Judy isn't the first person to create her perfect home just in time to sell it. Something about staging a space for sale—it could be simple avarice, or that we can't motivate ourselves without a goal—makes us capable of decorating much more effectively for prospective buyers than for ourselves.
It's like dressing your child for a school recital: You adore your beloved no matter how unkempt the kid is but do everything you can to make her look her best when someone else is about to inspect her.
Watching Judy weep, I wondered how homeowners could tap sellers' instincts while living in a place rather than when leaving it. Using a highly unscientific survey of friends, acquaintances, real-estate agents and the occasional bewildered stranger, I investigated the reasons we don't decorate for self the way we decorate for sale and came up with ideas you can use to instigate your own "sales spiff-up"—long before you plan to sell your home.
Reasons We Don't Spiff Up for Ourselves
- Chez Moi, C'est Moi. We think of our homes as extensions of ourselves and tend to value ourselves less than we would a potential buyer. For example, you may fail to indulge yourself with the touches of comfort (fresh flowers, extra pillows) you'd provide for a guest, or you might tolerate more clutter than you'd impose on a visitor. Any neurosis we have about our own value, or lack thereof, affects our homes. Unless we're willing to lavish good things on ourselves, we leave them out of the spaces we inhabit.
- The Parent Trap We often unthinkingly reproduce the spaces where we grew up and create homes just like mom and dad's. I know a self-made millionaire who resisted buying a dryer for what seemed an absurd length of time. When she finally got one, her blue-collar parents immediately voiced their disdain. "Well," sniffed her mother, "I guess you think you're all high-society now." No wonder my friend still doesn't have cable.
- Object Limbo The busier we are, the more our possessions tend to be in limbo—out in the open and ready for action. Objects left in place "until I get to them" can become permanent fixtures: the stack of catalogs here, the stepladder there, the exercise equipment in between. If something sits in your space for more than a day, it deserves a place of its own.
- Blind Spots Because we already see them complete in our mind's eye, we become blind to unfinished areas in our home that we intend to fix someday. Only when we imagine what those spots will look like to a buyer do we notice what isn't there now.