Selling a house: preparation, staging and frustration

for saleSo it turns out we are not moving after all.

I knew I shouldn’t have broadcast that we had a buyer – it’s the ultimate jinx!

This is the second buyer that has pulled out. The first pulled out because she was allergic to rapeseed which the farmer sometimes grows in the adjoining fields. The second buyers pulled out because they are divorcing. I can make our house look absolutely beautiful but I can’t do anything about those sorts of factors.

So now we have switched agents and are starting again. It is rather depressing though to look at our house with fresh eyes (for the new agent to take photographs) and realise that all the painting and deep cleaning we did last year looks like it never happened. We need to do it all again and then MOVE OUT if we are ever to have any hope of selling this place.

The agent took photographs of the house: living areas and outside only as that’s all we do, he said, so it was a little embarrassing to see another house come on the market with the same agent (admittedly in a different price bracket) which had a full complement of pictures including all the bedrooms which were beautifully presented with matching cushions and so on.

So now I know why our house hasn’t sold. It’s because we don’t have matching cushions adorning all the beds!

Of course, I’m not thinking that, not really, although I’ve watched enough of the programme Why Your Stinky Cluttered House Won’t Sell to know that all this ‘staging’ to make your house look as though nobody actually lives in it does work and, for the most part, we do do that each time we have a viewing. (Exhausting.) But the bedrooms could do with improvement so I have been and bought some crisp white bed linen, comforters (in an accent color) and some cushions in a different but matching color (see how good I am at this?).

Correspondingly, I fully expect the house to be sold by tomorrow.

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Ha! Just as I was about to hit publish on this, the estate agent rang saying could someone come and look around in an hour from now. It’s a sign!

However, given I had to say no – there was no way I could get this place looking presentable in an hour – that may also be a (less than positive) sign.

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Although we haven’t quite sold yet, I’m feeling confident. Here’s what we have learnt along the way:

Tips for selling your house

If you want your house to sell for a good price and relatively quickly there are a number of things you can do to make your house attractive to potential buyers:

Preparing your house for sale

1. Declutter and de-personalize – throw out anything you don’t need anymore and put any items you can into self-storage. Remove personal items such as family photographs, certificates or children’s artwork.

2. Fix all the little broken things inside and outside your house – make your house look like it has been well-cared for:

– fix any leaking gutters or broken fencing
– replace any broken floor tiles
– re-caulk around showers and baths
– replace broken window blinds
– clean or replace dirty or worn carpets
– make sure all light bulbs are working

3. Deep-clean your house including all the windows. And then clean your house regularly.

4. Buyers like to open cupboards so make sure your closets look clean and tidy and not too full (throw out or store clothes you don’t need), clean inside your refrigerator, make sure kitchen cupboards are clean and not crammed full of items.

5. Give your house kerb-appeal: mow the grass, invest in some plants to put by the door, give the door a fresh coat of paint or a good clean.

6. If the kitchen is looking worn, consider replacing it or replacing kitchen cupboard doors and old appliances.

7. Paint your walls in neutral colors so prospective purchasers can imagine themselves living there.

8. Arrange furniture to give as much space in a room as possible.

Staging your house

Once the preparation is done, it is a good idea to stage your house for viewing:

1. Use plain bedlinen in bedrooms and accessorize with cushions/pillows and comforters/throws.

2. Use plants, mirrors, lamps, cushions, flowers and other accessories in living areas to make your rooms look more attractive.

3. Accessorize bathrooms with nice lotions, soaps and towels. Close toilet lids and remove trash cans.

4. Tidy everything away, remove evidence of pets if you can and tidy away as many children’s toys as you can. Put away bulky kitchen appliances to leave kitchen worktops looking spacious.

5. Give your house a last-minute clean and open the windows for fresh air.

6. For the viewing make sure your house is warm, the lights are on and everything smells clean and fresh.

If you’re selling/have sold your house, let me know how you got on!

Photo: AKZOPhoto

Christmas traditions: Christmas Kisses

christmas lightsDue to the fact that I have four children in three different schools and our afternoon school run starts at 2.50pm and ends at 5.10pm, we spend a great deal of time in the car these days. This excessively long school run was only supposed to be a short-term arrangement but it has dragged on rather longer than we would like because we couldn’t sell our house. So our opportunities for Christmas traditions were much more limited this year. In previous years we have had traditions like Advent Reading by candlelight as well as our usual Christmas traditions but this year we added a new one, a game started partly out of desperation on my part as a way of keeping the children amused in the car (and looking out the window so as not to feel car-sick) which then became a tradition because the initial game grew to take on a pleasure of its own amongst the children.

