Awkward Paws

I was trying to find a way to segue way back into blogging without drawing attention to the white elephant in the room – the fact that I haven’t posted a single word to my blog in two whole months.

Voila!

Min-E the minimalist mouse

This is Min-E. I caught her in the garage of our Whistler town home last night. And something told me she’d be an excellent distraction from that awkward sixty day pause.

See, I bet you’re wondering what kind of rodent infested ski shack I’ve got myself into and not the least bit concerned anymore about my prolonged absence. Good!

As for Min-E, after I got over the shock of finding ricey little poops near the leftover moving boxes, I decided she was a minimalist omen. A poster child for the mantra: Nothing on the floor but the furniture!

Plus, she reminded me why it’s important to shop daily when possible and organize the pantry lest a relative of Min-E take up in the Cheerios box.

I guess you could say that Min-E gave me my minimalism mojo back.

My first goal (after I relocate Min-E of course), will be to get rid of the miscellany that hasn’t made it off the garage floor since the move.

My anxiety got the better of me in the days leading up to the big day and I started making little piles of “just in case” items which I packed up, loaded into the moving truck, unloaded, and left in the garage because there was no “in case.” Is there ever?

I admit, I struggled at first with the fully decorated part of our fully furnished new place:

Clutter-doodle-doo!

Likewise, the fully stocked (stuffed) aspect:

more laundry anyone?

Oh well, the silver lining is that we are a five-minute walk from school, mountain, shopping, skateboard park, swimming pool, and:

Bliss!

And, I’m not about  to let rodent or rooster take away from that.

I’m so glad to be back. Have you encountered any minimalist omens lately?

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?

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

(image source)

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?

How To Tame A Squirrel with Your Own Two Hands

Those of you who have been reading recently know that my Squirrel has been in a funk lately what with the end of the ski season and all.

Those of you who have been reading for a while know that my Squirrel has been known to make comments like these:

“Find a new obsession…and chuck a couple of pillows from the bed over here.”

and

“Get rid of the pile of donations in (my) garage or I’m going to start putting them all back.”

And, those of you who have been reading since the beginning know that my Squirrel does things like this.

Loveable behaviour only if you’re a furry little fella.

So when my Squirrel reached his negativity quota by 9am this morning, I wondered if it might be beneficial to both of us if I came up with a sign to remind him that his comments had strayed so far into the negative I feared he might never come back.

Nothing too confrontational. Something lighthearted, if not entirely subtle.

I considered raising my hand.

No, too submissive. I didn’t want to give him the wrong idea.

Maybe a word, like sunshine or walnut. That would be uplifting.

Nah. He’d acclimatize to that too quickly and repeating the word walnut would just annoy me.

Then it hit me. The sign I was looking for was hanging right there at the ends of my arms.

Jazz Hands!

Aint no rodent too negative for these dancing digits.

“Blah, blah, blah, grump, blah, blah, blah, grump.”

One, two, three! Silent with energy…Jazz Hands!

“Blah, blah, blah, grump, blah, blah, blah, grump.”

One more time. This time with pizazzz…Jazz Hands!

Silence. Sweet, cheerful, silence.

That was just too easy.

So, this is for you Squirrel and anyone else who might be finding it hard to keep their spirits in the pink this Spring.

Happy Day! From me + some random people on flickr.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

photo source: Flickr Creative Commons search: Jazz Hands

(Pictures were selected based on energy, finger extension, proximity to the face, and expression. Extra points were allotted for group effort. Have you got a better photo? E-mail me at christine@100things100days.com. I’m cheerfully accepting photos for my arsenal.)

It is so on!

2 days to “imaginary” moving day, $133 raised for your charities

(image source)

On Friday, Squirrel emerged from his winter burrow. It happens exactly the same way every year.

He dusts the powder off his bushy tail, scrambles up to the kitchen island, takes a long slurp of his coffee and declares:

“We’ve really got to clean this place up!”

Oh really? I think as I’m unloading the dishwasher with one hand, flipping pancakes with the other, and correcting homework with the third that I seem to have grown during his seasonal absence.

I calmly remind him that the house actually does gets cleaned every week during ski season by the same glorious goddess that makes sure the children are fed, homework is done and everyone is wearing clean underwear.

Here’s where I’m afraid to say it gets ugly and if you’ve come to be fond of Squirrel, please cover your ears. In fact, I’m not even sure I heard it correctly – the sudden rushing of blood to my own head was so deafening. There was talk of that weekly cleaning not being….up to his standards???

Which instantly reminded me of the stashes:

the messes:

the incomprehensible:

And all my passive aggressive heart could think while watching him casually sip his coffee was:

It is so on!

(image source)

In fact, with fighting words like those, I’m feeling decidedly unsentimental about which of Squirrel’s treasures make the moving day cut:

You see, I too have standards.

(Pending an apology, none of Squirrel’s things were actually disposed of in the writing of this blog.)

Oh, Just Keep It!

6 days to moving day, $118 raised for your charities

I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been blocked.

(image source)

Between the power washing and the landscaping and the novel-writing, I’ve come up with some pretty convincing ways to avoid decluttering.

To the outside world, I’ve been a whirlwind of productivity – garden beds have been weeded, patio stones have been laid, rock walls have been restored to their original colour, moss has been killed, and chapters have been written and rewritten.

Give me ten extra minutes and I’m mowing the lawn, five and I’m planting a basket, two and I’m offing a stray weed with one hand and tapping out prose with the other.

I recognize this feeling. If I can’t control when and if our house will sell and when and if we’ll find a new one, I may as well blast moss off every stone on the property and write the next Harry Potter.

The trouble is that it never quite works out that way. My projects languish from the lack of focus and by the time I reach the original goal (selling the house) I need about six years of uninterrupted sleep.

Even my decluttering project seems to have taken a back seat to all the other very important things I must do – did I mention, I refinished two coffee tables?

That was until this morning. This morning – I got over myself.

I put the three bags back on my arm and instead of obsessing over whether I should or shouldn’t keep something, I (gasp!) gave myself permission to keep one or two things I couldn’t decide on.

Phew! That wasn’t so bad.

Well, the whole thing snowballed and before I knew it twenty-five items were on their way to the garbage, the recycling bin, or the thrift shop.

And the nice thing is that once freed from the perfectionism of making the right decision, I found myself more and more willing to give up stuff that just a few months ago I thought I wanted to keep. Decluttering was fun again.

I’m back, and not a moment too soon. It’s six days until I have to have this place in move ready condition, and six days until I donate some of my craigslist proceeds to one of your charities.

If you haven’t already, please let me know in the comments where you’d like to see the money go.