shoes on shelves

Perfect Ten

shoes on shelves

Since the house has been on the market (Yes, it’s another one of those “I’m selling my house, and I’m going to talk about it forever” posts. Sorry.) we’ve had three sets of potential buyers come to take a look at it.

Now, this was a part of the process I’d been absolutely dreading. I HATED the thought of having to follow The Others around my house, listening to them list all of the things they hate about it, and repeatedly answering the question “But what do you DO with all the SHOOZ?” (Note to self: remember to make up smart comeback to this, so you don’t keep on having to go, “Er, I wear them? On my feet? Am I doing it wrong?”), so I was really pleased when our estate agent told us we didn’t need to be there when they show people around. This works for me: I don’t have to deal with the awkwardness (I have the ability to make even normal situations awkward, so I really hate to think how badly I could screw up a situation that is inherently awkward anyway…), and the prospective buyers don’t have to pretend they’re going to buy our house, just out of politeness. (Which is what I tend to do when I look at houses and the people are in them at the time. If Terry wasn’t there to stop me, I’d probably make an offer on the spot, and end up buying a house I absolutely hated, just because I couldn’t think of a polite way to end the conversation.)

There’s a good side and a bad side to this, though…

The good side is that we get totally honest feedback from the viewers, who are much more willing to tell the estate agent what they don’t like about the house than they presumably would be to say it to our smiling, hopeful faces. This means we know what we have to work on, and what kind of improvements we can make before the next person arrives.

The bad side of this, though, is that…. we get totally honest feedback from the viewers. Who are WAY HARSH people, seriously.

And, OK, so far it hasn’t been TOO bad. In fact, Terry would argue that it hasn’t been bad at all, and that’s because Terry has the ability to listen to the feedback and say, “OK, fair enough, that’s something for us to work on.” I, on the other hand, listen to the feedback, toss my hair, and say, “WELL I DIDN’T WANT TO SELL IT TO THEM ANYWAY, SO THERE!” And then I walk around going, “Even if they offer us a million pounds for it, I’m still saying no: THAT’LL show them!”

I don’t deal well with the feedback, then, is what I’m saying. And yes, I know that’s a big bag of ridiculous, because the fact is, I don’t like our house either. That’s, you know, why we’re moving. (WE ARE NEVER MOVING WE WILL HAVE TO STAY HERE FOREVER.) And many of the things that the viewers have criticised have been things that I’VE criticised myself, many times. They are things that we KNOW are less than ideal, and they’re also things that we’d probably point out if we were viewing the house, too, but I guess it’s one of those situations where it’s like, “I’m allowed to diss my house, but if you do it I will curse you, and generations of your family, and we will be mortal enemies for ever more.” You know? (You totally DON’T know, do you? Because you are normal. Lucky.)

As part of the process, The Others are given a questionnaire to fill out, and they have to rank a number of different things (It ranges from “room size” to “parking” to “neighbouring properties”, etc etc) from 1 – 10, with 10 being the Paris Ritz and 1 being a cardboard box under a bridge, which smells a bit like pee. We’ve been mostly getting 8s, with a few 9s. Which is great! Except we’ve also had a couple of  6s and 7s, and one person gave us a 4 for “neighbouring properties”, which made me want to go out and rally the neighbours into a small private army to TAKE THAT PERSON DOWN.

The four I can take, albeit grudgingly, because the fact is, we don’t have any control over what the neighbouring properties look like. Well, other than that Terry went and stole moved some rubbish from the garden behind ours because the agent told us it seemed to be the main reason for the four. (Which I obviously think of as THE FOUR.) He also tidied up the side of Nigel’s house, which was still empty at the time, and yeah, REGRET THAT NOW. (Also regret all the times we have mown Nigel’s lawn and picked litter from the front of his house, just out the kindness of our hearts, and OK, also because there goes the neighbourhood otherwise. And this is how he repays us!) But. We’ve also been getting 8s for “cleanliness”, which, sorry, WHUT? OK, 8 is a reasonably high number, but one thing you need to know about me is that I am a perfectionist, in a half-assed kinda way, and where you see ‘eight’, I see “NOT TEN”. Every time people have come to see the house I’ve spent HOURS (I’m honestly not exaggerating here: literally HOURS) cleaning our already-fairly-clean house, so each time I’ve looked at these feedback forms and seen the 8 for cleanliness, all I can think is WHY DID I NOT GET A TEN? I deserve a 10, dammit. My house COULD NOT BE CLEANER. It is not just “clean”, it is ALL CAPS CLEAN.