They called the game Christmas Kisses and it simply involved them shouting out ‘Christmas kisses!‘ every time we drove past some Christmas lights. Each sighting gained them a point, then at bedtime I owed them as many kisses as points they had garnered. It makes me smile even now thinking about the delight they took in knowing I owed them thirty-six kisses (thirty-six kisses Mummy!) at bedtime and the joy it gave me to give them those thirty-six kisses, especially as sometimes the witching hour and bedtime is a bit fraught and shouty as four children run around half-naked unable to follow (or it seems even to hear) the most basic instructions to get their teeth brushed and so on, so that by the time it comes to tuck them in I’m more of the kiss and run (straight to the wine bottle) type girl. Thirty-six kisses takes time and quietens even the most rambunctious little boy and softens even the most stressed-out mother.

Sometimes the simplest things turn out to be the best.

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Friday ClubWelcome to the Friday Club Carnival, a regular carnival held here. This week’s Carnival is all about Christmas traditions and here are the other entries in this carnival, please click through and read these lovely posts:

Mymumdom posts You know christmas is coming when….

The Diary of a Frugal Family posts Frugal Christmas – How to Make a Gingerbread House.

The Iota Quota posts The music of Christmas.

Looking for Blue Sky posts How to Make the Perfect Christmas Dinner.

Midlife Singlemum posts I’m the Christmas Cinderella.

Thank you to to all these lovely bloggers for taking part!

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Vertigo

long time no blog mugSorry for the long absence. If you follow my Facebook page you may know that I have been unwell recently, suffering vertigo and dizziness for several weeks now. It became so bad at one point that I had to stop driving – which made life pretty tricky given that two of my children go to school thirty minutes away by car and we live in the middle of nowhere! Thank goodness for very kind neighbours, family and friends.

I had an MRI scan (claustrophobia anyone?) which thankfully has come back clear so now I am waiting for vestibular function tests to assess whether there is an inner ear problem which is affecting my balance. For something relatively minor (inner ear) it has had a profound impact on my life, causing the room to spin, me to stagger around and to have trouble driving and trouble with sensory overload (lots of traffic, lights or noise sends me reeling) and has left me feeling quite nauseous much of the time.

And it has just gone on and on.

The last few days of last week have been slightly better so I am hoping that my brain is starting to adapt a little to the constant sense of motion or, even better, that the inner ear problem is improving.

So, not the most cheery post ever! I am coping but much of my time is spent resting, I am homeschooling a bit because only one of my children goes to a school which we can walk to and I am keeping a smile on my face.

I would love to hear how you all are, I have missed writing here and spending time on Twitter and Facebook but being on the computer makes the dizziness worse. So please leave a little comment letting me know how you are and I look forward to being able to update you with more positive news next time I hope!

Dealing with clutter: decluttering, home organization, storage solutions and tips

This summer we put our house up for sale. It would have gone on the market in the spring but for one thing: the clutter in every part of the house.

We are squeezed in to a house much too small for our big family and, as a result, it is already crowded. I’m not a hoarder, in fact quite the opposite, I would love to live in a beautifully minimalist house where we don’t own much and everything we do own has a place to be stored away out of sight. But I also hate throwing anything away that I believe might be useful one day (the environmentalist in me) and so there were plenty of items that I was keeping ‘just in case’. Add those to an already crowded living environment and four busy children who never seem to put anything away and I would look around at our house and think we have no chance of selling it looking like this.

So there was that.

And then we had some removal quotes done.

Nothing focuses your mind more on decluttering than the thought of having to pay to have the things you don’t really need, or particularly want, moved from one home to another.

There was only one solution and that was a radical declutter and sorting of our possessions.

We have gone further than that too and stored a whole lot of things that we want to keep but don’t need for the duration of our house sale, some in the garage in case I need to access them and some in self-storage. These items have been in storage now for a few months and with the exception of my SAD light (I packed it in the height of summer, not remembering that we might not actually have moved by the time winter comes) and a few children’s board games we haven’t really missed anything.

So for many weeks over the summer while the children were at school I went through every part of the house deciding what would be kept in the house, what would be stored, what could be given to charity and what would be recycled. If I wasn’t sure about an item I used the criteria ‘do I want to pay to move this?’ and it was surprisingly easy to de-clutter!

