- Party Time – Yikes!
By Marni JamesonIt starts innocently. One night you’re sitting by the fire with your significant other drinking eggnog that’s probably too strong when one of you says, “We should have a holiday party.”
The warm feeling grows and pretty soon you’re on the phone; the word is out, and there’s no going back.
Then reality hits: You have to clean the house! I mean clean beyond what any housekeeper can do. (Housekeepers can’t throw away your clutter, magazines, and mail; they just make it straighter.) You look around anticipating the public humiliation. You imagine your guests wrinkling their noses and whispering, “Oh, they’re that kind of family.”
You start to notice everything you’ve been ignoring or stepping over: moldy socks behind the drapes, the dog’s chew toy in the bread box, lice in the light fixture, the refrigerator that smells like cooked cabbage four weeks out, and the carpet stain where one of the dogs chewed up a watermelon-scented marker. Next thing, you’re running around like your hair’s on fire screaming, “Whose idea was this?”
Parties put the pressure on. Yet every holiday season I have at least one. To prepare, I dart through the house like a roller derby queen armed with Pledge, Mr. Clean and a stun gun. My goal isn’t perfection. I gave that up years ago, along with the goals of six-pack abs and a caffeine-free existence. Some efforts aren’t worth the agony.
But I do want my home to look better than usual, usual being a cross between the epicenter of a large earthquake and a frat house.
I start with a big basket and go room to room. I fill it with the flotsam and jetsam of our lives: unpaid bills, chewed gum wads, overdue library books, dull razors, dead flowers, burned out fireworks. When I get to my kids’ rooms, I close the doors and put thick red “biohazard” tape over the doors.
I stand back and try to see my house as someone who has never seen it would. First, I want to know whether there are any more bombs inside. Then I get down to business. It’s party time. I roll up my sleeves and start staging.
Although I have my own kamikaze way, I decide to call a staging pro. Dana Dickey is vice president of Interior Redesign Industry Specialists, a national organization based in Chicago whose members specialize in staging homes for sale and events.
“It’s not that people don’t want to pick up,” she says. “They just stop noticing what other people do.” She’s being kind. Most of us avoid housework like the endodontist.
Beyond a good cleaning, here’s what Dickey says to do to make your house party-ready:
- Clutter bust. Put all toys in one designated playroom, ideally with the kids, a pizza and a babysitter. Cut back your stack of books and magazines to two each, and the newspaper to that day’s. Blast through the mail stack. Put what you can’t throw away or file in a basket in the garage to sort after the party.Â
- Strip the refrigerator of all the kids’ pictures and artwork. Open it and toss anything old, smelly or gross.Â
- Edit your stuff. If you must feature your angel collection, don’t put out all 15, put out three of your prettiest, together. “Staging is all about selective decorating,” says Dickey. “It’s better to start with a clean surface and add a few carefully selected items, than figure out what to remove.”Â
- Get the magazines out of the bathroom. “No one needs to know what you’re reading in there. It conjures up a weird image.” Speaking of weird images, I once went into a bathroom and found a laptop. Detail this space well. Set out clean guest towels. Remove anything embarrassing from the cabinets. People look.Â
- Edit your bulletin boards. Remove appointment cards and prescriptions. No one wants to know when your next colon screening is, or that your husband’s on Viagra and you’re on estrogen.Â
- Hide the laundry room. However, if your guests will be in there, dump all dirty clothes in the washer and close the lid. Put a tablecloth over the washer and dryer to make back-up counter space.Â
- Cut the lights. Switch 60-watt bulbs to 40-watt for softer ambience. Light candles. They hide a lot, including dust in corners and worry lines. Pillars burn longest. Avoid scented candles, which make some people sick.Â
- Do a walk through. Start at the front door. Plan where guests will put coats and purses, where they will head for a drink or food, and where they will go from there. Be sure the experience flows. If a place in your house usually becomes a bottleneck, rearrange furniture to open it. To move guests to another part of the house, put food there.Â
- Point the way. For large parties, place directional signs on easels that point to the coatroom, bar or kitchen. This frees you from being traffic cop.Â
- Or simply think twice before opening your big mother mouth and saying: Party at my place!
Marni Jameson is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo). You can learn more about her and her book – which can be a nice housewarming gift or a tool to show buyers some great ideas for turning a house that isn’t quite right into perfect – at www.marnijameson.com.