picture perfect

excuse the mess

If your house is like mine then it’s probable that you have a sign somewhere in your home like the one above; or this is traditionally how you greet your family and friends when they enter your house (btw, I found that picture on Etsy via Pinterest in case you are interested – click the picture to see). And (though I hate to admit it) my house does tend to be the cleanest those 10 minutes prior to company arriving. Nothing like hearing those words, “Guess who’s coming over!” to send me into a cleaning frenzy. No, we are not lazy when it comes to cleaning. In fact our house may looked “lived in,” but considering my husband and I are busy, self-employed entrepreneurs and we have two amazing, fun-loving children who have creativity (and energy!) pouring out of their ears – I’m happy to say that our house would NOT make the cut if auditioning to be an episode of Hoarders.

While it’s well and good for family and close friends to walk into a house in its natural lived in state like this, it’s not so good if you’re in the market to sell your home to perfect strangers. So, whether you are here looking for some tips on how to impress some highly distinguished guests, say…the royal family (and how you managed that, inquiring minds want to know); or you just need some guidance on prepping your home for someone like me to come photograph it, then you’re in luck! Today’s blog is for you.

Let’s pretend we are taking a tour through your house. We are going to walk through room by room and I am going to give you some quick tips on cleaning and staging your home to look good in photographs and attractive to potential buyers. We’ll start with the front yard…


  1. Rake and mow the lawn.
  2. Trim the shrubs. If shrubs are blocking your windows, cut them down so they reach the height of the bottom of your first floor windows otherwise they look overgrown.
  3. If you’re not pressed for time, plant some pretty flowers. A well-maintained yard will be that “first impression” others get when they see your house both in person and online (if you’re trying to sell your home).
  4. Also, sweep the driveway, sidewalk and porch.


  1. Put away the shoes. Closets are wonderful things, aren’t they? As a photographer, one of the things I tell people before I arrive is that I generally don’t take pictures of the inside of closets (unless they are empty and I could fit my bed in it), so if you don’t want anyone to see items such as shoes, jackets, umbrellas, etc., then the closet is the place for them.
  2. Clean those Welcome mats. Shake them out, vacuum them, wash them…whatever you have to do. Besides, you don’t want all of that dirt tracking through your home anyway.


  1. Get rid of extra furniture. Excessive furniture in a room does not photograph well; and it’s a challenge to compose the “perfect shot” of a room with that big ol’ ugly recliner taking up most of the space. Just sayin’.
  2. Remove all food and trash from each room. See that candy wrapper over there? Throw it away, please.


Before I even get into the bullet-points of this one, I must say that kitchens (in my opinion) are either the prettiest or ugliest in photographs. They tend to house all the “catch-alls” of our every day lives: incoming mail, keys, shopping lists…and so on. When you are making it look pretty enough for photos though, all that stuff has to be hidden or thrown out…except your keys…don’t throw away your keys. That would not be a good idea. Okay, moving along…

  1. Clear EVERYTHING off of your counters; and I do mean EVERYTHING. Cleaning products, recipe books, clutter. I would even go so far as to say hide your coffee maker. Yeah, I know…”Not my precious!” you’re thinking, but I promise you can still use it. Just put it away when not in use for purposes of a photo shoot or open house.
  2. Put away the dishes. Preferably clean first.
  3. Hide the garbage can under the kitchen sink, if it fits, or out in the garage. If it must stay and your photographer has to move it out of camera-view, be kind and empty it beforehand.
  4. Clear off the refrigerator. Take down all the magnets, notes, pictures and miscellaneous items.


Unless you are having someone stage your home professionally, just clear off the dining room table completely.


  1. Kill the paper monster. When it comes to paper, if you can’t file it or frame it then shred it, recycle it…just get rid of it.
  2. Just like in the kitchen, get rid of the clutter. Organize. Organize. Organize.


  1. Make your bed. Beds take up roughly 80% of a room, so when the bed is made, the room as a whole tends to look a whole lot cleaner.
  2. Pick up your stuff. Remember those closets we talked about earlier? Lovely little things, aren’t they?
  3. When it comes to kids’ rooms, aside from making beds, toys should be hidden. I am in awe of this woman’s organization skills…check this out: Playroom Storage Ideas.
  4. Also, sweep and/or vacuum the floors (in every room, that is).


  1. Again, clear everything off the countertops including the toiletries.
  2. Use white towels and hand towels neatly folded on the towel bar(s). Crisp, white linens give the sense of cleanliness, which is essential in bathrooms considering what goes on in there.
  3. Put away plungers, toilet brushes, cleaners, extra rolls of toilet paper, etc. (See what I mean by “what goes on in there?”)


  1. For open houses and photo shoots, neutral-colors on walls work best.
  2. Replace ALL dim and burned out light bulbs…even that little one above the stove.
  3. Clean everything reflective: windows, mirrors, oven doors, etc.


  1. Generally the same tips as the front yard, but also put away the garden tools, hoses, etc.
  2. Trampolines, swing sets and the like are very distracting in photos. If it’s possible to move them (even temporarily), I’d highly recommend it.
  3. If you have a pool, make sure it is clean and not fitting for the swamp creature to take up residence. And for picture-sake, put away all the pool toys: floats, noodles, rubber duckies…you get the idea.

Pinterest is an EXCELLENT place to find good cleaning how-to’s if you want even more tips than what I’ve provided you here. Below are a few more of my fav staging tips from the world wide web:

Happy cleaning!


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