Clean and Prep – 10 steps to get ready to sell

By Ruth Rasmussen
Posted 2/12/22

Although the real estate market continues to be insanely competitive, property owners should be mindful of tried-and-true rules that still apply when getting a house ready to sell.

Homeowners who …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

Clean and Prep – 10 steps to get ready to sell


Although the real estate market continues to be insanely competitive, property owners should be mindful of tried-and-true rules that still apply when getting a house ready to sell.

Homeowners who are not sure how to begin to tackle such a daunting task would do well to embrace the philosophy espoused by author and organizing guru Marie Kondo. When prospective buyers drive up to your home and walk through the door for the first time, you want to ensure the experience will “spark joy” in their hearts and minds.

The following steps can help to achieve that goal:

First, take photos: You will gain a fresh perspective if you view your home, both inside and out, through a photographer’s lens. It is often surprising how your own photos of each room in the house can instantly reveal what changes are needed and which household items should be rearranged or removed.

Focus on curb appeal: Walk across the street and look at your home as though you are seeing it through the eyes of a stranger. Consider whether a freshly painted front door would be beneficial and study the symbolism of various colors. (For example, a red door is welcoming; blue reflects serenity and calm; and black connotes wealth and sophistication.) Make sure your lawn is well manicured, power wash your house if necessary, and replace your old mailbox. These are just a few examples of budget-friendly upgrades that will create a positive first impression.

Clean everything: A spotless home is essential in creating a sense of tranquility, peace, and order. Deep cleaning checklists can be accessed online. Ask yourself if certain rooms need a fresh coat of paint or if it’s time to remove or replace old wall-to-wall carpeting. Don’t ignore the basement and garage, which can often become catch-all spaces for unneeded items. Enlist the aid of professionals if necessary.

Declutter: Remove all unnecessary and/or unattractive items on counters, tables, bureaus and other surfaces. Toss newspapers and magazines, and consider donating old books to libraries or thrift shops. Google the word “minimalism” or listen to podcasts on the topic and be inspired by the countless positive ways your life will be transformed once you have less “stuff.”

Pare down: This can be a painful process for those who have strong emotional attachments to cherished items they have been accumulating for decades. Experts recommend creating a master plan for the job and tackling a room at a time. Enlist the help of non-judgmental family and friends.

Be ruthless in deciding what items are worthy of being gifted, donated, sold, or consigned and which ones need to be trashed. “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson is a good resource, though admittedly, the title may make you wince.

Organize cupboards and closets: Since some potential buyers will surely be peeking inside these spaces, avoid the temptation to transform them into mini storage units as you declutter and pare down. Use online resources, bookstores, or your local library to read about the best ways to create order in every room of your house.

Furniture placement is critical: Consider making a floor plan, drawn to scale, for rooms you and your family use the most. Using simple cut-out shapes to represent your furniture, have some fun experimenting with different room arrangements while figuring out how to create spaces that are cozy, warm and inviting. 

Pay attention to details: Often it’s the little things that count. Upgrading switch plates, doorknobs, or kitchen hardware may be exactly what is needed to bring some subtle elegance to an otherwise unremarkable room. Replacing throw pillows, area rugs, and bed linens can have a similar effect.   

Bring the outdoors inside: A few lush, healthy houseplants can bring character and life to a room while filling empty corners. Fresh flowers are a charming and affordable way to add pops of color and sweet scents to every room of your house, regardless of the season. 

Consider this: Marie Kondo advises her readers to “never discard anything without saying thank you and good-bye.” Keep her words of wisdom in mind as you go through each stage of the process of preparing your home for sale. Soon enough you will have to turn over the keys to new owners, thank your house for the joy it has given you, and say good-bye to it as you walk out the door for the last time.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.