The thing is, though, I’m telling you this story, and you’re sitting there nodding dutifully and thinking, “If Amber says her house was clean, then Amber’s house was totes clean!”, right? RIGHT? When I told my mum, and also Terry’s mum, this story, however, they did not do that. Instead they both nodded doubtfully, but in their eyes I could clearly read the message, “Clean? Bitch, puleeze. I’LL show you clean, missy!”

(Aside: why are mothers just so much BETTER at this stuff? Is it something that magically happens to them when they give birth? Like, they get a baby, and they also get The Knowledge of how to expertly clean a house, using just a sheet of newspaper and a block of carbolic soap or something?)

“Well,” said Terry’s mum encouragingly, “It’s hard to keep a house clean when you have a dog.” (Pause while we all stopped to look accusingly at Rubin, who had tried to dig a hole in the woods on his walk that morning, and was still wearing most of the dirt from said hole on his fur.) “People will understand that!”

But here’s the thing: I didn’t understand that. Because, seriously folks, I had scrubbed that house to death. If it was human, it would have bled. Terry had helped me. My parents had even come round and helped. We had cleaned and dusted and fabric-sprayed and disinfected and washed and opened windows and switched on the air-freshener and washed Rubin’s bed and toys and Rubin himself, and we were sure – SURE – that there was no smell of dog. Or of anything, actually, other than that air-freshener, and the fresh flowers we had dutifully placed on display. And, I mean, I should probably point out here that we do these things anyway: Rubin is a hypo-allergenic dog, so he doesn’t cast hair, or have a very “doggy” smell, unless he’s been digging, but we have a couple of friends with bad allergies, and their allergies can be triggered even by dogs like Rubin, so we do our best to keep the house as dog-free as we can. We actually asked one of those friends for an honest opinion, and she told us she has never detected the scent of dog in our house, so we thought we were doing OK.

But 8 out of 10 for cleanliness! And then, the second set of viewers? Gave us a seven. A FREAKING SEVEN. It was just not to be tolerated. I may not be good at gardening, (or, apparently, cleaning) but I AM good at worrying about things, and developing obsessions, so ever since that seven – SEVEN! –  I have been obsessively cleaning the house, and when I’m not cleaning the house I’m worrying about whether the house is clean enough, and if we’re maybe Those People whose house smells a bit, but no one wants to be the one to tell them, and hey, I’ve had an idea, why don’t we check into a hotel until the house is sold, and that way we can make sure it is totally, 100% clean at all times?

Everyone told me I was over-reacting to all of this. Secretly, I knew they were right. I had never had the experience of actually being GRADED on the cleanliness of my home, though, so this was all new to me, and so, for the third set of viewers, we decided to pull out all the stops. The appointment had been arranged for the Monday after our stay at Dunkeld House. I may be mad, but I’m not quite mad enough to give up a weekend away in order to stay at home coming the lawn with a toothbrush, so we had to maximise the time we had. On Saturday morning then, two of our friends came round and helped Terry to quickly re-model the front garden. When they left – and also when we’d left for our trip – they were replaced by my parents, who cleaned the ground floor of the house in the way that only parents can, and who also did a bit of weeding at the back. On Monday morning, we got up early: Terry headed out to do yet more work on the garden, and I started another deep-clean of the house, which by this point was so clean it actually hurt to look at it.

And after all that?

The prospective buyer cancelled the appointment.

Yup, she said she’d thought about it over the weekend, and she’d decided the house “just wasn’t for her”. GAH.

We were disappointed, obviously, but we asked the agent to try to get some feedback from her anyway, and you know what it was that put her off?

It was my shoe shelves.


