How to Get Your House Ready When Leaving on Vacation

We have friends who have blessed our family by loaning us their beautiful home a few hours away, in the mountains. It’s been wonderful for our family to get away for quality “face-time,” and our friends may never comprehend the impact that it’s had on our family. Face time is so important, and getting away to a new and different place is inspirational.

Unfortunately, there were a few times when we’d leave to head out of town where I left our house a mess. Dishes in the sink, clutter everywhere. Talk about depressing to come home to! I’m sure many of you can relate. It’s funny because my kids will say, Mom, why do we have to clean before we go? I just remind them, one day when they are an adult with a family – they will know! :)

Today I want to share a few tips that I’ve learned when leaving town.

How to get your house ready when leaving on vacation

1. No matter how many dishes are loaded, start the dishwasher. Don’t let food sit in the sink.

2. Wipe down the counters (and if you have time the cupboards) with Mrs. Meyers Clean.

3. Do a quick SWEEP and SWIFFER of the kitchen floor.

4. Start in the living room and pick up and organize.

5. Clean off the dining room table and leave a simple centerpiece.

Vacuuming is a luxury, and most times don’t get it done as I’m rushing out the door.

I love walking into the house when I get home and having everything spotless.

It may depend on your personality, if you’re really uptight about coming home to a clean house, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How do you get your house ready for vacation?


  1. I try to put clean sheets on the beds. I also like to scrub the toilets and wipe down the bathroom sinks before leaving. This

  2. I usually try to schedule enough time that the house gets a thorough scrub down. Cleaning bathrooms, dusting, kitchen cleaned and vacuuming. It’s really important to me to come home to a clean house. Also because we have older dogs we usually have a house sitter stay. This gives even more incentive to cleaning up beforehand!

  3. i have been learning this…slowly :) we took a quick weekend trip a couple of weeks ago and it was a delight to come back to a clean kitchen and a clean dishwasher :)

  4. I start packing what I can days in advance so I’m not doing a ton of laundry ahead of time; most of us have plenty of “extras”. I plan out menus so there isn’t a lot of wasted food and if I can, I put things in freezer bags and stick them in the freezer so I don’t waste them. I also like to have a loaf of bread, a casserole, and muffins in the freezer that I can pull out when we return to tide us over until we can hit the store. I am super blessed to have a wonderful go-to person who cleans while I’m gone and then picks up fresh fruit/veggies for me to have when we return.

  5. I agree with your post. My family doesn’t understand why I care about cleaning before we go away, but it makes complete sense to me:-) One more thing to add to your list of to-do’s…..empty the garbages:-)

  6. Please remember to run the garbage disposal and empty the compost container! :)
    It is WONDERFUL to come home to a clean kitchen and dining area(our entry just pops us directly into that area when we walk thru the door)…it is even MORE wonderful to get to go away and have fun for a few days!

  7. I’m with you, Sandy. When I was younger, I would leave the house dishes in the sink, bed unmade. Not now – I can’t stand coming home to a messy house and make sure it’s spic and span before I leave. Inevitably I find something to clean up as soon as I walk in the door after a trip – it’s part of my whole reconnecting with the house routine.

    Have a great trip!!!!

  8. Have a wonderful trip, Sandy!

    I learned this lesson the hard way too. But I must say your post is rather timely. My husband and I returned from a week-long vacation to the Dominican Republica about a week ago and it was such a pleasure to walk into a nice, clean, bright apartment with not a thing to do! (except to unpack and shower, of course!)

    We also had a few hardy grocery items to tide us over as another commenter mentioned. It really makes it that much more of a pleasure to get away.

  9. Absolutely agree with you and some of my friends think I’m crazy! Why would I clean the house if we’re not there?! Returning to a clean house just makes it that much easier to get back in to the regular routine, nothing is overwhelming or demanding my immediate attention except for laundry of course :-) I also change the sheets the day before we go so they’ve only been slept in once and are good for the next week. I’ve also started to make my menu plan for the week after we return, that way my grocery list is easy to put together if not already done. Of course, this has all been learned thru trial and error!

  10. Agreed!…dishwasher run, beds made etc…going away is always nice but usually we are “ready” to come home—and a clean house is what I
    like to come home to:)

  11. Totally agree! I love coming home to a clean house. One other thing to add to the list is taking all the garbage out! We made the mistake of not doing this once and there is nothing worse than opening the door and smelling nasty garbage.

  12. Oh, I wish I were that disciplined! Between getting all six of us packed and homeschooling until the day before we leave my to-do list is typically much longer than my list of tasks accomplished.

    What I do: wash all the laundry so we can wash everything when we get home, take out the trash, start the dishes. Since we usually visit family I usually take the food that will go bad while we’re gone (milk, bread, fruit) because we always have to buy those things when we visit anyway. I try to tidy up a bit, but when we leave really early I don’t even get to that. Packing the road trip food takes priority, especially when travelling with a toddler! So we come home to a clean-enough home, but not what I’d like it to be. Maybe when the kids are older and can do more helping than messing! :)

  13. great list! i hate leaving a messy house and coming home to it. i always try to pick up and do what i can before we leave.

