When preparing for an open house, de-cluttering is key.  The less extraneous personal matter lying around, distracting viewers or perhaps even impeding their ability to properly view the house, the better.  You want to present just enough in the way of visible furnishings to give the prospective buyer a sense of what your house has to offer in terms of living space.  However simple this may sound, sellers quickly learn it’s easier said than done.  Factor in your children’s things and you can really find yourself overwhelmed in a hurry.

Let’s face it, kids accumulate a lot of stuff.  At times there can seem no end to it.  The problem is, you can’t just stow it all away somewhere out of sight without first getting your kids on board with the process.  Well, okay, you can, but trust me, you won’t be making the process any easier, for you or them.  However it may appear to you, your children value that ever-growing pile of plastic junk.  As an adult, you would understandably take great offense and be highly upset if someone treated your possessions—and, by extension, you—disrespectfully.  Why should your children feel any differently?  De-cluttering with kids is definitely a challenge that involves both planning and consideration of your children’s needs.

First, go to your local dollar store and pick up 10 large clear storage bins per child.  Additionally, purchase 2 large storage brightly colored bins per child choosing their favorite color.

One month prior to listing your home, make time with each child to fill up their colored bins with their absolute favorite toys, games and soft friends.  Make sure to include playroom and bedtime must-haves.  Each child needs to know that these favorite toys and items are to be put back in these special bins each night.

Once the favorites are accessible and organized, ask their help to pack up all the remaining items into the clear storage bins.  Look to stack these bins in a basement storage area or non-finished space.

How about day to day living and clutter monsters?

Make up a nice colorful bucket with each child’s name stenciled on it for random stuff that they bring in and out with them – crayons, comic books, school supplies, fidget spinners, etc., so that they have an isolated “landing zone” for their non-favorite but personal possessions.

To keep bathrooms neat and tidy, assign each of your children an individual bathroom caddie for the duration of the open house period.   Fill the caddie with their own toothbrush, their own toothpaste, their own (sample size) shampoo and bottle soap, and their own wash cloth and hand towel.  This will help limit your bathroom cleaning to wiping down the counters for showings, as all the little items will be in caddies stowed in each child’s room or on the linen closet shelf.

Above all, make sure that your kids know that all of this is temporary.  Keep in mind that children lack adults understanding of time.  Depending on their ages, distinctions like a month or two weeks may not be meaningful to them.  Therefore, you might want to pick an event in the future they can understand, such as “after the last day of school”, or “when the backyard lilac tree starts to bloom”.

The need to keep your house show-ready tends to lift once you are under contract with a buyer.  Keep in mind that the kid’s clutter can either come back out slowly or all of those clear bins can be opened in your new home on moving day!

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