Never has our house been so tidy. As the Boxing Day drive-byes turn into actual viewings by people who really might want to buy our house, we are living in an unnaturally minimalist limbo, where it seems like every night before we go to bed, and every morning before we head off to work and school everything has to be put away, not just in the ordinary sense of domestic bliss (which we weren’t particularly brilliant anyway, we’re not exactly naturally tidy people), but to a degree of impeccable readiness that would tire the most ardent perfectionist.
My family photos are living under my dressing table, I haven’t done any sewing this year for fear of impaling a visitor with a wayward pin on the floor, and if I don’t keep hold of something it gets “tidied” never to be seen again. So in the spirit of what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, here are ten things that I’ve learnt in the last few weeks about selling a house that they definitely never mentioned on Location Location Location.
- You discover that you can hide anything under a duvet. On any given day I can find several of Kitty’s school clothes, half of the books that should be on the bookcase, and a safari’s worth of teddy bears in her bed, but never before have I adopted this as an art form. Yesterday’s clothes that you’ve forgotten to pack away? Tuck them under your pillow. Spare quilts and knitted blankets? Just layer them up Princess and the Pea style. When John got into bed yesterday he found a half bottle of diet coke and a spoon.
- You realise that there has never been a previous occasion on which all of your mugs have been clean and dry and ready to put away in the cupboard. You know this because they don’t all fit, and you find yourself playing a glass and china Jenga every time you open the cupboard. The kitchen floor is tiled and you’ve lost two measuring jugs since the end of November.
- In similar style, all of the bits and bobs of food that you usually keep on the kitchen counters will get packed away to create the important illusion of space. This inevitably means that something will fall out on you whenever you try to find the salt. Despite no-one having used it in any form of culinary or artistic creation since the start of the decade, it is equally certain that the item in question will be an open packed of desiccated coconut.
- You have to purchase a replacement for something you have ‘tidied’. After too many days of using the children’ toothpaste while mounting a search and rescue mission to the bags in the garage, my own humble tube was declared forever lost. But who doesn’t love an emergency toothpaste shopping trip two days before Christmas.
- Your plates will become ornaments, because when you clear the dresser of all of things you don’t want to lose and the children aren’t allowed to touch you suddenly realise that it’s almost completely bare. Most of the jugs and little bits and bobs are from a trip to Spain three years ago, the starry jug is Emma Bridgewater, the fish plates came from Anthropologie and are dearly loved despite chipping if you so much as look at them, and the plates at the bottom are our new dinner plates bought in the sale at Sainsbury’ last week because we’ve had a few casualties with the plate cupboard too. Truth be told it’s been lovely having them all out to look at rather than tucked up in a corner of the studio.
- Your youngest child will draw on his bedroom wall the day before a viewing. Not on an obvious bit of wall, so you don’t see it the first couple of times you pop in and out of his room, only when you’re about to put him to bed and you go to dim the light do you see deep blue scribbles on the pale cream wall. Baby wipes are a wonderful invention, as are washable crayons. The wax crayons are now hidden and will remain so until after we move.
- When you can’t find any of your clothes it’s because every time you have a viewing you scoop up all the clothes that are waiting to be washed and put them in a suitcase in the boot of the car, but later forget to retrieve them and actually wash them. It just having been Christmas the kids are all fine, but you’re hunting down tights for work on a daily basis.
- Every time you tidy up you’ll take just a little bit more out of each room. So where once the kitchen scales stayed in because they’re red and pretty and look nice next to the kitchen-aid, now they go and the utensils pot goes and the rack with all the baking trays. It means it is almost impossible to remember where anything is unless you were the last one to put it away. I’ve had to get John to come and find the cooling rack (hidden in the tea towel drawer), and he phoned me at work to find the radio (hidden under the aprons which were themselves hidden under the worktop)
- Very few of the things in your fridge actually need to be kept cold. Recent contents have included washing up you ran out of time to do before a viewing, a packet of biscuits and the tea caddy.
- “It’s a creative space” is photographer code for “not in a month of Sundays will this room be made to look minimalist” as applied to our studio (and he was quite right). The studio is officially the tidiest it has ever been in the 11 years we’ve lived here and there’s still several piles of bits and bobs on my desk that will slide gracefully to the floor if so much as nudged. A few shelves have been cleared for ‘ornamental displays of raw materials’ but the rest of it is the room where we hide everything. I love it as a buzzword though, I’m definitely borrowing it to apply to the whole of the next house.
It will be worth it. At least I really hope it will. It feels as if our house selling has gone past the sprint and is comfortably in the middle distance and it’s hard work to keep up the enthusiasm with three little ones around who really just want to pull all their toys out and make a lovely big mess. The thing is that we sold our house in our heads when we decided to put it on the market and make the big move. That was the big scary decision, and while we love this house, and would happily stay here longer if the UK’s geography were more accommodating and we could squish it a bit in the middle, the excitement and login to start the next chapter has really taken hold, and we just want to get on with it.
So wish us luck. We have three viewings in the next three days and fingers crossed that this might just be the last time we’re selling not sold.