  14. I totally agree with you! Thankfully, my husband is as type-a about this as I am. Our house is sparkling before we leave for a vacation. And when we come home, luggage is taken directly into the laundry room to start washing any dirty clothing. Everything is put away before we go to sleep, no matter what time we arrive home. I know this sounds obsessive, but it makes for a very relaxing ‘day-after-vacation’.

  15. Yes! Yes! The Virgo in me has to tidy before going on vacay. If it’s a shorter trip, I change the sheets on the beds, too. If it’s longer, I strip the bed and leave it to air with some lavender. Oh, yeah. I love your simple centerpiece idea. That’s very welcoming.

  16. I soooooo have to clean the house before we go away, even for a quick weekend trip. I try to pack early so that I can finish up with the cleaning right before we leave. Having a clean house to come home really lessens the feeling of “I need a vacation from vacation.”

  17. Myself, I get easily overwhelmed, and sometimes a long packing list for the family doesn’t leave much time for a cleaning list – but every little bit of cleaning before leaving helps! I love your list because, to me, it is not overwhelmingly long. Even if I were to do half of that list before leaving, I would feel better upon coming home. :)

  18. One year we forgot to take out the trash – will NEVER forget that again! I like coming home to a clean house every day, but yes, especially after being away.

  19. My mother used to say the same and she was right :) I could only understand the point of the whole thing when I started living on my own… Great reminder and a warm post, thank you :)

  20. I do this every time I go away, it would be a couple of times a year for us when we lived in Indiana, now back in Eastern Pa. I made sure everything was made, like the beds, the house was clean, dishes were done and laundry I did, as I put together my childrens backpacks ( not suitcases) backpacks, because they could carry them on their backs. I love to come home and all I have to do is load up the dirty laundry and unpack, nothing else. Ahhh, it’s a great feeling.

  21. Cleaning the house before I leave for a vacation, even a day or two is important to me, too. Usually by the time I get home, I’m tired from the travel and fun, so tackling a messy house does nothing to help me retain the joy of the journey! I’m not trying for perfection. I just prefer to come home to a peaceful environment.

  22. We do this, but if I am pressed for time, I am always sure to do the things that will stink up the house if I don’t do them. Like washing dirty dishes in the dishwasher, taking out the trash, taking care of dirty laundry, etc. Don’t forget to pull your trashcans to the street for pickup if you will be gone on trash pickup day! Or make arrangements with a neighbor to take care of it for you. Also, if you will be out of town for an extended period, give a key to a trusted neighbor or friend and have them check on things once a week or so. Our next door neighbor went out of town for 2 weeks and came home to find that the freezer they use to store up lots of meat from hunting had broken. All the meat was beyond rotten and even though the freezer was in the garage, you could smell it in other parts of the house.

  23. I have left home in a mess more times than willing to admit! Your tips are great.

    I try to get the fridge cleaned out, milk and produce given to neighbors, befpre leaving.

    Also unplug computers, microwave, other big energy drainers.

    Have the mail held and delivered the NEXT day.

    A small luxury…I ask a neighbor or friend to come in the day we’re expected home, air out the house, turn on the air conditioning, and buy fresh milk and fruit so we don’t have to head to the grocery after a late flight.

  24. I always try to have the house spotless before we leave, because you are absolutely right it is wonderful to come home too… I never do the centerpiece though. That would be lovely.

  25. What an eye opener. I thought my wife and I were only ones that cleaned the house before we left for trip. It is so nice to come home to clean.
    One time while we were gone, my sister came in to water plants and left a note for us saying our place was spotless except a fig tree leaf on the carpet. It fell while we were gone.
    A clean house hugs you when you return.

  26. I admit to being a bit obsessive when it comes to cleaning prior to leaving home. I’m like a crazy woman. I love coming home to clean.

  27. Oh good lord…ok….I completely agree with you in having the house clean before heading out. I wish I could say that I do this but more often than not my house looks like a bomb went off. Packing for 3 kids, 2 of them being toddlers and myself can be overwhelming.

    I’m hanging your list on my fridge…perhaps my husband can do that while I pack for the kids and I don’t have spend more time telling him what else needs to be done. Lol

    Great post!

  28. We do the same thing. Aside from dishes, wiping down kitchen counters, and vacuuming, a must for us is to put clean sheets on the beds and finish all of the laundry. I also clean the bathrooms and let bleach sit in the toilet bowls. My husband insisted we do this many years ago and I thought he was crazy, but after coming home to a clean house that first time, I was sold on it. It really makes coming home from vacation feel like a mini vacation.

  29. do you realize the photo of the wall behind your kitchen peninsula looks for all the world like a great big smile?


  30. Girl. I have a NEED to leave the house clean. And if I let one of the church girls use it as a retreat space, I make sure they know to leave it how they found it…especially clean sheets for me to get into the night I come back.

  31. I always make sure everything is neat before I walk out, but part of my vacation plan is to always schedule the cleaning lady while I’m gone! Nothing like walking in to a clean house that I didn’t have to scrub!

  32. I always vacuum all the rooms before leaving. I also organize and clean everything too

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