Getting your house ready for sale is NOT going down as your shining moment on your zero waste journey. Let’s just get that out in the open.
Preparing to list a house is hard work, it’s usually a high stakes financial move, and it’s usually a totally chaotic period, which makes things like to-go food, disposable items, and shortcuts look incredibly tempting. Hey, no judgement here.
Not to mention, while you may be trying to live a greener life and seeking out biodegradable, compostable materials, some things you for sure do not want to biodegrading before your eyes is your roof, deck, or window sills. Am I right?! Toxic chemicals, polymers, and plastic-based products are unfortunately the name of the game in shielding your home from the elements and things like, you know, termites.
There are, however, still ways to make greener and more eco-friendly choices while you get your home ready to put on the market! Here are some of the ways I stayed true to my eco-friendly ideals last month while prepping my house:
12 Eco-friendly And Frugal Ways to Prep Your House for Sale
Buy mulch in bulk.
Mulch has its advantages and disadvantages, from an environmental perspective. While it offers a more eco-friendly solution to weed control than say, synthetic fabric and plastic weed barriers and chemical sprays, mulch is bad for native, ground-dwelling bees, as mentioned last year. And while mulch is compostable and can help maintain moisture levels in your soil, not all mulch is created equal. Mother Earth Living states, “According to University of Florida data, timber companies grind some 129,000 tons of the state’s cypress into mulch each year, part of a cycle that takes nearly 3 million more cubic feet of cypress than it replaces.”
I used a lot of mulch while prepping my house for listing, even though it goes against my normal living practices out of love of the bees. Speaking as a homeowner, not an environmentalist, it is a quick and easy way to freshen up your yard and landscaping and give your home that “crisp” look. I could not, however, bring myself to buy bag upon plastic bag of mulch to get the job done. When you start cutting plastic bags out of your life, it gets really hard to let them back in.
Know a friend with a truck? Have a trailer accessible? Buying mulch in bulk not only allows you to save TONS of money - it cost $68 to mulch every single flowerbed and the periphery of my home - but you can keep your mulching plastic-free.
Use what you have.
Take a creative approach to brightening up your home and yard but first taking a fresh look at what you DO have, not what you need to buy. Your mindset is everything! I had a set budget of what I was willing to spend to get my house market-ready, so cutting corners was key. Make a list, if you need to!
Stack of old bricks behind the shed? Edge your front flower bed, like I did. I also ripped out the old, rotten wood planters on the deck and repotted those mature rosemary bushes in the empty flower bed by my front porch. Finally, my beautiful white shutters? Yeah, those were black about 18 coats of paint ago. Not only did I save myself a whopping ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.
Stones and pavers behind the shed? Edge your flower beds or trees, pave around your crawlspace entrance, add a path to your gate
Wood by your carport? Build some window boxes (even if they’re rough, they’ll look great from a distance), repair spots in your fence, build a new crawlspace door
Pots in your closet? Set up a container garden instead of landscaping
Plants you’re not crazy about? Relocate your existing mature plants and small shrubs as needed to increase curb appeal
Sign up for curbside composting.
Make your own life easier: a couple weeks before you list, use your existing compost to fertilize around your bushes and plants. (Let’s be real. You’re not packing up your compost and taking it with you, so let your compost work FOR you in getting top dollar out of your house now.) Clean out your compost system, if portable, and store it. Remember that time I moved compost and wound up with flying cockroaches in my car? Hm? Yeah, don’t move matter that is actively rotting inside your SUV or you may end up with some highly undesirable backseat drivers.
Then sign up for a curbside composting service, such as CompostNow, which serves Asheville, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durham, Atlanta, and Charleston. I made a more comprehensive list of regional non-profit and private curbside pickup companies across the US in this post here.
Use your existing paint.
You are probably never going to need those half-used jars of house paint more than you do right now or actually, ever again. So do yourself a favor and spruce up your trim and baseboards. Spackle and paint over any weird spots in your drywall. The new owners are very likely going to repaint your house as soon as they move in, and you very likely are never going to use that 1/3 of a can of “Glacier Ice” paint after you move out. Let the paint you’ve already paid for make a fresh and favorable impression on anyone coming to see your home.
Run gutters into French drains.
Gutters are great, but not if they’re just dumping water by the exterior walls of your house or into your crawlspace. Moisture and houses just don’t mix. Mildew, soil erosion, rot, termites, mold, the list goes on. The less water near your house? The better. So with minimal expense, train your gutters down and out into your yard. Not only can you breathe a little easier during your inspection process, strategically running your French drains into the more arid spots in your yard can help reduce your need for watering.
Buy used where possible.
Remember that your local Habitat for Humanity Restore often has all sorts of useable materials for your home, including:
Stage smarter not harder.
More on this next week, but YOU ALREADY OWN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO STAGE YOUR HOME. It is probably just in the wrong places, or more likely than not, the problem is that you actually own too much stuff. Don’t waste your time and money buying new things just to make your house look like something West Elm burped up. Your house will sell better when furnished, but that does not include clutter. This is a great time to selectively donate, recycle, regift, and start packing.
Use less bleach.
You know what makes your house look squeaky clean? A good power washing. You can rent a power washer for a whopping $38.00 a day from Home Depot. While you absolutely can pressure wash your home without bleach, you can also just use LESS bleach. Better yet, you can do a little research and go with a green cleaner for your pressure washer.
Plant bee-friendly flowers.
When it came time to revamp my home, I had to let my gardens lapse. I missed my bee garden horribly, and hated that I didn’t have flowers out for bees during one of their more vulnerable times. So when it came to put that token pot of flowers on my front steps and to landscape my brand-spanking-new window boxes, I went straight for bee friendly flowers. They smell so amazing, you can actually smell the window boxes across the yard. And since the boxes are mounted to the house behind some bushes, the bees have an uninterrupted traffic lane to their flower buffet.
Go for quality over cost where you can.
We’re all living life on a budget, right? But when it’s not too much of a stretch, go for quality over cost. When it came to redoing my deck, which was rotting terribly, I could have cut some costs. But if you’re going to build something, why not build it to last? Do the new owners a solid. If it’s a matter of splitting pennies, go for the materials that won’t be dragged to the landfill in a year.
Speaking as a packrat myself (especially when it comes to crafting materials!), now is a wonderful time to declutter. If you don’t need it, you definitely don’t need to pack it up, move it, and then unpack it only to realize you still don’t need it. Move from room to room several weeks before you list your house and make several piles. Clothing you don’t need? Host a clothing swap or donate. Old running shoes? Take them to the Nike Factory store for recycling. Furniture you were never crazy about? Throw it up on Facebook marketplace and make a few bucks back. Buckets of paint don’t need? Drop them at Habitat for Humanity.
Skip the Yankee Candle.
You know what smells gross? Walking into a cloying cloud of artificial fragrance when you go to see a new home. I know, because I’m looking at homes. Yankee Candles, air fresheners, etc all smell gross, heavy, and cheap. Worried about your house having a signature scent? Consider doing a simmer pot before your showings, DIY some potpourri, spritz some DIY linen spray, or hang a eucalyptus wreath. Not only will you save yourself from creating trash and breathing in toxic chemicals, we all know nothing smells as good as the real thing, y’all!