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How to keep a home show-ready with kids underfoot

Selling a house is enough stress, but trying to keep it ready to show when you have small children can leave you feeling like Sisyphus. Follow these simple steps to save yourself as much work as possible.

Minimize toy visibility

The quickest way to lose a sale is by having a cluttered home. Unfortunately, children travel about the house in a cloud of debris. Get this under control by packing up as many toys as you can manage — assuring your children they will get them back as soon as you move. The toys they do keep out should be stored out of view, in bins under the bed or neatly stacked in the closet.

This also means it’s time to clear the fridge and walls of your kids’ artwork. It’s adorable to you, but your home needs to be depersonalized as much as possible so potential buyers can see themselves living there. Keeping the fridge door free of photos and artwork helps the kitchen look clean and put together.

Ditch the diaper pail

If you have kids in diapers, this should be one of the first things to go. Even the best diaper pails let some stench escape. Instead, toss diapers in the main trash can and empty it on your way out the door before each showing or open house. If you cloth diaper, you might want to consider taking a break and saving yourself the extra laundry.

Speaking of laundry: Keep it out of sight

When we were doing several showings a week, I tried to keep all the clothes clean all the time. This got old pretty quickly. Instead, I designated a drawer in each room for clothes that had been worn and ran loads a couple of times a week. Sometimes the illusion of no laundry can be just as good. Buyers will go over your closets and washer and dryer with a magnifying glass, but dressers are pretty safe from prying eyes.

Make a checklist for showings

If you are keeping the house clean between showings, taking care of last-minute tidying is a breeze — you’ll get good at it quickly. We recommend you start by making a pre-showing checklist of your home’s problem areas. Don’t go overboard: Ideally these tasks shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. Have a good hiding spot in each room where you can throw whatever nonsense the children have undone at a second’s notice. Embrace screen time during this final run through the house, keeping the kids from making fresh messes as you go.

Always know where you’re taking the kids

Find some place — ideally free, you might be doing this a lot — you can reliably take the kids during showings. Your local library, a playground down the street or even a walk around the neighborhood will ensure your children are out of earshot of the buyers. I threw my little ones in the double stroller and did laps around the neighboring block. I was able to keep an eye down the street to see when the realtor had left without making them feel rushed.

Keep the diaper bag stocked — or a tote bag if you’re past the diaper stage — with all the essentials for an hour or more outside the house. Think fun snacks, more snacks, snacks for yourself and some activities to pass the time.

Hopefully your home will sell in its first weekend and you won’t have to deal with this for long, but knowing you have a plan in place can keep the stress to a minimum. Happy selling!

More on selling your home

6 Cheap renovations to make your home more sellable
How to deal with pesky neighbors that are hurting your home sale
7 Steps to prep, stage and photograph your home to get it sold fast

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