me standing in front of my emptied living room windows with curtains removed and rug rolled up

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Hooo, boy — in terms of bombshells, this one feels even bigger than announcing Ellis was on the way. But, friends, the time has come to say goodbye to my first home. I’m selling (ahem, HAVE SOLD!!!) the house. Deciding to sell, then actually selling happened so fast. In fact, it happened so fast that I didn’t even really give it much thought to prepare “house selling tips” posts and all of that ahead of time. I assumed there would be time in waiting for the house to sell. Ha… nope.

me sitting on our rolled up living room rug after moving out all of my things and reflecting on big changes

So, I’ve got a VERY long post for you today to rehash these last few months of big news and explain. I literally stopped mid-sentence in that first paragraph and then added “Part 1” to the post title because I’m betting I’m going to want to cover SO MUCH that we’ll all need a coffee break and a nap and then a glass of wine before it’s over. Don’t worry, though — I won’t leave you hanging and I’ll write it all down before I hit publish (so you’ll have part 2 waiting for you and all the listing photos and juicy details if you need to continue reading to the end). Since this kind of posting is more personal news and less about tutorial writing, I’m just going to brain dump all over this blog today. So let’s get started, shall we?!?! So many questions to answer:

  • How I feel about it all
  • Why didn’t we share the news in real time?
  • How did we decide to sell? When?
  • What projects happened to the house that haven’t been posted yet? (no one is asking this but it’s definitely real and part of my planning process that I need to address for my own satisfaction)
  • Listing photos!
  • Selling the house recap?
  • Where are we living now? (ooh this part is fun! Breathe, Sarah, breathe.)
  • Where will we be moving?
  • What will happen with projects and the blog and future DIY posts? (spoiler: this is NOT some long announcement where it ends with the end of the blog, I promise! I am less than 3 feet away from a wet paint brush as we speak.)

Feelings Check-In

As for how I am internally on the subject, there’s a feeling of bittersweet and yet overwhelming excitement of what’s to come. There’s just so much *gestures wildly around*. If I wrote down each emotion on a post-it note as it passed through me in these last couple months — deciding to list, preparing to list, actually listing, selling, and moving — that stack would reach the moon and back. Best guesstimate.

My first house is the house that I’ve written over a thousand posts about and literally created this entire blog around (maybe two thousand posts actually? not including drafts!). It’s the house that began my DIY journey and tumbled me (ever so awkwardly) into what I will easily call a dream job. It’s the house where Charlie and I started our family and where she lived all of her life. The house my Granny actually set foot in. The house we brought Ellis home to. The one I’ve torn apart and put back together again and still have permanent mental space reserved for the ongoing “to do list”. It’s all changing. Has changed. Present tense becomes past tense and a new adventure begins. This summer and fall have been totally nuts. I have had trouble sleeping, shed tears, eaten way too much but somehow lost weight, etc. etc. But from where I’m sitting now, it was so very, very worth it.

Many of you may or may not remember me nicknaming my home the “Goldilocks House” because mentally, it was more often just “the house” both in mind and as I’ve tumbled these thoughts onto my keyboard. Because when you remodel your home, you don’t constantly call it by a formal name, right? But now “the house” is no longer addressed as simply. I knew that someday I might have to refer to it as something else once “the house” referred to a new home. The whole children’s story theme was sitting right there (ahem, Ugly Duckling House…) so, I gave it an official title of “Goldilocks”. The name felt like a perfect fit for the home that inspired projects that took at least 3 tries before it was “just right.” Not a single room is untouched, and multiple renovations happened to multiple rooms as our needs changed from a single gal to family of three.

Why I Chose Not to Share Until After We Sold

I have lots of listing photos and preparing-for-the-listing photos as part of the story (scroll to skip down to those!), but first, I wanted to address a question people might ask (right after WHAT?!?!): WHY didn’t I say anything until after the house sold???

The short answer is: I didn’t want to jinx it. And when it comes to real estate, nothing is certain until everyone runs out of ink at the closing table. The far longer answer is: does anyone remember that time when I thought I was moving for a new job, announced the news excitedly on the blog, AND THEN DIDN’T MOVE? Those of you who were around back then might be chuckling to themselves right now, but from my perspective, that was a pretty cringe moment in time that I deeply regretted (lesson learned though!). Given that I’ve been archiving my life for more than a decade online, sometimes the best of intentions with super-fun announcements can bite you right in the ass and make you reluctant to ever share premature news again.

