Funny, even when you've perhaps -- just maybe -- celebrated your fiftieth birthday, say the word "news", and everyone -- and I mean everyone -- assumes the news is the kind that arrives in about nine months.
Well, I have news.
But it's not that news.
I want to type, "We are moving," but we're not moving for a while. I think about saying, "We're buying a house," and as long as I stick to the present progressive, that's true. The most accurate report would be, "We have a contract to buy a house." Our mortgage papers say, "You're almost home," but it doesn't necessarily feel that way day to day. It's a process, and as I'm learning, it's a l-o-n-g one.
The whole thing came out of the blue and spanned about the seventy two hours from House Is Available to Contract Signed. As I told someone, Dave and I have put more time into buying a coffee maker than we did into buying this house.
There's nothing like a chat with a real estate agent or a mortgage broker to make you feel stupid with a capital "S". These people couldn't be nicer, but they speak another language. Oh, the terms! Oh, the forms! Oh, the documents! Points and earnest money, escrow accounts and mortgage insurance, inspections and termite letters. It's another world entirely. At one point I turned to Dave and said, "And this is why we do this every eighteen years."
Stage I is The Contract.
Stage II is The Financing. Stage II is far more complicated and time consuming than Stage I and essentially involves locating hard copies of every last shred of paper related to your financial life and converting them to electronic copies so that the mortgage folks can turn them back into hard copies, mail them to you Fed Ex, have you verify them, and return them once again.
Rain forests, beware.
A new level of crazy and totally exposes the myth of "the paperless environment" all those nice computer folks promised us long ago.
Stage III is The Yard Sale, and it took place Saturday. Words fail me here. I could pen a passionate and humorous post on the merits and pitfalls of yard sales, but let me leave it at this: There must be far, far easier ways to score a hundred bucks. We are so beyond exhausted.
The thought of moving, or more precisely the thought of showing our house, has been, hmmmm, motivating. See, Stage IV is Showing the House. The ink wasn't dry on the contract, and I was zipping to Lowe's to buy flowers for my front window. Curb appeal and all that. 'Cause twelve bucks worth of pansies will sell this house, no doubt about it. Seriously, this is a combination of people over for dinner, my tidiest friend dropping by unannounced, and my mother-in-law planning a lengthy visit.
I look at everything in a new light.
And this is all good except that it doesn't jibe well with Stage III - The Yard Sale, Subtitle: Relocate the Entire Contents of the Attic to Your Living Room. Lest you think I exaggerate, on Friday my living room looked like this:
For most of my adult life, I have considered myself a moderate minimalist. There's nothing like an impending move or a renovation to put that premise to the acid test. I have my areas of excess -- books and teapots, mostly -- but I really have worked to keep things pared down. We support two yard/rummage sales per year, and I have always fancied myself a great contributor.
Faced with a) showing my house and then b) moving the entire contents, I have gone to the darkest corners of the attic, plumbed the far reaches of every closet -- and discovered that any pretensions I have of being "A Minimalist" are so far off course as to be comical. I hereby surrender my Minimalist Card, exposing myself for the impostor that I am. I will don sackcloth leftover from an All Saints' costume and sit in front of The Dollar Tree shouting "unclean, unclean." A dozen lashes with those broken Christmas lights I've been hanging on to for ten years!
Everyone, I am convinced, should touch every surface, every item really, once per year. Our current house boasts two spacious attics. This, I now realize, is not necessarily a good thing. My mother-in-law always talks about moving into a house with no garage, no basement. I see her point. If you have the storage, it will come -- and it will bring a few companions along for the ride. Things like certificates from high school Model United Nations conferences, notebooks from nuclear engineering classes taken a quarter of a century ago, a piggy back I bought when I was eight, the one and only trophy I have ever earned. Tennis. Most improved.
We've made some fun discoveries.
There have been discoveries nostalgic -- I nearly swooned over Tim's first tennies.
There have been discoveries practical -- a brand new, never been used tea kettle.
There have been discoveries gross -- a set of crutches with arm pads that had liquefied in the balmy climate of our attic.
And there have been boxes and boxes and boxes. I'm talking empty ones. A few weeks ago, I found a box labelled "Empty Box," and I'm not even making that up. If I buy a skateboard or a radio or an iron, I always wonder if I'll need to return it. If it's gift, I wrap it and toss the box in the attic. Multiply this by eighteen years, and we've pretty well insulated the attic with cardboard. The good news is that a third of attic needed nothing more than flattening and tossing in the recycling can.
When I get a few minutes I plan to draft a brilliant and inspiring piece called "You Should Live in the Kind of House You'd Show Potential Buyers or Your Mother-in-Law." It's a working title -- a bit wordy, I know. We all have To Do Lists, and sometimes they languish like so many good intentions. People have varying degrees of time, money, energy, and skill when it comes to home improvement. But the truth is, I thought about showing the house and planted flowers in the span of an hour. I plan to touch up the woodwork here, finally finish installing a doorknob there, For at least a year, I've planned to get an estimate on recovering a set of chairs. I got the estimate. Forward march! We're not renovating the kitchen or adding a deck, but we're finishing projects and de-cluttering and sprucing up, and some of the results are startling. I showed Tim his clutter-free closet, and he put his arm around me and said, "Wow, Mom."
If we can accomplish "Wow, Mom" for other people, why don't we do it for ourselves?
Pep talk over.
When we close -- in forty-four days, but who's counting? -- I will post pictures. Until then, it seems premature. As I said, it's a process and a l-o-n-g one. We covet your prayers.