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Archive for August, 2010

A Wild Ride: Part III…

http://img4.realsimple.com/images/home-organizing/cleaning/0104/cleaning-supplies_365.jpg

And so it began. The adrenaline was pumping. Even before our offer was accepted, I began puttering about the house straightening things, organizing a drawer here and a closet shelf there. Now, however, the game began in earnest.

First things first, I sent out a plea for help, an email to all my friends…cleverly disguising a morning of helping me clean my house as an invitation to a pizza party. I then commenced a daily routine of rising at or before 5 am and staying up until 10 or 11 pm. I washed curtains, organized closets, sorted through bins and boxes, laundered slipcovers, and filled countless trash bags with rubbish from every corner of the house, attic to basement. I painted entire walls and touched up others, and almost every baseboard in the house received a fresh coat of crisp white paint. My set of bulletin boards and marker boards that had for years served as “Command Central” and were intrinsic in keeping my life organized were removed, the wall they had so faithfully adorned given a fresh coat of paint and some pretty wall decor.

Speaking of the bulletin board…for years we had one of those “lists” pinned up. You know the one, the list of household projects about a mile long with only three items crossed off of it. Things like “replace warped siding” and “fix broken doorbell” and “repair basement door so it will latch”…and so on and so forth. Facing multiple projects in barely over a weeks’ time, we decided to call a local handyman that we had worked with in the past and see what he might be able to do on short notice. By the time the realtor’s sign went up on the lawn, he had knocked out every single item on our “to do” list, including the assembly of an IKEA wardrobe in our boys’ bedroom, since their room did not have a closet and I was figuring that bedroom closets are…well…a selling point. At the end of it all, we looked at each other and said…that’s right…”why didn’t we ever do this before?”. For a nominal amount of money, projects that had been hanging over our heads for years were completed and everything was working, ship-shape.

The Monday before our first showing, six sweet, gracious ladies showed up to my house for my “cleaning party”. I had spent over an hour the night before making up index cards for each job that needed to be done in the house, listing the location, method, priority level, and required supplies. The cards were quite a hit, so much so that someone joked about having them published! I will admit that they proved to be an invaluable help, as I was freed up to finish painting and organizing and didn’t have to spend my time that morning answering questions about what to do next or what product to use.

Thinking thus far that I have some amazing friends? Friends willing to scrub toilets and clean out the tracks of dirty windows with a q-tip? That’s just the tip of the iceburg.

Of the eight days we spent preparing the house, I think I only spent half of them with my children. Bounced around here and there from house to house, both my kids and my dear friends were troopers as we played a grand game of Carseat Shuffle. Picked up, dropped off, babysitter today, grandparents tomorrow. And always, in the midst of it all, my heart pumping and reminding me…faster, faster, so much to do, so little time.

Fast forward to Thursday…the night before The Big Day. Don’t worry about the days in between, full of last minute errands to pick up cut flowers and potted plants, boxwoods for the front steps and hooks and clips to organize the hall closet. Thursday night…just a few last-minute projects, a little bit of paint to touch up, and a good night’s sleep before waking early to clean and set up for the two showings scheduled for Friday afternoon. I was looking forward to the rest, as by now my back and neck were aching and the skin on my hands was cracked and bleeding. Thursday night…almost there…time to rest, right? Think again…



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A Wild Ride…Part II

I clicked on it. I quickly called my husband over. We scrolled through umpteen pictures of impressive vignettes, all holding out the promise of spacious loveliness. We sent an email. “We want to see it!”

The visit in person only confirmed what the pictures had suggested. A large and well-maintained yard for the children to roam in, with stone walls and curious nooks that begged for hours of imaginative play, the picturesque landscape dotted with ornamental trees and shrubbery. The layout of the interior, very similar to our home at the time, was just a wee bit bigger in all the areas that we needed it to be, and the finished basement was ideal for our active young children who needed a playroom in which to spread out villages made of legos and train tracks or set up an elaborate tea and dress up in floppy hats and fancy dress-up clothes. A formal dining room could easily be transformed into an office and home library with the simple addition of a couple doors.

Several other features of the house were things that were already on the “wish list” of our imaginations. You know, the one that you keep filed away in your mind, the one you add to on those days when you sit on the couch and take a wide, sweeping look around and say “someday I’d like to…”. A gas fireplace, for instance. Wood floors on the first floor, a lovely and generously-sized shed. An attached garage leading right into the kitchen. A deck made of maintenance-free materials (yes, yes, I’m a “wood girl” at heart, but I have spent enough time painting a deck to appreciate certain aspects of the many uses of vinyl and various other composite materials).

White kitchen cabinets. Wainscoting and beadboard moulding. A large soaking tub in the master bath. Lovely tall windows. A tray ceiling in the dining room library. Wood stairs instead of carpet. Tiled bathroom floors and a pedestal sink in the half bath. A cottage-y built in entertainment center in the basement, all white with shelves and cabinet doors with large knobs. A pantry. All these things, seemingly simple and maybe not even appealing to anyone else, all screamed out at me because I had imagined them time and time again as I sat daydreaming, spinning a “house of dreams” in my mind the way many a woman with a strong tie to home and beauty and creating lovely environments is apt to do. It was as if someone had read my thoughts like a blueprint, built it, and offered it to me on a silver platter…

Okay, so it wasn’t quite that simple.

Of course we put in an offer. Silly question. And after the usual back-and-forth (modern day haggle and barter), our offer was accepted. Contingent, obviously, upon the sale of our current home.

I’m not sure it even hit us at the time how crazy all of this was. I was seven months pregnant. The housing market was atrocious…still is…the average time for a house to sit on the market was a  non-inspiring eight months. My husband was very busy at work and had some study and teaching commitments for church that required a serious time investment. We weren’t exactly rolling in excessive amounts of extra cash.

However, crazy or not, we committed to putting the house on the market in eight days from the time of our accepted offer. Eight days. Eight days to clean, fix, paint, repair, scrub, air out, remove stains, decorate, rearrange, organize…at seven months pregnant at the end of February/beginning of March with four small children.

Here is my little green cottage. A boring colonial, you say? Maybe, to the untrained eye, but I had spent years transforming my little cookie-cutter-builder-standard-box into a cottage haven. And somehow I had earned the reputation that it was always spic and span, immaculately clean. Well, if anyone ever stopped by unannounced, they were in for quite a shock. And you never know how dirty your house really is until you start refreshing the paint on white baseboard moulding…

to be continued…

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