Have you ever visited the kind of house that is so uncluttered that it looks like no one actually lives there?
The kind of house where you know the mom and dad are raising three kids under the age of 10, but there are no toys scattered about?
The kind of house where you wonder how the hell the occupants make toast and coffee?
The kind of house where the toothbrushes don’t reside in a vessel on the bathroom counter?
I’ve seen these kinds of houses before, and I always think the people living there must be some kind of weirdos.
“Who lives like that?” I always asked myself.
But we all know people who do. Mike and I went to such a friend’s house for cocktails and hors d’oeuvre (a few decades ago.) While we were in the middle of a few laughs, the wife snuck out to the kitchen, and came back to the living room with a bottle of Windex and some paper towels. Then she proceeded to clean the smudges from underneath the glass coffee table while we were talking and eating.
That was about 30 years ago, and Mike and I still talk about how awkward that was (and as I write this, I realize that maybe Mike and I need to find better things to talk about.) But it was around that time that I decided that I could not actually live in such a house, because as clean as Mike is, he is not that kind of clean…and well, I wouldn’t be able to see those smudges if they had been on my glasses for a month (and sometimes they are.)
But now, surprisingly, I do live in that kind of house. And I guess I will continue to live in that kind of house until some wonderful person comes along and makes a nice offer to purchase it.
How did we get from nice and normal messy to weirdo freakish neat and clean in the blink of an eye?
No, I didn’t invite in Marie Kondo. I invited in a real estate broker. And that was just as good– probably better, because in an hour, I had taken notes that would transform my house from looking like a family lives there (even though a family hasn’t lived here in about 6 years) to looking like no one lives here, in just a few days.
I told her to tell me what to do to give the house a little lift, to spare no feelings, I could take it.
We started in the den. The chess table and chairs were cluttering things up, there were too many cords hanging out everywhere. Too much (ugly) stuff on shelves.
“And OMG lose those tired green pillows on the couch and let’s get some fresh bright ones,” she told me.
Then she continued to stare at the couch…
“…how many of afghans do you really need to have around?’” There were five (but in fairness to me, it’s a big couch.)
“Those are my Bubbie Lilly’s afghans,” I informed her. “She crocheted those with her very own hands.”
She told me that Bubbie Lilly wouldn’t mind if we put four of them in a closet, so down to the basement those four afghans went, plus an additional six that I found in various other rooms around my house. Who knew I had so many Bubbie Lilly afghans on display? Honestly, I never noticed.
As we walked from one room to the next, my eyes were opened to just how much clutter we have.
Things were removed from shelves. Cords and chargers put away. Landlines put out of sight. Fresh comforters and new pillows replaced ratty old ones. Appliances were taken from the kitchen counter and put behind cabinet doors. Staplers, Scotch tape dispensers, pens and pencils were all stored in cabinets and drawers, where I am pretty sure I will never be able to find them.
“What is it with you and electric pencil sharpeners?” She asked me after finding one in the kitchen, then one in a bedroom and a third in my office.
“You never know when you need to sharpen a pencil,” I told her, as I tucked them in a closet.
Because actually, I hardly ever need to sharpen a pencil. I have no idea why we had so many electric pencil sharpeners plugged in and ready to go. I don’t ever remember having a broken pencil emergency. Life is just funny that way.
We moved filing cabinets away from French doors. We moved worn down desks out of bedrooms. We moved the paper shredder from the convenience of the kitchen, then moved the ugly container where we put the mail. We moved stand-alone light fixtures to the basement. We took down heavy curtains. We threw away faded bathmats and gave away a small couch. I arranged only pretty things on the glass shelves in my kitchen.
She even made me throw away a half dead potted plant. Can you imagine? I swear that thing was about to come back to life.
We have bright new pillows on the couch. It it turns out one afghan is actually just enough. We have no dead plants. I love looking at my pretty things on my kitchen shelves. I love having counters with space that Mike can clean. I can open the French doors in my office and let the sun shine in. I smile when I walk by my kid’s old rooms, because each room looks so much better than it did when they were around.
There is more empty space, and it turns out, I like empty space.
Who needs Marie Kondo? Just bring a real estate broker in. For the moment, I am amazed how good it feels having a house that looks like no one lives there, and now…I can’t imagine selling it. But sell it I will, and with it, so much of our furniture and furnishings.
Does anyone need an electric pencil sharpener? I have a few extra.