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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Taking Stock And Selling a Family Home

Monday, April 11, 2016

Spring is the time when many people take stock of their surroundings and do some Spring cleaning. It just feels good to declutter, to breath a little fresh air into our surroundings, and to freshen up our spaces. 

Selling a family home needs some special cleaning and organizing in order to present the house to potential buyers as a house to buy, not a home to visit. For us, these last steps in preparing Mother's house to sell are our final steps in saying goodbye to her and our family home. Bit by bit, day by day, her home to visit has become a house to buy.

Getting my late Mother's house ready to sell involved even a deeper, more thorough cleaning than the usual deep Spring cleaning she always did. From baseboards to door trim to ceiling fans, every surface was cleaned. In addition to cleaning, all rooms have been pared down to a minimum number of pieces of furniture, collectibles have been packed away in boxes, and personal family photos on the walls have been distributed to family members. 

The house seems empty. 

Following the realtor's advice the house was stripped of most of its contents. The walls are almost bare, and the kitchen counters are free of the coffee maker, toaster oven, and canisters. The house is devoid of personality, devoid of my mother's personality. Gone are the prints she bought in Hawaii, France, and Napa Valley. The coffee table is clear of its artificial flower arrangement, the oversized book of Africa, and the family history book that traces our family to its humble roots in Europe.  

Taking stock of Mother's house arranged following the realtor's advice, the rooms do seem bigger and brighter. Yet, the rooms seem to echo without Mother's presence, both physically and decoratively. 

The potential buyers who have visited the house seem very pleased with the house fitting their wish lists. Their wish lists include walking distance to the elementary school, handicapped accessible bathrooms and door sizes, and landscaping filled with azaleas, hydrangeas, dogwood trees, pear trees, pecan trees, peonies, snowball bushes, and a plot for a vegetable garden. 

Without personal decorations inside, the buyers can see the house as THEIR home. But, the outside still has Mother's personality which the potential buyers appreciate and are attracted to. The curb appeal reflects how Mother joyfully worked with her flowers right up until the day before she died. 

Potential buyers as well as us, love the hydrangea plants that Mother diligently covered during late freezes over the years. The pecan trees bearing nuts are a big draw just like they were for Mother who gathered, cracked, and shelled pecans every year for adding to brownies, cakes, salads, and Christmas stockings. 

The small backyard vegetable garden plot is plowed this Spring even though Mother will not be planting it. My sister will plant seeds and starter plants within the next couple of weeks. If the house doesn't sell over the summer, we will enjoy the harvest. If the house sells, the new owners will enjoy the harvest. Either way, Mother would be pleased. 

There is one room in the house that does not seem empty. The sunporch filled with its plants, gardening supplies, butcher block cart, and wicker furniture still has Mother's presence. 

On the butcher block cart are bundles of fresh lavender and peach stock flowers waiting to be arranged in vases for a little touch of Mother in the house as it shown to potential new owners. 

Back home in my own house, I have been taking stock and doing some Spring cleaning of sorts by decluttering and organizing electronic files. In my computer cleaning frenzy, I deleted over 8000 old emails. 

