Waiting (Not So) Patiently

Waiting for a house to sell is a lot like waiting for the sun to come out on your every second year beach vacation. You can only lay under the clouds for so long in your brand new tangerine swimsuit before the cracks start to form in your brave face.

Yet, the stakes are so high and the temptation to pretend is so great that you’ll start telling yourself that the sun is just about to pop or that the right buyer is just around the corner.

The truth is that there is no way to tell if the sun will come on the fourth or the fourteenth day of your vacation or when the stars will align to bring that perfect purchaser to your well-marketed doorstep.

The very best you can do in either situation is distract yourself. Fortunately, I distract easily.

Lately, it amuses me probably more than it should, that the most common search term that brings people to my blog is: interpretive dance. Now, I mentioned interpretive dance very briefly in a previous post which tells me that there is a great deal more interest in the art form than there is in clutter, decluttering, or simplifying.

Just imagine the following I’ll attract by dedicating this entire post to the subject.

The thing about interpretive dance is that, in its highest form – it’s a highly skilled art form that calls forth deep imagination and emotion.

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Yet, in its grassroots form, it’s accessible to everyone. Regardless of age…

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…or species.

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There’s no need for a special venue. Interpretive dance can be performed anywhere the spirit moves you.

At the coffee shop…

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In the park…

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And, why not at the conference…if that’s how you roll?

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Some dancers only reach their full expression with a partner…

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While others feel there’s something missing if there’s less than twelve limbs to call upon.

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Men make excellent interpretive dancers.

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So do dogs…

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While Interpretive dance sequences are often self-explanatory – sometimes a caption or a bit of text brings deeper meaning to the dance.

It is noted below this photo that it also appears in: Bee and Adam’s Wedding Album

That definitely speaks to state of mind.

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And, this one is called:

Joanne Still Interpretive Dancing

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Some people just don’t know when to quit, I guess.

Others still have found a way to incorporate interpretive dance into unimagined arenas.

These people are interpretively dancing their Ph.d dissertation.

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There is debate in some circles over whether interpretive dance is more powerful with costume….

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or without…

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And, if all of this bores you – there’s always interpretive arson…

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Whatever lights your fire, chances are someone has already danced exactly how you feel about rain on your vacation, or no offers yet on your house…

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…which, if not cathartic, is bound to be distracting.

How To Get Your Home (Simply) Ready For Sale

First of all, I have to say I’m indebted to my realtor Tree Cleland at Sutton Realty and Andrew Barker of AJ Barker Designs for their excellent advice which I promptly ignored.

I wasted unnecessary hours, money, and ultimately tears trying to stage the house my way, only to come slinking back to their plan days later with my tail slung pretty low.

Since someone should benefit from my insubordinance, here’s how I wish did it the first time:

Step 1: Declutter

– Make a game plan. Go room to room, top to bottom, left to right, whatever tickles your fancy, but make sure you do it sequentially. If you have a yard and garage – include them. They’re easy to overlook with all the work you are about to do.

– You’re going to make three piles in each room or area (Store, Donate, Toss). At this point, your Store pile will also be a sell pile if you still have stuff you want to sell. Remember: your closets and storage spaces will still have to be presentable at the end of the exercise so donate and toss as much as you possibly can. And, make sure your sell pile is worth selling. If it takes more time than it’s worth  – donate it!

– Start with the storage space in each room. Purge as much as you can. Your goal is to make lots and lots of room. You’ll thank me at Step 2.

– Now remove everything from horizontal surfaces including the floor (except the furniture). Yes, everything!

– Is there nothing left but furniture, art, and piles of things on the floor? Good! Move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Assess Your Storage Space

– Do your closets, shelves, wardrobes, or garden shed have enough space to store the stuff in your Store piles without resembling a Japanese train during rush hour? I didn’t think so. Take a good look at each item in your Store pile and ask yourself how much time and money you’re willing to spend to store/maintain/repair it for the next five years. Is there something more in line with your priorities that you’d rather spend your time and money on? Go ahead and move it to the Donate pile. No one is judging you, but you.

