Size Matters, But So Does Cleanliness

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Yeah, the whole selling a house and moving thing takes time. First of all, there’s the time involved in getting it ready to sell: time to hire painters and get the hell out of the way when they arrive with their plastic drop sheets and big buckets of paint; time to find someone to replace the loose tiles in the shower-surround and speculate as to why the previous owner didn’t use a standard size for said bath-surround and to wonder where the hell you’ll find tiles in this odd size; time to PAINT THE BLEEDIN’ BASEMENT ALL BY YOURSELF, which is one of the worst jobs I’ve ever attempted and one that took me FOR FREAKIN’ EVER and almost made me decide to stay put. (Though I did really like the floor I ended up with: I hated letting the paint-and-chemical tainted water run down the drain after I cleaned brushes, so I splattered and dribbled the watery paint remnants on the basement floor and made this Jackson Pollock-esque design. It was cool.)

Then there was the time involved in showing it. I simply could not--I was constitutionally unable to--let complete strangers inspect my house unless it was unless it was absolutely as clean, tidy and pleasantly scented as I could make it. So every time there was a showing, I would scrub and vacuum and open windows and light candles and cut flowers and straighten pillows and furniture. I would get a little upset if people showed up early for an appointment and caught me still at home, A) because I was almost always still scrubbing away and B) the outfits in which I clean the litter box aren’t the most flattering in my closet.

The good news about being home when the realtor and potential buyers showed up is that I got to hear what they thought of the place. “You are an immaculate housekeeper,” one realtor told me, with genuine awe in her voice.

“I try,” I said. I really do, and not just when people are coming over. If there’s one thing I am, it’s tidy and clean--just one more reason I would have made a marvelous Mormon housewife, if only I could have tolerated the theology.

My realtor and I are convinced that my fastidiousness is one reason my house sold so fast--well, mine and that of the previous owner, a woman who had the house built with her husband as newlyweds in the 1940s, then lived in it til she died in 2003. That house was her pride and joy, and she never messed up important things: the original wooden staircase and baseboards and window frames and so forth throughout the house were all gorgeously untouched, having been well made and beautifully varnished to begin with; while the wiring and the plumbing and the furnace etc were not only new, but top of the line, thanks to Helen. (Who, by the way, I am convinced hung out in the house until she saw that I would do a decent job of maintaining her beloved home. I used to feel her wandering around the place. She never meant me harm; she just wanted to make sure I knew how to vacuum and wasn’t going to paint the place purple. Once she was sure of that, she left.)

All of these things are why the house sold so quickly, albeit for less than I would have liked, despite the fact that, in 1940s fashion, the rooms were small--hell, the bathroom was smaller than some wide-screen TVs, and had a slanting roof that made using the toilet a challenge for any really tall person. Which is why my realtor called me after a dozen showing and said, “The people love the house, but it’s just too small.” Eventually, however, someone decided it wasn’t too small, made an offer, and made me very happy. I hope the new owner there appreciates Helen’s care for the place as much as I did. I think she will, especially given that the housing inspector told me, “It’s rare to find a house this old this well maintained.”

The last few houses I’ve lived in have been great, albeit in different ways, and I am afraid I’ve grown spoiled. I am not in a position to buy another house, so we’ll see what I find when I go to rent in my new location.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on July 25, 2008 1:09 PM.

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