Stan and I made a major life change since the new year. One of the local cotton mills has been converted to upscale loft apartments. I've been very happy in our big house. It was our dream home and I thought it would do us until the end. But it has been harder and harder to keep up with as we've aged. Taking care of, cleaning, maintaining a large home and our yard was taking it's toll.
It occurred to us that we could downsize. When we began thinking of it, we didn't really want another smaller house. Because that means you still have a mortgage, maintenance/repairs and yard work. We didn't want a condominium because you still have indoor maintenance and then we've seen a family member taken advantage of with high regime fees going to management who used the money for their own ends and let the condos fall into disrepair. So we thought a high-end rental would make sense. They would want to keep things in good repair to keep good renters. The loft apartments provide all appliances, a pool, grilling and dining al fresco, a gym and a dog park along with extensive walking trails. So we began to get excited and made the drastic decision to go for it! We don't want to be house poor (all our assets tied up in a house). At this stage in life, we want to be more mobile and liquid with less responsibilities.
We took a 3 bedroom apartment and then began downsizing in earnest. We had a huge yard sale and gave away truckloads to family and charity. We managed to go from an approximately 3,000 sq foot home to a 1,673 sq foot apartment. It was good but it was heart wrenching.
We had so many memories in our former home. But we also had so many memories in the THINGS in our home. What do you keep and what can you let go of? I had to be realistic and firm. I just didn't have room for everything. Don't get me wrong, we aren't hoarders, but we had so many things to deal with.
I'm a good housekeeper and organizer and we had a large house with tons of storage. So going through every drawer, closet, the attic, the cabinets, etc. was hard. Every time you touch something you are flooded with memories but you know you have to keep going and you have to deal with it by making a decision whether to keep it or get rid of it. If you keep it, where will you store it? If you are ready to let go of it, do you pass it on to a family member, a charity, or toss in the trash?
It STRETCHED my decluttering and organizing skills to the maximum and it STRESSED my genealogy and scrapbooking side to the max. For instance, what to do with my genealogy books? My books in general (I'm a big reader)? I decided to take my genealogy books and donate them to my local library's genealogy room so I could still access them but I don't have to take care of them. My regular books... I made a decision. I would keep my Bibles and devotionals but get rid of EVERY other book in my home. I can go strictly digital and use the library for hard backs. So I boxed all my books up and had them at the yard sale. What was left were donated to the Friends of the Library. I have my Bibles and devotionals in one small book case.
Then there were my scrapbooks. I had a full closet from top to bottom with my scrapbooks back when I did paper scrapbooks. I have, since, moved to digital scrapbooks. But what to do with all my old ones. I went through them and pulled together books that could be given to family members. That got rid of about a dozen books. The rest I organized into plastic boxes, clearly marked. They were worth keeping.
I had about a dozen different sets of china that I loved but it had become a pain to keep them all clean and sparkling. I carefully wrapped some of the sets up, put in plastic boxes and gave to family members because they were from my Grandmothers. I feel like they are being passed down to the next generation. But the rest were donated to charity. It feels good to know that I don't have to wash 4 huge china cabinets full of china, crystal, and silver every year during spring cleaning time. But it was wrenching to let them go too. I kept my silver baby cups but let go of the rest. No more silver polishing for me.
Anyway, as you can see, it was very hard. Hard work and emotionally hard. But it's freeing. I think my husband had a harder time than I did. But we kept telling ourselves that we are simplifying our life and think of the time, effort, money and worry we will save not having to keep up all the stuff, the house and yard! We almost called it off a couple of times but we pressed on.
Three weeks ago we actually moved into the new apartment. The hardest part to get used to is the small bedrooms. We feel a little cramped but I keep telling myself that means less to dust, less to vacuum, less to mop, etc. Once I got my TV up and my rolling computer desk and computer equipment set up, I was OK. Being disabled, I stay in bed a lot and use my adjustable bed and rolling computer desk for hours. I don't need much room for that anyway.
