Prepping Your House to Sell: Clean Up

Welcome back to my series on preparing your house to sell! So far we have 1) made a plan and 2) started working to declutter and organize cabinets and closets. This week we’re going to look at doing a big clean up of the house to prepare it for showings… which if you’re like me, just brings forth a big UGH!!

What to pay attention to when cleaning your house to prepare it for sale -- especially what to clean up before a showing. Includes printable checklist.Have I ever mentioned how much I hate cleaning? Well, in case I haven’t, let this be for the record: I. HATE. CLEANING. Almost as much as I hate cooking… but that’s another topic for another day.

The painful truth is that if I want my house to show to the best advantage, it needs to be clean. Like, really clean. A clean house reflects the care that the owner has been giving it. Or to put it the opposite way, a dirty house makes a potential buyer wonder what else might be wrong with the house that the owner hasn’t taken care of.

Do a Deep Clean

Decluttering goes a long way towards getting a house clean, so we’re already on the right track. Less clutter means it’s easier to clean around what’s left. And the decluttering process provides a great vehicle for getting some cleaning done – it’s easy to wipe out a drawer or cabinet when you are reorganizing what’s in it.

But this is the time to pull out all the stops and go for the really deep clean. I have a friend who literally does “spring cleaning” every year in March and April. For several weeks she spends her days cleaning everything from top to bottom – and then the next spring she does it again. I confess I have never had that kind of dedication; but right about now I wish I did, because it would make this so much easier!

These are the types of things that must be dealt with:

  • baseboards
  • ceiling fans
  • cobwebs
  • getting bugs out of light fixtures (blecky)
  • windows
  • stovetop drip pans
  • etc.

–Yep, all the stuff we tend to procrastinate about, because we walk by it everyday without really registering it. Unfortunately, someone walking through your home for the first time is more apt to notice if these things have not been dealt with. (Another cleanie friend of mine once told me that good housekeeping is never noticed… in other words, the house never gets dirty enough for someone to notice when it’s been made clean. Sigh.)

Clean Up the Walls

And what about the walls in your house? If they’re like mine were about a year ago, they are showing years of grime, scrapes, chips, dents, maybe even that hole from when the kids were wrestling… sometimes these things can be wiped clean, but if the walls look bad enough, it might be a good idea to repaint — after repairing dents and holes, of course.

Last year I had the bright idea to get paint samples that matched the paint already on the walls, figuring I could use these to do some touching up, rather than repainting an entire room. Several issues made this difficult. First, the samples only came in flat finish – and my walls are satin. And yes, you can tell the difference (don’t ask me how I know that for sure). Second, in the eight years since I had last painted the walls, the formulations of the colors had changed. Same color name, different color. And no, the magic put-a-swatch-under-the-electric-eye-and-our-wonderful-gizmo-will-match-your-color thingy didn’t work so well, either… Let’s just say I did a lot of repainting last year. But hey, now I’m happy about it, because the walls still look great. :-)

If you do need to repaint, give a thought to whether or not it might be worth it to change the color of a room to something more neutral. Your daughter may love electric lime green on her walls, but a potential buyer is most likely going to see those walls as something they have to change when they move in. If the walls are dirty enough to repaint anyway, it might be a good idea to change the color altogether.

Do a Quick Clean Up Before a Showing

So there’s the deep clean – and then there is also the “quick clean up” that happens before a showing. This is when you run around madly stuffing things into drawers, under beds, even into the washer… no, not really. What is best is to be able to maintain the cleanliness of your house from day to day, so that it doesn’t take too long to put the finishing touches on it to be ready for a showing. Everyone in the family needs to consistently work hard at picking up their own messes, keeping the kitchen clean, pushing the laundry through its cycle, vacuuming, etc. We have made a rule now that beds must be made and bedrooms picked up EVERY morning.  Of course the rule was already there — but now there is no sliding on this one, people, ANY. MORE!! I mean it!!

I have put together a checklist to run through before a showing. This way I am not relying on my own frazzled brain at that moment but on reasoned thinking that has been put down on paper. Does it make for a perfectly clean house? No, but it will cover what’s important when you don’t have time to get ALL the nooks and crannies.

Before Showing Checklist

(see below for link to printable copy of this checklist)


  • Sweep noticeable dirt on floor
  • Wipe noticeable spots on floor
  • Shine sink
  • All dirty dishes into dishwasher or in dishpan under sink
  • Wipe counters
  • Fresh towels
  • Clean ceramic stovetop
  • Wipe noticeable grime/fingerprints off appliances
  • Dog/cat dishes into pantry


  • Shine counter and sink
  • Spot-check mirror
  • Fresh towels
  • All toiletries put into drawer or under sink


  • Make bed
  • Clothes in laundry hamper or put away
  • Curtains open
  • No clutter on surfaces
  • Vacuum “middles”
  • Wipe noticeable dust

Common Areas:

  • No clutter on surfaces
  • Wipe noticeable dust
  • Remotes put away
  • Curtains open
  • Computers shut off
  • Litter-box cleaned
  • Vacuum “middles” of carpeted areas
  • Sweep noticeable dirt from hard flooring

This list hits all the basics. As I run madly through each room, I expect to find more that needs done, but at least this way I won’t forget the obvious stuff. And it gives me an easy way to delegate to the kids, as well.

You can get your own printable copy of my checklist by clicking on this link: Before Showing Checklist.

Further Resources As You Clean Up Your House

Selling Your House? How to Survive Showings — Homemakers Daily has a lot of great tips on dealing with the actual showings.

Prepare Your Home For Sale {Printable Checklist} — at Meet Penny there is a printable checklist for the deep cleaning part of this process.  She has many more things listed than I’ve mentioned.  Definitely a helpful resource!

How are your decluttering and cleaning going? Next week we’ll be looking at the outside of our homes – landscaping and outdoor living areas. Come back and be in on the fun! :-)

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