So I packed boxes for storage
moving house packing boxes decluttering

and I packed store items in the garage
moving house packing boxes for storage decluttering

I sorted many many items for recycling
moving house recycling decluttering

Little boys had fun on some of the rubbish while we worked
msaldkfjdlsa-5

and then we hired a skip to get rid of everything else we didn’t need. It was a six foot skip and we filled it to the brim!
skip lorry moving house decluttering

That’s a scary amount of stuff we didn’t need that we were keeping in our house.

I don’t know if all skip companies are required to do it anyway, but the company I chose recycled everything they could from the skip so I was able to feel reasonably confident that we weren’t making too much of a contribution to landfill. Still, that was a lot of rubbish to say goodbye to and I felt a little guilty. And also quite a bit relieved, because it is a surprisingly good feeling to get rid of so much stuff you realise you don’t actually need.

Now we have a policy of one-in, one-out – if we have to buy something new, we try to get rid of whatever it is replacing – I don’t just store it with a vague plan that we might use it somewhere else one day. We don’t automatically keep boxes for the boys to use for craft activities, I bin them unless I have a definite activity in mind. There are always new boxes in the not-too-distant-future, at least while their feet keep on growing and growing like they do.

I donated all the baby clothes I was keeping ‘just in case’. That was hard :( .

We also decided to make the study (which in reality was a junk storage room) into a bedroom. Now there is nowhere just to dump things that I will deal with when I have a minute. Instead I have to make a minute to deal with the item right there and then. It’s harder that way but stops the clutter piling up. This is what our storage room now looks like:
nursery babys room

I can’t find a picture of what it looked like before which is probably just as well as I’d probably be too embarrassed to post it here.

One of the best tips for selling a house is to put all your stuff away but it’s hard work to have to do that every time you have a viewing when you have four small children underfoot. So now we have specific places for items we use every day and my dream of living a minimalist life is getting a little nearer! It also makes cleaning so much easier (which means I’m much more likely to do it) and the sense of peace I get when I look around at my clean and clutter-free house is wonderful:
hallway

In addition to the usual cupboards and toy storage, I have three items of furniture that I couldn’t live without because they are great for storage: my beloved apothecary chest (also coveted by others) which, because it has lots of small drawers, is great for storing things you want to keep but don’t know quite where to put.
apothecary chest

I also have my work chest which is the old set of drawers in the hallway in the picture above where I store all my paperwork, school books, pens, folders and items I need to hand every day. There are trays for paperwork in, a file for filed papers, drawers for everything else.

cubby shelf storage unitI also have a Go Shelf which is a cubby storage shelf unit in the hallway where I put everything that needs to go out of the house at some point, so letters to be posted, birthday gifts to be taken to parties, mobile phones, shopping lists and all sorts of paraphernalia can go here and I’m never hunting around for stuff right before I have to go out.

I’m so much happier with the way things are now and I feel more inclined to keep the house clutter-free.

How do you deal with clutter?

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Friday ClubWelcome to the Friday Club Carnival, a weekly carnival held here. Sorry for the delay in publishing but it’s here now: this week’s Carnival is all about dealing with clutter and here are the other entries in this carnival, please click through and read these great posts:

Lasso The Moon posts Take 100 things off your house’s waistline.

Kooky Girl Blog posts Ironing and Clutter and Stuff.

Jennifer’s Little World posts Dealing with clutter in the home.

Living it Little posts De-clutter or die.

Inside The Wendy House posts Clutter.

Midlife Singlemum posts Clutter: A Straight Exchange.

Green and Tidy posts Five ways to have a clutter-free Christmas.

Who Teaches Whom posts Clutter.

Live Otherwise posts Decluttering – a dream.

Multiple Mummy posts Clutter or Memories?

Freckles Family posts De-cluttering – My new hobby.

Mymumdom posts Clutter.

Kate on Thin Ice posts Reflections on Clutter.

Here Come The Girls posts How to clutter your home.

Thank you to to all these lovely bloggers for taking part and for their patience in the carnival being published this time!

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Ready

no indexHe’s standing on the edge of everything he’s known, ready to take big steps into the world.

Some of those steps he’s taken and found he doesn’t really like them. But they are steps that have to be taken, if not now then soon and it is my job to prepare him for them. Because motherhood is really just a process of preparing them to let go.

That’s the easy bit. The hard bit is getting myself ready to let him go!