(A small recap of moving-then-not-moving)

For those that don’t know the story, in 2013/2014, I was finishing up grad school and working in software. Imagine an office with a cubicle-yet-open-concept floor plan, so I had the stereotypical daily grind of being annoyed at other adults with coffee breath and for not knowing when to get off speakerphone (answer: always. You always get off speakerphone when working on a floor with 50+ other people also on phone calls and no one has walls that go to the ceiling.) I was several years into my blogging journey and seeing some small successes with sponsors on the site and, in hindsight, on the cusp of being able to give it a real shot solo. But because of grad school, I stuck it out with the job until graduation. Working full-time, going to a full-time school program, and having a side hustle was exhausting! And stressful enough without complicating it by job seeking or plunging myself into self-employment. To my surprise, a freelance writing gig I’d been doing for a few months turned into a legitimate full-time offer with a salary, and I accepted. Part of the offer, though, was that they wanted me to sell the house and move to be closer to their headquarters (about two hours away in another state). The thought of working at a job that A) I might actually enjoy and B) would allow me to buy another fixer upper seemed like a win-win. And they were willing to pay my relocating expenses. All I would have to do is finish up my existing house projects over a few short months and sell. I quit my job and started working for the startup from home, commuting two hours once or twice per week to make things work in the interim. But as time went on, the startup started pulling focus from what they’d hired me for and putting more resources on other offerings. Not at all unusual for new businesses to experiment, but I felt less fulfilled. They also started having payroll issues (not getting paid on time is a big problem!), and I realized: my new job was no more secure than working for myself. The risk felt big either way, so what was I afraid of, really? By myself, I could take control of more. And even though I could find a new house, the traveling back and forth revealed their headquarters (and surrounding area) was a place I did NOT want to live. So, I made the choice to stay exactly where I was and started picking up more freelance work. I had some savings put aside just in case, but within a few months of dedicated time to focus on my blog, I was making enough to pay the mortgage and my new grad school loan debt. Nothing flashy, but getting by. Which was actually… pretty exciting and empowering? Sourly, the giant whoosh noise from my blog of making a big announcement and then not fulfilling it still echoed. I felt like I’d quietly achieved what I really wanted, but I’d completely bungled the lead-up.

Fast-forward to now: met Kyle, had a baby, still living in the same house. Lots more projects and experience under my belt, and quite happily DIYing. I still had plenty of project ideas in the house, but the unexpected happened: we had an “aha” moment on vacation.

Deciding to sell

Back in April, some family members of ours consulted a realtor about the value of their home. Curious, I casually enquired about mine and figured we might be interested someday (but definitely not immediately, pffft). I’d put so much time and effort into improving the house and was pleasantly surprised to hear what they thought of the work I’d put in! Then in June, we went out of state to housesit for other family members for a week, came home, and less than a week later went to the beach for another week with more family.

Kyle and Ellis in the pool at the beach

Having that much time away from the house — back to back — gave us a chance to get out of our routine for the first time in a long while. I’m sure parents in baby- and toddlerhood can probably relate… but we were in a RUT and didn’t even realize it. I was preparing to launch my cross stitch website, but the change of scenery was mind-altering. One night after dinner, Kyle and I took yet another evening stroll on the beach and suddenly landed on the same thought: this is what we want to do “someday” when we have more freedom/time/money/etc… but we both work from home and have flexible schedules… so why the hell weren’t we trying to make this our new normal?

When we got home, it was like seeing the house with new eyes. Whatever form of mental tether that I’d had all these years — even earlier that month — was no longer present. I was READY to find a new house and all the new adventures it would bring with it. I may have just finished painting the dining room to become my new office, but I could do that again somewhere else. I could leave. Other than the work it would take to sell, I didn’t feel compelled to finish anything else to feel like I’d done enough. I could even part with my scrap wood pile if it meant getting us that much closer to the coast. And you KNOW how much I love scrap wood.

