Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Art of Selling a House and Not Losing Your Mind Completely

I know the "Keep Calm" signs are totally overused, but I JUST SOLD MY HOUSE!

After 32 showings and 50+ days on the market, I accepted an offer on my house yesterday afternoon.  I have never enjoyed electronically signing anything as much as that offer.  Tap. Tap. Tapitty-Tap-Tap.  Done. 

I don't know if we have met.  I am Prairie Eydie.

This morning all I could manage was sitting on the couch feeling like a wrung out dishrag.  Limp.  But a good kind of limp.

For the past 65 days I have focused on nothing other than selling my house.  (I also had to work, parent my children, orchestrate the holidays, and sporadically go to the gym.) 
  • I savagely decluttered the house. 
  • I made regular trips to St. Vincent's with piles of Trivial Pursuit  games and gently worn snow pants. 
  • I staged the entire house. 
  • I got up at 4:30 every morning to make sure the house would be left "Showing Ready." 
  • I sent the elderly cats off to live with friends. 
  • I badgered my kids to not mess anything up - especially the kitchen floor and toothpaste free bathroom counters. 
  • I had my windows repaired.
  • I brightened up woodwork with stain and polyurethane.  (NOTE:  Don't do this minutes before an Open House because a stink will linger the rest of the day.) 
Did I do this all on my own?  Nope - sure didn't.  I had a hard working, cheering section of family and friends who patiently listened to my ill-based fears while packing up photo albums in the guest room.  Without them, I would have quit.  Because I wanted to quit every other second.  Last Sunday, I had brilliantly decided to take my house off the market and get a weekend job at Starbucks to make ends meet.  It didn't seem like a big deal to have my kids raise themselves if it meant a stop to the endless parade of showings.

I am no longer charged up on adrenaline and a laundry list of "What ifs . . ."  Today I had a perfect day.  No cleaning.  No packing.  No searching for missing chargers and cell phone bills.

I am off to pack up my "staging props" for Prairie Sherry.  Soon her house will be on the market.  She can have all the white towels, white shower curtains, wooden hangers, coffee table books, battery operated pillar candles, etc.  Luckily she got a new Kitchen Aid for Christmas from her daughter because I couldn't help her with that one.  Tomorrow I will deliver the props and help her bury St. Joseph, upside down, in her backyard.

Prairie Eydie

Prairie Pa on the Art of Cutting Food Costs

Our very own guest blogger, Prairie Pa, has been musing about saving money in the new year.   This blog has inspired me to take another look at my food budget.  Thanks Prairie Pa for the innovative ways to be cheap . . . um. . . I mean frugal.  -Prairie Eydie

Food bills are a hardship for those of us on fixed incomes.  Here are ten ways for retirees (or college students) to reduce food costs without reducing flavor.

How does the tired and harassed desk clerk know if you are a paying guest or not?  I have stayed in hundreds of motels and never saw anyone get kicked out.  I did hear a story about a local professor who for weeks went to the same motel for a free breakfast and was finally confronted and thrown out.  HINT:  Do not go to the same hotel every day for your free breakfast. 

Volunteer for Meals on Wheels and eat a little from each meal.  Your clients will never know.  Better yet, hobble into the Meals on Wheels office and have the meals delivered right to you!

No one does food samples like Costco.  Saturdays and Sundays will offer the most samples variety per aisle.  Graze on Italian meatballs, Skinny Pop, Muscle Milk, and quinoa.  Bring the grandkids and do the loop.  If the grandkids are still hungry, circle around again. 

I visited my wife in the hospital at mealtime and was offered a free meal.  I bet they charged the insurance company $500.

Give the impression (and hopefully it is just an impression) that you are financially strapped and abandoned by your thankless children.  Hopefully someone will feel sorry for you and invite you over for dinner.  This strategy works especially well around the holidays.  Be selective and only look "abandoned" around interesting conversationalists and good cooks.
Hey!  They owe you!  Time to even the score.  Though you may have to settle for what they feed the grandkids:  mac and cheese and watery apply juice. 

Churches offer a plethora of opportunities for free meals.  Consider showing up after a church dinner, wandering into the kitchen and scarfing up the leftovers.

The answer is A LOT!  Especially if you are eating off of someone else's garden.

Gardeners always grow more veggies than they need.  Be bold and ask for those extra zucchini.  Be careful because they might expect you to start weeding their garden.

Go to a farmer's market just before take down.  Do they really want to haul all those unsold vegetables back to the farm?

Why yes, Julia.  Thursday at 7 sounds find.

Accept all those dinner invitations and use the month of December to really bulk up for the lean months of March and April.  Who knows?  You might meet some very interesting people as well.

