I have never bought a house before, unless you count the time my parents sold me theirs.
There were no real estate agents involved, no listing, no closing, no negotiating and no mortgage for several months.
Now I’m learning how it really works.
I’m close to listing, which means I haven’t slept in over a month. My back is killing me. Selling a house is a ton of work, especially when you’re clearing out more than five decades.
I’ve had Jeff, my contractor-slash-painter, here with me full-time for over six weeks. The place looks amazing, and I’m finally fixing, or getting fixed, all the little things you tend to overlook. Electrical outlets, deck rails, light fixtures, switches and, of course, the endless clutter that I stopped noticing when I was about 10.
My sisters were here to help me stage rooms. This is a fairly crazy lie perpetuated on the buying public by the endless television shows that make you think you can transform a rabbit warren into the Taj Mahal in an hour.
I learned some basic facts from a professional stager:
- People only use white sheets and towels at all times;
- Beds must have no fewer than 70,000 pillows on them;
- Nobody wipes their butt — you must hide the toilet paper;
- Nobody brushes their teeth — you must hide the toothbrushes;
- Nobody uses soap or shampoo;
- Nobody cleans their toilet — you must hide the brush (I’m surprised they haven’t found a way to hide the whole toilet);
- Nobody has pets;
- Having a bowl of 50 lemons and limes is normal;
- Sixteen dollars buys a lot of green apples;
- You are forbidden from having mats, photographs, medications or a sense of humour. (I will explain this one in a later column.)
My sister Roz artfully arranged shell-like things in a bowl my parents received as a wedding gift in 1956, because staging a house is when you finally use things you received as wedding gifts and promptly hid. I’d picked up the bag of shell-like things after wandering around HomeSense looking much like an alien in a sci-fi movie: these are not my people.
Meanwhile, my sister Gilly was upstairs turning one bedroom into the home office I’d always wanted, and then cloaking my beds in pristine white. The cats rather enjoyed this, though were baffled by the pillows that threatened to crowd them out.
I started a list of people I know who own vans so I’ll have somewhere to hide my life when we’re ready for an open house.
Another neighbour didn’t hesitate when I told him I needed his coffee table for a week; yet another has no idea my cats will be visiting for a few hours one day as I pretend I don’t own them.
My son Christopher, 25, popped over to take apart a computer tower for me. He took in the living room, with its new soothing colour palate and decorator pillows.
I dragged him upstairs to see the rooms.
“Are you nuts? Why are you moving?” he said, as we stood in the master bedroom.
For the first time in a long time, it looks like a person with good, if boring, taste lives here. Not to mention someone who keeps bowls of beachy things on their dresser instead of unmatched socks and the corner attachment for the vacuum.
“Wow. Is this new carpet?” he asked, as we stood in the empty rec room.
I laughed. This has always been the room he and his brother spent the most time in. All I did was throw them out, get rid of their junk and clean it.
I walked through my unrecognizable dining room after he left, and grabbed a green apple from the bowl.
Rules be damned.