How to handle kid clutter and selling your home

green rectangular toy gray boat toy gray shovel toy and green car toy on top of brown leather surface
Photo by Markus Spiske on

In my previous blog “Spring Cleaning and Selling”, there was one major factor I left out, the kid’s and their stuff. Kid’s toys, stuffed animals need special consideration when it comes to preparing your home to sell.
Anyone with children understands kid clutter on a regular day, can be challenging. Deciding how to handle the toys, crafts, plastic building blocks when you are preparing to sell can be tricky. I’ve put together a list of tips that might help you navigate your way through.

1. Donations and trash
Obviously, the best way to reduce clutter is to take a hard look at what the kids are playing with and what they are not. Get the kids involved and ask what they would like to keep, donate, or maybe trash. In our house, removing toys is a process. I have a corner in my home specifically for toys that haven’t been played with. Any toys or books that the kids have outgrown or that they just don’t play with get placed in a box for donation. The kids, themselves, will make regular contributions to this pile. After a month or so, if no one is looking for a certain toy the pile is donated.

2. Crafts
Start with separating and organizing crafts into categories by function or activity. Same as with the toys, start with what can be trashed, i.e. Broken crayons, dried up markers & glue, stickers that no longer stick. You and your child can review to see if their interests have changed or what they have outgrown to decide what can be donated. Shoe boxes and see through plastic bins can help sort out and organize smaller items.

3. Organize, organize, organize
Baskets, bins and storage containers are your best friend when staging your home to sell. Consider creating a storage space in each room. This way, if there is a last minute showing scheduled, you can pile the toys in a bin or basket and head out the door.

4. Growing family
When our family was in transition, our home was filled with baby gear we didn’t need, but wanted to hold on to. Sound familiar? If you are planning to expand your family in the future, but don’t need that baby gear at the moment, consider storing at a storage facility or at a family or friend’s home. Same goes for baby and children’s clothing that your kid’s have outgrown. The more you remove from your home, the better it will present to a potential buyer.

5. Trash
Sadly, sometimes a toy can be so well loved, it’s just time. If it’s a safety hazard or beyond repair, it’s time to toss. In our home, those small little knick-knacks from parties, holidays, restaurants add up. Sadly, not everything can be kept or donated. You be the judge what is truly going to cause a problem in your home, in terms or clutter and arguments.

6. Memorabilia
All those pictures, notes, you’ve collected, it’s time to do something about it. This is always something that piles up quickly and doesn’t get addressed as often as it should. Dedicate an hour every day to sort through the paper and really analyze what should be kept for mementos. I try to limit the pictures to a certain number for each age and grade. I know some people that scan the art work and make a book from online printing services like Shutterfly. Of course, it depends how much time you have and your time line to get your house on the market. If time is an issue, consider storing at a friend or relatives.

7. Preparing for the move
Just like with any other item in your move, start by packing up the toys that are not frequently used. Same with books. Make sure boxes are clearly labeled and taped. The tape is mainly a securing measure to make sure no little ones have tampered with the boxes without your knowledge. My oldest made a point of opening boxes to look at previously packed toys during our own move. Create a priority box for the most precious, loved items that could not be lost. Have a pile of toys that is questionable if they should stay or go? Put it all into one box and label it last. Long after the move, if the box hasn’t been opened, the decision is made for you. 

It isn’t easy and trying to deal with years of clutter can be cumbersome, but the rewards and goals of a new home is a great reward.

Spring Cleaning and Selling

Photo by Milly Eaton on

I must admit, I love spring cleaning. It’s the appeal of purging the old, freshening up the home and putting things in order that attract me. Most people spring clean in one form or another, but it is essential for sellers.

There are 3 main considerations to prepare a home before hitting the market.

  1. Declutter/Cleaning
  2. Improvements
  3. Staging

Sometimes clients will ask, if it’s really necessary to do this. Why are we putting work into something when we just made the decision to sell? Shouldn’t our focus be on our future home?