We were just a little bit surprised by this. Out of all the things we’d talked about that might put people off the house -and trust me, there are plenty of them – that was the one thing that honestly didn’t ever cross our minds. And sure, I get it: not everyone likes/needs/wants shelves in a room. But the thing is… they’re just shelves, you know? I obviously use them for shoes, which I understand is super-weird to most people, but you CAN actually use them for other things, too: books, movies, DVDs, voodoo dolls of Nigel, the International Man of Mystery Next Door, whatever. You could use them for anything, really. Or – and here’s a thought – you could NOT use them at all, and just take them down. Because they’re shelves. Which can easily be removed. It’s not like having to remodel a kitchen or bathroom, or even like having to replace flooring, or wallpaper. Because they’re JUST SHELVES. It would take maybe a couple of hours to take them down and re-paint the wall, and after that, it would be like they’d never existed.

But this Other didn’t like the shelves, and for her, they were a deal-breaker. Our agent let her know that we would be happy to take the shelves down ourselves if they were an issue for her (Because, again, it’s not a big job), but it seems she just couldn’t get past the idea of them, so that was that.

After that, I stopped stressing so much about everything. I’m still keeping the house clean, and refusing to let anyone touch the towels in the bathroom ever, on pain of death, but as for that perfect ten I’m after? I’ve realised I’m never going to get it. I actually don’t think it exists, because when you’re buying someone else’s home there will always be SOMETHING that’s not quite to your taste, and which you’ll want to change. None of the houses we’ve looked at ourselves have been perfect tens, after all – not even close. That doesn’t stop us liking them, and it won’t stop us eventually buying one of them – we knew when we started this search that, given our limited budget, we wouldn’t be able to buy a dream house, that was perfect down to the last detail – but people like Our Lady of the Shoe Shelves seem to have different expectations, and I just have to accept that no matter how hard I try to make everything perfect, there will always be something that will turn some people off. It’s just like they say: you can please some of the people, some of the time…

… and the rest are The Others, and I didn’t want to sell my house to them anyway.

So there.

*tosses hair, flounces off into sunset *

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  • First – no you don’t become better at cleaning as soon as you become a mother. It gets worse, much worse, before it gets anywhere near to the level it was pre-baby (well it did for me – everyone keeps telling me that Elodie won’t remember whether the TV was dusty or the floor vacuumed when they ask her about growing up. True, she is only 19 months after all). I’m hoping cleaning will be something I feel enthusiasm for in a few years time but right now – it takes a back seat. As long as we have clean clothes, food and stuff to eat off the dusty TV can take a hike!

    Second – if I viewed a home with shoe shelves I would bite your hand off to live there. I can’t tell you how long I sat studying your picture marvelling at your collection. It’s a thing of beauty. Maybe The Other was a handbag girl 😉

    April 29, 2013
  • Well, she’s obviously an idiot! Who wouldn’t have liked to have a wall of shoes in their house? I know I’d love to have one! I have a few shelves in my brother’s old room, but it’s not the same! And as you said they’re just shelves, she could have used them for anything else, or take them down. I’m sure this was just an excuse. And it was impolite to cancel at the last minute after all the work you had done.
    I’m sure your house is really clean, even with Rubin around, but it’s true that it can’t be a perfect ten for someone, because they’ll always want to change something to make it closer to their taste.
    I hope you find your perfect house to move in, and that your house will get sold at the right time to place an offer for your dream house! 🙂

    April 29, 2013
  • “If it was human, it would have bled” I love that line! Amber, you are hilarious!

    April 29, 2013
  • Wow. I have *never* heard of anyone not even viewing a house because of some shelves. A hot pink colour scheme or fake beams on the ceilings maybe, but shelves? Maybe she accidentally bought a house she hated out of awkward politeness over the weekend and just felt too embarrassed to tell the agent… 😉

    April 29, 2013
  • The wall of shoes would be incentive for me to buy, even though I am much taller than you and no doubt your feet are much smaller. Rationally I would know you would pack the shoes first and every one would be accounted for, secretly I would hope you’d accidentally leave a pair behind. (Hopefully from the top row, 4th from the right, but any would be fine.) Even if you didn’t, I could point out to my husband the shelves are purpose built for shoes so I would need to fill them. I might try to slip a pair into the house contract. We’ve looked at houses where they apparently haven’t cleaned in at least a decade, and can’t be bothered to move their junk out of the frame for realty photos on line. Which makes us think they haven’t done much maintenance either. And we are the sort of couple who sees a shack and think “Hmm, we could fix that up…”

