Toddlers are tiny tornadoes of destruction. They can tear apart a tidy room in about five minutes. Certainly NOT what you’d call conducive to keeping an immaculate house. Heck, I am not conducive to keeping an immaculate house. Neither my husband nor I are anything close to a clean freak, and each of have a healthy dose of “pack rat” in us. Add to that a tiny house and you have a recipe for chaos. However, when we decided it was time to at least fix the “tiny house” part of that scenario, that meant we had to somehow transform our toddler tornado décor into an immaculately staged home that looked about ten times bigger than it actually felt most of the time.
Overwhelmed yet? Yeah, we were too. But I’m here to assure you that yes, it is actually possible to for a move, stage and sell a house while having a toddler. Here are some helpful tips that worked for us:
This was huge for us. We spent a month packing up all our excess clutter and things we could live without for the next few months, and my husband worked his epic Lego stacking skills by expertly cramming everything in the garage.
2. Move Out Extra Furniture
This goes along with #1, but it, too, is key. The goal with staging a house is for it to look as big, clean, and uncluttered as possible. So anything that was taking up excess space, we moved out to the garage. If you don’t have a garage, attic or basement where you could store things, it may be worth renting a temporary storage unit if you can swing the extra cash. It made a huge difference for us, since we really just had too much stuff for the space we were living in.
3. Toss and Donate What You Can
We really should have done more of this, but we were in a rush to get our house listed so will be doing this on the other end of the move. However, it makes much more sense to get rid of stuff you don’t want anymore and save yourself the headache of moving it.
4. Hire a Stager
This was one of the most valuable things our realtor did for us, and I’d highly recommend using a stager. After our month of getting things the best that we could, the stager came in and gave me a bunch more homework, told me more furniture to move out and helped rearrange our furniture to maximize our space. I could hardly believe the before and after shots.
5. Depersonalize But Don’t Make Your Home Too Sterile
There’s a fine balance when considering your decorations for staging. While you’ll still want to take down extra-personal décor, pictures and touches that could make it harder for a potential buyer to picture how they could make the space their own, you don’t want to put away so much decoration that your house looks plain and uninteresting. You want it to look homey, but in a more generic, magazine type way. I picked up a few fake flowers and knick knacks from places like T.J. Maxx and Kirkland’s to give our house that homey feel without making it too specific to us.
6. Consolidate Your Toddler’s Toys
It was amazing how many toys my child didn’t REALLY need to have out all the time. We threw most of her toys in two Rubbermaid bins with lids so I could throw everything in them and run them out to the garage when we were about to have a showing. Other than that, we had some cute, strategic toys out, but most of them were rushed to the garage before showings, so gradually the ones we kept out in the home grew less and less. And you know what? She was perfectly fine and had plenty to play with. (Tupperware is a far superior toy to a toddler than ACTUAL toys, anyway.)
7. Make a Getaway Box
I constructed and labeled a plain medium sized moving box as my getaway box so I could throw in any random things that were lying about if I had to make a fast getaway. Hopefully you’ll always have at least an hour or more to prepare, but there was one time when we definitely only had 10-15 minutes before a potential buyer showed up, so a bunch of random things ended up in that getaway box.
8. Deep Clean Before You List Your House
I finally made time to do all those little things I never usually made time for – scrubbing down the cabinets, cleaning all the tiny handprints off of the windows, wiping down the refrigerator. That way, the house looked its best and I didn’t have to do many of those things again after it was on the market.
9. Clean a Little Bit Throughout the Day
It’s so easy to get behind on chores and before you know it you’re so far behind it seems impossible to catch up. This is even worse with a toddler. However, while your house is on the market, it has to look perfect at any given moment, so mess is no longer an option.
As I said, we are NOT naturally tidy people, so if we can do this (and we did!) then I promise you can too. For me, the kitchen is the hardest to keep up with, so I would make sure to run the dishwasher at least twice a day. I’d always run it at night, then empty it first thing in the morning and load anything else in it right away. If I was about to leave the house, I’d run it even if it wasn’t completely full so that if I got a call about a showing while I was gone and they happened to look in the dishwasher, at least all the dishes would be clean. This also really helped to stay on top of things.
10. Make Sure Everything is Staged Before You Leave the House
This is really hard, but at the same time, it also helps you keep your house up so it actually becomes much less hard to get it to that staged level. Instead of taking all day (or more) to get the house looking perfect like it used to, it might take me just 10-20 minutes. Before long, it became part of my routine to get everything looking nice, and it was much easier to keep it up.
12. Stay Out of the House as Much as Possible
This was definitely a life saver for me. With an active 1-year-old who wants to get into all the things, it could get too stressful to stay inside all day because I was worried about the house getting destroyed. So we spent a lot of time at the zoo, All Star Gymnastics, playgrounds, the State Museum’s Discovery Room and playdates at our friends’ houses. Not only did it help the house stay clean, it made the day go faster when we had somewhere to go and activities to do.
13. Remember It’s Only Temporary
Despite all the tips, it can still be stressful and frustrating to live in that state of limbo where your house is not your own. But try to remember that it will all be worth it in the end, and the more perfect your house looks, the better chances are that someone will fall in love with it and it will sell sooner. You won’t have to live like this forever.