Fam­ily mat­ters:

As Pat McDer­mott puts her fourth house on the mar­ket, fond mem­o­ries of houses past come back, in­clud­ing a 40-year-old de­clut­ter­ing dilemma.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - To con­nect with Pat on Face­book, visit www.face­book.com/PatMcDer­mot­tau.

homes past

Ev­ery Thurs­day and Satur­day for six weeks, the MOTH (the Man of the House) and I lived life with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion. We leapt up at 7am, ripped the sheets from our bed and re­placed them with stylish new ones. At pre­cisely 7.17am, we added four plush cush­ions to com­ple­ment the bed­room’s lead­light win­dows and gave the room a spray with air fresh­ener called Eau de “This House

Is For Sale”. By 8am, we were down at the green­gro­cer buy­ing fresh flow­ers. Be­tween

8.30am and 10am, we dusted, “fresh­ened” the bath­rooms, wiped the grand­chil­dren’s fin­ger­prints off the fridge, mopped the kitchen floor and put out the garbage. At 10.30am, we put our el­derly cat (Bud­dha – now sadly de­ceased) into his carry box and took one last look around.

Sat­is­fied that no cush­ion re­mained un-plumped, no kitchen bench un-wiped and no leaf un-swept, we scur­ried away be­fore the house “opened for in­spec­tion”. Our neigh­bour said we looked like cat bur­glars on the run. Then we spent an hour at a café con­tem­plat­ing the dark art of selling houses. The MOTH won­dered if we should have put out a cheese plat­ter and cold beer. “Why stop there?” I thought. “How about a jump­ing cas­tle and lolly bags?”

When the “open” fi­nally closed, we went home. The agent was kind, but frank. Ev­ery­one loved the house, but there are a few is­sues. 1. The house needs work. 2. The floor­boards creak. 3. The stairs are steep. 4. The gar­den is too small for an Olympic pool. We had all the an­swers. 1. If you were 115 years old, you’d need work, too. 2. It’s the ghost of a for­mer owner who didn’t get a fair price. Some­times you can hear him talk­ing to him­self, but you don’t no­tice it over the traf­fic noise. 3. Yes, but we now have great calf mus­cles. 4. It’s also too small for the Taj Ma­hal or the Great Pyra­mid of Giza, but at this price, you can’t have ev­ery­thing.

I don’t un­der­stand the nit-pick­ing of the mod­ern house-hunter. I fell in love with each of our four houses on the spot. Our first house was a tiny ter­race. The best thing about it was that it came with a free dog.

Our next house was a ram­shackle Cal­i­for­nia bun­ga­low that had ev­ery­thing we needed, if you didn’t re­quire light fit­tings, floors and a kitchen. Builders ar­rived at 6am with drills, saws, back­hoes and lunch buck­ets. The MOTH left for work one minute later.

I stood on the foot­path, with two preschool­ers, one baby and Bru­tus the dog, throw­ing things at his car while he drove away.

House #3 was the big one. We needed room for five chil­dren, the dog, the cat and an ev­er­chang­ing as­sort­ment of gold­fish. Twenty years went by in a flash.

Now we’ve sold house #4 and the new owner wants to move in. I’m de­clut­ter­ing, but what do I do with this or­ange vase of stag­ger­ing ug­li­ness? A wedding gift, it’s fol­lowed us from house to house for 40 years. Yet I’m the daugh­ter of a mother who wanted “You Never Know When It Might Come in Handy” en­graved on her tomb­stone. I am ge­net­i­cally pro­grammed to hang on to things.

The MOTH was sip­ping a pleas­ant un-wooded chardon­nay. “What do we do with the or­ange vase this time?” I sighed.

“St Vin­cent de Paul?”

“They said no and put up the ‘closed’ sign – it was 9am!”

“Coun­cil pick-up?”

“They don’t stop when I put it out.”

“Drop it out a win­dow?”

“It’s made from the stuff NASA uses for nose cones.”

Then, in a flash, I knew just what to do. I wrapped the vase in bub­ble wrap, stuck it in a box and slapped frag­ile stick­ers all over it. No re­moval­ist worth his blue sin­glet will be

able to re­sist.

We looked like cat bur­glars on the run.

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