Home opens: When untidy people are forced to be tidy

If you know who Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat are, you would be across their hypothesis that opposites attract.

A few thoughts on why I think it’s flawed:

  • If my partner likes it quiet and I like to shout, I’m really not sure that when we got together it would, indeed, just all work out.
  • If I’ve got the money and he’s always broke, or that fact that I don’t like cigarettes and he liked to smoke are, to me, red flags.

However, one line of that song is pretty typical of many couplings: ‘She likes it neat, and he makes a mess’.

The Mister and I were exactly this – but the opposite.

I hate to admit this, but he was reasonably tidy and organised with housekeeping, while I took a slightly more unorthodox approach.

For people who both worked full-time, we did the best we can… I mean, I did the best I could.

Our one and only possession bought together – the house – is up for sale.

But before we got to the point of having our now-pristine home open for inspection, we had to set aside half our Christmas holidays to actually get the place looking that way.

To say it was tough would be a terrible, terrible understatement. But for someone like me, who uses a floordrobe daily, it was a special kind of hell.

One thing I pretend I like to do is tidying out my closet.

Mum used to try and silverline the epic task for me by saying in order to make room for new stuff, you need to chuck old stuff out.

It was an exciting prospect, new clothes. Because clearly that meant a new look, which meant a new me, a new body, and therefore a whole new life. Right?

I was staring at my closet, which has mirrored sliding doors, so I was really just staring at myself with so much dread at what I had to do.

I started by flicking through each thing hanging up.

I decide I still need everything, including a gold sequinned dress I wore once in Las Vegas three years ago.

I rolled the sliding door shut, but it got stuck on a shoe so I just left it half-open.

I then opened the drawers of my two dressers.

I relegate a couple of old singlets to the ‘shit clothes’ drawer (you know, the stuff you wear to the gym or, let’s be honest, bed)

I then close all the drawers.

I then made myself a cup of tea and congratulated myself on being so organised.

But something was bothering me.

These things were almost representing how I was feeling about this whole breaking up scenario – it looks tidy and pulled-together, but really, behind the exterior, it was a big ol’ mess.

I downed my tea.

I put on some heavy metal.

I tied my hair up.

I put on pants.

My new attitude was simple – this wasn’t about me. This was about selling the house so The Mister and I could both just move on.

This was about my future just as much as it was also about showing complete strangers that this wardrobe was perfect for their storage needs. And you can’t show great storage if clothes and handbags are just thrown at drawers or over chairs, right?

I reopened the sliding mirrored door. It almost gleamed with optimism. I was going the full Kondo.

Ten minutes into it and about a three-quarter way into ‘The God that Failed’, I was at that point of tidying a closet – the point of no return.

You know what that point is, it’s where the majority of your t-shirts, singlets, jeans, leggings, handbags, belts, Christmas wrapping paper, scarves, Life of Brian collector dolls, coir baskets, bangles and a lazy, unhelpful cat are all laid out on the floor.

But, like finding yourself 100kms – the halfway point – into the drive between Coolgardie and Southern Cross, you just have to stop crying and keep going.

However, I couldn’t just be gung-ho about this.

And for someone who has pack-rat tendencies, I can also be a complete tick-the-box lover of due process.

I picked up every single piece of clothing and imagined every single situation in which I might wear it and what outfits could pair with it.

Some things, like having two pairs of brown denim-look leggings were easy to ditch. Others, like a dark red, cream and black raw silk Edmiston dress with a peacock on it, were not.

They say if you haven’t worn it for a year, you’re probably not going to wear it again, so toss it. I say just be honest with yourself: is it not completely awesome or a totally brilliant basic piece, it needs to be, at the very least, maybe-piled.

The Edmiston dress is stunning but needs some tailoring that I never got around to doing, so I kept it, but I made a promise to myself to get it done within the year or it’s getting paid forward.

Oh, and the gold sequinned dress? I don’t know what it is about that dress, it’s so scratchy and impossible, but as soon as it leaves my clutches I just know there’ll suddenly be an invite to a Studio 54, Boogie Nights or Gina Liano-themed party on my Facebook feed. It also helps that it is a great fit, so I kept it.

Then my shoes. Far out. Like I posted to Instagram, if there ever is a world-shortage of brown boots, they’re all at my place. Winter boots, leather boots, cowboy boots, bootie boots, Ugg boots. All in brown. I chucked out maybe three pairs plus one single boot (I couldn’t find its other half).

I then found my wedding dress.

UGH.

I jokingly-but-kind-of-seriously asked The Mister if he wanted it.

He did not.

