Your Home Prep Plan to Get the Whole House Clutter-Free, Sparkling Clean and Show-Ready

Grime and clutter multiply faster than a fourth grader practicing her time tables. You walk through your bedroom and step on dirty socks, the clothes from work the day before, the toy the dog left behind. You bend down to pick something up and realize that the carpet is caked in dog hair.

It’s never ending and your real estate agent told you that the house needs to be spotless by Tuesday. It’s Sunday night, there’s a quick turnaround, and the heaping pile of recycling alone gives you anxiety.

You’ve come to the right place. We’ve dug through the internet, sat down with a top agent who’s helped clients just like you, and watched YouTube videos to get into the nitty gritty of it all to bring you this room-by-room home prep guide.

We walked countless neighborhoods to scout out great curb appeal and brought you the best of the best choices we’ve seen other people make for their homes. We even did the deep clean ourselves, staged our own house, and figured out what worked and what didn’t.

Buyers won’t give you what you deserve for your house if you don’t properly prepare it. We know exactly how to help you get it right.

Clean up, trim up, and spruce up the exterior

How to clean your house on the outside

The outside of your house attracts dust, dirt, dirty rain water, mold, mildew, and a slew of other grimey substances that stick. That grime can show up in listing photos, but most importantly it will be all too evident to buyers during showings.

The thing is that the way you wash your house depends on the type of material your exterior is made of, and if you have a mold or mildew problem.

The best way to clean the exterior of your house hands down is with a garden hose. You can buy a special nozzle if you need a little more power. If mildew or mold has built up, then buy a mildew solution. These solutions attach to your hose nozzle and kill any mildew and mold on your house.

If a good spraydown just doesn’t cut it, then you may have to bring in a pressure washer. Beware: pressure washers can damage houses with brick, shingles, or stucco.

If you do choose to buy or rent a pressure washer, the highest you should set the nozzle to is 40˚. Any degree less than this may damage your home. Before you go all out with the pressure washer, do a test patch in an area that’s easy to cover up if things go awry.

Fix the landscaping

First off, you need to clean up any existing landscaping. That includes trimming and watering the lawn, maintaining overgrown bushes and shrubs, and cutting back any overgrown trees.

To trim bushes and shrubs, pare down ⅓ of the plant with handheld clippers. Trim dead branches inside the plant, and cut off overgrown branches from the inside, too. Make sure that the bottom of the plant stays wider than the top to allow the entire shrub to get sunlight.

You also need to make sure bushes and shrubs are cut below your front windows. Bushes that cover any part of your front windows can be a fire hazard. This can come up in a home inspection and is easy to avoid so long as you do your gardening work before the inspector comes over.

If your lawn is completely dead, chat with your real estate agent about the best solution. Dead lawns can really turn buyers off, and could suggest bad upkeep within the house (even if it’s perfect). If you have a dead lawn you either need to rip it out and fill it in with a different type of ground cover (low succulents, an ice plant, bark, gravel, etc.) or redo the sod completely.

Add life to your yard

Home prep demands a pretty front yard, especially for private showings. Agent Sissie Carter Horne, who ranks in the top 1% in Newnan, Georgia, recommends adding a few nice touches to the entrance for the moment it takes your agent to get the key out of the lock box. This could be a fresh coat of welcoming yellow paint or a wreath hanging on the front door.

In addition to those front door spruce-ups, you should add life into your front yard to impress buyers and get ready for the listing photo-op. Your flora choice should reflect and complement the style of your house. If your house is….

home prep spanish style house
Image via Simonetta Viterbi

Spanish Hacienda Style:
Find two stunning pieces of bright, patterned mexican pottery. Fill them with a variety of succulents. Choose what looks best to you! If you need recommendations, try a combination of haworthia, echeveria, a paddle plant, aloe vera, a jade plant, and burro’s tail. Then, once you’ve planted the succulents in succulent soil, place the pots on either side of the front door.