After we got moved in we were able to get unpacked and set up and now are comfortable. But, of course, meanwhile, we also had to do minor repairs and clean the old house to get it on the market. I was the one doing the packing and yard sale. We were both doing the move on the big day. But my husband was more involved in getting the old house ready for market. I did some cleaning and painting but my job continued at our new home with unpacking and putting away. Considering we made the decision to move, got moved and now have the house in shape and on the market, all since the last week in January... we did pretty doggone good! But it was a very hard month.
We couldn't have done it just by ourselves. Our family chipped in all along the way and our friends, Randall and Mary, went above and beyond! We can't thank them enough. From Elaine and Hannah holding my hands as I plowed through boxes of memories, helping me tag with prices and getting ready for the yard sale, to Mike, Melinda, Mom, Dad, Elaine, Randall and Mary helping us during the yard sale! Did I mention a yard sale like this was like an estate sale while you're still alive?!? Those items that strangers were pawing through are MY MEMORIES! And they wanted them for a quarter or a dollar and I had to be willing to let them go for a quarter or a dollar. Then there were all the men in our family doing the heavy lifting on moving day! And Elaine and I were pushing carts of boxes from the parking lot to the elevator and up to our new 3rd floor apartment ALL DAY LONG! And the prayers and support from all our friends and family! Randall and Mary helped us do the repairs and clean up the old house. They do such a fantastic and meticulous job on everything they do. I truly could not do it better myself (and I mean that!). We paid them for that work but not nearly enough. They wouldn't take more. What they did was more a ministry to us. And Ronnie helped us just last week by doing a couple of things that we hadn't had time to get to. It was such a help because we had to get the house on the market. You can only make two payments for so long. Anyway, it comes down to everyone helping in the ways they could whether it was a prayer or painting or packing a box or helping in so many other ways and we appreciated all of them.
One last thought. Because of HGTV and so many home shows, it seems people expect homes to be staged and to look as generic as a hotel lobby. This is totally unrealistic. First, 95% of us aren't professional decorators. Second, we have limited budgets and cannot afford all new matchy-matchy furniture and accessories. Third, we live in our homes, they aren't stage dressing so to expect to tour someone's home and not see a toothbrush in the toothbrush holder, or a picture of Grandma on the wall or a shampoo bottle in the shower is unrealistic.
A house should be clean, decluttered, in good order and everything working.
But to expect a homeowner to repaint the entire house in neutral gray (it used to be neutral beige), purchase new furniture/window treatments and rent a pod (or storage unit) to put all personal items,,, is going too far. Our house is painted in acceptable colors, nothing too daring or too way out. But one realtor told us to repaint the entire inside a neutral gray and white and to remove all wallpaper. Do you know how much that would have cost us? And it would have meant the house wasn't ready for market for months and yet we weren't going to get any higher price?!? We have a brand new HVAC system, including ductwork just 8 mos ago. New roof, new windows, new floor coverings, all granite countertops, enclosed the garage to make an inlaw suite with 2nd kitchen. We've moved out, so there is no furniture or personal items. It's extra clean and all repairs up to date, the yard is immaculate. But none of this was good enough. That realtor wanted us to spend an additional $10,000 and a couple of months work, to paint it neutral gray.
I'm not mad at the realtors. They learn this stuff from real estate 101. It's because the buyers watch HGTV and expect every house to look like the Property Brothers just finished it and staged it for them. Or that it's going to look like the Flip or Flop couple just walked out the back door as they walked in the front door.
Come on people, get a grip. Those are TV shows and real life isn't that perfect and can't be. Besides, how do I know what color Family A expects my living room to be versus Family B or Family C? Family A may think gray is too cold and would prefer a warm tan and Family C might prefer a clean white! I can't possibly anticipate every taste of every possible buyer. But each buyer can use their own imagination and try to see the house in a color they want to paint it IF THEY BUY IT! As long as it's my house, it will be painted what I like. But once you buy it, it's yours and you can paint it any color you like. You can overlook my furniture and imagine it with your own furniture. But, while it's my house and I'm living in it, it will have my furniture in it.
