Sanity Savers: Selling Your House with Littles Underfoot

home for saleAs my husband and I prepare for what will (hopefully, saying ALL of the prayers) be the last formal showing of our home before closing, I find myself reflecting on the things that have kept me sane through the last four months of uncertainty while we navigated surprise showings with a one-year-old and four-year-old. Like many families in this season of life, we have outgrown our starter home. We are fortunate to have found a forever home we love, and the sellers even agreed to give us time to sell our current house. So we just had to manage staging and showing our house while also managing the day to day chaos of this season of our life.

Invest in a Set of Nesting Storage Containers

Clear, stacking storage containers with latching lids saved my sanity. I chose two sizes that could be readily delivered by Shipt from Target. At $8.99 and $4.99 each, it was not a substantial investment. By going with the same ones, I know the lids are interchangeable, and they will nest for later storage if we have any extras that are unused when we settle at the new house. The clear sides make it very easy to see what’s inside, and you can make very tall stacks of them because they are made to securely stack.

When we prepared to list our house, we knew that we were going to have to put things in storage so we could declutter and stage our home. (If we had enough space for everything, we wouldn’t be moving.) We used these boxes to go room by room and declutter. Consider it pre-packing.

I also kept one big box and one small box empty and ready for last-minute showings. This proved to be a great place to stash dirty dishes that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher or clean dishes that were not quite dry and ready to be put away.

In addition to the pre-packing, though, the storage containers had another big purpose. Certain categories of clutter that I wanted to remove before a showing but I didn’t want to have to deal with compulsively organizing, moved in to clear storage containers for the duration our house was for sale. Examples of this included (1) the bath box – all of the kids’ bath stuff and toys moved into the bath box, and (2) the bedside book/electronics box – all of the chargers, heat pads, books, journals, etc. that make my bedside table look like that of an eccentric professor’s got a box. If you have a collection of items that can jumble together, let it live in a storage container. Then it will be ready for you to throw on a lid and throw it in your garage or vehicle before a showing.

Rent a Temperature-Controlled Storage Unit

Some of the items we pre-packed in the aforementioned clear storage containers were not things that would survive Louisiana heat well, such as books, photo albums, and electronics. There is a reasonably priced storage company very close to our current house. For $40 per month, I was able to rent an air-conditioned storage unit and pack an incredible amount of stuff into it. Imagine towers of clear storage bins all packed in. High-density storage.

Say Goodbye to Parking in the Garage

For things that may not be as temperature sensitive and that we wanted to keep fairly close, such as the kids’ big toys, my husband graciously gave up his spot in the garage so that we can pile stuff there. It is out of the house, making the house easier to stage and keep clean, and we can grab stuff as we need it/the kids want to play with it.

We Finally Implemented a Toy Rotation and it Totally Worked!

Needless to say, when I packed up a lot of the kids’ toys to stage the house, they had some questions. The deal we made was that they weren’t losing their toys; rather, we were going to rotate their toys. My oldest even agreed to help. We put out three or four boxes, and she helped me to divide similar toys between them. For instance, each box got a puzzle, an electronic toy, an art-based toy, etc. The deal is that every month, I bring home a different toy box, and we swap them out. Since we stored the toys at a facility just a few blocks from our house, it was super easy to pop over there and grab a toy box.

(Side note, we also put a lot of camping and emergency supplies in air-conditioned storage, and it was super easy to pop over before the hurricanes and bring emergency supplies home just in case.)

Find Your Dishwasher Rhythm

A pro-tip I got from a co-worker was to implement a daily system for managing dishes. Every morning, she would set the dishwasher running and put clean, dry dishes away. That way, if a showing popped up during the day, the kitchen was clean and ready to roll. After work/dinner every day, she would unload and reload the dishwasher and wash any dishes. The next morning, the breakfast dishes went into the dishwasher and it started running. By finding a rhythm, the kitchen stayed clean and ready in case of surprise showings. (For real, we often got an hour’s notice.)

woman vacuuming rugHave a Weekly Check-In Point So Things Don’t Get Out of Control

No matter what your family looks like, life gets busy. I totally get it. It is especially hectic and hard to keep up when you have toddlers and babies underfoot. In our family, both parents are working professionals. The reality for us is that we need help. We are very fortunate to have a wonderful group of ladies who help us with our house every week. This provided my husband and me with a weekly check-in so the house couldn’t get too out of control.

Once a week, we had to get the house ready for the housekeepers. This gets us to about 60% ready for a showing of our house. Our wonderful housekeepers also worked with us and would move their cleanings around if we had a showing pop up. Once the housekeepers came, we were about 90% ready.

Even if you don’t have housekeepers, you can set weekly check-in points so that things don’t spiral too far. But life can be chaotic. Work with your family/housemates and keep each other accountable. You may get as little as an hour to prep for a showing. Weekly check-points can help keep things from getting too far gone.

Keep Your Vehicles Empty and Ready

I have a thing about not airing my dirty laundry or showing it to prospective home buyers. So for every showing, hampers (clean and dirty) went into my car. Other things that got thrown into our vehicles at the last minute before showings: lovies and big toys from the kids’ bedrooms, excess throw pillows and blankets that would make our living room too cluttered, the pets’ basket of food and treats, the bath box, the bedside electronics/book box, etc.

Make a Checklist of Last Minute To Do’s

I made and kept a list of last-minute things I needed to do on my phone to prep for showings. For example, open the curtains and blinds, sweep the patio, and put out fresh towels. As we thought of things we needed to do, we added them to the list. It turned into a super handy personalized checklist for prepping our home.

May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor.

key in door lockIt’s not easy, but sometimes, you just have to do what you need to do to get to that next adventure in life. Truth time – I have no intention of ever doing this again. If you are fortunate enough to be able to live somewhere else while you show your house – do it. Good luck!

Jess Allain is a mom of two, an attorney, a triathlete, and a yoga teacher. She is a member of the Junior League of Lafayette and serves on the board of The Family Tree. When she isn't swimming, biking, running, reading, practicing yoga, litigating, or cooking something up in the kitchen, you will find her playing with her two beautiful girls. Adventure is out there!


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