Friday, May 24, 2013

For Sale: Five Tips For Showing a House With Young Children

I heard a thump as the van rounded the corner and looked up to see Jack and Annie slide down the windshield landing tucked behind the wiper blades.  They were followed shortly by Ivy + Bean as I slammed on the brakes and leapt out of the driver’s seat.  The library books, eight in all, were strewn across the roof of the van, the street and the windshield.  I’d placed them on top of the van as I buckled the twins in preparation for the morning round of drop-offs. 

We’ve had twelve showings in one week and, clearly, it’s taking a toll on me.  My brain is on over-drive and as I focus on clean counters and toilet seats a number of other things are falling through the cracks.  Every showing requires detailed timing and a master plan and I envision myself being something like Ben Affleck’s character in Argo as I scheme up a way to get six people out without a trace. The whole house must be well-disguised, transformed from “launch-pad for a family of six” to “house beautiful” in a matter of hours. The beds are made, the floors are spotless and specially purchased throw-pillows lay at just the right angle on every seating space. 

Like every masquerade, though, it comes at a cost.  There are simply too many things for me to keep track of as I field phone calls and schedule showings with my calendar inconveniently tucked away along with all of our other personal items.  I’ve developed a habit of “stashing” things during the pre-showing frenzy, hiding my sandals in the laundry basket or my husband’s shoes in the attic with the rest of the folded, but not yet put away laundry. 

The other day I caught myself preparing to dump the cheese packet for mac and cheese directly into the boiling water.  On another afternoon I slammed the van into park before actually stopping in the school pick-up line.  This spring, instead of feeling guilty for missing snack bear and being lax in my sun-screen application, I’m feeling relieved that everyone’s still alive. 

To top it all off, I can’t really seem to find the mental time or space to write anything substantial.  However, in sync with traditional writers’ advice, I can "write what I know" so, without further ado, I present to you my:
 Top Five Tips for Showing a House With Young Children.

1. Your mission is to get everyone out of your house without leaving a trace and if you're really good at what you do, no one will ever guess that four messy, stinky little people have been holed up in here with you day in and day out. Your success will depend completely on three key elements: impeccable timing, absolute authority and the ability to bribe young children with a wide variety of food items and/or adventures.

2. Plan to live in your van for, well . . . a long time. Now that you’re a nomad with showings scheduled at 11 and 5 every day, your van is your new home, go ahead and buy a welcome mat for the driver's side door.  Stock it with every possible necessity and be ready to roll on a moment's notice. You will eat in the van, sleep in the van and dress your children in the van (sponge-baths in the van are acceptable and may be necessary, but are not recommended).

3. Plan to transfer the typical messiness of your house into said van for the entire period in which you are showing your house. This is a basic principal of home economics:

"Every spotless space maintained results in an equal and opposite messy space."

Given this basic principle, plan for all of the messiness removed from your house to reemerge in your vehicle.

4. Hide things. Since you can't really be expected to keep an immaculate home with young children underfoot and since not having enough closet and/or storage space is probably one of the reasons you're moving, you will inevitably end up hiding things in order to achieve that "House Beautiful" look. The first few times you hide your sandals or your husband’s clunky work shoes in the laundry basket or hall closet, you'll feel unbearably clever.  But, later, when you forget about the pineapple you stuffed under the kitchen sink and the potato's hiding in the basement, you'll likely make an even bigger mess of your home trying to find the source of the awful stink that’s suddenly emerged.   

5. Read story books about trolls who live in caves and dungeons to your children and encourage them to act them out - under their beds - then buy a cute bed skirt to hide the mess; in fact, you should probably only allow them to play under their beds from now until closing.  Or, tell your kids that the "bad guys" will get them if they make a mess. (You may want to set aside a cool fifty in a special savings account for future therapy for every time you use this technique but once you've picked up the Legos/board books/shell collection for the third time in one day, it may seem like a worthwhile investment.)

Bonus Tip:  You will be irrationally irritable, so plan to burn a few beach-scented candles to cover the scent of stress that sits like a heavy cloud over your immaculate home.

Phew . . . I'm thinking, as soon as we settle on an offer, I'm gonna have to let the kids run through the sprinkler in the back yard and then play in the sandbox until they're thoroughly breaded and send them inside to eat cherry popsicles and Cheetos while drinking grape juice, you know, just to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. . .

 

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