There it was, right in the middle of my Facebook feed: my childhood home.
To be fair, it’s not as though my parents decided to sell the house I grew up in without telling me. In fact, they bought their new house months ago. My mom has even used the phrase, “In my next house …,” for as long as I can remember. And yet, it was still somewhat of a shock to see that listing there in my news feed.
I clicked on the link and scrolled through the photos, prepared to feel nostalgic. Surprisingly, that feeling didn’t come. Yes, the photos are beautifully done. The house is perfectly manicured with no detail out of place.
Except, so much is out of place. So much is not even there.
You see, these are real estate photos. They’re meant to help people imagine themselves in the pictures. So the parts that are extracted are everything that made that house a home for my family for nearly thirty years.
The family photos have been removed. My favorite piano books don’t sit in a pile on the baby grand. No beach towels are hanging out to dry near the pool, no party spread of festive dishes, and margarita glasses nearby. Our wedding albums are no longer on display, nor is my dad’s prized whitetail deer mount. There’s no bucket of grandchildren’s toys in the corner of the basement, and not one of my mom’s many holiday decorations can be detected. You’d never know her great love of clothes and accessories because none of them are peeking out from any of the tightly shut closets.
This is precisely why I take photos of my homes.
I may have mentioned before that my little military family has lived in no fewer than eight homes since my husband and I met, and we’ll add number nine to that list this summer. I think that probably qualifies me as an expert at this by now. So when a good friend and I were chatting about her impending move, I told her that my best piece of advice was to take photos of your home now, before the purging, before the packing. Sure, you probably have lots of pictures of your family in your home, but do you actually have photos of each room in your house? Do not wait for the professional photos that will accompany the real estate listing.
Those will be photos of your house, not your home.
Make the time to take pictures of each room as it is. Sure, you’ll probably want to tidy up, make the beds, and ensure that your sink isn’t full of dishes … or not. If the beds in your home are never made, and the sink is always full of dishes, don’t bother! You want to capture what your home looked like while you were living in it – full of toys, little shoes by the door, a dog bed in the corner, toothbrushes on the bathroom sink.
Don’t think that you have to take on this project all in one sitting either. Just do one room at a time. Try to take your photos during the daytime so you’ll have lots of natural light, but turn all of the lights on anyway. Make sure you take pictures of each room from multiple angles. Don’t forget spaces like hallways, laundry rooms, garages, and your home’s exterior. You lived in all of those places.
To be clear, this isn’t just for those who are moving.
My parents’ house today looks nothing like the house I grew up in. Some of its spaces have been renovated and redecorated more times than I can recall. I so wish that I had photos of that house from various points in my childhood so I could take myself back to the jungle-themed kids’ bathroom, the pink polka-dotted wallpaper I insisted on when I was nine, or that same room covered in magazine posters when I was a teenager. You won’t find any remnants of that in my parents’ real estate listing today!
My six-year-old has had five bedrooms in his life, not counting temporary spaces. He has memories of two of them but loves to see photos of the others. My kids often ask what their nurseries looked like when they were babies or what was in our backyards. They love spotting their toys in multiple playroom photos from various points in time. They love to tour our past houses in photos.
This is my gift to them and myself.
So grab your camera (or your phone), and take a little photo tour of your house as it is right now. Don’t wait for it to be perfectly clean or perfectly decorated. It will never be perfect. Nor will it ever again be just as it is right now.