The Nitty Gritty“Selling a home is so much fun,” said no one ever. On the contrary, it’s work. A lot of work. And, stressful. And, let’s not forget, emotional. Most people focus on the work, and the stress. Those are the parts that wear us down, or so we think. But, the reality is, the logistics of selling a home are manageable. All we need to do is find the right people to help us.
RealtorIt starts with the realtor. A realtor is someone we have to trust. We have to believe they are working for us. Of course, every penny matters to them. It’s how they make a living. But, if they’re good at their job, each house is one of many. A realtor’s goal should be to make their clients happy. Happy clients refer realtors to friends. Smart realtors understand this. So, look for a smart, good realtor and that part should go rather smoothly.
Repair PersonOf course, no home is sale ready from the get go. A realtor can help to identify the things that obviously need repair. We also know all of the hidden issues like the loose faucet, receptacles that don’t work, and floor boards that are exceptionally squeaky. Our teenagers helped us to discover the latter one when they came in after curfew. A good handyman, or contractor if the problems are really big, can help us make the repairs. Some of us lucky people may have a handyman in the house. (Note: this is not the time to build your spouse’s ego by reassuring him he’s handy. Make sure he actually knows how to fix things.) Many of us may actually be the handymen, or should I say, handywomen. When preparing to sell a home, we shouldn’t go crazy fixing everything. We should focus on the things that may pop up as potential buyers are walking through the house. The inspection will come later. That’s when they’ll decide what needs to be fixed. If it doesn’t come up, don’t worry about it. They’ll discover it eventually, but that will likely be after they’ve signed on the dotted line. It’s their problem then.
Cleaning ServiceThe really fun part comes when the showings begin. That’s when we have to figure out how to clean up all of the kids’ toys, get the dirty dishes out of the sink, and get the sleeping baby out of her crib all in a matter of minutes because a realtor is down the street and his clients just noticed your home. The mad dashes out of the house are bad enough, but keeping the house clean day after day is enough to drive any parent of young children absolutely mad. This is a good time to let go of the ego, and remember there are people to help with this too. It might be impractical, and far too expensive, to have a daily cleaning service. But, if there was ever a time to splurge on it weekly, now’s that time. And, don’t forget, most cleaning companies offer deep cleaning and moving cleaning services, too. These can absolutely take the pressure off as we deal with all of the other details of selling a home.
Other ServicesOther services to look for when listing a home might be: decluttering companies, storage units, moving trucks, and lawn services. Don’t forget a good massage therapist for when things get too stressful. In general, it’s important to remember that we sometimes have to spend money to make money. And, when it’s a matter of our sanity, the services are absolutely worth it.
The Emotional FactorThe only service we really can’t hire, is the one that removes the emotional factor from selling a home. That’s the truly hard part. Saying good-bye to our happy place is like saying farewell to a best friend. It’s letting go of the ties that bind us, the comfort, and the familiarity. It’s letting go of a part of us. Despite the frequent moves, nothing prepared me for letting go of the one constant in my life. I know it’s the right thing for mom and dad. I know new adventures await us and we will find a new happy place. Hopefully, anyway. But, saying good-bye will be the hardest part for sure. Fortunately, we have one last 4th of July. I think we may need to stock up on tissues.
Setting StandardsI was a slob as a child. At least, by my mother’s standards. When I moved out, I became a bit of a neat freak myself. Life gets in the way though. Keeping a home neat and tidy with young children around becomes a lesson in futility. As they, and you, get older, you just don’t seem to care quite as much. At least, I don’t. Still, I have certain expectations. Personally, I like a home to be relatively neat and tidy with no obvious dirt and grime laying around. It’s okay if there’s a pile of papers on the counter as long as it’s stacked neatly. A few dishes in the sink are tolerable as long as they’re not piled above the edge and covered with dried and crusty food. A sweater tossed on a bed that has been made is acceptable, while things thrown on the floor ought to be picked up.
