A little over 10 years ago, our family moved from northern Virginia to a lovely suburban house in central North Carolina with a bit of a back yard and a white picket fence. This home has served us well as we’ve gone from two kids under 2 to a family of six with kids in the preteens. But my husband and I have been talking for a while about moving to a place with a little more space and at least an acre or so of land. So just after New Year’s Day, we sat down with a couple realtors to figure out what it might take to sell this place and make our move.

Apparently our area is pretty hot on the market right now, so multiple realtors were more than happy to help us out. After ten years of kids living in the house nearly 24/7, we knew this place was in dire need of some new paint, carpet, and a massive decluttering, but both realtors who spoke with us assured us this was no problem. One suggested a paint and carpet allowance in the purchase price; the other said his buddies could fix it up inexpensively and leave us more money. We liked the sound of more money, so we chose the latter. What could possibly go wrong?

[Insert sardonic laughter here.]

In case you ever get a similarly crazy idea, I thought I would give you a little look at how your life might look for the next few weeks.

Phase 1: Optimism

This is awesome! You finally have an excuse to take off school and go through all that stuff you’ve been meaning to organize for years. This will be the most organized move ever. You’ll declutter, purge, and organize before boxing, and then specifically label each box. Twice.

You have watched enough HGTV to know that there is waaaay too much stuff in this house for a showing. So one of your first steps is to make Marie Kondo proud rent a storage unit. Then start with the bookshelves. You will need at least 300 books for the next few months (sorry, Marie), but that leaves approximately 547,682 books that you can box up for storage (because of course you can’t get rid of any!). You figure this will take maybe one afternoon. Then you can start on all the random stuff stashed in your master closet. In the meantime, have the kids start working on their rooms.

Phase 2: Reality Sets In

It is Day 5 of the Great Clean-Out. You have finished the books . . . mostly. You have started on your master closet . . . kinda. Organized-But-Dramatic Child has gotten a fair amount in boxes but is now protesting that her whole room will be in storage and she doesn’t want to move anymore. Scatterbrained Child has been “working on” her room for days, and it looks worse than when she started. The other two kids are going to need your help. Everyone needs your help. You are beginning to label boxes as “So-and-So’s Stuff.” You have skipped school the whole week to give yourself more time, but did it help? Meh. What would really help is a professional organizer. Also a full-time nanny.

Phase 3: A Ray of Hope

A few minivan-loads of boxes have been taken to the storage unit, but you have refilled that pile in the garage almost as quickly as it leaves. Near the end of Week 2, you borrow a small moving truck and load all of this and as much furniture as you can spare into storage. You will be very sore tomorrow, but things are beginning to look less like an episode of Hoarders.

Phase 4: The Mental Breakdown

The ray of hope was nice, but you are now physically and mentally drained, and the painters are coming tomorrow. You have a couple of rooms “ready,” but it’s going to be a race to clean out other rooms before the painters move in. You are beginning to question this whole thing; going back to schooling sounds like a nice break. But the show must go on.

Phase 5: Beast Mode

You’re getting into a groove. You’re keeping the kids out of the painters’ way while boxing things up left and right. The dreaded school room has been vanquished. Paint is going up on the walls, and you’re beginning to see that this will be worth it in the end.

Phase 6: Procrastination Mode

You’re down to the nitty-gritty stuff, and suddenly it has become imperative to buy All The Decorating Things. You’ll need to get new . . . well, everything, because the average quality of your décor is “stuff you bought at a yard sale five years ago.” BUT you still have to make these purchases as cheap as possible, because that’s who you are! You scour Walmart, Goodwill, Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, and (when all else fails) Amazon for the best cheap stuff you can find. You tell yourself it’s not procrastination. . . . It’s planning ahead! Besides, you’ve been wanting to redecorate ever since forever. You’ve earned it.

Phase 7: Panic Mode

Surprise! That nitty-gritty stuff didn’t go away overnight. (The clutter fairies have betrayed you!) All hope of organizing everything before the move has been abandoned. Your new catch phrase is “just throw it in a box!” You are now labeling boxes as “Misc. Junk.” Whatever . . . it just needs to get OUT!

Phase 8: Take the House Apart and Put it Back Together

You have taken off school for three weeks. You honestly can’t wait to start again. Not happening next week, though. It’s time for carpet, and the carpet guys don’t move the stuff, so it’s up to you, your husband, and kids to cram four upstairs bedrooms into your kitchen and garage. Amazingly, it fits. Carpet down. It looks awesome. Now . . . put everything back.

Phase 9: Finishing Touches

Set out all your new décor. Clean the house (or hire someone!). Make everything tidy. Inform your family that no one is allowed to BREATHE in this house, much less eat, drink, or play. It is perfect. We need it to stay that way.

Phase 10: Showings

Get out of the house. You don’t live here anymore, silly! Your home belongs to the marketplace. I guess you can sleep here, but you must leave NO traces of humanity after yourself. Don’t worry. This will soon be over.

Phase 11: The Finish Line

You are now getting offers, of which you choose one. You made it! After your first day “back to school,” you collapse on the bed for a long nap. After all, you need to save up your energy for the actual move!

. . . Oh, help.

—Jessica

Photo Credit: Images courtesy of author.