    April 29, 2013
  • Don’t let the Others get you down! When my dad shopped for a new apartment a few years ago I went along and there were some of these events when more than one perspective buyer is seeing the house at the same time. And I have to say, some people are nuts. One woman, anxiously, whispered to her husband that the house looked a bit ‘bare, doesn’t it, darling?’ (newly built apartment. Freshly smelling of painting. Of COURSE it’s bare, lady). And now we are selling an old house in the countryside we inherited, and apparently one of the comments was ‘well, it’s all very good, but there is a lot of green, isn’t there?’ (House. IN THE COUNTRYSIDE.)

    So yes, people are mad. And while I don’t have nearly enough shoes to fill a wall, I would love your shelves and fill them with books and use shoes as bookends. 😉

    April 29, 2013
  • Hilarious! I would never feel comfortable with strangers examining my house. And yours shoe shelves would be the coolest thing ever to have in a house! So many possibilities of what to stack them with…

    April 29, 2013
  • Do your shoe shelves come with the shoes? If so, where do I sign? 😀

    Seriously, this is my terror too – I am a hoarder with four cats. I have actively made bad career choices so that I don’t have to show people my house. I know at some point this has to change, but the thought gives me The Fear.

    April 29, 2013
  • If it makes you feel better, I would probably buy your house purely because of those shelves. Massive DVD collection + massive book collection + organizational OCD = needs a lot of shelf space. Not to mention all the cat figurines.

    Sadly, being a broke student, I’m not in a position to buy any sort of house. The fact that I live in Australia would make it slightly more difficult too.

    But I would buy your house for those shelves.

    April 29, 2013
  • LOl! most people is weird. What seems wonderful to some, is totally ugly to others, so I would’t bother about the rates you get, after all if you obsessively clean, there will always be someone hypercritcal, and there will always be someone without imagination who can’t stand a shelve of shoes (wth! I’d PAY for having that, and I’d volunteer to pay an extra to persuade you leaving some pairs behind you, too, lol!!).
    And about moms being so darn good at cleaning (and sewing, and all the other things): it’s a matter of fact that THEY have learnt all those things at school, back then, but WE didn’t, we studied and studied and never did housework.. And our generation was meant to look forward to careers.. And we got back to housewives instead, or something like that. Women who can’t clean like their mothers, who were working women, too. Sigh!

    April 29, 2013
  • That was such a funny post :)!!! Sorry to hear about your troubles though, The Others seem very picky and annoying (well, that’s why they are The Others, after all) and you’ve got me thinking about what I’m going to go through when the time comes to let/ sell my own apartment, considering both me and my husband smoke a lot and I’m only a cleanliness freak in my mind, not in practice as well :).

    April 29, 2013
  • Ah…I don’t envy you trying to sell your house. I cringe at the thought of doing it one day myself.

    You are right, people will always find something to not like if they just aren’t feeling the vibe in the first place.

    I on the other hand would have scooped up a house with shoe racks already installed!


    April 29, 2013
  • If there’s one thing I have learned living in houses that are being sold and buying a house: The Others have NO imagination.
    You and I know that they are SHELVES that can hold all manner of things but The Others, well they are OTHER.
    I would actually recommend packing up some of your wintery shoes and consolidating so that you can put some books and brick-a-brack on one shelf or the ends of the shelves or something. As a cue to the imaginationless Others that they can use the shelves for things besides shoes. I know it’s dumb but it’s something you can do for free that might help.

    From the pictures we’ve seen of your house I can’t imagine anyone giving you a 7. I mean you had bleach on your hands to kill red jeans BEFORE you put in the house on the market. (Is it creepy that I remember that? I just really loved the red jeans.)

