There are a lot of obvious things to do when staging your home to sell. You probably know you should declutter, clean off your counters, and remove family photos. But beyond that, a staged home should look clean, inviting, and stylish at all times. It’s easier said than done when you’re living in the home while you sell it.
Instead of regurgitating the standard home staging tips, I want to share the hacks I used to keep our home perfectly staged. Some of these hacks you can do before you list your home for sale. Others you’ll need to add to your regular morning and evening routine while your home is on the market.
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1. Use Display Towels
To sell your home, you want your kitchen and bathrooms to look immaculate. Don’t leave out dirty hand towels or damp bath towels.
For showings, put all your everyday towels away or take them with you during showings. I put our used hand towels and bath towels in our hampers which are hidden behind cupboard doors. A lidded hamper would work as well. If you don’t have anywhere to stash used towels, then toss them in a basket and put them in your car when you leave for a showing.
Buy new, clean bath towels to display for showings. The towels do not have to be expensive. I found fluffy white bath towels on clearance at Target for less than $2.50 each. Because you won’t be using these towels, you can keep them perfectly neat and folded.
For display hand towels, I bought a set of these gray striped towels. We have a multi-color set we use every day. I love them so much; I didn’t mind investing in a gray set we could use now for staging and later for everyday use in our next home. I notified my husband and kids that the grey striped towels were for display only, so they wouldn’t accidentally use them if I left them out.
I made swapping out the towels part of my morning and evening routines while we were selling our house.
2. Make Your Bed Look Luxurious with Decorative Pillows
My least favorite advice from the home stager was to add more pillows to our bed. We had just gotten rid of most of our extra decorative pillows, preferring a more minimal style for our bedding. But she insisted we needed more pillows at least on the master bed.
Instead of buying more pillows, I purchased two king size pillow shams to match the velvet quilt on our bed. Each morning I stuff our sleeping pillows inside the decorative shams. Then, I add two decorative pillows I had in the linen closet (I kept them because I adore the fabric) and one small lumbar pillow to finish the look.
At night, I stashed the three decorative pillows in the corner by my nightstand. Before we went to bed, we removed the decorative shams from our pillows and folded them on our nightstands to be put back on the pillows in the morning.
3. Use Inexpensive Flowers to Make Your Home Fresh and Inviting
Put fresh flowers or greenery on your dining table, kitchen table, and possibly your bathroom vanity.
If you live in the right climate, green yard clippings are a free option. Pop them in a pretty vase and voila! Sherry from Young House Love has some great tips for using yard clippings for staging.
If you’re like me, and can’t get yard clippings for nine months out of the year, then use store-bought fresh flowers. My favorite fresh flowers to use are alstroemeria (shown below in white in my dining room) and mini carnations (shown below in coral on my kitchen table). Alstromeria and mini carnations are the best flowers for home staging because they look great on their own, have multiple blooms per stem for a full look, and they last forever, like 2-3 weeks. Just buy a big bunch and put them in a vase of water. I buy mine at Trader Joes for $3-5 per bunch.
In the bathroom, add a small bud vase with a few fresh blooms or greenery. If you have more space, like a long double vanity, extra counter, or tub deck, then buy a beautiful potted orchid. I found a potted orchid (with four plants in it) in a white ceramic pot for only $17.99 at Trader Joe’s.
In other rooms, you can use low maintenance houseplants. Make sure they are healthy looking and in good shape. Remove any wilting or dead house plants. When you’re watering your plants, remove any dead leaves.
I like how the decorative mirror here, reflects some of the leaves from the plant making it appear larger. Of course, the mirror helps the whole room appear larger too.
4. Use Faux Plants Sparingly
It’s unrealistic to put fresh flowers and plants in every room of your home. Some rooms may not have the right light or temperature conditions, or you might not have a green thumb to keep plants looking healthy. In that case, it’s okay to use a few quality faux plants in strategic places. I used faux Bells of Ireland in a small vase on our ottoman because I didn’t want to worry about the kids or dogs knocking over a vase or plant.
In my office, I used a faux fiddle leaf fig branch to fill an empty space in the corner behind the desk.
Just don’t go crazy with faux plants. Please, don’t put ivy vines on top of your kitchen cupboards.
My friend Christene is a faux greenery expert. Check out these resources:
5. Make the Paper Piles Disappear
Mail piles and schoolwork on the kitchen counter are a part of normal life, but they need to disappear when you’re selling your house.
