Business Casual: The For Sale Sign


The hard part was cleaning out the closets and making the first phone call to the real estate agent. Once the sign went up in the front yard, I was ready.

I’ve lived in the house for more than 25 years – far longer than I have ever lived anywhere else. When my late husband and I bought the house, we were a young couple – well, OK, a youngish couple – with a seven-year-old child and three cats. Now it’s just me and two felines – successors to the ones who made the original move here.

It’s a little odd to think of leaving, but it feels like time for the next residential chapter. Truthfully, the house looks better than ever – I finally got around to doing all the stuff we always meant to do: new countertops in the kitchen, new carpet in the bedroom. The outside trim and the guest bedroom are freshly painted; I fixed everything that needed fixing and a few things that didn’t.

The basement is de-junked, and the tile shower stalls are operating-room clean. There are fresh flowers throughout the house, and I’ve upped the light bulb wattage in key areas. I am a zealous convert to de-cluttering: I hid my toothbrush so well I thought I was going to have to make a midnight run to the drug store for a replacement.

There are still way too many books in the house, but they are neatly shelved and dusted. The refrigerator, now minus a few jars of condiments with sell-by dates that preceded the Clinton Administration, looks almost as tidy as my mother’s used to. (She was a perfectly normal, well-adjusted woman in all respects except for her intimidatingly clean refrigerator.)

The oven is sparkling and the broom closet, if I may say so, is a work of art, highlighted by neat, appropriately labeled little wicker baskets holding cleaning supplies. That’s right, labeled – even though any person of average intelligence, seeing a basket containing Pledge, Windex and Green Works All-Purpose Spray, could probably figure out what their purpose is.

Nonetheless, I’m taking no chances in my desire to communicate that a clean, well-organized person lives here and is willing to sell that cleanliness and organization along with the house. If I get a good enough offer,  I’ll leave the baskets and labels behind.

It’s a little unsettling, knowing that house-hunting strangers are walking through the place, smirking at the pink tile bathroom (the house was built in 1953, when pink was all the rage), wondering why the blue walls in the master bedroom couldn’t be just a shade or two lighter (they could have been but I fell in love with Georgian Revival Blue), and whether it was a mistake to cover the knotty pine walls in the family room with white paint. (No, it wasn’t – trust me. Sneer at my pink bathroom floor, roll your eyes at my personal-statement, taste-specific bedroom walls, but don’t waste your time lamenting the “natural” pine. It was coated with a zillion applications of bright, shiny shellac and had darkened to the point that you had to have all the lights in the room on at high noon if you wanted to check your watch. And it was tragically ugly.)

Friends have happily shared their store of what-to-do-before-the-prospective-buyers- arrive advice: bake chocolate-chip cookies, fluff the pillows, hide the bills and make up the bed with well-fluffed pillows.

I’ve come up with a few tips of my own: buy air freshener by the case, remove Christmas lights and don’t bake chocolate-chip cookies unless you are sure you can do so without burning them. That charred-dough aroma will overpower anything you can spray from a can.

Truthfully, I’m enjoying the last few weeks – or months – in the house. It still feels like home, even though I cleaned out my husband’s office and painted over the doorframe where we marked our daughter’s height in pencil lines over the years. (I think the last one was just before she went off to college.) She has a child of her own whose growth will need recording, and I expect to have a doorframe in my new place that will work just fine.

I still register mild surprise when I turn onto my street and see the For Sale sign in the yard, but I’m already anticipating the Sold banner that I hope will soon go up. It seems more like the beginning of a new adventure than the end of a story.

Categories: Business Casual