Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Retirement Downsizing - Getting to Zero

Today was D-day on my plans to downsize and sell our house. I met with the first group of realtors that I’m interviewing to decide where I’ll list. Since I’ve been attending a lot of open houses in my area as part of my “intelligence gathering,” I knew that the current trend is to strip the house to the architectural equivalent of its underwear. Turns out, they really want it to be in its birthday suit.

I’ve been decluttering and packing and labeling for weeks. But unless you saw the house before I started, you’d have no idea how much has been removed. I’ve been operating on the “s - - t flows downhill” premise. That is, I started on the third floor and moved all of its excess down to the next level or lower. Eventually, everything deemed expendable found its way to the basement, where one room has been turned into what looks like a bomb shelter after the explosion.

Today’s tag team of realtors told me to keep on decluttering and to pack up all my dolls. I have an antique doll collection. Some are displayed in glass enclosed cases; some are posed in children’s and doll’s furniture. I got a reprieve on the ones that are encased. I assume that once the others have been packed away, there will be no reason to keep their empty furniture on display. (Joe, it looks like you were right after all.)

Part of the agents’ rationale for this is that I’m going to have to pack it all up when I move anyway. True. I’m also going to have to pack up my husband’s Jockey shorts, but that doesn’t mean I expect him to go commando for the next few months.

Perhaps it’s just the contrarian in me, but I don’t understand the psychology of convincing someone this is a house their family will want to make into their home by pretending the people living here now have not made it theirs. The open houses that are professionally staged appear sterile. Or, as I like to put it, they look like the house has had a lobotomy.

I’d much rather look at a house that has some warmth, that seems lived in. We’re not in ancient Sparta, after all. And I'd like it to have a little more personality than Jack Nicholson did at the end of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Besides, how many people really want to be able to roll a bowling ball down their kitchen counter top anyway?

Don’t get me wrong. I know you have to leave some things to the imagination. And I understand that pictures of our entire extended family can be a distraction. I packed them up long ago. Well, most of them. I have one picture of each of our closer relatives still on display. That adds to about a dozen, but they’re interspersed with other items on a wall full of built in bookcases.

I’m willing to pack up those family photos, too, if I’m forced to do so. But if you think I’m packing up the ones of my deceased cats, or rolling the custom made pottery jars with their ashes downhill to the basement bomb shelter, think again. There are some things that are just non-negotiable.

I’d sooner put away my wine rack, and you know how likely that is to happen. Speaking of which, I think it’s time to sit back with a nice glass of Italian red. After all, dear Scarlet, tomorrow is another day. And another real estate agent is coming in the morning. Can't wait.

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