the tendency to arrange one’s immediate surroundings, such as a work station, to create a place where one feels secure, comfortable, or in control
by Melissa Overbeck
My whole life I have been messy. I was a good kid, but always got in trouble for not keeping my room tidy. Sometimes my Mom would say, “Go to your room and don’t come out until it’s clean.” I thought that was great idea! I loved my room! That was where all my toys were, it was decorated in my style, and nobody could bother me there! I never understood why that would be a punishment. She kept on me about it, but I never really felt like that was something I would be interested in doing.
This did transfer into my adult life. My first apartment was a 1 bedroom 1960’s style apartment on Capitol Hill. It had no style at all, but it was mine! I moved in my mix of Ikea, Antiques & hand-me-downs and settled in. My bedroom became a “dumping station” for my very large collection of clothing, accessories, and shoes. Whenever I had a guest, I’d just swoop everything from the living room and throw it in my bedroom. Perfect! (Just don’t open that door…..)
I was dating Gerald during the time I was living in my first apartment. He had his own apartment about ten blocks away. His was a small studio, very minimalistic, and generally pretty tidy. I liked spending time there – it felt very “zen”. Over time, my whole apartment became the “dumping station” and his remained more of a showroom.
We made the leap of faith and moved in together about a year later. Neither of us wanted to give up our furniture, so we shoved BOTH of our couches and BOTH of our desks, and BOTH of our bookcases into my 1 bedroom apartment. It looked like crap, but we were happy! We were young and living in the city. We were working long hours and didn’t really even spend that much time at the apartment. When guest came over, I convinced Gerald that I had the best solution, “shove it all in the bedroom!” (Just don’t open the door….)
Over the years, Gerald and I have lived in 8 different homes.
1. Our Apartment on Capitol Hill
2. Our Apartment on Queen Anne
3. Our townhome we purchased in Everett
4. Our Apartment Downtown Seattle
5. Our Condo we rented in SouthLake Union
6. Our Loft Apartment in Southlake Union
7. Our House we purchased in Magnolia, and finally
8. Our House we purchased in Martha Lake (Lynnwood) and the same year, we purchased on vacation rental cabin on Camano Island.
CAPITOL HILL 2002
Between our two apartments, this was the perfect location for us! Yes, that’s a cosmopolitan, it’s 2002! This was Gerald’s apartment, great views of the city!
QUEEN ANNE 2004
Capitol Hill was getting a little rowdy, so we decided to move to Queen Anne. We rented in a cool early 1900’s building that was broken into 6 apartments. I loved the Victorian feel of it and this was definitely my “Anthropologie” phase.
Our first mortgage! At 25, I was pretty proud of myself for becoming a home-owner, months before our wedding. This was my “cupcake” phase. Yes, the kitchen is painted pink.
2007: DOWNTOWN SEATTLE
We just couldn’t take being so far away from the city! When my car was totaled, we took the insurance $$ and made a lifestyle change & moved downtown and became landlords.
This was my “career girl” phase. Living it up in the big city!
2009 SOUTH LAKE UNION
We lived in a couple places in Southlake Union. I was traveling a lot for work, and everything revolved around work deadlines and travel plans. Being walking distance to work was probably the most important thing to me at that time. We also hosted friends a lot! (still have the pink kitchen-aid)
It was time to stop renting. The economy was starting to improve and we knew that our “sweet deal” was wasn’t going to last much longer. We took advantage of the buyer’s market and Gerald’s ability to use a VA loan. We bought the crappiest house in the neighborhood & had a blast fixing it up!
2015 MARTHA LAKE
This was the year I turned 35. Yikes! 35 forces the conversation…. “are we going to have kids?” Something I had avoided, since I liked our no-kid life. We had been so happy & busy that we didn’t really think about it too much. Until I was 35. That’s when EVERYBODY asks you “are you guys going to have kids?” UGH…. Really? I had always been true to myself and always thought that I would know when I wanted to have kids, and I just hadn’t really wanted to. Funny thing…. I woke up one day with this desperate desire to adopt a toddler from Taiwan! It just felt right to me. Gerald quickly got excited about the idea too. We were showing clients new construction homes in Snohomish county and the house “clicked”. This was where I wanted to raise our child… so we put in an offer and got our Magnolia home on the market the next week!
