You Need to Try This Real Estate Agent’s Genius Decluttering Hack


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This is my ultimate flex: My home sold while I was living in it with two (yes, two!) preschoolers. One of the most stressful parts of selling a house is keeping it ready for showings, and with kids at home the task is … Sisyphean, to put it lightly. 

My floors were constantly covered in LEGOs, stuffies, and every Melissa & Doug product ever sold. I could never have managed the clutter without my Realtor, Arlene Rouse. When I told her that it was literally impossible for me to stay on top of the chaos, she offered a simple solution: Keep a laundry basket by the front door. 

“When I text you about a last minute showing,” she explained, “Just toss everything in the basket — dirty dishes included. Then take the basket with you to the car when you leave.” 

Yes, I could do that. In fact, my kids loved throwing everything in a basket. (They also loved pouring everything back out of the basket, so I learned to scoop it up before they emptied it again.) 

The idea that all of our clutter could fit into one basket was laughable at the time. I definitely used two — one for the kitchen and one for the living room. Three would have been even better if I had a larger car. As it turned out, removing two baskets of clutter was enough to convince someone that our home was worth the investment.

That was more than 10 years ago, but I still use Arlene’s basket hack. The contents of my laundry bin have changed — tennis balls, Amazon packages, water bottles, and school laptops have replaced the toys — but the process is the same. If someone stops by unexpectedly, I can clear the entryway and kitchen counters in the time it takes them to walk from their car to the door. If I run out of prep time before our monthly dinner party, I can at least deal with the clutter in a flash. 

I know none of this is strictly necessary anymore. Visitors aren’t assessing the value of my home the way potential buyers were. But my mom always tidied for guests when I was growing up, and I admired the way she showed that respect to every single person, from my childhood friends to her colleagues. I want to do the same, when I can. 

An unexpected benefit of this method is how easy it is to tackle the mess when I have time. Everything is contained in one basket, and one bin of clutter isn’t as overwhelming as a roomful. 

I still can’t keep my house showing-ready all the time, but with the laundry basket hack, I don’t have to. When people drop by I can feel only happy to see them and nothing else. The ability to show respect without constant clutter vigilance helps my perfectionistic soul relax just a tiny bit.





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