The main focus for the seller will be trying to attract as many buyers as possible. Your property’s photos are a potential buyers first glimpse into your home. Sometimes buyers may bypass your open house simply based on appearance. If the photos give an impression that it’s small, has storage issues, or that it has not been routinely maintained, it can scare off buyers. Think of it as the same as preparing for a job interview. The preparation you do in advance, helps create the best impression and can help your chances.


One of the cheapest ways to prepare your home is simply by removing any unwanted items and cleaning your home. Sell, donate, trash the items you do not plan on taking. Some charities will even pick up your donations at your home. Otherwise, you are simply moving your unwanted items into your next home.

The deep clean: each room, dust, scrub, wipe. Don’t forgot baseboards, corners, ceilings.

Closets: Are they tidy? An overfilled closet with give an impression there is storage issues in the home, even if there isn’t one. Clothes should fall freely. Towels should be neatly stacked.

Windows: Clean the outside and inside. A sunlit room is essential for photos and adds to the overall impression of your home.

Paper: Are there documents that you no longer need? Consultant your tax professional for receipts or prior tax returns that can be shredded.

Smells and Ventilation: Like it or not, smells create to the overall impression for your home. This can be difficult to address as smells can be subjective. This is a case where the middle of the road approach is best. Make sure smelly trash is removed from your home daily. Avoid overly perfumed sprays. Strong smells can create a situation where the potential buyers end up focusing on the smell, vs. the physical features your home offers.

Pets: Your four- legged family members are a part of this process. Make sure that pet hair and messes are cleaned up. If you have a pet that is fearful of strangers, this is a good time to start planning how to address the issue.

Kitchen and Bathrooms: Declutter those countertops. Obviously leave some things out, you are still living there, but the idea should be to maximize how much space you have in your home. This is a good time to toss any items you no longer use, old spices, expired medications, beauty products that you didn’t like. Consult with your local town’s health department or pharmacy how to dispose of medications properly.

Basements, Attics and Garages: A buyer will want to inspect this area for any potential issues. A cluttered, inaccessible area can be frustrating to a potential buyer. If the buyer is unable to access a section of your home, they may have concerns if their home inspector can conduct a thorough inspection.

The outside space: A clean, well kept area is great curb appeal and an inviting feature for your home. Rake up those leaves, trim those hedges, mow that lawn. Is there an old swing set that really should be trashed? Now is the time. Clean the patio, walkway, etc.  


In general, consult with your real estate agent if improvements are needed specifically for your home. Think of matters such as leaky faucets, old smoke detectors, non-working appliances or out of date fixtures. Any unfinished projects are another consideration. Obviously, there are limits. But, you and your agent can discuss the cost benefit relationship of any features or fixtures in your home that may be worth fixing. Overall, painting in neutral shades is cost effective and can appeal to a wide audience.


Staging is the practice of moving furniture to enhance how your home looks. A room with too much furniture will create an impression that the room is small, regardless of size.  Sometimes, the simple task of repositioning a couch, or adding a desk to an otherwise empty room, can help potential buyers see how they can live in your home. Consider:

Traffic flow: you and your buyers should be able to freely move from one room to another. Focus on furniture placement, standing lamps, potted and hanging plants.

Furniture: Repurposing any extra furniture in another under furnished room can be beneficial.  Consider the style, color of the existing furniture. Would it add or detract from the other pieces currently in the room?

Lighting: Make sure each room has the appropriate lighting. Also, fixtures with multiple lights  has the same style and wattage light bulb. While it might seem insignificant, it does add to the overall impression of your home.

Pictures: Consider removing as many personal photographs can you can. Your buyers are trying to see if your home is right for them.

This is just a summary of what you can do to help your home. There are a number of resources available including tv shows and websites dedicated to this subject. HGTV, Marie Kondo, Real Simple, DIY Network are just a few of my personal favorites. An agent may also be able to suggest a local professional stager if you feel one is necessary.

If you, or anyone you know is looking to buy or sell, please let me know. I’d love to help.