I had wanted it for so long, I had nearly given up. It had become one of those things I had to keep laying aside in the name of growth, patience, and reality checks (hey, there are people starving in Africa, be thankful for what you’ve got!). And I was thankful. I just kept bumping up against this dream I couldn’t let go of. But last August, after more than five years of searching, we found it.
A little farm.
Close to my husband’s work.
That we could afford.
It was so surreal, I hardly let myself hope. Something would go wrong. Something surely would go wrong. And we would have to sell our house first. Our house that we were still finishing up remodeling, our house that we were living in, that we, all EIGHT of us, with six of us ages ten and under were still living in.
Crazy. How could I ever keep it clean? And if I didn’t, who would buy the House of Chaos?
But then there was this peace. Every time we had looked at a house during our years of searching something hadn’t seemed right, not something physical like an atrocious yellow and orange shag carpet (which actually this farm house has), but a feeling, an uneasiness of not being at home. But as soon as we drove up on that August day, I knew that this was where we were supposed to be. The Lord was opening the door we’d been pounding on for so long. When we want something that isn’t God’s timing, ain’t no way it’s going to happen. But when it is His timing, nothing can stop it, not even a winding down real estate season or a house full of active children spilling juice all over the living room or running their Melissa and Doug metal shopping cart into the brand new stainless steel refrigerator that was a showpiece in your newly remodeled kitchen (for example).
It’s going to take several posts to get through the whole story, but here’s the first bit.
We didn’t know where to start in getting our house ready to show to strangers, so I called a “stager,” a sort of decorating, decluttering, make-it-what-the-market-wants consultant. Our good friend had used him to sell his house, and the results had been astonishing, so homey, so intelligent, so uncluttered. And what a blessing! The stager had an opening. In two days.
“Just pretend that I’m a potential buyer,” he said.
“OK,” I said.
When I hung up, I looked around at a sea of stuff. There was stuff on top of stuff, with more stuff creeping out from under beds. Bins. We needed bins, lots and lots of bins. My husband came home with the first lot, and I handed them to the children to tackle their rooms. “Just shovel as fast as you can. We’ll sort it later.” I labeled the bins helpful and detailed things like, “Terrifying Randomness from the Boys’ Room,” and “Detritus,” and we shoveled and stacked and filled the garage with bins. The time was drawing near for the stager’s arrival and still we shoveled. The kitchen had been emptied, everything off the counters, all but the essentials out of the cupboards and drawers. I took most of our clothes out of the closets, most of the towels out of the linen closet, while bin after bin left the ever lessening morass of my children’s rooms. I worked and raced and sweated and puffed my way towards that stager’s appointment.
It was nearly time. I hadn’t made my bed. I couldn’t even find my bed under all the junk strewn all over it, carted in from the rest of the house, the “important” stuff, rescued from being shoveled into poorly labeled bins with less important stuff. I had left our bedroom for last. I was in there, still frantically throwing things in bins when the stager arrived.
Test #1: Humility. And Failure. A two-fer. I am supposed to pretend he’s a buyer, and he must think I’m an idiot to have an unmade bed covered with “important” stuff.
Oh, well. It is what it is. We’ll explain we only had two days. At least the kitchen looks good, and the kids’ rooms.
I had looked on Pinterest and several “How to Sell Your House Fast” type pages and had decided to leave just a few toys in the children’s rooms to suggest happy play. In the boys’ room, for example I left one farm set, a large horse on springs, a truck, some puzzles. So maybe it wasn’t quite like a magazine, but it was pretty good, right? I mean, at least there were no broken bits of Happy Meal toys. (Speaking of which, why do we have so many of these when I can count on one hand the number of times we let the kids get Happy Meals?)
The stager surveyed the boys’ room.
“Well,” he said, “now’s the time to start paring down your toys.”
Clearly, this was going to be harder than I had imagined.
Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we have even more bins, and tests, and shopping!