While our house was on the market, I kept all important papers, mail, and schoolwork in a small acrylic file holder in our mudroom. When I left for showings, I took the whole paper box with me.
6. Hide Devices and Cords
Cord clutter is one of those things we tend to become blind to in our own homes. The phone charging cord on the kitchen counter. The tangled web of cords behind the TV. The stray lamp cord. As best as you can, clean up and hide all the cords. You can buy cord management tools or simply use zip ties to organize and secure cords.
Our home stager recommended moving my desk into the middle of the office facing out. I agreed with her aesthetically but was concerned about the cords.
Thankfully, my desk has a hidden power strip underneath, so there is only one cord from the desk to the wall. I secured that cord to the desk leg and then ran it under the rug to the wall outlet with another strap to secure it at the baseboard. I did cut a small slit in the rug to feed the cord through. This rug is old and has been damaged by our dogs, so I didn’t mind hacking it to hide the cord. To streamline my computer, I unplugged everything I possibly could from the back—I removed the webcam, external hard drives, and headphones—to eliminate cord clutter on top of the desk.
For showings, I used a tote bag to round up all portable electronic devices (like phones, iPads, handheld games) and their charging cords. I took the bag with me in the car.
7. Restrict Access to Some Areas of Your Home
When we listed our home for sale, we started spending all of our time in our basement family room. By hanging out as a family down there, we kept our messes (especially the kid’s toys) confined to one area that we could pick up quickly if we got a showing request.
We also kept our two dogs with us in the basement so that they wouldn’t scratch our newly refinished floors on the main level. It also helped keep the other two levels of our home relatively fur-free. In the basement, the carpet is a loop pile, so the dog hair doesn’t get embedded as much, and it’s easier to vacuum up.
Because we had a small dining table, beverage fridge, and a bathroom, we were able to live comfortably out of our basement. We only went upstairs to cook in the kitchen and to sleep.
8. Consolidate and Remove Pet Stuff
If you have pets, it’s best not to leave any trace of them during house showings. Potential buyers shouldn’t notice that you have a pet. Remove all pet photos. You’ll want to take all pet items out of the house during showings, including feeding bowls, toys, brushes, pet beds, and your pet!
To make it easy, consolidate all the pet stuff into one spot. Put all the toys, brushes, treats in one basket that you can easily take with you during showings. Collapse and remove any kennels you don’t use regularly. If you need a kennel, as we did, make sure it’s set up in an out of the way spot in the house. We relocated the kennel for our 75-lb dog from our master bedroom to our laundry room.
Take food and water dishes with you when you leave. If it’s out of the way, you can keep your pet food storage container in the house. We have one tucked in our pantry. But we also had a second one in our master bathroom for our older dog. We put the extra food container in the garage, and it became the perfect place to stash their food dishes during showings instead of taking them in the car.
Clean up after your pets—lint roll furniture, vacuum often, and if you have a cat, clean the litter box regularly and remove it during showings.
The other hack you need to know about with pets is the pet rake. It is the best way to remove fur from carpets. When you don’t have time to vacuum, it’s a lifesaver.
Lastly, whenever possible, take your pets with you during showings. Some realtors will say it’s okay to leave them in a kennel, but I think you know your pet best. If they are prone to barking at strangers or get overly anxious (panting, having accidents), then it’s better to remove them from the house. If you’re able, take them in the car with you and go to a park for a walk. If you aren’t home with your pets, consider a pet daycare while your home is on the market. We did a mix of both. We put our larger dog in daycare full time, and I took our older dog with me during showings.
9. Always Be Cleaning
You have to clean constantly when your home is on the market. You may get only an hour’s notice (or less!) for a showing.
Stock a reusable grocery bag or a small caddy with cleaning spray, a sponge, rags, and a microfiber cloth. Bring it with you through the house to do any last-minute cleaning. Put all your used cleaning rags in the bag or caddy and take the whole thing with you during showings. Once, I even tossed in a wet mophead and dirty kids socks to get ready for a short-notice showing. When you are done with showings for the day, you can wash the cleaning rags, mophead, etc.
I also kept a plastic shopping bag inside the reusable grocery bag where I could empty the vacuum canister or dustpan. I didn’t want the garbage bag in the kitchen full of dust and pet dander. In fact, most mornings I emptied the garbage and put in a fresh bag before leaving the house.