– Now put away everything from your Store piles neatly and logically. Fold, stack, categorize etc. People will open closet doors at your open house.

Step 3: Donate!

– Enlist a friend or friends. Refer them to this post if you must but, for goodness sake – you need help, please don’t be shy. Plus, having a friend point out that your corduroy culottes do not belong in the Store pile is really what you need at this point.

– Try to do this as quickly as possible. This is not the time to think about finding a good home for your Grandma’s china, take it to the nearest Goodwill or thrift store. Someone will love your treasures as much as you did, at least you can tell yourself that to move the process along quickly.

– Heavy stuff? Large stuff? List it on Craigslist for a nominal sum ($20) or for free. I learned that a nominal sum helps attract people who are serious about taking your stuff. People with trucks will come out of the woodwork. Tell yourself that you would have had to pay someone to haul it away so you are the one getting a deal.

Step 4: Toss!

– It’s hard to wrap your head around it, but some stuff really is garbage. Google your local transfer station to check the fees involved and the list of things they accept.

– Bag it up, load it up and haul it off (or refer to Step 3 and list it for free on Craigslist). You’ll need a friend for this too.

– If you’re feeling a little guilty at this point, make a stop at your local recycling depot on the way. Now we’re selling a home and saving the planet!

Step 5: Clean!

– Do you have friends that will clean your house with you? I didn’t think so. If you’re cleaning a large space you should think about hiring someone to do some of the heavy or tedious labour. It’s a lot less heavy and tedious with two or three.

– This will be much easier with nothing on the horizontal surfaces. You can thank me now!

– Kitchens and bathrooms are your first priority. Make them spotless!

– Cleaning your exterior windows is important to showcase a view and/or let in more light. It makes more of a difference than you think. Use a squeegee, it’s quicker and does a much better job. Here’s a tip for getting the job done inside.

– Any job you don’t know how to do quickly and efficiently, someone has made a YouTube video about. Watch it first, before you make a mess of things or waste time better spent watching Modern Family.

– Don’t forget to wash baseboards, switch plates, vacuum bugs off window ledges, and dust or wash blinds and drapes.

Step 6: Take a Stroll

– Grab a friend (if they’re still taking your calls) and ask them to walk through the house with you. Every room should have an obvious purpose. You might like to use the basement as a skateboard park/scrapbooking studio, but will someone walking through your house for the first time know what the room is for?

– Use the furniture you already have to stage each room for its show purpose. You might need to move some furniture around. (Hope you brought a strong friend.) If you don’t have all the furnishings you need, leave the room empty or, place one item that suggests a use for the room (i.e. a china cabinet in the dining room if you don’t have a table and chairs). Keep it simple.

– Once you’re finished, take your realtor on the same walk-through so they can suggest each room’s purpose to potential buyers. Buyers will want to visualize their own accoutrements in your space anyway.

Step 7: Lights! Camera! Action!

– Does your home still looks like nobody lives there? Good. Now’s the time to move back in.

– We’re going back into the closets to retrieve the things that make your home livable. While your beer pong table and Clinton/Lewinsky nesting dolls might make your home more livable for you, they’re not…ahem…universally appealing. I’m talking about things like toss cushions, throw blankets, place mats, a few presentable appliances (toaster, kettle etc.) hand soap, towels (white always works), vases (who doesn’t like flowers?) and candles (optional).

– Don’t forget the great outdoors. A few well placed planters are nice and so is a freshly moved lawn! When in doubt – plant grasses.

– Stop right now! You’re done.

– Oh, okay…you can put out a few things that you absolutely love because they are so adorable/chic/exotic that your good taste is sure to create a colossal bidding war. Go easy. Less is always best.

Step 8: For Overachievers Only

– Hire a designer. Better yet, ask your realtor if they provide a complimentary staging consultation. (I beg you not to do this before you complete at least up to Step 5. Your mind will be so full of your vision you might put off your decluttering and cleaning until the day before the open house which is downright dicey.)

