August 2, 2008

3 BD, 3 BA, 4 balloons, 8 sippy cups, and much more!

"Why is there a calculator in the bath soap basket?"

It seemed like an innocent question, but the moment I asked it, I realized it was merely rhetorical.

The answer: Because my house is for sale.

We've been fortunate to have a lot of prospective buyers tour our house, even though none of them have made offers yet. Since we still have to live here, we have a nice little arrangement with our realtor's office in which they call us before allowing a visit. Ideally, they give us 24 hours notice, ample time to invite ourselves over to a friend's house or plan a family outing.

In reality, the situation is more often like this:

Real estate office: Cookie Kwan from Red Blazer Realty would like to show your home today between 5 and 7 p.m.

Monica: It's 4:30, I'm on my way home right now, the house is a mess... but OK, I can make this work.

We have a weekly arrangement with Merry Maids, which keeps the house clean on some levels. However, we also share our living space with a toddler, who is entropy in Huggies.

I bought a book about "staging" one's house, making it as appealing as possible to buyers. In staging, you want to remove all clutter, hide all evidence of your individuality, and stash anything that might be considered controversial, unusual, or unsavory. Things like family photos, religious iconography, "marital aids," feminine hygiene products, and dirty sponges have no place in a staged house.

Our house is far from staged. Anyone can piece together our life story via the overflowing bookshelves, toy baskets, and stacks of Paste and Parenting magazines. We knowingly flout the cardinal rules of staging with our preponderance of photos and our remarkably well-stocked liquor cabinet.

However, there are little things that need to be done before I will allow a realtor to visit. Putting all personal care products under the sink. Returning the garbage can to the kitchen, from wherever Evie decided to relocate it. Cramming foodstuffs and glasses into the kitchen cabinets to dispel the illusion that this house doesn't have enough storage space (which it doesn't). Making the bed in such a way that the one non-matching pillow is obscured by the duvet. Throwing every piece of laundry, clean or dirty, into a basket and stuffing it into the closet. Jimmying the screen door so it doesn't fall off its hinges. Spraying the kitchen counter with enough stinky cleanser to (hopefully) deter the ants for a few hours.

My record time for one of these cleanings is 15 minutes. On that kind of time frame, compromises are inevitable. Laundry doesn't get folded; it gets thrown into the hamper, clean or dirty. Spare keys go in a decorative vase. Yesterday's mail goes in the china cabinet. Dirty dishes go in the microwave. Sippy cups go in the toy basket. Random garbage goes in the Diaper Genie.

When it's all over, the house tends to look pretty good. Prospective buyers may be able to see the big, obvious things that we didn't stage away - but our quirks and eccentricities have been somewhat obscured. Except for the fact that we keep calculators with our bath soap.

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