What We Teach Our ChildrenThere’s a fine line, I know, between what is okay, and what is not. And, I’m sure my standards are not easily decipherable by my children. This could be their excuse as to why they don’t bother to pick anything up, but I think it comes down to something else. They know I’ll do it. And, I will. I know there are some parents who are champions of teaching their children how to do household chores. I am not one of them. I could worry that my lack of expectations will create a set of young adults who have no idea how to keep a house clean. If that were true, however, I would have no idea what I was doing. My mother requested very little of me in terms of helping her around the house. I guess I could say she led by example. I choose to believe I am doing the same. But, what am I teaching them? What is acceptable? What isn’t?
What Our Homes Say About UsAs women, we don’t generally invite people into our homes unless we have them show-ready. Of course, there’s always the threat of a drop-in guest, but that doesn’t seem to happen much these days. I think we’re all too conscious of our own homes to drop-in on someone else. Men seem to be different. (And, please, don’t make this some sexist argument. I’m just talking from personal experience. I’m really not trying to make a broad, political statement about the difference between men and women. Of course, there are exceptions on both sides.) In some ways, they seem more real. It’s almost a this-is-who-I-am mentality. Of course, that’s assuming they make a conscious decision as to how to present their homes. I highly doubt that much thought goes into it. Yet, it tells you a lot about someone. Interestingly, I discovered that the cleanliness of a man’s home really matters to me. I’m not looking for the perfectionist who demands everyone removes shoes before entering his house, or requires coasters under every glass that may touch a table. I’m also not interested in the guy who has three-day old pizza boxes on the counter or cat hair covering his pillows. I suppose what I’m looking for is a person like me. How we keep our homes is a reflection of our priorities. It’s our own determination of what is acceptable and what is not. There is no right way of doing it. There’s only what’s right for me, or you. That said, there are days when I really don’t feel like cleaning. Yes, it matters, but I’m just too damn tired to do anything about it. That’s when it’s good to know that services like those offered by Immaculate Clean are available.
Immaculate Clean, recently suggested I write about how crazy life can be for us moms. She’s right. I know that. I remember it well. The thing is, it’s not my life anymore so I was struggling with how to write about it. Then it occurred to me, that’s the point. My life is different now. But, how, and why, did it change? The answer is rather simple. I stopped. I stopped running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I stopped saying yes to everything that was asked of me. I stopped feeling guilty about saying no. I stopped caring if I was everyone’s image of the perfect mother. And, I stopped beating myself up for my failures. Yes, the answer is simple. But, how I got to it was a lot more complicated. It’s not like I set out to change the craziness of life. I wasn’t searching for the answer to slow it all down. And, in all honesty, I’m not sure I’d want to go through it all again. Yet, I am absolutely thrilled to be where I am today. There was a time when I was a married, business-owner, mother of three who got the kids off to school in the morning, went to the gym, and spent the next five hours in her store. The second half of my day started when the kids got home from school. I somehow fed them and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening running them around town. Bedtime came after they were all asleep and the house was at least livable. Of course, there were also the dogs to take care of, and so on, and so on. I’m sure this describes most of you. Especially those of you with younger children, and the energy to keep it all going. It’s definitely become the norm of parenting. Of course, it doesn’t really get any easier when the kids get older. Their activities get more intense, issues more significant and your worry level skyrockets. The overall craziness seems to intensify. That was my life until other things started to get in the way. First of all, I got divorced. Divorce changes things. As a parent, it changes how much time you have with your kids and who is responsible for what. It forces you to let go of some things. You’re pushed to allow your ex to handle things that you would have otherwise. When you’re going through divorce, you’re also an emotional mess. It gets easy to say no to things because you know you’d be worthless at getting it done anyway. Besides, you really don’t want to have to force your miserable self on anyone so it’s easier to just stay away. And, since your kids are now the product of a broken family, how bad is it if you forget to send their lunch to school? Seriously, most people expect it. “You’ll have to excuse them…Their parents are going through a divorce.” The comments seem harsh at first, but after