standing in my garage after moving all of my belongings out of my first home

I made a phone call to the realtor to say we were interested in moving up our timetable. Within days, she set up a meeting with a house stager that did a walkthrough and gave me a list of everything she thought I should finish or change to get a good sale price. It was a lot, especially because I was still mentally catching up with my gut telling me to list the house. Overall, her suggestions were both welcome and surprising. Her primary advice was that since I’d done so much to personalize and update the house, there were a few rooms she thought would be better to re-un-personalize (essentially, remove color). Just to give you an idea of what that kind of advice looks like, here are some of her ideas:

House Stager Tips for Selling a House

  • Declutter, declutter, declutter! You don’t need a totally blank slate devoid of decor and furniture, but you DO need each space to feel as big and open as possible so buyers can imagine themselves in each room with their own furniture and belongings.
  • Whatever you haven’t finished painting yet, paint it a neutral color (you don’t have to go with white, but light and bright looks clean).
  • We had a ceiling patch from a water leak that had since been repaired, but the water stain remained, so she recommended painting over it to not look like the ceiling still had a leak (an immediate buyer turn-off, obvi).
  • Remove personal/family photos to allow a potential buyer to envision themselves in the space.
  • Nix too many toys out in the open; keep them all in a cute storage tote or basket (hard to do with a toddler!)
  • Remove baby gates and bumpers at least for listing photos and the open house (you don’t have to remove them with each showing).
  • Houseplants = good… but houseplants that don’t look lush and healthy (I had a few where leaves had dropped) = remove
  • Streamline “multi-purpose” rooms to have less furniture (the idea basically is to compose each room just enough so that buyers have a starting point to envision the use of the room, but not so much going on that there isn’t room for their own ideas)
  • Remove kitchen counter appliances and decor (bare counters are better)
  • Remove shelving from the hallway (makes it look more open)
  • Bathrooms: tuck everyday use items under the sink and replace shower curtain liners (the ones we had lost their shine from use and cleaning, but new looks… well, new!)
  • Bedrooms: attempt to make beds look like they belong in a department store — at least four sleeping pillows, then fold back the comforter and sheet a third of the bed length
  • Open blinds and curtains for photos and viewings

Getting the House Ready + Listing Photos

Armed with the stager’s advice, I began a multi-week sprint to get the house ready. To save myself some time, the realtor also hooked us up with a handyman who could get a few of my most-likely-to-procrastinate tasks accomplished, such as replicating the stippling pattern on a ceiling repair, re-anchoring the staircase railing, and patching some drywall in the closet.

It’s hard to hire things out when I know I can do them myself, but my to-do list was already FULL. I painted so. many. things. in those few weeks! I turned the new office back into the dining room, painted the guest room built-ins (originally I was going to go with a rich green that I LOVED but the stager advised neutral, so I gave in and used a light gray), freshened up lots of trim, etc. etc.

It was a flurry of activity. And so difficult to keep our plans off of social media, because I was busy DIYing as usual but careful not to share anything that would drop too many hints (I figured that sharing me painting things I had just painted would be a pretty big tipoff that something different was going on!). But before we knew it, the professional photographer the realtor hired was knocking on our door and ready to take photos.

Quite frankly, I am amazed at the results. I knew I’d worked hard on my home over the last decade… but I had never seen it through someone else’s eyes like this. And I hope you’ll join me in this little moment of achievement because y’all… I DID THIS:

I still have vivid memories of the original listing photos I saw when I first bought the house. And to see it come full circle like this with new listing photos after all that work leaves me with an enormous sense of pride.

I made a video of the house that day, unsure if I would still have the energy to take more video when we finally moved out (I figured there might be boxes and clutter everywhere as we organized, so taking video of your home the day it’s ready for photos is the ideal time). It turned out that I was exactly right because everything after the staging photos was when the stress meter dialed up to 11.

Our Open House (continued in Part 2!)

Up next after looking through all the photos, coordinating with the realtor on schedules, and getting all the little details ready, it was time to actually start showing the house to potential buyers. Which meant an open house… GULP! And now that we’re nearly 3,000 words deep on this post, I think it’s good to break here and continue in Part 2!

Friends, I can’t thank you enough for already sticking with me through my enormous recap and reading thus far. There’s more to this story, but now is a good time to go get some coffee, take a bathroom break, do a little more work so your boss doesn’t think you’re just reading blogs all day😉… And as soon as you’re ready, you can continue with the next part right here, starting with an unexpected twist before the open house could begin!

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