But since it was all neatly boxed up, I just left it where it was – high up and out of the way. I’ll deal with that later.

The thing is, just like a woman might say she has forgotten the specific pain of childbirth until she is knee-deep in having the next one, you forget how long this can take.

If you think it’s going to take an hour, maybe an hour-and-a-half, to give your closet the full treatment – like be completely ruthless with it – you’re hilariously mistaken.

Take your estimate and triple it, have plenty of drink breaks and do not sit on the floor and ‘sort’ shit (especially when you come across old photos of your ex boyfriend), stay on your feet and keep moving.

(I thought it was going to take me about two hours. It took close to 10. I wish I were kidding.)

After a while, you’ll be in the swing of it and be confident enough – or over it enough – to not even bother with the Maybe pile or get all Sophie’s Choice about your five pairs of skinny jeans (at last count it’s down to three). You just have to be pragmatic with no scruples – if something isn’t a booming yes, chuck it.

A quick word on what ‘throwing it out’ actually means to me. I do what I think most do: I donate it. But not before, like most people, driving said donatables around in my car in big trash bags for three or four months.

This brings me to another hated chore.

Cleaning the bathroom.

This isn’t to say it doesn’t get cleaned. It does. Every friggin’ week. I just hate it. Especially the shower, I mean, look at it, if anything looks as though it could be self-cleaning, it’s the shower, amirite?

Another thing I hate about cleaning the bathroom is that I have an order I do it in. And if that order gets screwed up, well, there goes the Pine-O-Cleen, I’m having a beer instead.

This is my old way of cleaning the bathroom –

  • Use everything first. Have a shower, go to the loo, brush your teeth.
  • Using a pair of gloves you would normally use to slough your skin in the shower (yes, those scrubby puff things but in glove-form), scrub the shower, the bath and the vanity down.
  • I’m lucky enough to have one of those showerhead things with the long hose, so I then rinse everything with that. Yes, like I’m rinsing off the car.
  • Drench bathroom.
  • Stand on bathmat and wiggle it out the door with my feet to ‘mop’ the floor.

So riddle me this: what is worse than cleaning your bathroom?

Cleaning it before in the hours before a home open.

This is how I clean the bathroom for a home open –

  • Do everything you need to do, except do not shower.
  • Tie hair up, wear an old singlet and undies.
  • Put on some workout music and take everything out of the bathroom that isn’t locked down.
  • Put rubber gloves on, then put aforementioned sloughing gloves over the top of those
  • Get in the shower and scrub the bejesus out of your shower, tub, taps and yes, the godforsaken drain (I have long hair and use a lot of conditioner, so yeah, down that drain it’s a whole new world)
  • Use shower to rinse shower, tub and taps down.
  • Get out of shower and scrub the vanity, especially the taps.
  • Take off sloughing gloves and throw them away
  • Use a Chux or similar to help rinse the vanity down
  • Go back into shower and squeegee the glass or use some paper towel to dry off and polish the tiles and taps.
  • Use paper towel to do the same for the vanity

Pro tip: if you need your tapware to literally GLEAM, I use Mr Sheen with a paper towel, I also use them to clean the mirrors. It’s perfect and the smell reminds me of mum cleaning the house (we used to call it Psycho Saturday).

For your bottles and bits and pieces that need to go back onto shelves etc, put the stuff you rarely use in zip-loc bags and pop them in your bathroom cupboard, that way, when you do move out, you can just grab them.

For a home open, I recommend not having anything on display except a couple of stylised things that soften the room – I had a vase of trendy succulents, an antique glass container which held cotton balls and a bottle of perfume. The trick is to make the house look like humans live there, but uncluttered is the key. Just because there is a shelf, resist the urge to fill it. You need to give the impression of space.

While I don’t write-off the method of using the bathmat to ‘wipe’ the floor as it’s exactly the same as mopping anyway, I lightly spray the floor using a spray bottle filled with equal parts vinegar and water. I then use one of those mops which has a thick removable material strip which can be thrown into the washing machine when you’re done.

Yes, the vinegar can smell a bit vinegary, but it never lasts long. It also dries really quickly.

So. You’ve cleaned the bathroom and you’re a sweating, heaving hot mess that needs a shower.

But, you’re having a home open in less than two hours… so you can’t.

The rule is (and this is for any given week, not just home open day), once the bathroom is clean, you’re not allowed to use it for at least four or five hours. And the person who cleaned it is the only person who is allowed to use it first.

That’s the rules.

The thing with home opens and cleaning is that it’s all about timing, which is why your shower has to wait until it’s over.

