Friday, June 29, 2007

A Moving Experience...
(an ongoing series) — Part 3

And so it begins…
Okay…I’ve got just about an hour before I have to be out of the house. Let’s see if I can pump this bad boy out in one sitting.

If you’re thinking that I might be writing this early in the morning, trying to get a post off before work, well, you’d be wrong. Actually, it’s already mid-morning on Friday. I’m off work today, here at home, but needing to be someplace else an hour from now.

Where, you ask? Well…anywhere, really; anywhere but here.

You see, our house officially went on the market this past Wednesday afternoon; a full day past the already once-postponed target date of Tuesday, but it’s all good.

Actually it’s great!

Within two hours of our MLS listing hitting the Internet, the realtor gals were receiving requests for showings from other agents; three yesterday, one so far today (which is why I need to vacate the premises this morning). Four showings in less than 48 hours: not bad…not bad at all.

And though we’re hoping this initial frenzy of interest becomes fruitful soon, there is still at least a little bit of work yet to be done. Small items, such as replacing the rotted, split post capitals on our front porch and steps railing (which I need only to go out and screw on). Also needed is one final coat of paint on the built-in drawer unit up here in the bonus room, which looks good enough to show, but also which my dogged anality won’t allow me to leave unfinished.

Likewise, the baseboards are all painted, but none of them are caulked, leaving an unbecoming look of untidiness that just won’t fly in AJ’s book. My good friend Kelly, who did a fabulous job laying down new kitchen linoleum for us last week, has agreed to help me do the caulk-job, which is something I’ve always been reticent to even attempt, for fear of doing it badly.

There’s a real art to caulking and producing that neat, straight, manicured-looking seal between baseboard and wall, that’s the true mark of a professional paint job. However I’ve never actually seen it done, and as simple as squeezing the trigger of a caulking gun may seem, I have enough trouble squeezing out a straight swath of dental creme on my toothbrush; so forgive me if I’m more than a little gun-shy to just jump in there and go it alone.

Fortunately there’s my pal, Kelly, who has answered my cry for help. I want to learn how to do the job right, from a master-handyman and floor-covering craftsman like Kelly, who I am deeply grateful to have as a friend, not only for his professional abilities of course, but because he’s just a great guy.

(I’d actually, like to write a lot more about him in this space, but methinks I need to clear it with him first…)

The Reluctant Do-it-Yourselfer
I’ve not afraid to admit that I’m not the most enthusiastic DIY’er, and with good reason. In California, Michelle and I rented a house for eleven years before moving here to Nashville. That place was more than enough of an object lesson to cure me of the notion that ‘doing it yourself’ is necessarily a good idea.

Our landlord for that house was an itinerant welder, who fancied himself a general contractor as well.

Um…no, Tony.

He may have been able to wrought iron with the best of ‘em, but his building chops left a lot to be desired.

Room additions, elaborate wall coverings, funky ‘indoor-outdoor’ carpet installations, a gawd-awful-looking wooden lattice treatment across the font of the house (which I absolutely hated), everything this guy did by himself, and most of it absolutely screamed ‘amateur.’ Dude never wanted to spend a dime to have anyone do anything to the place.

I determined that when I owned a house of my own, I would never be that short-sighted. To this day it’s a point of contention at times between Michelle, a born-again HGTV enthusiast, and me, treading that fine line defining when it’s prudent to try something yourself, or to hire someone who does it for a living.

I’ve seen so much of the phenomenon in my own line of work as a graphic designer; people often have the notion that merely owning a computer and a few graphics programs makes them a designer.


Tools may facilitate the work, but they can’t replace the expertise that manipulates them.

As far as I’m concerned, I want things done right when it comes to my house. I have nothing against doing things that I know I can do as well, or nearly as well as a professional, but also I know my limits.

