Readying my foreclosed home for new owners

Unlike some of our neighbors, I have no desire to wreck the home we loved, and lost

Published February 21, 2011 8:01PM (EST)

Our house is being auctioned on Friday. I want to leave it nice for whoever buys it.

A whole industry has grown up around the need to clean out foreclosed houses. Bitter former owners, resentful of the unfair treatment (real or perceived) they've received at the hands of mortgage brokers, banks, real estate agents, have often left their residences not only in a state of disarray, but have caused serious damage to their once "home sweet homes."

The list is endless: fixtures torn out of ceilings and walls; holes viciously punched in drywall; stoves, washers, dryers absconded with. They've moved out with garbage strewn throughout rooms and spray-painted curses on kitchen cabinets. Others, with nowhere to move to, have left the detritus of their lives behind -- furniture, clothing, dishes, toys. The saddest are the personal items: a once much-hugged teddy bear, family photos of happier times.

Weekly in my neighborhood, a rental van or a few pickup trucks park in front of one of the houses. There's never been a professional moving van, only family and friends participating in a gloomy ritual. Maybe it's because of my work hours, but I've never actually seen anyone leave. It's only days later, when a "for sale" sign blooms in a front yard, or I notice workers clearing foliage, that I'm aware that yet another neighbor has been disappeared.

I want it to be different when we leave. We have half of a remodeled kitchen. I want to make sure that I leave a note taped to the leftover porcelain to let the next people know where they can get more if they need it. I want to make sure that all the appliance warranties and booklets are stacked neatly in a kitchen drawer.

I intend to scrub down the bathrooms and make sure there's still some toilet paper on the roll. I don't know if I'll get all the weeding done, but I hope the new people like rosemary -- I've been nurturing that bush for quite some time. I tried to save the hibiscus from the deep freeze, but I don't know if it's going to make it -- and darn, it had been so gorgeous. The new people should get more oranges than we did -- we savored our first and only sweet and juicy one a few days ago. I hope they like grapefruit, because they'll sure have a truckload of those every year. And they can astound their friends with the gargantuan lemons from our lemon tree.

It would be nice if a family with kids moves in. There's both an elementary school and a high school within walking distance. The kids will enjoy the pool. We sure did (and so did Lily, our dog).

We're entering a new, mysterious phase of our lives. Eventually that will mean leaving Phoenix, but for now we're grateful for our teaching jobs. There are some days, though, when I worry that I won't be able to make it to the end of the school year, such is the pain and fatigue. Maybe when the stress of the foreclosure is over, I will start to feel a little better. But no matter what, I want to leave things nice. Because when we move to our new place, wherever that may be, I'm pretty sure there'll be a mirror. And I'd like to be able to look myself in the eye. 

By Marilyn Stevens

MORE FROM Marilyn Stevens

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Great Recession Life Stories