When Do You Need This Done?

Mark and I have been purging our house of all the accumulated stuff that you have when you live in a house over 25 or so years. Have you noticed that more stuff comes in and less stuff goes out?

happyI’ve already said I’m not a keeper. I am delighted in my ability to throw things away, give things away, donate things, and recycle things. I’m positively gleeful at the amount of stuff that is leaving our house.

We knew we needed to purge before we moved. We knew we needed to purge before we put the house on the market. We had no idea how much we had to do, until we met with the real estate broker.

We met with Bob, the real estate broker, back in February. He said, “No blankets on the couch. Nothing on the counters, even in the kitchen. Nothing on the desk. Nothing on the dining room table. Nothing in the front hall. No shoes anywhere.”

I was allowed to leave my office in the regular state that it is in. (Thank goodness!) But the rest of the house? We could leave the televisions on the surfaces. We could leave the olive oil, napkins and that was about it on the counter in the kitchen. I am serious. No mixer. No newspapers. No wooden spoons and plastic mixing utensils.

We had our interim milestones:

  • Be ready to put the house on the market
  • Be ready to move

Note that these are two different milestones. We needed to accomplish different things for each milestone.

For the open house, we need to purge enough and organize enough to make the house attractive. What does that mean? Everything is organized and cleaned up. Our kitchen looked like this once, the day we moved in.

Our closets? Everything is lined up by color. Short sleeved shirts are segregated, not mixed with long sleeved shirts. By color. Our shoes are lined up. Little soldiers, all.

Mark and I joked that “people didn’t live in this house.”

But, we wanted to sell this house—fast. So, we purged, organized, and as the showing date got closer, we put things away. We put more things away. We arranged the house, so that by last Thursday, when the house went on the market, there was no extra stuff on any surface. Nothing.

I sent pictures to our daughters, who did not believe me when I told them. It’s not that they thought we were lying. They just didn’t think we had it in us.

We spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday making sure there was nothing on any surface. You try living that way. It’s painful!

Our work paid off. Boston is having a housing boom. We sold the house in one weekend. We have stuff back on the counters. We are very happy and much more relaxed.

We worked down to the deadline. We paced ourselves. “When do we need this done?” was a great question.

It’s the same question you should ask. I bet you have a crisis happening right now, if not more than one. How do you know what to do first? You can’t run around like a headless chicken.

Well, you can, but it’s not very comfortable. Your better bet is to pace yourself and ask, “When do you need this done?” or “When do you need this by?” Either of those questions, or something like them will work. Then you can decide what to do first, second, or never.

Mark and I knew we had to eliminate the big stuff first. We went through closets and eliminated clothes we didn’t need, old bicycles nobody used, stuff we could give away and recycle.  We got to the small stuff the weekend before the open house. The very last things, such as moving the cords that we use to charge our iPads into drawers in the kitchen so people wouldn’t see them during an open house.

Now, we are still purging, because we need to move. We don’t want to move stuff we don’t want to keep.

It’s the same idea with your crisis or crises. Can you eliminate some of the big things first, and move to the smaller things later? Maybe, maybe not. It’s worth asking.

So, that’s the question of the week this week. Before you jump into crisis mode, ask. “When do you this done?” Your date might be later than you think.

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