My motto has always been, “if you can’t do it like a pro, don’t be a schmoe: SPEND THE DOUGH.” Problem is, we’re about as tapped out on the financial end of things as we can be right now. We’ve already spent well over a grand on supplies, fixtures, and services to get our house to this point. And we additionally have a most pressing financial commitment for which we HAVE to be ready next month (which I’ll talk about in my next installment).

So Kelly’s willingness to help me do it right is a read godsend. I’ll end up insisting that I pay him something for his trouble, but I imagine he’ll probably refuse to accept it.

It’s those gremlins, itellya…
Finally the other remaining task, albeit a fairly low-priority one, will be to straighten up the garage. It’s a frightening proposition to consider that for the past four to five weeks, Michelle and I have been moving crap out of that garage, both to our storage unit and to the dump, yet it still looks as though we’ve hardly put a dent in de-cluttering its appearance.

I think the gremlins are playing with our minds…

In fact, we’ve now realized that we’ll need to rent a second storage unit when we eventually move into an apartment, following the sale of the house. While I’m reasonably certain we’ll be able to squeeze our remaining furniture pieces into one of the two-bedroom flats we’re considering moving into (hopefully soon), I’m just as certain there’ll be no place at all for the garage stuff.

We have all but completely filled the current 10 x 10 unit we have under contract. There’s no way we’d be able to fit any of my larger tools, (including both a table and mitre saw), a large industrial drafting desk (which weighs well over 200 pounds), all of the kids’ stuff that we’re holding for them, our camping gear, Michelle’s assorted ‘project’ furniture pieces, garden tools, etc, etc, etc, into the existing storage unit. So add yet another $60-$80-per-month expense to the budget. However fortunately for us, that will kick in only after the current big-ticket expense we’re saving for has been paid off.

But as far as the garage is concerned, all I really want to do is make the current mess a relatively neat one, perhaps stacking everything up against one wall, to clear as much space as possible, in order to show off what is actually a pretty spacious double-car garage.

So that’s what’s up this weekend, although if things keep going at the present pace we may have to abandon ship during much of the daylight hours over the weekend for more house showings. In fact, our lead real estate gal just called to let me know she’d scheduled another showing for this Sunday afternoon, and she expects several other requests to come in today for more showings throughout the weekend.

She mentioned that one of the prospective buyers who saw the house yesterday was very impressed, and wants to be alerted as to any offers being made on the house. So it appears we have at least one serious contender. Hopefully a few more of that type of sentiment will be rendered toward good ol’ Casa AJ in the days to come.

And as far as getting the last-minute projects done, there’s always the 30-day escrow period following the sale, while we’re in the actual process of moving. So we’ll see; I can only do what I can do.

Good thing is, most of the work is already complete. Now the waiting game begins; all we can do is sit back and observe what kind of fruit our month-and-a-half of labor will bear.

Hey lookie there…49 minutes. Who says this kid can’t produce under pressure?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Moving Experience...
(an ongoing series) — Part 2

I'll admit I'm a little disappointed, although not shocked to say that we didn't meet our goal of having the house ready to sell by this past Tuesday. According to our real-estate gals, the month of June through the middle of July is 'Primetime' in the housing market's summer sales season. It's the fairly brief period between the end of the school year and family vacation time, when people are most likely to pursue buying a home. It had had been stressed that it would be in our best interests to get the house ready to go as early in this period as possible.

Had we only been a day off our targeted 'go' date, we still could have done it this week. But as of yesterday, our agents suggested we postpone yet a few more days. We'll now be listing the house next Tuesday instead of this past one.

Our real estate gals suggested the full-week delay because they're really set on Tuesday as the best day of the week to hold an 'Agent Showcase' to preview our property to their local peers, thereby expanding the potential for finding a buyer via a third party. Once that's done, the house will then be opened to viewing by the general public.

So the bottom line is, I now have the weekend to finish up my painting, and as it's turning out, I'm really gonna need it.

