Realtors advise homeowners that it helps to sell a house if you can make it look like you don't actually live in the house. Well, at least not too much.
Sellers are encouraged to remove all photographs, knickknacks and personal memorabilia. They are coached to remove books from bookshelves, clear kitchen countertops and pretty well empty the closets to make the place look spacious and attractive to prospective buyers.
I have figured out how this strategy promotes home sales.
Prospective buyers: "Look, Bill, there are no books on the bookshelves. The kitchen countertops are bare and the cupboards are practically empty."
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Bill (opening the closet): "It gets worse, Jane. They only have two shirts and one pair of tennis shoes between them."
Jane (weeping): "These people are illiterate, hungry and half-naked, Bill. Let's help them out and buy the place."
Another sold sign goes up in a front yard.
All the preparation to help sell a house is called staging, although it has nothing to do with choosing George Clooney or Richard Gere to play your husband and determining whether Sandra Bullock or Reese Witherspoon would best play you.
Friends recently staged their house for showing by making eight trips to a storage unit. They received rave reviews from their real estate agent. "You'd never know a family with three kids and a dog lived here!" she gushed.
Yes, but if you did know, you would wonder how a family of five got by with only two towels in the linen closet. Then again, maybe you would just assume the children were smelly or had learned to shake off bath water like the dog.
Realtors even suggest homeowners alphabetize their spices and turn all the coffee cups in the cabinet so the handles face the same direction.
We would never be able to move as our house staged itself years ago and refuses to change.
The closet under the stairs chose the stage marked horror. It is dark and creepy and packed with assorted household items that continually rearrange themselves. Periodically an enamel roaster pan that teeters on the top of a shelving unit will crash to the floor in the middle of the night.
We used to jump out of bed screaming, but now I simply open one eye and say, "Maybe I'll pick up a roast tomorrow. Does that sound good?"
Worse, our coffee cups refuse to line up like the Rockettes (the rebellious stage) and the nutmeg and oregano in the spice cabinet think it is a hilarious joke when they switch places (the comedy stage).
It is an undeniable truth, however, that no house looks better than right before you sell it. You finally make all those long-neglected little repairs, tackle that landscaping project, spring for a new garage door and replace those drafty windows. And all for what? For someone you don't even know. You do the work, spend the money, set the stage, and then aren't around to enjoy the show.
A woman losing her house in a divorce settlement said you should never look at a house as a financial investment, but instead focus on making your house the kind of home you always dreamed of.
That sounds like a stage we could all enjoy.