THROUGH when they do not comply. (For this reason, maybe you should eyeball what's on the floor before using this approach. It's easier to follow through when the toy on the floor is worth $5 rather than $50.) This strategy has worked quite well for us through the years. These days all we have to say is, "Will you take care of this this? Or would you like me to take care of this?" I'll never forget the first time I had to take an entire box of toys to Goodwill.... and neither will our children.
4. 10 Minute Pickup Party
At the end of each day throw a 10 Minute Pickup Party. Set a timer, put on some music, and blow a whistle to get it started. Make clean up time fun and your kids will look forward to it!
5. Reward Them
The most useful way to get kids excited 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, say, 5 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 won't be very appealing. Maybe a points system would work better. After they earn so many points, they get rewarded.
Special Contribution By:
Marketing Design Specialist
Bozeman Montana Real Estate .net