Every time we moved, it felt like a “fresh start”. Let’s get rid of our old crap, and make this place nice! Except, I had become a bad influence on Gerald and he had become more messy over the years. I think, generally speaking, we’ve been able to “shove” stuff around, so that the place looked good for guests. Two busy professionals, who wants to clean? Who wants to organize? Who wants to DEAL WITH THE STUFF? We didn’t.
So, how the heck did I become a home-stager?
Well, we were about to put our Magnolia home on the market (in 5 days), and we were forced to get the home “Market Ready!”. Gerald and I were already Realtors, so we knew the importance of properly getting a home ready for the market. Since we weren’t expecting to put it on the market, we had the whole basement & more rooms “shoved with crap!” This became a moment where we had to “get real” and deal with the accumulation of messes we have been dragging around.
What did we do:
1. We packed up about 50% of what we owned. We worked with an excellent moving company that stored our belongings until we were ready to move to the next place. We took this opportunity to sort through everything; a) Garbage. b) Keep. c)Donate. I HIGHLY recommend doing this when you are moving. SIMPLIFY when you move!
2. We hired painters. The freshest thing you can do for your home is a fresh coat of light neutral paint. They brought in their crew and got it done in record time!
3. We removed our curtains. This was kind of annoying, because we lived on a busy street and had a huge window in our living room. During this time, we ate our dinner in the bedroom, so we wouldn’t feel like we were in a fish bowl! I loved my curtains (they were super cute), but I knew that natural light was more important to potential buyers. We also took down our oversized TV, so we were stuck watching TV on our laptops (which really wasn’t so bad).
4. We hired a landscaping crew. They freshened up the front & back yard.
5. We paired down our furniture to only the essentials.
6. We de-personalized. All family photos or anything specific to our taste was removed.
7. We even moved out (with our cat) while the home was on the market.
This was when I had an epiphany. Staging is NOT decorating. Staging is actually the opposite of decorating! Staging is about making your “home” a “house”. Does that make sense? When we lived there, it was our “home.” When we put it on the market, it became a “House”. When others came to look at the “house”, they could walk in and start in envision THEIR lives in the “house”….. and then there was room for them to dream about making it their “home”.
Our home sold in 5 days, 7 offers, and the final sales price exceeded our expectations. I am convinced that if we hadn’t “staged it”, there would have been less offers. We were over the moon happy with how everything went with the sale of our own house, that we wanted to start offering this service to our clients, too!
Fast-forward two years and I am walking through 2-3 homes per week. Usually the first thing out of a seller’s mouth is “I am so sorry, the house is such a mess, we’re cleaning things out and we’ve been really busy”…… I always chuckle and say “perfect!” I think we all struggle with the balance of life & how we live in our homes. It’s a very personal thing, and I totally get why people may not want to let me see it. I know, I have that “bedroom with all the crap, too!”
A big part of my job is helping sellers detach from their home. Anytime we can convince a seller to completely move out, it makes the process so much easier. We like to tell our sellers, “just leave us a key and we’ll get the home ready.” It’s always the easiest way. Our homes are our nests. We build them. We make them our own. We know all the stories. We know all the unfinished projects. We know about the leaky faucet. We know about the tears that have been consoled. We know about the parties we’ve thrown. We know about the times we were sick and stayed on the couch. We know about the puppy who chewed on the wall. We know about the painting we inherited and hang with pride. We know.
The big surprise I had about being a Realtor is that it’s not just about contracts, negotiations, comps, and open houses. These are life transitions and they are people’s largest financial investments. These are BOTH things that we take very seriously and handle with as much care as we can. I think that is why you do see a lot of husband/wife teams, because this is something we can do together. Gerald and I have truly enjoyed all of the sellers who we’ve been honored to have served.
After we get a home completely ready for the market, we get a variety of reactions from the sellers.
a) Some just love it and say “why didn’t I do that when I lived there!!”
b) Some completely hate it – they think it looks weird or boring!
c) Some completely move on and just wanted to focus on their next home.
Whatever reaction we get, it’s ok, we can handle it. At the end of the day, it’s all about helping them sell the home faster and for more $$, which is why they hire us.
A staged home offers hope for a less chaotic life.
A staged home has no “baggage”.
A staged home has room to dream.