Of course, there are commonsense limits. If you have wall to wall furniture or such big pieces that it makes your room abnormally small, then you may need to make adjustments. If you've painted a room a vivid purple, then you need to expect that most people wouldn't like your choice and maybe that room needs to be painted. Those are commonsense things that homeowners need to be aware of.
But commonsense goes both ways. Buyers need to use commonsense and imagination to see beyond the current owner's furniture or paint colors. Look at the bones, at the location, at your budget and at the level of skill sets available to you and see if this home can become what you want. If not, move on to the next house. But don't have unrealistic expectations based on TV shows.
Another point to think of is how much is real and how much may cover up something. Let's say the homeowner is told by their real estate agent to paint the rooms. Do you really think the homeowner is going to spend money on the best paint? Why would they, when they aren't going to be living there? You will probably get cheap paint and maybe a sub par job just so it will be "neutral". What if a realtor tells a homeowner to take down an old light fixture because it "dates" the house? More than likely the homeowner will buy a cheap replacement light fixture and call the cheapest electrician to install it. Is it done right? It may look pretty for a little while but those cheap box store fixtures come from China!
My point is, a buyer expects it all to look perfect but how does the buyer know if it's just cheap lipstick and rouge? A buyer is relying on a homeowner who is ready to sell the property. As a buyer, I'd rather do most repairs and remodeling myself. That way I can choose the best paint, choose my own contractors, make my own decisions. I'd rather be in control of what happens to the home I'm going to be living in so it would be done to my specifications and my satisfaction.
So, I say, again, use your imagination, don't have unrealistic expectations. There are some things that are non-negotiable. Concentrate on them. Such as price, location, quality of build, size of the lot, square footage, how the rooms are arranged. Don't look at a two story house if you need one story living. Don't look at a house on the west side when you work on the east side. Don't look at a house that is 1,500 square feet when you need at least 2,300 square feet. But if the house is in the right location, has the right size lot, has the right square footage, has the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, then look at it as a good-bones house and use your imagination to see if it can be made into what you want and need, within your budget. Decide if you have the budget, the time and available skill sets to do it. By "available skill sets", I mean can you, or someone you trust and know, do what is needed? Do you have access and knowledge of contractors that are trustworthy and professional? Do you know of family members that are good at certain skills? Or maybe a friend that you can trust to do it or give you good advice? These are resources and skill sets available to you. If I didn't have access to trustworthy skill sets to do a quality job, then my decisions would have to be very different.
Do I make sense? I know I'm going on and on but I'm in the middle of this and I'm seeing it from all sides. Be a wise homeowner and use commonsense. Be a wise seller and use commonsense and keep all things in proper perspective. Be a wise buyer and use commonsense and imagination as you look.
Above all, if you are a Christian (a true believer in Jesus Christ), whatever your dealings, do so with honesty and a commitment to do the right thing. In our case, with selling the house, we decided not to repaint the house in neutral gray. Our paint, inside and out, was done with the best paint we could afford and to the best of our ability when we still thought the house was going to be ours until our death. We decided that the colors are fine and it wouldn't be right to buy cheap paint and slap and dash it on the walls just so it would look "neutral". It's not fair to us to go to that trouble and expense and it's not fair to the buyer to get a poor paint job done with cheap paint. It's clean and in excellent shape. We made sure any chips and scrapes were touched up with the same paint we painted it with originally. I made sure to clean and wipe down all the closets and cabinets and under every appliance. We swept up the attic after we emptied it. The floors are gleaming and the cabinets have been scrubbed and oiled until they also gleam. The windows are sparkling and the appliances and light fixtures are clean. No dust on the fan blades, the chandelier is polished, etc. We've done our best by our house and whoever gets it will be getting a good deal. We can sleep at nights knowing the buyer of our house is getting the best we could have done. And while we are renting our apartment, we will keep it to the best of our ability and leave it in as good a shape as we can. And if we buy a house, we will use commonsense as we look and be aboveboard in our dealings. We trust the Lord to guide our decisions and lead us to the right place, not in the machinations of a realtor, flipper, a clever decorator/stager, or TV show.