Well, I didn’t post at all last week, for the first time in a while. And why is this? Oh, nothing big except we’re moving in less than two months and just put our house on the market.
Yep. We are moving back to Cleveland, city of warm Jewish community and cold, snowy winter. My husband found a job there and gave his notice to his job here and off we go! Our move date is late March, and so, despite the winter not being an auspicious time to sell our house, that’s what we’re doing.
Since we put our house on the market, people have been coming to look at it. This is a good thing. But you know how compelling it feels to tidy up the house when someone is coming over? Imagine that times a billion, and then that’s kind of how I feel. Just look at these suggestions. Simply reading those tips raises my anxiety level.
Cleaning a house with four smalls kids is already a Sisyphean task. I’ve heard it likened to shoveling in a blizzard, and, my favorite, brushing your teeth while eating oreos. Knowing that a messy home (and by messy I mean lived in) might adversely affect the chances of it selling ups the pressure of the already challenging task of cleaning.
I did have about six months to strategize some ways to minimize what will most likely be a somewhat stressful experience. We moved a lot during my childhood, and my parents have sold at least seven homes, so my first step was to call my mom for advice. She suggested that I remove any personal photos (which is kind of creepy, but, still, I get it) and start the decluttering.
Still, there’s an awful lot of cleaning that needs to be done. All the time. Here are some general things that seemed to have helped:
Keeping the vast majority of the toys out of sight (and thus, out of mind)
I was already an adherent to the whole rotating toys concept, so this wasn’t such a stretch. I pretty much only keep books and Legos upstairs (I know, Legos are a total pain to clean, but they are my kids’ favorites, so I couldn’t banish them), and one other small container of toys. It makes picking up SO MUCH easier. Also, I’ve noticed that my kids are just fine with 0.0001% of their toys, which makes me seriously consider donating many of their other toys that they don’t seem to miss at all.
Using disposables for the kitchen
I’d been trying to not use as many disposable items (cost, waste, etc.), but with the house on the market, if I can use something disposable, I will. There is just only so much cleaning I can keep up with. Thankfully, we have a fleishig dishwasher, so I don’t have to use disposables for Shabbos prep. Though I certainly am using disposables for my Shabbos meals. No way am I washing all that china or silver right now.
Decluttering like a boss
Over the past year, I’ve been getting rid of stuff. Superfluous clothing, random stuff from the office (a/k/a the room where we dumped everything), clothes I haven’t worn in seven years, toys that are missing pieces which I will likely never, ever find. And so on. This has been an amazing process, and I recommend it to everyone. Seriously. Look at this linen closet. It is a thing of beauty.
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I thought those three things were enough to make this selling-the-house thing manageable, but then I was sick for two days last week from what I can only assume was overexertion from having to clean up. Every. Single. Night.
I realized I needed a fourth tool:
Asking for help
(Why do I always forget this step?!)
I already have cleaning help once a week, which I am so, so deeply grateful for, but the amount of tidying up I need to do to keep the house ready for viewings requires more than that. So I’ve enlisted the help of my children (kind of) and husband as well.
Whenever people (people I usually don’t know well) suggest things like, “well, why don’t you just make your kids clean up?” I often feel like responding, “why don’t you try to get my kids to clean up?”
Teaching my children to clean up after themselves and do things like put one toy away before taking out another is a process. It’s a skill I certainly want them to have, and they totally do it. Sometimes. And sometimes they pitch a fit. We’re working on it. When we’re in a time crunch and I’m already a little stressed, I’d rather not make this a battle ground. But you better believe I heap mounds of praise on them when they do pick up.
My husband helps out in many ways around the house. When it comes to picking stuff up, though, I am the Knower of Where All the Things Go and the One Who Puts Them Away. Right now I just can’t shoulder the responsibility on my own, so after I asked him to, my husband is pitching in with picking up. Just knowing that he’s contributing in this area took my stress level down quite a few notches.
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So that’s the story with me. If I’m not posting, it’s probably because all my free time is devoted to cleaning. I have to admit that it’s an amazing feeling to have such a clean house all the time. It feels great. But this level of cleanliness doesn’t really seem sustainable in the long run. So I’ll enjoy it now, as long as it’s not making me stressed out. And maybe, just maybe, some of the things I’ve learned about how to keep a house clean when there’s all this outside pressure will stick around once the outside pressure is gone.