Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The slobs who live in my house

I have never realized what a slattern I am until now.

I am cleaning my house not for company, not for a holiday, but for strangers. Complete, total strangers who walk through the rooms, opening our closets, peeping into cupboards, possibly noticing with contempt the dust bunnies that populate the undersides of all of our furniture.

Strangers are perusing the contents of the medicine cabinet.

Strangers are peering into the dark confines of the attic access.

We're trying to fool these strangers, you see. We want them to believe that we don't have a lot of stuff. That this small, 2-bedroom home can easily accommodate them and all their tchotchkes. We also want them to believe that we are tidy and clean, that our beds are always smooth and unslept-in, that our dirty clothes never spill over the edge of the baskets, that everything, simply everything, is pretty and contained.

I don't like trying to live this way day to day. It's exhausting. And it's disturbing, because frankly, I'm realizing that we are rather piggish here in this house. I never knew it until I had to see my home through someone else's eyes: our realtor.

She is sweet, and kind, and utterly polite and professional. And she sees that we have clutter and refuse in every corner, and she courteously explains what we need to do. Get rid of that chair. Take down that privacy curtain. See if there is another place to put those boxes of papers. Pack up some of the many breakables atop the dining room cupboard.

We do what she says, and she is right; her suggestions create significant improvements in the appearance of the rooms. Suddenly, they're slightly more airy—I don't feel the walls squeezing in on me anymore. I see that her ideas are right-on and impactful. By the time I press her for more, and she offers up the brilliant motion that we scrub the tub until it's actually white, I am so convinced of her wisdom that I don't even take umbrage at the comment. Because, you see, she's right; it's filthy. WE'RE filthy. Who in their right mind could live in this foul place? How did we not see how unsightly it was, what a fire hazard all those stacks must be?

You get accustomed to looking at a place, and you stop seeing it. It's the same way with your face, your body; this is how people become old without realizing it, gain 20 pounds without any real alarm until their clothes cease to fit. You don't really see things after a while. You have an image in your mind, completely fictional in many cases, and that is the image you rely upon. It's much easier to choose that happy, pleasing image than it is to actually see what's around and in front of you.

It's been rather humbling, having to prepare my home for other people, and in doing so having to really open my eyes and see the mess before me. I like some of the improvements we've made... yet I feel like an actor on a sterile stage. This isn't really our home anymore. It might be again, if no one else buys it. It might not be anymore if someone else decides it's the place for them. But for now, it's a setting for a carefully plotted scheme we're attempting to run, a perfectly legal little sting operation: We're neat. We're clean. We don't collect anything. And we never, ever post pictures of ourselves. How utterly gauche and overly personal.

Now. Can I please have my home back? Somewhere? Anywhere?


chris h. said...

Having to keep the house clean is BY FAR the worst part of selling it. That and having to leave every time someone wants to see it (I have sat in the car drumming my fingers way too many times over the years during the course of selling 4 homes). I don't think anybody actually lives the life their house would indicate when it's on the market -- but it sure is a beautiful illusion.

Facie said...

I am pretty much oblivious to the state of our home. Brian asks how I can miss the bits of dirt that the dog brings in or the dust that has accumulated on an end table, and I have no answer. But when I go to someone else's house, I notice every spec of dust, ring from a glass, crumb on a counter, etc.

Knowing you, I am quite certain your house is cleaner and certainly much, much neater than mine. I am such a pack rat. The thought of selling our house again, which is probably three to five years away, turns my stomach. I am pulling for you, Mel!

chris h. said...

Facie -- now I am paranoid to have you come to my home! Every spec of dust? I am in big trouble!

Mel said...

ladies, this is why I am a big proponent of entertaining OUTSIDE!!!