a while you learn to just go with it. It makes things easier. Of course, shortly after getting divorced, I developed a major hip problem. When you can’t walk very well, it’s difficult to do much. Again, it makes it very easy to say no. And, when you have a full brace and crutches after surgery, people don’t even bother to ask. The pressure to work out every day also diminishes when walking is a challenge. That gave me at least an extra hour or so each day to do whatever else I needed to do. Over the next few months, I moved, stopped working, and two of my kids went off to college. All of these things brought more challenges and stress, but they also put things in perspective. Life is complicated. There is no doubt about it. And, it is oftentimes overwhelming and seemingly out-of-control. But, if we stop, if we take a deep breath and figure out what’s really important, life can be even better. Yesterday, I took my daughter to soccer practice, in her cleats. Of course, it was an indoor practice on a gym floor where cleats are not allowed. A few years ago this would have totally stressed me out. I would have been yelling at my daughter, flying down the highway to pick up her sneakers and rushing back just so she could join the group for the last twenty minutes of practice. This time, I looked at her, said, “oops,” and asked her if she was staying or coming home with me. I have learned that the kids will survive despite my failures. In fact, they might learn from my mistakes. And, I’ve realized that whatever activity they are involved in now, may not be their passion in a few more years. To get all upset over a missed practice, is really pointless. I understand now that if I say no to something, someone else will say yes, and it will get done. And, I’ve learned that I may not be a perfect mother, but I love my children with all of my heart and I’m doing my best. So, yes, parenting can be crazy. And, there are probably a million ways to slow it down. (Hiring a cleaning service is certainly one way!!) Hopefully, all of you can find easier ways to do so then I did. But, whatever it takes, try. It’s far more enjoyable.
Immaculate Clean. Even if I did, I wouldn’t expect they would always clean all of these surfaces. The reality is, it would take anyone an extraordinary amount of time to clean every inch, of every surface, and it could get expensive to have it done on a regular basis. But, once you get up, and down, and start looking around, you realize it might be time for a deep clean. Another option would be to get an estimate for some add-on services. Of course, it’s always an option to climb a step-ladder or crawl under the furniture and do it yourself. Now that I’m aware of the dirt that’s hiding, it’s time to get rid of it. Hopefully, the next time I’m on my floor I will not be distracted by all of the dust under the nearby cabinet. The sit-ups and leg lifts are far too important.
Why should I hire someone to do something I can do myself?Well, I can grow vegetables, but I buy them at the store. I can cook, but I often go out to eat or have food delivered. Heck, I can do all kinds of things that I hire others to do for me. Why is it wrong to hire someone to clean? I suppose it goes back to the days of class privilege. It seems wrong to make someone do something as undesirable as clean up after me or my kids. I’m sure few people grow up saying they want to clean for a living when they grow up. But, it’s work. It’s admirable, hard work. My hiring someone helps them to have a job. What’s wrong with that?
What if they don’t clean up to my standards?There’s nothing that says I can’t clean before or after the cleaning people are here. It just makes my job easier. They may not wipe the baseboards as often as I would like, but if that’s all I have to do this week, it’s a lot easier than cleaning the whole house. And, there’s always the reality that I can just ask them to do things differently.
Should I trust someone in my home?Word of mouth is pretty valuable when hiring someone to work in my home. If a friend trusts them, shouldn’t I? In this day and age of online reviews, it’s also easy to see what others have to say. Hiring a reputable company, like Immaculate Clean, makes the process even more secure with insurance and background checks for their employees.
Can I really afford it?I suppose it comes down to two other questions: how much do I value my free-time; and, how much do I care if my home is a mess. For me, I place a huge value on my time to do things with my kids. And, when I’m not with them, or working, I’d much rather be meeting up with friends or doing a DIY project than cleaning the house. As for having a messy house, I don’t mind stuff as much as I do dirt. I can pick up the stuff in a matter of minutes. The dirt takes a lot more time and effort, and it’s what really bothers me. There’s honestly few better feelings than walking into my home when it’s just been cleaned by someone else. For me, the answers to these questions justify my hiring a cleaning person. It’s time I do so. For the rest of you, you might have more questions before making your final decision. Visit the Immaculate Clean FAQ to help you decide. Or, call them at 410-549-0727.