– Accept that the designer knows better than you. Okay, try it your way first  – then, try it their way. Accept that the designer knows better than you.

– If their suggestions include renting furniture or art, ask them to prioritize their recommendations. Furniture is more expensive and labour intensive to rent than art. Only rent what you can afford comfortably. You’re moving for goodness sake, you’ll have plenty of other expenses.

– Shop around! There is plenty of discrepancy between prices at home staging rental outlets. Call first to see what’s in stock in your price range. You can’t afford to waste time now, silly!

Step 9: Buy Yourself Some Flowers!

– You did great! You deserve the fresh flowers you’ll buy just before the first open house. Oh, and put on some relaxing music and bake cookies before you slink off to the neighbours to spy on the masses traipsing to and from your newly perfect home. Isn’t moving fun!

(This should take a minimum of 10 days to complete depending, of course, on the size of your space and how many friends you have to help. Everything will take longer than you think.)

Have you ever staged a home for sale? What’s your hard earned advice for us?

Silk Purse From A Squirrel’s Ear

Our house went on the market Thursday. There’s no way I can possibly describe to you exactly how much work it was. I’m uncharacteristically speechless.

The biggest surprise? We still have stuff we don’t want or need.

You’re probably thinking – how is that possible Christine? You just got rid of 10,000+ things. You and me both.

We staged.

…right down to the closet shelves.

(These are the only pictures of mine that turned out – I’ll post the listing photos when I get them to prove to you that we do actually have bedrooms and a kitchen.)

It started out innocently enough, but halfway through I started to feel a little cheap about it especially when my son asked me why someone wouldn’t want to buy his room the way it was.

Our realtor had a designer do a walk through and his suggestions were labour intensive and 100% accurate.

The best advice he gave us was “nothing on the floor.” Why is it that the simplest suggestions are the most difficult to execute. It is shocking how much floor space (closet and otherwise), we were using for stuff other than the furniture.

Laundry hampers, duvets, stacks of books, stuffed animals, floor cushions! The list goes on, but the minute I removed it all, the space felt instantly cleaner and more spacious.

Squirrel’s five laundry hampers full of dirty clothes became a bone of contention.

I lie. It was more than a bone of contention. I almost lost the plot when I discovered his quintet of overflowing coffers.

Nothing on the floor? Then where do five laundry bins full of clothes go? I considered stuffing the whole mountain of it into the oven.

But it was obvious what actually needed to be done – ten loads of laundry.

If there was time to get angry about it, I would have. Turns out my only option was to wash, fold, repeat. But while my hands were busy, my mind was too.

How can I make sure this never happens again? Well, if Squirrel only had ten T-shirts (instead of 47), that would pretty much force his laundry hand, no?

I washed folded, labelled, and shelved close to forty T-shirts. The label says: “T-Shirts – Out of Rotation.” It means, I’m going to donate these in six months if you don’t miss them.

Are you wondering what the “silk purse” part of this story is? Well, when the work was done, I realized that I wasn’t mad at Squirrel anymore. That’s unprecedented.

Turns out he just has different priorities. He’s not really trying to ruin my life with a diabolical laundry plot. You aren’t, are you Squirrel?

Save Money, Save Time, Stay Sane

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I’ve come to realize that I blog for two reasons.

I blog because I like to rub the giant pink eraser of humour over the dark marks in my life. Really, why not?

And, I blog because I’m addicted to sharing information.

So here’s some truly random bits of information that I’ve been dying to share –  in no particular order.

1) Clean A Leather Sofa with Moisturizing Soap

Here’s a super easy one. I googled how to clean leather and found this tip on cleaning leather with moisturizing soap. I used a bar of unscented Dove on my light leather couch and was really happy with the results. The trick is to use very little water. Wring, wring, wring! My leather couch is so soft now. Plus, it’s cheap and easy to do touch ups. I wasn’t as happy with the results on my dark brown couch, but I might switch to liquid moisturizing soap like they use in the video. And when I do, I will share the results!