When all is said and done, the front door will have taken me nearly a week to paint, due to the limited number of weeknight evening-only hours to get things done.

I didn't even get started on it until Tuesday night, while finishing up one of the two other doors from the bonus room that I also have to paint.

Since it was so blistered by the sun (and really should have been repainted over a year ago), the front door was a nightmare to prep. I spent well over an hour scraping and sanding it. Add to that my work on the other door earlier in the evening, and that was about all the time and energy I had for that particular night.

Then last night (Wednesday) was spent masking and priming the sucker, and tonight I'll apply the first coat of new paint, with the final coat coming Friday evening.

In the meantime, I should be able to finish the remaining bonus room door and trim, and have everything ready for pictures by Sunday or Monday.

To be fair, the extra time needed to complete our tasks could not have been avoided; we simply had too much to do. Michelle, trooper that she is, has spent the past several evenings painting all the baseboard trim throughout the house; a backbreaking job. And she's still got a lot more to do: re-arranging and resetting-up the furniture and room decorations still disorganized from last week when we moved everything around to have the carpets cleaned.

Needless to say, we tried, but just didn't realize how much more we were biting off than we could actually chew.

Nevertheless, our initial disappointment over missing out on the start of 'Primetime' in the homeselling season has subsided quite a bit over the past 24 hours. Turns out, the delay may actually pay some dividends.

Our lead realty gal told me last night that another home in our neighborhood with square footage numbers similar to ours just went on the market at a price point nearly $10,000 higher than what we'd initially planned to seek. This obviously elevates our asking value by at least another five grand if we choose to compete with this other property right off the bat. We conceivably could price the house thousands less and still come out way ahead in profit.

So sometimes good things DO come to those who wait...

Or miss deadlines...

Or are just plain lucky...

Take your pick.


Next: And so it begins…

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Moving Experience...
(an ongoing series) — Part I

**June 21, 2007 Update**
“Don't go gettin' all excited, now; this isn't a full scale post or anything...”

Aw heck, who am I kiddin'? Of course this is another full-scale post! in fact I've decided to make it a series; a series of updates on how things are going in the process of getting our house ready to sell, which currently stands at t-minus 6 days, 18 hours, and 3 minutes from the time of this posting.

I'll probably go back and retrofit things with some of the events that
chronologically came prior to what I'm starting with here, so I may be shoe-horning a prologue in here eventually, at which point it will no longer be a miniseries, but I'll try not to get ahead of myself here.

How long the series will last, who knows, but it's a fast write and something I'll probably be glad I chronicled later on down the road, despite the fact that I've always tried to avoid "diary" posts. Besides, today is Summer Solstace; the longest day of the year. Let's just call this a tribute to things that take a long time to get know, like my stories.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Bonus Round
I've gotta tellya, the past two weekends have been pure hell for Michelle and me. The backbreaking and exhausting work of cleaning, sorting through, packing, and then either hauling away or storing away fifteen years worth of trash and treasure has been far tougher on my wife and me than either of us had imagined it would be.

We've been working together constantly for the past two weeks, nearly every weekday evening to go along with the 15-20 hours a day we put in on the weekends. Needless to say, tempers have flared more than a couple times. But by the same token, we've also experienced a lot of joy at our accomplishments.

This past weekend we installed new cabinets in the laundry room on Friday night, then on Saturday and Sunday, tackled what we knew would be the Everest of our uphill battle to get our house ready for market: the Bonus Room. It's the room above the garage and is by far the largest in our house. It's also the most consistently cluttered and least attended to room in our home as well. Oh, and I think I've already mentioned, it's also the room where I spend the bulk of my time, and um, yeah, that fact just might have something to do with its condition.

For the first seven years that we were in this house, the Bonus Room was the office of my freelance Graphics and Web Design business. I practically lived up there, so accordingly, it was my man-cave as well. I have my cool stereo system set up there along with my computer(s), a couch and one of our two TVs.

