The work of preparing a house for sale

Preparing to sell a house involves pain, both physical and psychological.

We are in the process of de-cluttering, organizing, and purging the house where we have lived for 25 years in preparation to list it next month.

Real estate agents and home stagers are ruthless in their evaluation of what to remove or add to make each room attractive to buyers. Needless to say, all begins with thorough cleaning of floors, carpets, walls, doors, and mirrors. Paint touch ups may be advised.

Books and bookshelves of any type seem to be a particular anathema.  During a recent house tour I was surprised not to see one book, magazine, newspaper nor any other reading material in a very large home. There wasn’t even a coffee table or art book in sight!

In the kitchen, small appliances, fruit bowls, and canisters should not clutter the counters.  The stove and refrigerator should be spotless. Bathrooms need to sparkle with fresh fluffy towels; no soaps or shampoos in sinks or shower stalls; no hair brushes, toothbrushes, tissues, mirrors, make-up containers, or other personal items in evidence. Closets need to be tidy and preferably emptied of most of their contents.

Physical Pain

With two months of purging, cleaning, organizing, and de-cluttering behind us, it’s clear that we underestimated the work required to prepare our house for the market. We also underestimated the amount of ‘stuff’ we had accumulated since moving here 25 years ago.

There’s been heavy lifting, both literally and figuratively.  Cleaning up the basement and getting rid of our junk has consumed us for almost two months.

More than 50 boxes of books have been removed from the basement and from my husband’s den. There are still several bookcases to clear including those in my writing room. A good amount of self-discipline plus thoughtful investment of time is required to achieve my goal of ‘some’ purging every day!

Packing boxes, lifting them up and down staircases, dragging them to the curb for give-away or into the back of my car for a trip to the re-cycling depot takes stamina.

I’ve joked that my new best friends are two people who work at the local donation centre.  They are happy to unload bags of clothes, boxes of excess sports equipment, boxes of used kitchen supplies, and, yes, extra book cases. Hopefully,  a charity will sell these items.

Psychological Pain

The psychological pain comes from the emotions each of us experience as we remember events during the years in this house.

This house has been ‘home’ with all the associated baggage.  Family events, parties, accomplishments, disappointments and sad times mix together in memories that represent a long chapter of our lives.

Achieving an amount of psychological detachment and dealing with the resultant emotional pain takes time.  We are removing  personal items to make the house look less lived-in, yet warm and inviting. Packing the photos,  diplomas, cherished moments sparks many discussions of what various pieces mean to each of us.

These discussions, with both laughter and tears,  have helped the process of letting go. We’ve also needed this time to process feelings, and, to deal with the pain of separation from our home.

As these two months have passed, our thoughts are changing.  Increasingly, we speak of our ‘house’ rather than our ‘home’.  Perhaps we are slowly putting it into a mental compartment labelled ‘past’.

Like other aspects of life that have finished, this house will hold a special place in our memory banks.  Just as with a decision like retirement, it’s time to focus on our vision of a future in a new home where we will create new memories, make new friends, and find new adventures.

4 Replies to “The work of preparing a house for sale”

  1. Your experience with decluttering and preparing a house for sale parallels my experiences with selling two houses in the past and trying now to sell my third. It is SO difficult to sort through the “things” of a lifetime and decide which can stay and be packed away, and which have to go. Each room has its own emotional baggage. Having plenty of time to go through the letting-go process is important. Thanks for your post.

    1. We’ve sold a couple of houses in the past but the last was 25 years ago. I don’t remember worrying about prepping the house for sale except for a thorough cleaning and removing a few valuables. At the time we hadn’t lived there for more than 5 years. There wasn’t as much to de-clutter.
      I’m also convinced that in earlier times, none of us owned as many clothes, shoes, books, appliances, or furniture. The drive to accumulate stuff and get attached to it, is a tendency that I plan to conquer!
      Be well,

  2. Surely everyone who has sold a house in which one has lived for many years felt as you do, as when, with reluctance I sold my home after 17 years of occupancy; the place where my children grew up, my in-laws lived and some died, where the doctor, dentist, post office, banks and stores were around the corner; where neighbours were friends to move to a newer, larger home in a semi-rural environment. As I felt when I sold my last home to move to a new life in Canada. Many can emphasize with your mixed feelings. Inevitably it is for the better. Good luck as you continue the task and enjoy your easier, more pleasant future in London.

    1. I know that so many postworksavvyreaders have gone through the physical and psychological pain that we’re experiencing. Hopefully this will soon pass and life will resume a more normal — albeit, changed — rhythm.

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