You know that odd, overwhelming onslaught of minimalist-envy that bushwhacks us every time we walk through one of those insanely-staged homes for sale? Where everything is completely, utterly and uncluttered-ably set up in picture-perfect fashion? Designed to mimic a life totally unlived? One without a hint of excess baggage stuffed into its closets, stored in its basement, peeking out of its drawers or piled up in its sheet-rocked garage?
The more you wander, the more you wonder whether anyone resides there or not. Whether normal existence can actually be maintained/sustained in such exacting circumstances. Whether a tiny, four-walled eco-system based on so much order can really house the wildly chaotic nature of human beings. Part of you just wants to scream it out. “Where’s all the stuff? Where do they hide the stuff? “
Are there really a few enlightened souls out there who have found a way to move up to the next wrung on the evolutionary ladder of homeownership? Do the rest of us plodders have it all wrong? Is ocd-inspired asceticism really a full time condition we should all aspire to? Is joining a simplicity circle just the first-step in a longer twelve-step program that will lead us towards unfettered freedom from all things otherwise known as “things”?
There you are at the open house, watching yourself approach that beautifully-framed, gold-leafed mirror strategically placed at the end of a long, perfectly lit hallway. Suddenly you find yourself whisked into the wormhole. Feng shui-d through the looking glass. Sucked in and deposited into the blissful, surreal, close-cropped ambiance of a Sunset Magazine Ad. All your zen-most neurons are firing in peaceful sync. Nirvana must be right around the corner in this heaven of a parallel earth.
Nothing is ever out of place in this place. Appearances are set up and automatically kept up. People can sleep without leaving wrinkles in the sheets. Eat without leaving crumbs on the counters. Watch TV without ever etching their silhouettes into the pillows on the couch.
Fingers don’t leave prints in this world. Dirt doesn’t stick. Dust never settles. Spiders don’t weave webs. The lawn stays green without water. Gutters clean themselves. And a cord of wood will burn in the fireplace without ever leaving a trace of ash to clean up.
And you want to buy this house because you want all the exact same stuff in it to be yours – set up in exactly the same way. If you can just transport your own messy life with all its imperfections to this most pristine of environments, every single thing on the planet will change forever. Your future will unfold effortlessly from that wondrous moment on.
Sometimes walking through an expertly-staged home resembles the experience of a drug-induced trip. An altered real estate of mind. Your eyes take it in. Your brain reacts. Chemicals are released. Buyers and nosey neighbors ride off on a wave of hallucination for a while. Why do you think they call it dopamine?
Frequent brushes with the powerful effects of staging are an occupational hazard for Realtors who get dosed with hundreds of these inside-out facades of inner-curb appeal over time. Thankfully, we also see enough of the behind the scenes truth in our business to keep the other side of the story firmly implanted in our minds. The rawness of the before helps provide an antidote for all the cooked-up after-effects.
The magnetic pull of staging is strong because opposites attract. And in reality (as opposed to realty) we are usually very different than the way we photo-shop ourselves or imagine ourselves on display.
Its ironic that good staging usually revolves around removing objects and items from a home first, long before anything new or different is ever put into place. Addition by subtraction lumped under the euphemism of “dealing with clutter.”
Next week we’ll look at the phenomenal success of the Reality TV Franchise “Hoarders” and what our fascination with weekly episodes featuring people going through life and death struggles with their own “stuff” really says about the inner-hoarder that resides in each of us.