I am a home stager. It seems oddly easy to define myself in two words, but for the first time in my life, I actually embrace my work life as my identity. Sure, I am a wife and mom first, and way ahead of staging, but staging informs who I am and how I live my life. It is who I am: a home stager. I started Tailored Transitions, a home staging company, in Philadelphia, in 2004—way before most anyone on the East coast had heard of home staging. Since then, we have expanded to offer complete moving management services and interior design, all based on my home staging principles. We have had good years and better years, but each year we have grown. It has been a great ride, which means that I spend way more more time than most thinking about how people live in their homes, what that means, and whether it leads to happiness. Here’s the big secret: beauty is in the details. A well functioning home does foster happiness and is therefore beautiful. Ideally, it will be visually beautiful as well.
I have always been unduly affected by my surroundings. A bad smell can ruin a movie for me. Maroon plush car seats can send me spiraling into a funk. Conversely, my day can be made by sitting in their leather-like-butter alternatives. I thought of my sensitivity as a problem, a shortcoming, that I was a bit of a princess, not cut out for the hard work of life. Now, as the owner of Philadelphia’s most prominent home staging company, I realize that everyone is affected by their surroundings. It’s just that, for better or for worse, I am more aware of my surrounding’s affect on me that is average bear.What I thought of as an affliction is actually an advantage. I have made a science of codifying people’s sensitivities and using this information to sell properties. I am here to tell you that it works, and that I feel really lucky that I have been able to monetize a shortcoming!
This job teaches a lot of life lessons. Moving is one of the three top health stressors, right up there with death of a spouse or a child, and divorce. Everyday we work with people at their most vulnerable. I see what they are losing, what they love, what they yearn for. We have moved a lot of older people, mostly downsizing them into continuing care facilities. They are the ones that let go of their stuff more easily. They know the cost of putting stuff ahead of people, they have seen loss. I have heard more than once: cherish everyday. I listen to them in matter of fact, naked emotion, and can almost hear Joni Mitchell singing: “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” It is the sociology of the home, of how a home can be to make a life happier, that fascinates me. I think it is a rich, untapped vein of awareness that they don’t teach us in school, and that affects every one of us, everyday. Everyone wants to live better, live smarter, be happier, and very few know how to work toward this goal. This is what I shall explore.
What makes a home is so intrinsic to who we are and informs each of as we go through our days. We have not evolved that far from the caveman. Sure our articulation has become more sophisticated, but the premise remains the same. We work to create shelter, bring back meat to our caves, protect our children from the weather, and maybe, in our free time, draw something important on the walls.
So, here are my scribblings. I like to think of them as ‘More Songs about Buildings and Food.’ This little homage to the Talking Heads probably ages me in some reader’s minds, and leaves others mystified. But that is another detail about this business of living that I find so intriguingly obvious that we all seem to ignore, and is sometimes even considered politically incorrect: we are all products of our time and place. Sure we can transcend place if not time, but we are still reacting to whence we came. In one guise or another this blog will explore how to create a home that encourages happiness for the owner based on their age and how they grew up.
So here is my pragmatic advise: If you are staging to live in your home in a more authentic way, embellish the cave drawings (expectations and norms) of your childhood with your own scribbles. And if you are hoping to sell your property, you need to erase your own drawings and stage your cave with drawings that will appeal to younger buyers.
More to come!