Then the next day discovered, UH-OH... I deleted some, well, a lot,... that is, MOST, of my gmail emails accidentally. I had only five gmail emails that survived the frenzy. The good news is I have lots of space on my computer and on my gmail email account. The bad news is I lost some emails that I planned to respond to. So, this Spring I really do have a clean slate and fresh start...with emails. Try writing me again, and I promise not to delete it... unless it's spam. 

~~~~ ❦ ~~~~ 
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  1. Good morning Judith.... It sounds like it is a very emotional time for you. I'm sure seeing your Mom's house empty and decluttered is hard for you to see. I hope it sells quickly. Have a good week!

  2. You have a wonderful attitude about a difficult task. Your photos are beautiful and I'm sure your mom's house is too.

  3. We're doing some landscaping right now. It sure is exciting to get rid of some old shrubs and decide what to plant. Enjoy your week!

  4. Your mother's home, your family home, sounds beautiful. Not only from the gardens, and things your mother had in her home, but from the heart she had to create a beautiful home. What a gift she gave to you!

  5. Selling your family home must be difficult. Each home we have sold, we went through the same process of what I call "depersonalizing". My dad's home was almost empty when it was sold. We had taken our favorite things and sold the rest of the furnishings, etc. I had never lived in that particular home, so I'm sure it was easier than it would have been if I had grown up there. So sorry about the lost e-mails! I think we have all done similar things!

  6. We did that last year with Bill's mom's house. What a process both physically and emotionally. So sorry about the emails. You inspired me to go through my inbox and reply to some.
    Have a good day. I can't wait for lunch.

  7. My sister could just not cope with packing up our family home. Rather than deal with it, she bought me out of the house. I was fine with that because she lives in the same town as the house, but I do not. My nephew lives there and he is gradually changing the house to fit his needs.

    Good luck with this step in your life.

  8. Good Morning Judith,
    This was a lovely tribute to your Mother and the family home that your Mother created. Preparing a home to sell after the death of our parents is such a mix of emotions. I am thankful that you had other siblings to go through this journey with. You mentioned that she worked in her lovely flower gardens the day before she passed. My Mother did nearly the same, only she was driving into town. This still comforts me.

  9. Judith, I am visiting from Jemma's 'Thoughts of Home Thursday.' I am sorry for the loss of your darling mother. In reading this post, I got the sense of a lovely lady who took price in her home. I hope your cherished memories of your mother and your childhood home continue to bring you comfort. Joan-My Cookie Clinic

  10. I know this isn't an easy thing that you and your sister are doing. You have such a sweet mindset about it. The flowers are a wonderful way to remember someone you loved so much.

    Pinned. #TOHOT

  11. What a tough thing to do. I'm so glad you have someone to help you. Going thing this alone would be rather difficult. I'll be thinking of you. Thanks for stopping by the Inspiration Thursday link party last night!

  12. Just sending you a hug. We had that job to do a few years ago, it's a tough one.
    Your flowers are lovely!
    Blessings to you,

  13. I've been through this myself. I know what you mean when the house sounds empty of our loved ones. It just sounds sad. You have brought the essence of your mother back to your own home, and that is the nice thing to focus on. I do hope the house sells quickly so that you can move on to happy days again.

  14. Judith, I am doing the same thing.
    My father passed away last fall, and I have been readying his house for sale.
    It is exhausting emotionally and physically.
    We are turning it over to an estate sale service next Monday.
    I am currently going through every item in the house to save things for our 3 adult daughters and me.

    The house was not maintained well because my father had lived in it for 20 years following my mother's death She was only 64.
    He died at 89.

    My questions are these:

    Are you selling your mother's house as is?
    Did you do anything to it to increase its value?

    My brother and I are having a hard time figuring out what to do.
    Quite frankly, we are concerned about investing too much into the house that we will not recoup.

    I am so sorry for the long comment-
    I am so sad- as you are.

    I cry every time I work there (it is right down the street).

    Thank you for letting me go on and on.


    1. Laura,
      Please accept my condolences on your loss. Mother had taken good care of her house so there were only minor repairs needed. However, she had not updated wallpaper or appliances. We are selling it as is because whatever updates we might have made probably would not be the choices of the new owners.

      I hope you find a buyer soon so that you and your brother can have some physical relief from caring for the property.


  15. Such a hard time. My condolences.
    It is so beautiful, her garden, her spirit, is something people still gravitate to and appreciate.
    And you are doing a great job.

  16. Judith, I know this is a hard time for you. After my mother-in-law's passing we had to get the house ready too. She lived 2 doors down from us. The new owners are moving in now. Reading about what you have done, your mother would have been pleased. It sounds like a wonderful house full of great family memories.
    Thinking of you and sending hugs,


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