If you have a large front yard and more space to fill, the vibrant magenta flowers of the bougainvillea will make your spanish bungalow look muy bonita!

home prep craftsman
Image via David Sawyer

A Craftsman:
The iconic craftsman house is best paired with low shrubs and bushes that let the home’s architecture do the talking. Plant or pot simple boxwood shrubs to accompany your distinguished craftsman home.

home prep victorian
Image via Marx01

A Victorian:
If you’ve ever seen a victorian with hydrangeas out front, you’ll know exactly why we recommend planting this bright and bushy plant. The simple and timeless bouquets of blue, white, purple, or pink flowers compliment the classic architecture of victorians. Hydrangeas and victorians are a perfect match.

home prep contemporary
Image via Edward Hart

Contemporary:
Contemporary homes with their modern, boxy frames demand desert gardens. The trendy, minimalist look of a desert garden reflects the minimalist design of a contemporary home. Desert gardens are easy to put together. You’ll pick up decomposed granite and a few different varieties of cacti and succulents. Some unique and colorful choices include: crown of thorns (euphorbia milii), flaming katy (kalanchoe blossfeldiana), and echeveria afterglow.

Simply spread out and plant your succulents in your front yard. Then, fill everything in with the decomposed granite.

home prep traditional
Image via Travel-Cents

Traditional:
A traditional home needs traditional, simple plants. Aside from potting a few boxwood shrubs in pots to flank the front door, try pansies or peonies to add color.

Declutter, deep clean, and stage your interior

Decluttering your home can be tough work, especially if many items hold sentimental value for you. But don’t worry: many homeowners struggle with this part of the home sale process.

Carter Horne had clients who couldn’t live in a home where their personal items were hidden out of sight. This made it tough to get the home in show-ready condition.

“I explained to them very carefully that it’s going to affect the price. When they got very low offers they started to understand what we were saying. So they happened to move out of the house, because for them, their living conditions required them to see everything that they owned.”

That’s why decluttering, cleaning, and staging your home is essential. If you don’t work hard to make your space look the best it possibly can, then buyers will try to lowball you.

As you begin the decluttering process, Carter Horne advises that you go room by room with three boxes. Box 1 contains items that you’ll put up for sale. Box 2 contains items you will donate or throw away, and box 3 contains items you’ll keep. Be realistic about what you can part with!

For cleaning inspiration, check out “Clean With Me” by YouTube star Brianna K. Her library of videos walk you along as she cleans every room in her house. The videos are perfect if you aren’t sure exactly how to scrub something—the visual guide will answer any cleaning questions you may have.

Now we’ll break down each room and highlight what to look for as you declutter, clean, and stage your space.

Kitchen

Declutter:
It’s tempting to leave kitchen appliances like a microwave, coffee maker, or electric tea kettle on the kitchen counter, but don’t! The counter should be sleek and completely cleared of everything.

Buyers will absolutely open cabinets, drawers, and the pantry, so these spaces need to be organized, too. Even if you still live in the home, be sure to pare down any food items or kitchen utensils you don’t need. Excess food can be donated to your local food bank, and kitchen utensils to Goodwill.

Clean:
Be sure to scrub the outside of cabinets, the countertops, wipe down the fridge and remove any grime that’s built up. Scrub the sink and be sure to remove any hard water stains. Make sure to scrub the stove until any marks burned food left are gone. If you have a ceiling fan, dust the blades. Then, mop the kitchen.

Cleaning supplies you’ll need:

Stage:
When it comes to staging the kitchen, the simpler the staging job is, the better. Put out a bowl of lemons or bright green apples on the counter or kitchen island, and leave it at that. Your countertops, stove, and the kitchen layout should not be overshadowed by staging, Plus, too much staging in the kitchen might make the space to feel overly cluttered.

Living Room

Declutter:
The only items that should be left in your living room after you finish decluttering it are large pieces of furniture (couch, tv stand, any end tables or chairs), table lamps, and one or two very well kept, healthy houseplants. Everything else in the living room needs to go.

This includes family photos and momentos or knick knacks. If this is a tough pill to swallow, remember that the house needs to look as good as an HGTV commercial. That means that it may not look the way you would want it to as a homeowner. Save your favorite mason jars, bud vases, photographs, statues and figurines for your new beautiful home.

