Jarrett and I hosted our first ever Airbnb guests in our cute home in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in late June. I can’t even tell you the excitement I experienced when that first booking came through, for the exact dates that we planned to be away in the Isles-de-la-Madeleine. Not only were were going on a super fun work-cation to a beach paradise in Quebec, but our house was literally paying us to do so. Double win.
However, when you have complete strangers paying you money to stay in your home, which looks adorable in photos when it’s been cleaned and staged to the max, you feel inclined to provide them with an experience that matches their expectations.
I’ve been known to hold on to things here and there. Like that dress I haven’t worn for a few years because it’s a little tight or the random knick-knacks that we’ve collected over the years from our respective families. Our house, generally speaking, is not a house known for being decluttered. In fact, to our friends, it’s more so known as being full of dog hair. So much so, that it blows through the house along with the evening summer breeze. Lovely, right?
I’ve been working with Fay Wolf, the author of New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and Everyone Else). Her book became a lifesaver when I was panicking about the state of my house and my impending guests.
To get our home ready for the first set of visitors, this is what we did:
ONE – CLEAR EVERYTHING. This is where New Order came in handy. We got rid of excess Tupperware, pots and pans, mugs, cutlery, plates, duplicate bags of quinoa, old bedding and towels that we never used, plus any clothing that we hadn’t worn in over a year. We took three cars full of clutter to the nearest donation centre. We also threw out old medications, vitamins, and piles of other random stuff that we don’t use but could not be donated. Jarrett and I later estimated that we got rid of upwards of 20% of our stuff. It felt AMAZING.
TWO – CLEAN EVERYTHING. We cleaned the whole house top to bottom, including all the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen and pantry, plus the bathroom, and bedrooms. Think deep cleaning to the max. It was the worst few days getting it done, but our house is now the cleanest it’s ever been, I’m sure of it. Oh, and don’t forget to clean and retouch those baseboards!
THREE – PAINT. We decided to repaint our living room to bring back the bright white that was so lovely three years ago when we originally painted it. Unfortunately, it didn’t take us one coat of paint as expected and instead took two coats on the walls, one coat on the ceiling and two trips to the paint store. Thankfully we should only have to do this every two years or so to keep it looking fresh.
FOUR – STORE PERSONAL ITEMS. We removed ALL of our clothing from our closets and drawers, pack what we needed for our trip, and store the rest of it away in totes in our basement. We cleared out space in the bathroom and made sure our guests would have room to store their personal items in all the rooms. We converted an old closet into a locked storage room where we could put our valuables. Anything non-valuable went into totes in the basement.
FIVE – STAGE THE HOUSE. We removed all of our personal photos and awkward art choices (don’t ask…) and reconfigured the art selection and layout to be more agreeable to anyone staying there. We revamped the bedding situation and made sure that the rooms were clean and clear of junk, felt bright and airy and had fresh linens and towels ready and waiting.
SIX – STAGE THE OUTDOOR SPACES. We have a pretty intense garden situation, so we had to make sure that the lawn was mowed, the garden was (mostly) weeded, and that the deck furniture was clean and organized and ready for people to enjoy!
SEVEN – GET OUT OF DODGE. The last hour before leaving on our trip was probably the most intense. We had to get our junk out of the house, pack the car, send the dogs to my mums house (hello, dog hair!) and do all the last minute fiddle-y things like putting the keys in the lock box, sending check-in instructions to the guests, doing a final mop, water all the indoor plants and give plant watering instructions to the neighbours. We also took this opportunity to take new and improved photos of the house staged and ready for visitors, so that I could later update our Airbnb listing with new summer photos. Finally, we got in the car and left for good.
The week before we left and our Airbnb guests arrived was BUSY and STRESSFUL.
That moment of transition, however, was golden. And it can only get better. Many of the projects we had to do to get ready for our first visitors, we won’t have to do again (like painting the living room, for example). I KNOW that the next time we do this we will be much better prepared and things won’t feel as overwhelming.
Our house looked seriously beautiful and clean. I was confident that our visitors would love it, that our home would meet expectations, and that we could enjoy our vacation without worrying.
A Random Side Effect: A Summer of Minimalism.
Something rather unexpected came out of all of the hard work and preparation we did. After living out of one laundry basket (each) worth of clothing and toiletries for a week on vacation, we have challenged ourselves to live with what we packed for our trip – for the rest of the summer!
This also means, except for a couple extra pairs of underwear, socks, and gym clothes, I’m not unpacking any of those totes from the basement. That second hairbrush and the six other pairs of tights I own? They are staying put and will probably be disposed of in September when I’m completely certain I won’t need them anymore.
My favourite, and totally unexpected, things that are happening all since starting to live out of one laundry basket:
- My house is totally uncluttered. Because we haven’t unpacked, there is no stuff to take over all of the surfaces in the house.
- I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear because I really don’t have that many options.
- I’m hardly doing any laundry. Hello saved time and saved dollars!
- The physical decluttered-ness has totally made my mind decluttered as well.
- I feel confident that getting ready for the next set of visitors will be easy peasy compared to the first time around because we won’t need to move any stuff around.
- Limiting the choices and options in my physical life have really impacted how stress-free I feel during my days.
I’m being more productive, I’m feeling inspired and not overwhelmed, and I’m writing regularly again. All signs that my mental state feels clean, clear, and under control.
So, here’s where you can keep me accountable: If I can get through the next 2 months without all my other things, then you can bet that I’ll be taking this decluttering project to the next level.
Have you rented your home on Airbnb? How was the ‘getting ready’ process for you? Did you cry like I did, from the stress of it all? How has your life changed since decluttering your home to get ready for visitors? I have SO many questions, so hit me back in the comments below!