You have to time your laundry perfectly (thank the LAWD we’ve had hot weather lately so stuff is drying super-fast) or it’s going to have to get shoved away somewhere. While it’s so cute and oh so Sex And The City to simply stick it in the empty oven, be aware that people at a home open look inside stuff like that.

If you have unclean laundry, put all of it inside the washing machine (they have no need to open that, so if they do it’s their own fault), a laundry basket with the lid down (fingers crossed it’s not your gym gear), or it’s going in the car.

Just don’t let your laundry get mixed up with the stuff you’re donating, K?

There are two reasons why I like going to a home open

  1. You get a feel for a property that you can’t get by viewing it online.
  1. You get to perve on other people’s stuff.

I can’t be the only one that secretly judges other people’s homes and CD collections when they thrust their doors open to complete strangers.

So when you’re having your own home open, I like to put people off the scent.

All my CD’s are pretty much loaded onto iTunes, so they’re packed away from all those judging Judy’s.

But it’s a different story (so to speak) for the books. They’re still there to be eyeballed.

I’ve never been much of a book purist other than the complete inability to relinquish them, so I was glad that The Mister took it upon himself to declutter the main bookshelf.

But while he was making sure there was more Jonathan Franzen than Nicholas Sparks, he yelled out, “what do you want to do with all these mags?”

It was a totally fair point. While my magazine addiction had gone off the boil a while ago, I still have one big glossy hangover.

Like cheese, I can’t be alone with a pile of magazines I’m supposed to throw out. I’ll re-read them for hours and find every excuse to keep them. Not what we needed at this point in time.

So, I asked him to rip the Bandaid off for me.

So, except for my every single copy of Frankie magazine (they have wicked posters which I promise I have plans for, seriously, I can’t throw them out) and my Christmas specials of Delicious magazine and one treasured copy of SkyMall (which went bankrupt but I hear has since been bought out) which gave me so much hilarious pleasure when flying within the US, they got turfed. I think that gives you an indication on how many magazines I actually had.

I couldn’t watch the ditching process. If I had, it would be like an episode of Hoarders where the hoarder loses their perpetual mind over the throwing out of a putrefied apple core wrapped in newspaper from 1998.

I had to hand over control.

To this day I’m still clueless as to what was thrown out.

What I’ve also realised, is that when you prep your house for a home open, be aware that your real estate agent – who is usually dressed to the nines – will from now on, only see you looking like a sweaty warthog from here on in

(My agent is a German beauty that has the most gorgeous structured dresses. I asked her where she gets them and she said her seamstress friend brings samples over from Honkers once a year for her to look at, she sends her back with her specs, and before you know it, she has a freakin’ bespoke wardrobe of unreal tailored dresses).

Your agent is there to sell, so they look great. However, the same will not be said for you. As the vendor, you’re there to make sure the house looks pristine before leaving the property to drive your yowling cat, cleaning gear and trash bags of dirty laundry around for 45 minutes.

That 45 minutes is excruciating.

And forget about actually doing anything meaningful. Not when you have a cat having a panic attack in the back and, again, remember you’ve not yet showered and smell like a locker room full of well-exercised teen boys.

So what are you supposed to do?

Keep it simple.

Head to a car park near a beach or river or park with a newspaper or your phone and a coffee, and force yourself to chill.

Trying to head back to the house on time, not too early or late, is an art.

So, about five minutes before the 45 minutes is up, I park a few houses up and wait for The German Beauty to pull up her ‘home open’ stumps.

Tempting as it is, don’t do laps of the block, casing out the people heading into your house, nor stand out the front, nor hunker down in the car right across the road like a filthy Sasquatch just sitting, staring at the potential buyers. You will be noticed.

Look, this home open bizzo is really stressful and completely time consuming.

Especially for those like me who find it really difficult to keep my digs tidy at the best of times. And I guess it’s stressful to people who are neat freaks as I’m sure you feel as though nothing is quite clean enough.

There is a big silverlining though.

You know how, when you move into a new joint, you just unpack everything and put the chopping boards on top of the fridge or the pots and pans in that cupboard ‘for now’, and yet three years later, there they remain. Doing a proper pull-everything-out rethink made this place so much more workable as a household.

But the best bit?

The three times that The Mister and I have headed back into the house after the viewings, we both fizzed over how clean and organised it is now.

It was a satisfying feeling, the neat freak and the pack rat were, at last, on the same page.

The Mister then said he was going to have a shower before he headed off for the day.

‘Oh, no you don’t,’ I said.

‘Not for at least another four hours, and then I get to use it first.’

That’s the rules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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