Fix it – clean it – go!

How to make exchange preparations easier

We love homeexchanging and have done so many times now but - let me be honest – we still think it’s a lot of work to prep our house for an upcoming exchange.

So, I decided to collect some tips from PLUers in the Facebook group on how to make the pre-exchange prep easier for us. Here are their 10 best tips:  

  1. Make a homeexchange prep checklist that you can reuse from exchange to exchange. That way you’ll have an overview from the start of the tasks to be done and can easily make a plan for when to do what when you’re planning a new exchange.

    Split the tasks up into
    - what you can do way ahead of the exchange
    - what you can do 1 - 2 weeks before
    - what you must do just before departure.

    Look closely at all the tasks: are they all need-to-do or perhaps only would-be-nice-to-do-but-nobody-will-probably-notice-except-me? Can any of them be made simpler? More on this below. 

  2. Declutter! Go through your home and look at everything in it: are there things that you never use and that you can do without?

    Stephanie Bloomfield said having to clear out our home, we lived in for 25 years last year was a real eye-opener about how much stuff we hold onto that we really don’t need. And after letting go of almost all of it, we still don’t miss it.

    Sarah Wright wrote It’s a way of life for us to regularly declutter... It definitely makes getting ready for an exchange easier, especially keeping on top of kids’ clothes and toys they’ve outgrown.

    Jill Goddard took it one step further:
    We had a garage/yard sale before our last exchange. It was A LOT of work, but we got rid of a lot of things we weren't using and made $500.
    Great idea - plus extra money for the travel fund!

    An uncluttered home is so much easier to prep – and nicer for your exchange partner to feel at home in. However, you don’t need to go all minimalistic and put away all your personal stuff – we like homeexchange precisely because we get to stay in a home, not an impersonal rental. Just make sure you move enough stuff for your guests to have somewhere to put their things.

  3. Have a home for things: As Trish Lynch wrote: Having a place for everything helps keep clutter at bay. Each time we exchange, we seem to get rid of more things. Less stuff is easier to keep organized.

    Stephanie Bloomfield added I have a basket that I throw all of our toiletries and bathroom crap in to clear out space in the cabinet and just store in the top of my closet until I return.

    Knowing where things go makes it so much easier to tidy your home before an exchange.

  4. Get things fixed now! When we start preparing for an exchange, we often look at our home with the eyes of the guests and notice things that need to be fixed. Often these are things that have needed fixing for a while but have been put off. Right now, for example, we have a light switch in our home that doesn’t work – and actually hasn’t worked for a while (because life keeps getting in the way). But I want to get it fixed asap so it won’t be another thing on my exchange prep list. Because as Trish Lynch said The trick is maintaining/repairing things as they need it, rather than waiting until we are about to exchange. We deserve a home where things work too. I think exchanging keeps our home in good condition.

  5. Ask your exchange partner about their expectations as to for example wardrobe space, bathroom cabinet space etc. Personally, I’m happy to live out of my suitcase and prefer not to use other people’s wardrobes or cabinets because I’m afraid to forget my things there (as exchangers have often forgotten things in my wardrobe), and you’d be wasting your time clearing out a lot of wardrobe/cabinet space for me. However, needs differ, some exchangers prefer to unpack their bags, so you should ask before you go to a lot of trouble. And let them know your expectations too.

  6. Invest in things that make prepping easier. This might be for example:
    • A clothes rack: Investing in a foldable clothes stand for your bedroom can save you emptying your wardrobe.
    • Rolling carts: can be used by exchangers in your bathroom and kitchen so you don’t need to empty drawers or whole cabinets for them.
    • Boxes: Robin Bayley said she has Rubbermaid totes for emptying drawers and an extra rail in a second closet so I can easily lift and move hanging clothes.
    • Extra bedlinen plus maybe even duvets/quilts and pillows. This has indeed made things easier for my family. On the morning of our departure, we just throw our own bedding into a wardrobe, change the bottom sheet and take out the guest bedding that we have already made ready to put on the bed. If you lack closet space for this extra bedding, consider getting a floor pouf and using the bedding as stuffing.
    • Extra towels are also useful, as Robin also said: Guest towels avoid last minute laundry.

