Staged for Living
Written by Neil Bindelglass
Friday July 11, 2008
Staging a home for living is an outgrowth of home staging, the process of professionally preparing a home for sale by removing clutter, neutralizing colors, de-personalizing and re-arranging furniture to make it appear more spacious. Staging a home for living is hiring a professional organizer / home stager to help you fall in love with your home all over again. Although staging your home for living may seem unnatural, it is really no different than setting your table for a dinner party or holiday. You are setting a stage for a special event. And living in your home every day should be nothing less than a special event.
The main difference between having a home staged for sale and having a home staged for living is that when staging for sale, most professional home stagers simply remove the clutter without thinking about what to do with it. Boxes are packed and labeled and put in the garage or attic or storage unit, colors are neutralized, family photos and religious items are removed, and the home is ready to go on the market. In staging for living, clutter is reduced thoughtfully. What items are truly of no use to the homeowner, what items hold personal meaning, and what colors does the homeowner prefer are taken into consideation. Belongings are pared down rather than eliminated, and the home retains the personality of its inhabitants.
The process of staging a home for living begins with removing clutter, excising unnecessary items from the home and in general making the home easier to clean and maintain. People often don't realize how important their surroundings are to their health and well being. It is not uncommon for asthmatics to show a significant decrease in symptoms after having their home staged for living, as dust management becomes much easier.
One aspect of having a home staged for living is that it is a process, and a potentially painful one. As with any home organization project, things get worse before they get better. And a staging for living project can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. Closets are emptied as are bookshelves, kitchen cupboards, attics, basements and dressers. After the initial session, many houses look worse than they did before the stager arrived!
Children can be tricky as well. Many home stagers / organizers insist that children older than 5 become part of the process. No child likes to have their room cleaned out without their input. And when children help, they not only gain a sense of pride, but they are learning how to help their parents keep their home tidy. Many organizers recommend that their clients purchase toy boxes and advise them that the last ten minutes before bed are for “clean up.” The children in the house pick up all of their toys and place them back in their toy chest. Parents can even turn it into a game by calling out the name of the toy that the child is to pick up next.
In addition the process of staging for living is iterative. Any good organizing professional begins a project with a new client with a strategy, a plan of attack. As the stager and the client work together, the relationship becomes deeper and the stager begins to understand how his client lives, what his client does, and how to make the client's home work for them. And it is not unusual for the stager and client to rejigger certain aspects of the project mid-stream. In one instance, the homeowner thought that she would never use her food processor, so it was placed in a relatively inaccessible cabinet. During the course of the project, she learned how to make hummous, and began to use her food processor more than once a week. This required the rearrangement of three kitchen cabinets. But it's all about what works for the client.
Once the infrastructure has been dealt with; attic, basement, kitchen, bathroom and closets, the process moves on to general aesthetics. Depending on the client's budget, and the amount of work that they want to do on their home, new paint colors may be chosen, in addition to new flooring and new window treatments. Furniture is rearranged, re-purposed or removed. New furniture pieces may be chosen and purchased. Most homes don't have adequate bookshelf space. Many people have television cabinets that are completely inadequate for the television or the room that it is placed in. And many homes have woefully inadequate lighting. These are issues that home stagers / organizers are keenly aware of and are quick to remedy.
Home stagers also address issues on the outside of the home. From pressure washing the exterior and having the windows washed, a home stager may suggest additional outdoor lighting, landscaping or simply buying some hanging plants and fresh doormats to spruce up an entryway or side door. Home stagers who provide a staging for living service take a holistic approach to their projects, looking at all aspects of the home, both inside and out.
When hiring a home stager / organizer, it is important to realize that the right fit is essential, as the relationship can become quite intimate. A home stager usually does an initial consultation. During the consultation, closets and cabinets are peered into, basements, attics and garages are explored and dresser drawers are opened. Common questions asked are “How do you want to use this space?” “What activities does your family do in this room?” and the biggest minefield “Do you plan on having (more) children?” Please understand that the stager is NOT being nosy or asking probing questions without a reason. He is simply trying to understand how you use your home, and what future needs should be anticipated.
There are questions that you will need to ask the staging professional as well. Questions such as “Will you stick to my budget when it comes to purchases for my home?” “I have a child. Will he or she be part of the project when we go to work on their room?” and most importantly, is the home stager / organizer really listening to you, and does the chemistry seem to be right? Remember, it's your home and you have to live in it when the project is completed. It is vital that your needs are met.
Many homeowners find that once they have had their homes staged for living, life becomes easier and they have more free time to spend with their families or with a hobby. A good home stager / organizer will help you reclaim your home. It will become sleeker, more streamlined. And maintenance will become easier. Many of the things that your stager will do are all about ease. Rearranging your dish cabinets may make unloading the dishwasher easier. Moving household chemicals into different closets may make it easier to begin cleaning.