2) Save Time Clothes Shopping

I wish I was the type of minimalist that always looks great in a white shirt and jeans. But, I’m not. In fact, the closer I get to forty, the more fond I’ve become of black stretch. I gravitate to the same five flattering pieces in my closet and subconsciously shop for replacements because I’m afraid that the magic slimming shirt or pants will fall apart on me, or worse – shrink. No more. I just took my favourite top to my seamstress to copy and I’m thrilled with the results. At $15 for fabric and $40 for labour, minus gas and shopping time. The cost is a wash.

3) Rent Art

I just rented art for staging my home. How come I didn’t know about this before? One local gallery rents art for $10 – $40/month. The home staging company I went to rents large pieces for $49 – $89/month. Not cheap, but nowhere near as expensive as some of the art mistakes I’ve made. And, it’s fun – especially for the commitment-phobic.

4) Switch to White Towels

I switched to all white towels over a year ago. They always match. They’re easy to keep clean (with bleach, if necessary). And, white goes with everything – twenty million hotels can’t be wrong. Plus, I won huge points with the designer that my realtor brought for a pre-listing walk through. It turns out there are never enough white towels to stage a home.

5) Wear Crystal Deoderant

I made the decision to buy fewer, better quality clothes a while ago but when I saw that my good quality white T-shirts were getting yellow armpit stains, I threw a wobbly. I found out that the stains are caused by a reaction between sweat and the aluminum salts in some deodorants so I very reluctantly switched to a crystal deodorant. I asked the clerk in Whole Foods which one worked well because I sweat a lot. She grabbed me this and said that it is the only one that really works. She was right. So far, no smell, but it’s a little too early to tell how my white shirts are faring. Fingers crossed! I will let you know how it goes.

What amazing things have you discovered recently?

When I Move to Whistler, I Will…

(my oldest, in the air)

Here’s what I’m telling myself:

When I move to Whistler I will:

– cook more

– do yoga

– make the kids turn off their iPods

– ride my bike

– start my writing career (doesn’t that sound cheesy – I mean, who just decides to start a writing career)

– walk everywhere

– shop less

– worry less

– start back to work a few hours a week

– spend more time with Squirrel

– train the kids to sleep in their own beds all night

Here’s the truth:

None of that is going to happen if I don’t start now.

But, I’m getting ready to put our house on the market! I have to power wash, mow the lawn, organize my drawers, wash the walls, weed the garden and fluff the pillows. I have to worry, feel guilty, exhaust myself and get ill. I have to counsel the kids, apologize to the neighbours, scream at Squirrel, meet with the realtor, stage the house and sell on Craigslist.

I’m a busy girl, don’t you know.

Or, maybe I’m just anxious and that anxiety is causing me to micro focus on shit that doesn’t really matter. Unfortunately, that anxiety moves with me.

I guarantee there will be new dramas to micro manage in Whistler. Unpacking, settling in, getting used to a new school and new neighbours, making new friends, finding part-time work.

These things are all inherently stressful and require a great deal of energy, but it’s my anxiety about them that really exhausts me.

The truth is  there’s no reason I can’t:

– do a five minute meditation every morning

– throw down a sun salutation while I’m packing or playing with the kids

– go back to my simple rice, pasta, two veggie dinner plan

– start a simple, private blog for my children’s chapter book and type a sentence or two a day

– ease the kids back into a bedroom routine

None of this requires any more energy than my anxiety is sucking out of me. And, maybe if I lay the groundwork, I’ll take a little less fear and a little more focus with me when we make our move at the end of the summer.

What little thing are you telling yourself you can’t start right now?

In a Renting State of Mind

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We haven’t found our dream home in Whistler yet. Perhaps because our dreams are quite different. A suite at the Chateau Whistler has enough square footage for my needs. Squirrel still covets a slopeside mansion. Our nine-year old would be quite happy camping under a jump in the bike park, and our five-year old just wants everyone trapped in the same room so he can torture us all with his non-stop rapid fire questions.