The room also features a drafting table on which I used to do all of my old-school paste-up/layout graphics work before I got full-on into web design. During the time it was being employed as my primary workspace, I understandably was forced to always keep it cleared; my papers were always filed neatly into file cabinets. I actually had a nice, logical little system in place.

However, after the mid-90s, with my web work increasing and print graphics jobs tailing off, my work became more and more relegated to computer-only projects. I suddenly didn't need to worry about keeping that nice, big table clear. My natual packrat/clutterbum tendencies took over and my drafting table morphed into one large open-air filing cabinet. I mean, why bother filing things in folders and cabinets when I could access them so much easier in nice, neat little piles of printouts and notes, on top of the drafting table.

My enslavement to the pile management filing system had begun. But as crazy as it might sound, to be honest, it worked pretty well — at first, anyway. I rarely lost track of things. I just mentally assigned a space on that table top and then somehow remembered how to distinguish one pile from another.

For about the next ten years, I threw everything — printouts, bills, invoices, instructions, sticky notes, hardware, software, everywhere — on that table. As I said, things were fine at first. The problems began when I had to start creating piles on top of piles. But when those piles became so dense that I actually started having to search to find something, I just expanded my filing system to the floor. Again, the piles multiplied, leading to a circumstance in which eventually there were only pathways of vacant space on that once expansive piece of home real estate.

Now before you start assuming the room resembled one of those news reports of some old cat-lady's house, with trash stacked up to the ceiling and furry varmints scurrying about, relax — it wasn't that bad. However, it wasn't that good either. I honestly don't know how much longer I could have let that room go, but these things have a way of working themselves out I guess. At any rate, the clean-up has easily been as interesting as it has been daunting.

Going through all this stuff has been amazing. It was like excavating a historic dig; each pile seemed to be a remnant of a different year; a different point of stress, joy, growth, or atrophy in my life and marriage. It has evoked a wide range of memories for me; some painful, some prideful. It's certainly the subject matter for a story in of itself and hopefully I'll be able to get around to it at some point soon.

However I can't take credit for all of the mess, my wife contributed a bit herself. In addition to all of my junk, the Bonus Room was also home to Michelle's sewing machine. It was the birthplace of her side decorating and window-treatment projects, adding to the clutter as well. Her fabric scraps and associated materials occupied about a quarter of the room's floor space on its own.

Another considerable component of the room's clutter was its use as a graveyard of my various computer-upgrade projects over the years. I don't quite know why, but I've just never been able to make myself part with old computer components, including obsolete processors, cases and peripherals. I guess I've always figured that one day I'd need them for something. As a result, parts of four different computers (not including my primary one) — remnants of ten-plus years of PC evolution — also lay along the outskirts of the room, just taking up space.

Yeah, I'm a true packrat. I just never realized how much. And worse still, I had no idea how long it would take to go through all this crap.

Over the past ten days, I've been finding out.

It has literally taken a week and a half of constant purging and filing simply get to the point where I could move the freaking furniture and paint the walls, which we did this past Sunday. We still have to do the trim, but we're determined to get it done this week. And there's still have a bunch more stuff to be boxed up and either thrown away or carted off to the storage unit that I rented a couple weeks ago.

We got next
After the Bonus Room, the ride gets easier, but not by much. This Thursday the tub guy comes in to patch the cracks in our two bathtubs, Friday the carpet cleaner comes to clean all the carpets (including the Bonus Room, which further heightens our urgency to get everything completed over the next two nights), and Saturday, my friend Kelly comes over to lay new linoleum in the kitchen. Saturday and Sunday are also the two days we have alloted to finish the gradual process of cleaning out the garage, which from the outset was every bit as much a mess as was the Bonus room.

Then Monday, the real estate ladies come to take pictures. Tuesday our house officially hits the market.


Think we can do it? I'll talk to you in exactly one week and let you know.

Wish me luck.