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8 Steps for Decluttering and Cleaning Your Home Before Listing It

Congratulations on making a decision to sell your home. You’ve located a home you’d like to buy. Now it’s time to see how your house will appeal to a buyer. You have an uneasy feeling you can name this tune, because the first word out of your real estate agent’s mouth strikes horror and dread into your heart: declutter.

Staging a home for sale only goes so far toward attracting buyers. If the mess of every day living isn’t cleared away, prospective buyers won’t see how their things will fit into the house. Your house won’t sell. Decluttering is the only way. You’ll need boxes, a storage unit, and cleaning supplies.

Here are eight steps for decluttering and cleaning your home before listing it:


Take one room at a time. Empty closets, shelves, toy boxes, bookcases, and dresser drawers. Make piles on the floor of “keepers,” “donate,” and “seriously?” Don’t even think of a “maybe” pile.

Now you have space in closets and shelves. Clear out the closets and shelves further, leaving only one or two items. The more space, the better for buyers. This is the purpose of the exercise of decluttering and cleaning your home before listing it. Put the items with the “keepers” in storage.

Take the “seriously” pile to the dump. Take the “donate” pile either to church, Goodwill, or if you have enough time, a yard sale. Deep clean now clear areas with baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice with lemon essential oil. These will smell wonderful to prospective buyers.


Take out all the furnishings and home décor. Leave in each room one or two pieces of furniture like a bed and dresser or a couch and chair. Leave one painting on the walls. Leave one plant or vase of flowers in a room. The rooms should be largely empty. Buyers need to picture their own furnishings in the rooms.


The buyers’ first impression comes at the front door. This should be the first instance of decluttering and cleaning your home before listing it. Empty the entryway of shoes, umbrellas in stands or on hooks, book bags, purses, rain boots and such. Let the area be stark empty. Buyers will have a favorable first impression.


In kitchens and bathrooms, you’ve already stored what you don’t use every day. The cabinets are largely empty. The counters should be as well. Place a plate of cookies on the kitchen counter. Buyers will expect to see something similar to Chip and Joanna Gaines’ work, and they always have pastries on the kitchen counter.


Some buyers will check the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. They’ll open the fridge, and peer into the cabinets. They’ll open every closet to see how much room is available. Make sure these areas are clean and their contents neatly arranged.


Buyers will check out the garage, basement, and loft. If anything is in these areas, store them. The space needs to be largely empty. If there are items in these areas, though, make sure they are neatly arranged.


It disconcerts a buyer to trip over cords or wires leading from appliances such as a TV or gaming console to the couch or a chair. Put away the cords and wires while showing the house.

Since you packed into storage the games, DVDs, and other family things, the gaming console might as well go along for storage. Buyers will have their own entertainment. They will need to see how it will fit into your house.


Believe it or not, some people are afraid of animals. This is a good place to declutter and clean your home before listing it. If Fido and Fluffy are in residence, buyers might be put off the house. Put away their cleaned food and water bowls. Take them to the kennel or ask a neighbor or family member to watch them. Clean the house of pet hair and animal scent.

Animals aren’t usually considered “clutter.” Their toys, bedding, as well as food and water bowls are. Remove signs of animals from the house. Buyers won’t feel uneasy around something of which they’re afraid.

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