Renting has come across our radar as a very good possibility. There is a 3 bedroom town home listed for rent walking distance from both the school and a grocery store. However, because it’s a resort town, most rentals in Whistler are rented furnished. And that changes everything.

It’s one thing to speculate about how much an object costs you to store, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually have to pay per square foot to store it.

The flood gates have opened.

Here’s what I donated or listed for sale this week:

Donated:

– lamp

– kids table and chairs

– kids plastic shopping cart

another garbage bag full of clothes and toys

Listed (on Craigslist or eBay):

– china

– entryway table

– nursing glider and ottoman

– chair and ottoman

– wardrobe storage cabinet

–  set of speakers

– coffee table

to go:

– fertilizer spreader

– broken lawn mower

– leather couch

– tv cabinet

And we still have way more stuff than we’d like to pay to store! Ideally, and I say ideally knowing it will likely end up much less than ideal, I would only like to pay to store the following:

– sectional couch

– love seat

– kitchen table and bench

– king bed, side tables, dresser (our bedroom set)

– coffee table set (4 pcs. glass)

…which means the china cabinet, the kid’s bunk beds which they’ve almost outgrown, 4 dining chairs, and 3 bar stools need to be reconsidered.

We hired a real estate agent this week and I’ve been able to channel some of my moving angst into sending her non-stop e-mails and calling twice daily. Poor unsuspecting woman.

We also talked my Dad into coming straight from helping my sister paint her kitchen to our house to help with touch-ups. The term elder abuse came up, but we conveniently assumed he was kidding.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to list the house by next weekend. If my agent is reading this she’ll be laughing hysterically, but I have high hopes and lofty expectations. A dream client, no?

If anyone has some advice for me on how to stay sane during a move, I need to hear it!

How I Cured My Doctor Dependency…and Cleaned Out My Medicine Cabinet

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This title is a little misleading. Cleaning out my medicine cabinet actually had nothing to do with curing my doctor dependency. It’s just that as I was cleaning out the drug cupboard today, it reminded me that a year ago I stopped trusting my doctor.

It was a big deal for me. For many (15) years I believed that there was no malady physical or emotional that couldn’t be sorted out on a paper covered exam table. I loved all of it – the long wait, the symptom confessional, the solution scrawled messily on a piece of paper.

Just the idea that there was a remedy for the various maladies that plagued me kept me on the appointment rounds. Symptoms came and symptoms went during those years, but hope was a constant.

Then one day about a year ago my doctor revealed herself as incurably human as the rest of us.

You see, I wanted my oldest son to see a pediatrician and, as an advocate and firm believer in the role of the family doctor, she wanted my son to remain in her care. She is an excellent doctor, but I was getting pressure from all sides to have my struggling son thoroughly tested for everything from attention deficit to autism to vitamin deficiency.

I insisted. Then watched in horror as my doctor shape shifted before our very eyes:

Do they (my son’s school) even know who I am? I’m not just any doctor you know. I have a reputation as the best doctor in West Vancouver.

The words God complex looped in my head protecting me from how horrified I really felt. She continued. I was accused of tarnishing her reputation by not taking my son to the psychiatrist she recommended the last time I asked for a referral to a pediatrician. She told my son that only really sick kids went to pediatricians, kids with things like heart disease and cancer.

I coddled:

“I’m sure we won’t find out anything new.”

I mollified:

“It’s just a formality.”

I lied:

“It’s just his teacher insisting on this.”

I stared at a spot on the ground, immedicably shamed, while she rounded out her lecture, finally handing me the referral. Then I grabbed my son and ran.

I haven’t been back. My medicine cabinet reflects that. My health reflects that. I haven’t had a symptom I’d stoop to share with her in over a year.

Cured by my own stubbornness! How do you like that?