Prairie "The Rocket" Pa

Prairie Pa and the Art of Change

Our very own guest blogger, Prairie Pa, has been musing about change.   This blog has inspired me to think of ways to change my schedule so it will include more time for creativity.  Read on to find out how it will inspire you into some "binge believing".  -Prairie Eydie


I recently visited a friend in the hospital. Although she was not overweight, she was placed in a bariatric room. The surgery that removes fat is called bariatric surgery (love those medical euphemisms). The bariatric room was a room for giants. The doors were four feet wide and the chair looked like Lilly Tomlin’s. A forklift could easily maneuver in the room. People who have bariatric surgery (or is it a procedure?) will not change their eating habits, even if it means horrific surgery.

Or consider my friend’s son. He started drinking in his early teens and never looked back. He is now in his late 30’s, a raging alcoholic. A doctor told him if he did not stop drinking right now, he will die. I’m sure he would like to stop drinking, but does not. He will die soon

My sister, Lucy, spent years as a RN working in alcohol and drug clinics. She said only about 30% of those who receive treatment were able to break free. One man was at her clinic over 50 times before he was able to stop drinking. FIFTY TIMES!

I believe everyone wants to do well—to live abundant, meaningful lives. Who sets out to obtain a brain the size of a baseball, or ride around Walmart in a motorized cart or spend years in prison?” They’re living nightmare lives, but do not change.

And who am I? For years I have tried to lose 25 pound. Do I change my eating habits? No! My doctor says I am a tub (Well, he didn't exactly use those words.) and the extra weight will make me diabetic and kill my knees. But I have not lost much weight.

Change is difficult, but not impossible. Many people change for the better. It involves discipline and pain. It involves setting and meeting goals. It involves showing up and working.

So how do I end this depressing blog? Well, I am going to pick myself up, (all 220 pounds of me) and change. I am going to lose that 25 pounds. I want to do it! I can do it! Just think how great I will look!

Prairie “The Rocket” Pa

Update from Prairie Eydie:  At Prairie Pa's last doctor's appointment, he was at his lowest weight in years!  Yippee!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Things Not to Say or Ask Someone Who is Selling Their House


1.  Do you have a realtor?  My husband's cousin just started selling real estate.

2.  My house sold in three days and I had five offers to chose from.

3.  Did you ever consider refinancing?

4.  No one will buy a house with old windows.  I always look at the windows first and if they aren't new, forget it!

5.  What are ya asking?  Really?  Isn't that a little high?

This is the St.  Joseph kit I bought when selling a house in Milwaukee.  It took 51 weeks to sell that house.  Granted it was during that huge housing crash, but perhaps I should consider a different model this time?

6.  Did you bury your St. Joseph statue upside down yet?

7.  You better sell it quick cuz I hear the Fed is going to raise interest rates soon.

 8.  Make sure to clean out your closets.  People will be looking in them! 

  9.  I have sure seen a lot of "For Sale" signs up in your neighborhood lately.

10.  I don't know why you're bothering with Open Houses.  They never work.  Just your neighbors will come.

Prairie Eydie

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Art of Deciding to Move During the Holidays Part III

Staging the kitchen was quite involved, but luckily did not include white dish towels.  According to my stager, you want potential home buyers to feel like they will magically become Rachael Ray in your kitchen.  It doesn't matter if they currently only make fish sticks with a side of soupy rice, after viewing your kitchen they must feel empowered to nourish their family with delicious "30 Minute Meals" daily.

This mixer is TOTALLY inappropriate for staging your kitchen.  It has too much color and personality. 
First, there needs to be a Kitchen Aid mixer in the corner.  It is best if the mixer is a neutral color and not hot pink.  I don't own a Kitchen Aid, so I had to borrow one.  Unfortunately I had to return it so its owner could make Christmas cookies.  (Super selfish of her to put supplying loved ones with spritz cookies over helping me sell my house.)  The counter now has a glaring, gaping hole.  I may or may not rustle up the strength to tote the mixer monstrosity back to my counter. 

To the right of the stove, angle a cookbook on a stand.  The cookbook must not feature a human face (like Rachael Ray's face).  Preferably the cover should show muffins or crepes.  This will cause potential buyers to imagine themselves baking fragrant cinnamon apple muffins in your kitchen.  Personally, I think a crepe cookbook would cause anxiety and distraction.  Potential buyers might ruminate on the following crepe questions:  Savory or sweet crepes?  Where will I store my crepe pan?  Where can I buy a crepe pan?  Will I be obligated to host a crepe house warming party? 

Sadly, I did not have an appropriate cookbook and had to borrow one from Prairie Sherry.  Are you noticing a theme? (My cookbooks were either vegetarian or had Jamie Oliver's mug front and center) 

Prairie friends, this is not reality.