That’s it. I know it sounds like a lot, and it is, but it makes a difference in how your home looks and feels. You need to use these hacks for all home showings, but you don’t have to do them right before each showing. You can do most of these hacks first thing in the morning and be prepared for any showings that come up throughout the day.
Rev. Suzanne says
Very good tips. My husband and I have sold 4 homes and we used many of these hacks. Also, when I knew a showing was coming, and while I cleaned, I kept a pot on the stove burner simmering with cloves, nutmeg and apple slices in it. Shortly before leaving the home, I emptied the contents and put the pot a way. Nothing says home like the smell of something baking, even though fake.
A nice, clean smelling home is important. I’ve hear of that trick before but never tried it.
Kalyn Brooke says
Wow, so many practical tips packed inside this post! I didn’t even think about packing up all the pet supplies (and pets) for showings. I’ll be referring back to this post for sure when we list our house this fall. :)
Well, bunnies might be a little easier. At least they don’t bark! If you do leave them home, make sure their cages are clean and odor-free. It’s be a good idea to have a friend come to your home and let you know honestly if it smells – we get used to our pet odors and don’t notice them anymore. It will be the first thing a stranger notices.
Thanks so much, Jackie! I am starting to gather information and a plan for staging my home while I am in the process of doing some repairs that need to be done before I can list it. My biggest concern is staging it for showing as I live in it – with my dog :-) This was VERY helpful.
You can do it, Jenny. With pets or kids, it just takes a little extra planning.
Hi! I love your blog btw. I just wanted to clarify something that I know you didn’t mean literally, but readers might interpret the wrong way. As a former Realtor (and someone highly allergic to dogs) you should never try to hide that pets lived in your house. I’m sure you meant that in a figurative sense as in make sure the dog clutter is cleaned up, but in a literal sense everything must be fully disclosed to a potential buyer that could affect their health (ie mold) or otherwise affect the sale. By law, no information should ever be intentionally withheld as following that advice could end up in a lawsuit where the buyer would almost always win. Even if there’s no lawsuit, the repercussions would be nasty and stressful for all parties involved once the buyers move in and discover what the seller tried to hide. Real estate law is very strictly upheld and isn’t one of those policies that authorities ignore like you see with other laws. Just be careful and be honest!
Amanda, Very good point. I did mean it in a figurative sense. We did not hide that we have dogs, as we have a kennel in our laundry room and pet food in the pantry. We did not leave out any pet clutter, just as we didn’t leave out any toy clutter from the kids. We also took care to have our carpets professionally cleaned to remove any possible pet odors and repaired any scratches in woodwork and flooring before we listed the home for sale.
Thanks so much, Jackie! Great tips to use in my home.
Really helpful and do-able in terms of towels, plants, and trash. Fortunately I don’t have pets but I appreciate how much effort and discipline you have with keeping your place spotless for showings. To know that the homeowner is clean with pets is a very positive sign that the house has been well-kept! I love your postings! I’m not at all surprised that your home sold so fast. It is truly move in ready!
Glad you enjoyed this, Susan. Your right that proper maintenance and cleaning are important and buyers can tell if a home has been cared for or not.
Hi Jackie, I totally identify with you about what you just wrote today. We are in the process of selling our house; it had been quite a long process, but finally getting to a good end. During this journey I had been learning so much about minimalism living from our realtors and stagers, and indeed all your tips did add a lot of value to selling process. I love that you mentioned the decorative pillows in the master bedroom that make them look like Hyatt hotel bed. Love it, and all the work that that implies is totally worthy.
I feel much better knowing that I am not alone in this process.
Thanks for sharing and your pictures are awesome.
You are a great inspiration for me. Keep going
So happy to hear your house selling story is coming to a good ending! Thank you for your lovely comments.
Christene Holder says
Aww Jackie! Thanks so much for sharing my faux greenery posts!! I’m only becoming an expert because I totally have a black thumb!! LOL! Great post :)
Keys to Inspiration
You’re so welcome! Your faux plants always look amazing.
Denise Cartiglia-Alberti says
I must say that I’m really surprised that your home needed *any* staging, as it always look so perfect in the blog & video shots (yes, you mentioned that you straighten beforehand but still…) Anyway, congrats on the sale; and I’m looking forward to new posts about your adventures in the new home!
PS – Thanks for the link on the faux plants (I kill everything)
Denise, You are too sweet! But every home needs staging. It is kind of like straightening up and perfecting for photos…but keeping it that way around the clock.
Have fun making faux plants. Christene’s tips and resources are so helpful and affordable.