Forget the Yoga retreat; ditch the human chorionic gonadatropin diet, the herbal body wraps, the counselling sessions. Cancel that trekking tour to Outer Mongolia. Just put up a great big sign that says your house is Open for Inspection. Now that really will change your life.
Because it’s not just your house, but your whole life that you open up between 11 and 11.30 on a Saturday morning. It’s your report card… and this time it’s not for disappointed parents, but for the whole world – your street, your neighbourhood and all those open house pervs who want to go away feeling really smug that their house is so much nicer, and worth so much more than yours. And we subject ourselves to all this public scrutiny in the hopes that someone will like it enough to part with some of their hard-earned cash. The real estate agents don’t let you stay in the house, oh no. In fact they make you go as far away as possible, so you can’t hear the shout of derisive laughter when they see your tiles, or that macramé hanging that you treasure so much, or that your furniture is not exactly Chippendale – just chipped.
It’s not just your taste that’s on the line here. Suddenly the way you’ve been living is exposed to the world…well, the street. And a lifetime of careless housekeeping can’t be rectified in one big clean up. That needs about a month of scurrying round every nook and cranny with an armoury of brushes, mops, cloths and spray cleaners and no sooner have you finished, you have to go back to the start, because the first naughty corner is all dusty again. I know that the American comedienne Irma Bombeck reckoned that a clean house is the sign of a failed life, but for a higher cause I’m prepared to fight the good fight against the evils of dust and grime. And actually, when it’s all sparkly it does look lovely.
The world is divided into two types: the leavers and the putters-away and unfortunately Bob and I are both of the former species (so our kids had no chance) and subject to laws more inexorable than those of quantum physics. It goes like this: In a given day a leaver will engage with something approximately every hour, do something with it, and then leave it somewhere, vowing to put it away later. Even if you do a conservative calculation of twelve hours per day, that’s twelve items left lying about, not to mention the hours lost wandering round saying where did I put that? Multiply that by the number of days we’ve lived in this house: so that’s 12 x 365 x 33 = 144,540 things left, lost, stepped on, replaced and then found later… grrrr! Double that, because there are two of us, then add two kids for about 20 of those years and you have about 433,620 completely unnecessary stressful events that make it abundantly clear why you are officially off your rocker. Clearly it’s the putters -away who will inherit the earth, and if you were sufficiently bored you could go through all the people you know and guess which one they are…or even do a celebrity version. Let’s see: Angela Merkel? No prizes for that one.
But here’s the thing. An open house will cure you. Yes, you’ll have to bag up all the unsightly things you thought you loved and shove them in the cupboard, do about twenty trips to the charity shop, and have to sneak out to the neighbours’ bins in the dead of night with the overflow of your rubbish, but once it’s gone you won’t miss it…in fact you won’t even remember it was there in the first place. Most of the clutter has been there so long, you no longer registered it. OK there will be a few minor crises while hubby goes around looking for his favourite sparse-haired shaving brush, and I do fear that the remote for the air conditioner has gone forever, but that’s a small price to pay for the joy of a clean, stylish smooth-surfaced house. And then when your house looks like the setting for a fashion shoot, or an ad for a family made really happy by a tub of margerine or a cleaning product, you’ll have to shape up as well! And you’ll want to. Once you see yourself properly in the sparkling mirror, with the light shining though the newly cleaned window, you’ll be so horrified it will be off to the gym and the beauty parlour before you can say sold!
Nothing wakes you up like seeing yourself through the eyes of a real estate agent whose consummate diplomacy could teach Tony Abbott a thing or two. Not everyone likes the older photographs, she suggests quietly, so out go Bob’s parents’ wedding photo…and to be even-handed mine too, even though I reckon they were better looking. How about all those pics of the kids? Cute, but not that cute, apparently. And that’s a no to the fluffy toy dog on the sofa…so witty, you think, but won’t actually persuade someone to part with a shedload of money, whereas spotless highly controlled surfaces might. And the place has certainly perked up. Even the cushions are standing to attention…no more lolling about in a random heap like their owners. Let’s face it, we needed a bit of discipline. When I cleared the notice board there were invitations on there from the 1980’s! We always wondered why those nice people stopped speaking to us…it’s because their big party was inadvertently moved down the social order by the Taj Bengal takeaway menu. All right, their beef saagwala is fabulous, but it’s no excuse.
So now the classy music is softly playing, there are more flowers than the Vic Market and the fans are wafting the fragrant air through the half open windows. Suddenly we love living here and our only regret is that we could have been living in Open for Inspection mode all the time! But it’s not too late for you. Whether you’re selling your house or not…pretend you are! It will transform your life.
- Amazing photographs are courtesy of photographer John Byrne and Space Property Agents, Paddington
- Taj Bengal in Waterworks Road Ashgrove – great food.