Clean:
Dust everything, including ceiling fan blades. Remove any vents and dust those as well. Then, spray and wipe down all surfaces like end tables, your coffee table, and the television stand. Finally, vacuum or mop (or both), depending on the type of floors you have.

Cleaning supplies you’ll need:

Stage:
Colorful throw pillows on the couch are the perfect way to add vibrant pops throughout the room. It’s best to pick colors that go along with the room’s color scheme. For example, if the room is mostly white and light gray, do yellow throw pillows. For a room with more beige and brown tones, do light blue or turquoise.

Wash any grime or fingerprint stains off the windows with glass cleaner. Open the curtains to let in the natural light and to make sure the room feels bright and airy.

Master bedroom

Declutter:
Take everything out of your bedroom except for the furniture and any small area rugs. In terms of the closets, do your best to organize all clothes. If you really want to go for it, or have a walk in closet where buyers will enter, then switch up the hangers. Remove all white plastic hangers and replace them with black velvet hangers.

If you’re lacking storage space, get a few under the bed bins and put anything you need easy access to in them.

Clean:
Wash all of your bedding, especially pillow cases and your duvet cover. All bedding should be spotless. Dust ceiling fans and all pieces of furniture. Then, wipe down any surfaces like nightstands and your dresser. If you have hardwood floors in the bedroom, then mop them, and if you have carpets, then vacuum. If you have any scuffs on the walls or on your dresser or nightstands, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to buff them out.

Cleaning supplies you’ll need:

Stage:
If you don’t have one already, put a piece of art above your headboard for an added pop of color. The piece should add more warmth and pull the space together. If you have table lamps on each bedside table, the you don’t need much else. Try a it candle on one nightstand for a warm, delicious scent.

Chat with your real estate agent to see if she wants you to replace existing bedding or if your current bedding will work. Your agent or a professional stager may ask you to replace your bedding if it is: very worn, has bright colors and patterns, or clashes with the rest of the space. All white bedding is the way to go!

Additional Bedrooms

Declutter:
Make guest bedrooms look like you would if a guest is coming to stay. Kids’ bedrooms should have all toys neatly organized in bins or stored under the bed or closet.

Clean:
Cleaning any additional bedrooms should be the same process as cleaning your master. If you have kiddos, then enlist their help in picking up their space. All toys should be put away and stored where they can easily get to them.

Cleaning supplies you’ll need:

Stage:
Oftentimes kids’ bedrooms are painted bright, neon colors. The best thing you can do if your child’s room or playroom is dark magenta, hot pink, or neon green, is paint! Go with a creamy off white.

Bathroom

Declutter:
Clear everything out of the bathroom, including the hand soap! All toiletries should be put away under the sink or in your linen or storage closet. You can leave a hand towel and set of bath towels on the rack. Everything else, including toilet paper, should be gone.

Clean:
Give the bathrooms the best scrub down they’ve had in their lives! First, spray down the tub and shower area with your Method Tub + Tile, and scrub until any and all dirt is removed. Then, move onto the sink area.

Use your Method All Purpose cleaner to spray down the mirror and wipe it down. Now, spray the sink and wipe it down as well. Next you’ll want to do the toilet. Open it up and squirt your toilet bowl cleaner around the rim. Let it sit. Then, spray the entire toilet, including the sides, down with the Method All Purpose Cleaner. Finally, use your toilet bowl brush to get the inside of the toilet.

Use the dry swiffer to pick up any dust or dirt. Then, use the wet swiffer to give the space a thorough mopping.

For even more info, check out our exhaustive house cleaning guide.

Cleaning supplies you’ll need:

Stage:
Buy a set of inexpensive white bath and hand towels. New towels work best as they will still be very fluffy and clean. Then, light a candle in the bathroom. If you want to go the extra mile and have the counter space to spare, buy a pretty orchid to set where the bathroom soap would go.

Chat with your agent for more advice

If you need more help or want tips specific to your home, then chat with a top real estate agent. They will be able to give you specific suggestions based on your space and your local real estate market. Happy house prepping! Share your before and after photos with us on Facebook @GoHomeLight.

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