Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Extreme Home Staging : Parent Version

We've sold a house before, but we didn't have two kids under five the last time.

Preparing the house didn't involve washing chalk off the exterior last time, for starters.

We've been looking to move to a place that has, among other things, an outdoor space that's more conducive to being outside-- especially for the kids. When we bought our current townhouse, we were DINKs and said, "Ah, there are parks everywhere, the yard's not important." Silly DINK selves didn't consider we'd have toddlers hanging off the doorknob to get outside at 6 a.m. when it's pitch black out and we're still in our jammies, barely started on our coffee. Or rowdy kids at 4:30 who could stand to run around a bit while we're making supper. Ain't nobody going to a park ten minutes before supper.

So we found a spot in an older area of our 'burb that's closer to the city and the river and has bike paths and trees and all that naturey stuff.

Now, the challenge is selling our current house. It's a nice house, but it's been buried under a life with little kids. Plus, the teacher in me puts stuff all over the walls, like songs and calendars and word walls. It looked like a preschool threw up in here.

I suppose it's not a look that would make buyers come through and sigh, "Ooh, I could see myself drinking my coffee in here". So we had to get rid of a lot of stuff and get the blue tack off the walls.

So now, after much pitching and archiving and storing stuff at a friend's house, it looks like a very beige doctor's office waiting room:

Thing is, when you stage a house, it can't just be clean and uncluttered. Maybe people have seen one too many episodes of Love it or List It or Property Brothers, but standards are high. It can't look like any biological beings, let alone kids, live there. Some staging rules include:

  • No personal photos: it makes people think of it as your house, not their future house.
  • No filing in view: it makes people think of their own filing to be done.
  • No kid stuff (booster seats, toys, etc.): it makes people think of *shudder* KIDS.

That means a lot of the things we use every day get pitched into storage before viewings. Big Bro doesn't understand the psychology of house staging:

"Why do we have to put the toaster away?"
"Because people won't think we have much counter space if we leave it out."
"Why can't they just know it's got space and they can put away their toaster if they want?"

Big Bro has obviously not seen enough HGTV.

"That's just not how people's minds work," I tell him.

I understand that, to an extent.The last time we were house-shopping, we viewed a house with a huge Tony Soprano poster in the living room. I couldn't quite get that "I could see us living here!" feeling with James Gandolfini scowling at us, even though, rationally, I knew he didn't come with the house.

Staging it is, then. We're up to the challenge. Fresh fruit and flowers and white spa towels to sell not just a house, but a dream. Aren't we encouraged to bake something too? Maybe for the next showing I'll pick up some Cinnabon and set it in front of a fan. It's the smell of domestic bliss!

But it's enough of a challenge to keep a house clean to your own standards with kids, let alone staging standards. Buyers want bright and airy; buyers want spa-like bathrooms; buyers want a relaxing retreat.

Now, a house with small kids might say many things: "fun"... "happy"... "lively"... but it definitely does NOT say "spa" or "retreat".

And so, with viewing appointments popping up with only a few hours' notice, I'm required to be pretty uptight about silly stuff I normally wouldn't give a crap about:

Messing up vacuum lines. Seriously. What a sad state of affairs. Stupid beige plush carpet.

Thank goodness it's summer and we can at least take the kids out of the house as much as possible.

We have a few months yet, but hopefully someone buys it soon. Then we can relax a bit and actually have bath mats and trash cans again. And the kids can go back to leaving fingerprints and eating green apples with wild abandon.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Do it Again!

Sometimes I'll say or do something cool or funny for the kids, like giving them flips or blasting them with my hairdryer or reading The Book With No Pictures. Just a one-time thing for fun. ONE-TIME. We all have a little laugh, then we move on, or at least that's what I imagine.

I should know better. If it's fun enough, it'll never be just once. The kids will want it again and again until it's long past excessive. I'll be all, "Oh, ha ha, no, that was it, just once!" or "Maybe we can open and close the garage some more later," or "if I spin you again, I'll throw up," but that doesn't get me off the hook.

Take, for instance, this recent time I thought I'd amuse my friend's kid with a one-time bit of silliness:

I never learn. If the material is any good, there'll no moving on.


PS: The Book With No Pictures is great fun, but it does involve pleading for the kids to not make you read it again, which guarantees that they will. Over and over. So if you go there, get ready to say a whole lot of "BA-DOONGY FACE!"

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Summer Boredom?

August already! So, has the infamous "Summer Boredom" set in?

I know it applies to school-aged kids, but I still see it in my newsfeed often. What do do when the kids complain that they're bored while home for the summer?

My kids are only 2.5 and 4, but I wanted to offer you some tips that work wonders with them to get them motivated and inspired (whether or not it was my intent).


1. Gather toys for consignment or donation:

You've never seen a more intriguing treasure chest than the box of toys I foolishly thought the kids had long outgrown.  The bumbo was in our living room, actively used and fought over, for a good week. Panicked negotiations ensued over stacking rings. Big Bro rescued a cloth tunnel the other day because he was "still using it, but kept forgetting to use it".

2. Try to go somewhere.

Something about seeing your mother try to get you and your brother organized to get out the door must spark some creativity in the kids, because it's always when they're starting these major projects and elaborate games (well, then and bedtime). Then I feel like a heel for dragging them away, except only a few minutes ago they were rolling around in front of Peppa Pig and head-butting each other.

3. Clean up for company.

Hmm. There's Mama doing her Flight-of-the-Bumblebee tidy in anticipation of guests. Reminds me! Time to make a big mountain of crap in the living room or pull out all the pots and pans for God knows what. My favourite is the whole-roll-of-masking-tape track around the house that goes up the wall and seals the fridge shut. No offering the guests something to eat, either, I guess.

So, there you go. Three foolproof ways to get your kids bursting with creative ideas. You're welcome.