    April 29, 2013
  • I think it’s ridiculous that that woman would decide to that your house “is not the house for her” because of SHELVES. Last time I checked, shelves were not made of stone or concrete or steel, they are not immovable. They can be taken down or used for something else or whatever she wants. She is clearly a silly woman and you’re better off without having to deal with her. When I was looking at houses, I went to look at a house that was dirty and HAD A DEAD BIRD JUST LYING THERE ON THE FLOOR. Although the bird could have been moved, having a DEAD BIRD there soured my opinion of the house. BUT this is NOT comparable to your shoe shelves. Shoes are NOT a dead bird!

    April 29, 2013
  • I can’t tell you how much I feel your pain on this. Our house has been on the market ages, we’ve done so much work on it, we both clean it until it can be cleaned no more, it’s far cheaper than it’s competitors in the area, and still no offers. I adore my housr, but we want to relocate, but why don’t the Others love my gorgeous house too? We always do our own viewings, I wonder if they can smell the desperation. Maybe we should get the agency to do the viewings and get some genuine feedback. Good Luck. X

    April 29, 2013
  • Oh my god, the shoe shelves, she did not like the shoe shelves? I think if I viewed a house that had shoe shelves, it would be the selling point.

    This post made me lol on so many levels, you are a very sassy lady! Hope you manage to sell your house soon!! I’m moving in July, only 2 months left in this terrible place. Stress and joy.

    Corinne x

    April 29, 2013
  • Between working in real estate and selling my house, I have horror stories that could go on for years!

    I hated hearing feedback on my house. At the time, I had two inside small dogs (both non-shedding breeds and very clean) and a inside cat. None of the animals made messes in the house. My house didn’t smell like animal (I was always super paranoid of animal smell so was obsessive over keeping it clean and aired out). One potential buyer saw the (clean) litter box in the powder room and then complained to the agent that “This house reeks of cat!”. That feedback got passed on to me and made me cry. I spent days steam-cleaning the carpets and dragging friends and family members into the house asking if it smelled. Even though they all told me it never smelled before I did all the cleaning – I was paranoid. I was convinced I lived in a stinky zoo. I was one step away from getting strangers off the street to come in and smell my house. I later found out that lady had previously made an offer on a different house before seeing mine, but didn’t know how to get out of the appointment/tell the agent. So for some freak reason, she thought the best approach would be negative feedback.

    This same house was a two story located in the country. There were so many people that would make appointments to come see the house and then either call and cancel, or show up and leave within 5 minutes. When asked for feedback, it was always either “We didn’t know the house was in the country” (ad headline was “Country Charmer”) or “all the bedrooms are upstairs.”(2 story house!) We had to get to the point when people would call to make an appointment, we’d go through 20 questions with them – “Do you know we’re 30 miles out? All bedrooms are upstairs?” So many people ended up wanting an appointment initially, and after hearing those questions would cancel. Crazy people!

    April 30, 2013
  • Here in Canada, realtors {or agents in your lingo} do everything they can to make sure you are NOT in the house. It does make sense to me. Viewers can better imagine themselves living in the home when the people who actually live in the home are not there. They can wander from room to room dissing the fact that the counters aren’t granite, and the appliances don’t match. But having to remove oneself from said house can be inconvenient at times. A potential buyer driving by my house, with cell phone in hand, thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to arrange a viewing that minute because they happen to be parked in the driveway. Puleez! I’m all for spontaneity, but it was exhausting constantly dropping everything and hiding out in the backyard while a looky-loo picked apart my home. And as often as that happened, the appointments that were booked in advanced cancelled! I hear ya Amber, loud and clear! If there is one small bit of possibly good news I can share is that friends that have an investment property for sale, temporarily moved into it themselves. Everyone advised them that a furnished home that was LIVED in sells better! So Nigel, with his {insert name of Scotland’s tackiest discount department store here} furniture, take that!

    Sue xo

    April 30, 2013
  • Those shelves? Should be a selling point, but maybe I’m weird like you as well! 🙂 Fret not, someone will love your place.

    April 30, 2013
    • You’re not alone – I’ve been searching for a shoe and boot storage solution online today, and wish I could make shelves like that. (Unfortunately I’m not very practical, so will have to think of something else.)

      August 9, 2013
  • Seriously? Instead of being put off, I would ask if the house came with the shoe shelves and the shoes! Super jealous – you have an amazing collection there!

    Melissa x

    May 22, 2013