The WindowsIt really is a bummer when the sun is shining in and all I can see are the spots all over the windows. Not to mention, when I go to open them, I notice the cobwebs and dead bugs caught between the windows and screens. It’s definitely time to give them a good cleaning. Use a good window cleaner and a lint-free cloth on the glass. Spray the cleaner on the window and give it a minute to set before wiping it clean. Make sure you wipe the outside of the windows too. If your windows are difficult to reach, it’s worth calling a window cleaning company for best results. After wiping the glass, give the frames and sills a wipe down. A vacuum hose works great for this task.
The FloorsThe mud season is rapidly approaching so now is the time to get rid of the winter residue. Start with the area rugs. If washable, throw them in the machine to get them clean. Otherwise, take them outside and give them a good shake. While the rugs are getting some fresh air, tend to the hard surfaces and carpeted areas. For hard surfaces, make sure to get rid of dust and debris before mopping. The professionals at Immaculate Clean suggest using a handheld vacuum rather than sweeping. When mopping, vinegar diluted in water is sufficient for wood floors, but Mr. Clean Professional Floor Cleaner is highly recommended for the best clean. Wipe down the baseboards for a complete cleaning. As for the carpeted rooms, start with a good vacuuming and edging around the baseboards. However, they’re probably also due for a professional cleaning. As we learned in What’s Hiding in Your Carpet?, professional cleaning on a quarterly basis is recommended to best maintain your carpets.
The GarageBetween the car tires and kids’ boots, the garage floor is a disaster by this time of year. Of course, I’ve also dumped a bunch of stuff that I didn’t want to deal with in the cold weather like cardboard boxes to be recycled and exterior holiday decorations that I didn’t get around to putting away. Take advantage of the nice weather by pulling everything outside and really cleaning the floor. As with the other hard surfaces, sweep first, then mop. Mildly soapy water is perfect for the concrete surface. Don’t forget to clean any windows and wipe down the corners where spider webs might be hiding. Once the floor dries, you can start organizing what needs to go back in and what you can get rid of. I’m thinking a blog on organizing the garage is on the horizon.
The ExteriorNow that the snow is gone, I can see all of the trash and debris that has collected on my yard. Having just gone through a renovation project, I’m finding all kinds of construction scraps, too. Personally, I’m not a yard-work type person. I generally leave it to the professionals, but there are some basic things needed to be done to ensure a minimum level of curb appeal. Start by getting rid of any leftover holiday decorations and dried out planters. Next, pick up the trash and any large branches that may have fallen. Finally, sweep off the walkways and porches. It may not be worthy of a landscaper’s stamp of approval, but it’s a start. Spring hasn’t totally sprung yet, but it’s not too early to get started. You want to get going before the mud of the upcoming season makes its way in the house. If you’re too overwhelmed with everything else going on in life, leave it to the professionals at Immaculate Clean. Give them a call at 410-549-0727. Voted the “Best of Carroll County” for the past 7 years!!
- Teach the Basics What does it mean to dust?
- Stop Saying “Go Clean your Room” Try to be more specific. Try “Please put your clothes away.” Or, “Can you take off your sheets and put on a set of clean ones?”
- Keep it Simple Nobody likes spending hours cleaning. Least of all, your kids. Pick and choose what is most important and have them do one or two things each time you ask. Which leads to my next suggestion…
- Make a Checklist or Schedule It might be a list of simple steps to be completed every day, or a schedule of different things to do each day.
- Pick a Consistent Time of Day Every night before bedtime, or as soon as they get home from school. It doesn’t really matter when, just keep it the same for best results.
- Have the Supplies Ready Think in advance about what they are going to need. Bags for trash? Clean sheets? More hangers? The easier it is for them to do, the more likely they are to do it.
- Finally…Choose your Battles One of the best lessons I learned from my mother was that sometimes you just have to close the door and walk away. (Yes, this is how she dealt with my mess of a room when I was a teenager.) In the realm of things to worry about, does it really matter if your kid’s room isn’t clean.