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After Work: House For Sale

“If there are readers out there who’ve never put a house up for sale, you’ve missed out on a lot of self-examination, some of it painful,’’ says Dona Gibbs.

She and her husband face a time of trauma. They are selling their sand pink Florida home on the fringes of town and moving into Palm Beach.

To read more of Dona’s delicious columns which are filled to the brim with a zest for life please click on After Work in the menu on this page..

We’ve put our home on the market, our wonderful sand pink Florida house.

Ever-Enthusiast Husband has decided it’s time to move from our western suburb into Palm Beach. We have all kinds of reason to contemplate such a move but the real reason is that we need a new project.

He’d even like to sell it fully furnished—even the pots, pans, sheets, towels, everything.

I think he’d like to repeat the happy times we had picking out paint colors and wheeling through the aisles of various “big box” stores buying like chirruping newly-weds with a wad of cash from generous relatives. We were far from recently married six years ago and soon we’ll celebrate our thirty-ninth anniversary.

If there are readers out there who’ve never put a house up for sale, you’ve missed out on a lot of self-examination, some of it painful.

Even before the realtor crosses the threshold to look around, you look around your house yourself and think, “ Who could live like this?”

That thought sets in motion a chain of events. At least it has for me. One by one I’ve tackled all the closets, cabinets and cupboards.

I’ve unearthed items I’d shoved into the dim recesses of my memory. Here’s an oversize papier-mâché Victorian ladies’ boot. I thought it would be a winsome accessory to a flower show exhibit I was planning. I toss it out still unpainted and undecorated. A concept that never got executed.

Ah, what’s back here? Christmas ornaments. We haven’t spent Christmas in Florida in years but those wooden camels, birds, frogs, fish and elephants are keepers. And we might spend Christmas in Florida – someday.

Why do I have four unopened one-pound bags of orchid fertilizer? Huh! And look at this; I’d wondered where the extension cord had gotten too. Hooray, here are the wire cutters.

Then there are the clothes closets. What a jumble of mismatched hangers. After a trip to the local linen store for matching ones and four hours of mindless work, all the clothes are rehung with the hooks pointing in the same direction. Slacks are side by side. Shirts are in order. Dresses are lined up. And I’ve hung them in gradations of colors, dark to light. I wonder if this is normal behavior.

Shoes stand at attention. You never know when some retired military type is going to inspect.

The pantry gets re-organized and I stop just short of alphabetizing the spices.

Then it’s on to the garage where I toss out a dozen or so cheap terra cotta and plastic pots. I find a bag or two of dried out decorative moss. Here’s an old mop. There’s a leaky hose. Out with the lot.

I battle the spider webs and sweep out the remains of months’ worth of spider feasts, dried husks of bugs. Lizards scurry out of their hiding places. I shoo them to safety. It wouldn’t do for a prospective buyer to find a dead gecko. Let them discover that after they’ve moved to Florida.

Let it be said that this isn’t the first house we’ve sold. The average American family moves about every five years. Not us. Our moves have been few. Each one a soul-searching, gut-wrenching experience. Not to mention numerous black plastic bags at the curbside and countless donations to Goodwill.

Each time before we’ve put the house up for sale, I’ve read articles of advice. You know the standard tips, such as bake an apple pie before the prospective buyers’ appointment so the house will smell wonderfully homey.

I have a friend who swears by this ploy, and she successful sold her house, ate the pies and didn’t gain weight. Lucky her!

“Mom, don’t leave any toilet brushes in sight,” my son cautions me, “I’ve read that’s a big no-no.”

“Put all tools away. Tuck away papers and mail. Anything that smacks of work, hide,” friends advise.

“Don’t leave any small appliances out on the countertop. Empty all the wastebaskets. Put pretty fragrant soaps in glass bowls in the bathroom. Let your home speak of ease and comfort.”

Okay. That’s all taken care off.

It’s show time with all the attendant opening night butterflies

Houses reveal plenty about their occupants. I’ve also been a buyer. The experience turns you into a voyeur.

Once a friend in the real estate business asked my help. He’d landed a plum listing: a multimillion-dollar New York City townhouse in a prime location. He thought that the sale could be made more speedily if he published a glossy four-color brochure.

“Would I please write the copy?” he asked.

I thought it sounded like fun, especially seeing such an extravagant house.

The house was a wide, limestone-fronted mansion. It had been completely redone.

There were gracious crown moldings. They weren’t wood, I was told. They were fiberglass. The medallions surrounding the chandeliers weren’t plaster; they were plastic. The marble was faux. The paneling was veneer. The stone wasn’t stone but stone-like.

Nothing was for real. The house had beautiful bones but the rest was an obscenity.

“What does the owner do?” I asked my friend.

“Oh,” my friend replied, avoiding my gaze “ He made his money in publishing.”

I looked around. There was not one magazine or newspaper to be seen. No awards adorned the faux-suede media room walls. No computer. No fax machine. No multiple line telephone console. Nothing said publishing.

Here lived a man who didn’t bring his work home with him. How unlike a publisher.

Then it struck me.

“He publishes pornography, doesn’t he?” I remarked.

My friend gasped, “How did you know?”

I knew. I just knew. The house told me.

Which is why I’m nuts about the face our house presents. Houses tell all.


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