When your house is on the market, it needs to be ready at a moment's notice. While most agents do their best to provide you with ample notice of a showing, sometimes there is a buyer who is in town for a very limited time and wants to see your house...now! You never know which buyer will be THE buyer, so you have to have a plan for those short-notice showings.
It's hard to live in a house and have it consistently show-ready at the same time. The mail still arrives everyday, the kids and spouse still act as though they live there (imagine!), Fluffy still leaves her catnip toys all over the place (we'll address other evidence of Fluffy & Friends in another entry), the flotsam and jetsam that is everyday life is ever-present. So what's a seller to do?
One trick is to place attractive covered containers in each room of the house. These can be decorative storage baskets or small hampers with lids. As long as they are neutral and unobtrusive (read: not HUGE) they can be placed discreetly in most any room. When you get that phone call, don't go into panic mode--go into strategic pick-up mode. In other words, quickly go through each room of the house and gather up all the items that have accumulated there and put them in that room's basket.
You can sort through the contents after the showing. And if a family member is looking for something they left "lying around", you have a much better chance of locating it (and then they can put it where it belongs!)