Next, the stager and I wrestled the leaves out of the kitchen table.  The leaves were cemented in with years of accumulated apple juice spills and toast crumbs.  After pushing the table back together, it was the size of a café table.  The table can now comfortably seat one thin coffee drinker, unfortunately I have to seat my three growing children at the table.  The diminutive table means more squabbles and more spilled glasses of milk.  We shoved the table in a corner, so the kitchen now seems spacious enough to ballroom dance in.  (In case the buyers want to have a "Bridges of Madison County" dance moment.)

Hey!  I hear Prairie Eydie has a great kitchen to dance in.  Let's book a showing!

The final touch was a large bowl of Granny Smith apples in the exact center of the kitchen table.  I forgot to ask what green apples have to do with selling a house.  Initially I was devoted to using the tart apples and made countless batches of squash and apple bake.  Now I just let them rot and feel bad when I throw them out. 
Before each showing I have to clear off all the counters, leaving only the Kitchen Aid, the angled cookbook, and a Keurig (which I did not have to borrow).  Since putting my house on the market, I no longer bother cooking much of anything.  We are surviving on turkey sandwiches, clementines, and protein bars.  Here is to a quick sale in 2016.

I almost forgot.  No amount of staging  in your kitchen will make potential buyers overlook the lack of stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops.  Buyers are much too saavy to be distracted by a bowl of green apples.

Prairie Eydie

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Art of Deciding to Move During the Holidays (Part II)

Before putting my house on the market, (or "Going Live" as realtors say) I worked with a stager.  It was her job to tell me how to "stage" my house so it would sell quickly.  I am going to pass on what I learned for those buying or selling a house.

Trust me Prairie Friends and just say "NO". 

First, you must do everything possible to make your bathrooms look like they belong in the Hampton Inn.  This involves ripping out functioning medicine cabinets and replacing them with impractical framed mirrors from Kirkland's.  I now store everything that used to be in my medicine cabinet in a plastic tote at the bottom of the linen closet.  I begin and end each day schlepping that tote to and from my bathroom.  The only item that can be on the bathroom counter is a brushed metal soap dispenser.  (I rebelled against buying the soap dispenser and decided to have nothing on the counter.)

Do not let anyone, under any circumstances touch the white towels!

Do NOT think of adding a splash of color with a cheerful bath towel or shower curtain!  You can only have white shower curtains and white towels hanging in the bathrooms because buyers want to feel like they are moving into a spa. 

I guess seeing my children's damp Minion towels doesn't scream, "Serenity Now."After each showing,  I quickly strip the bathrooms of the pristine white towels before my kids can soil them.  I suggest buying a mega pack of white towels at Costco.  

YUCK!  These could almost be dated back to Pioneer times!
I hope you have more taste than I did and don't have those tacky "Hollywood Lights."  You know, the ones with at least two light bulbs burned out at all times?  The ones all covered with a couple years of dust?  If you do have these hideous lights, please junk them (or donate them to someone who doesn't know better). Replace the "Hollywood Lights" with the much more stylish and serene "Tulip Lights."  Oh.  And I hope you saved some of the bathroom paint so you can touch up the newly exposed bathroom wall. 

Ahhhh!  Much better.  Now I can relax!
Okay.  That takes care of staging your bathrooms.  Tomorrow I will explain how to stage your kitchen and coffee table. 

Prairie Eydie

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Art of Deciding to Move During the Holidays

But Prairie Eydie, where will you put your Christmas tree?   And your holiday Barbies?  And your three children?

 I am currently channeling my inner Pa Ingalls and moving the family to some new digs.  Nope.  There is no sod dugout in our future, rather a cozy,1950s ranch. 

Would Pa Ingalls have bothered to stage "The Little House in the Big Woods"?  I think not.  Having an onsite  meat smoker would be impetus for buyers to submit those offers. 

For some unknown reason I didn't think it would be a big deal to sell the house while raising three kids, nurturing two elderly cats (one with a chronic, stinky ear infection), and working full time.  Also unknown is why I thought the holidays were a perfect time to list.   (Well, okay I do know why I chose the holiday season.  I wanted a concrete reason not to decorate every surface with wistful angels, fake snow, and fairy lights.)

Geez.  You'd think I would be able to sniff out those art supplies.
I am no longer naïve about the stresses of selling a house.  Sadly, I have resorted eating Costco pretzel rolls before each showing and open house - which has added the stress of not fitting into my winter coat.  My time is now divided between yelling at the kids to stop mussing up my artfully draped throws and searching for things I hid so the house will look calm and clutter free to potential buyers.  To date I have lost two tubs of Lulu's art supplies (each containing a pricey set of Mr. Sketch scented markers), countless chargers, a bag of addressed Christmas cards, and Blueberry (Lulu's toy gorilla).
Tune in tomorrow for Part II of "The Art of Deciding to Move During the Holidays".  I will be leading you through the art of staging your house. 

Prairie Eydie