  7. Decide if tasks are strictly necessary. During our first exchanges we would buy food and leave for our exchange partners, but they rarely touched it. Now I always ask them beforehand if they’d like me to get them some food (e.g. for breakfast), but most say they prefer to go shopping themselves because that’s part of the experience.
    Linda Brown commented I've just done a huge clean-out. All those things I left for exchangers to use (tinned food, pasta) that never got touched.

  8. Don’t spring clean- homeexchange clean. Linda Brown said I think if you exchange regularly (like, more than once a year) the key is to keep up to date on all those little extra things - like cleaning the oven, light fittings and fans, kitchen cupboards/ drawers as you go. Washing the pillow and mattress protectors regularly. Replacing items as you notice they are getting tatty (eg. frypans, teatowels, etc) rather than having to do a huge "one off" spring clean beforehand.

    If you are lucky enough to have a cleaner, you can do like Vicki Van Essen: I have our cleaner come as close as possible to our departure. Maybe I’ll have them clean windows the week before. If not, it’s a good idea to schedule when to do what like Kirsty White:
    I do the jobs that I only do when I have guests coming 1-2 weeks in advance (depending on what it is), so things like clean the bins, deep clean (as opposed to regular clean) bathrooms, vacuum the couch. That way I only have regular cleaning to do the day before guests arrive.

    Prioritize most important cleaning tasks. Yes, it would be wonderful if our whole home was perfect but let me be completely honest with you: you won’t ever be able to eat off my floors, I never iron my bedlinen and I probably won’t get round to cleaning all my windows before every exchange. But my kitchen will have been deep-cleaned so it’ll be nice for you to cook in – no breadcrumbs in the drawers (my pet hate) - and the rest of the house will be nice and welcoming too. There are many attitudes to cleaning – the one issue which can raise an awful lot of debate in the FB group – but I think most people will be coming to my house to explore Denmark, not to admire my housekeeping skills 😉

  9. KISS your house manual. Keep It Short & Simple. We started with a simple page or two and then added more and more information to the manual for every exchange until we suddenly had a lot of pages. After a while we realized that few exchangers actually read all of them and that the important info that we needed people to read got lost in all the nice-to-know info. So now we have tried to organize it into need-to-now and nice-to-know sections. We also try to make it easier to update the info. For instance, we’ve removed some details like opening hours for museums and given web addresses for those instead, so that this info doesn’t need to be constantly checked and updated. Some homeexchangers also use QR codes now for small videos on how to use electrical appliances etc.

    Robin Bayley said I keep the home book current, adding info to address questions from most recent exchangers when I get home. I have a welcome note on the computer.

  10. Involve your family. My children were 7, 9 and 12 when we started exchanging and they were given their own little checklists with tasks to do. They may have grumbled about this from time to time (especially in their teens 😉), but mostly they accepted it as the price for a fantastic holiday in Paris, Barcelona or LA.

    Jill Goddard said we should Encourage kids to declutter their rooms. Start the ‘I’M GOING TO THROW ALL OF THIS OUT’ threats… If your children are too small to give them tasks, Sarah DS has the following tip: Have a sitter or grandparents take care of the kids the day before so you can tidy up! Cleaning with kids is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos (someone here said that, and it stuck with me! so true!!)

    And maybe we should involve our husbands too. It’s an interesting fact that ALL the people who commented on my Facebook post (when I asked for tips) were WOMEN! I’m sure that PLU men do a lot of pre-exchange prep too – mine certainly do - but perhaps we women stress more about it? 😉

I hope you found these tips as helpful as I did. Thank you so much to everyone who shared their tips in the Facebook group. Leave a comment if you have more tips.

God arbejdslyst – Danish for enjoy your work – there’s a wonderful exchange on the other side of all the hard work 😊







Annemette & Ole

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