Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nature vs. Tidy: score, Tidy, 1, Nature, 0

Having endured, in the past nine months, the sale of three houses on three of the four sides of my house, today this question came to mind: what is the compulsion, in prepping a house for sale, to lay waste to the landscape? I'm talking the buzz-cut approach, which involves lopping, shearing, truncating,  shaving, slashing, scraping, scalping, amputation, massacre, vacuuming. Generally done at the lowest price possible by day laborers, who, bless their hearts, don't know their bindweed from their borage.

I posed this question to the crew at work, and these were some of the responses:

1. The house should look tidy.
2. The yard should look clean.
2. Prospective buyers may not want a lot of yard maintenance. 

But I think this goes deeper into our psyche as a culture, this "tidy" obsession we seem to have to sweep/pluck/prune. Control over nature — well, duh, yeah. The ol' slash'n'burn approach, show Nature who's in charge.

But it also seems tied to the almighty dollar, that to get the most $$$ from a property, it must appear to be "clean", that nature is, in some way, unclean. Of course, we love "nature" in a forest, but god help us if we allow nature to encroach upon our front yards.

Anyway, here's my formula:
Trimmed = clean.
Lush = dirty.
(And also, lush = fecundity = bad = sex.)
Does any realtor worth her commission want to show a house that, on a subliminal level, is all about sex?

Is it really this simple?
But doesn't sex sell nearly everything in this culture? Cars? Clothing? Dessert?!

Before the first of these houses went up for sale last fall, a guy with a mower laid waste to the beautiful vinca in the yard next door, which, besides being very healthy and abundant, provided some privacy to the view of my back door. Obsessively tidy yard! Clean!

And now, this spring, the new homeowner has fallen in love with all the vinca that's making a vigorous (glorious!) comeback. Go figure.

I know, it's not all this simple. But to witness this razing of the landscape so acutely, it certainly gives one pause.
Stump and Steps
(Notice, my steps aren't swept, and my stump has fungus growing on it. Yay!
Fungus = a healthy ecosystem.)


  1. Such interesting thoughts --

    In our neighborhood, little 75 year old homes are being bought, RAZED to the ground, and giant McMansions built in their stead. It's horrifying. When they put them on the market, they do what's called "staging." They're filled with really ugly (I guess it's subjective) generic furniture. Nothing personal, nothing busy, nothing loud. Tidy. Then people put down their couple of million dollars and move in.

    1. Elizabeth, my sympathies for the McMansion epidemic! It's distressing, isn't it? Older homes here are being razed to build million-dollar boxes. I fear that might happen next door.

  2. I like a house to look 'comfortable'; which often means a bit 'lived in'. In the UK they suggest baking bread and making coffee before prospective buyers turn up; anything to give that 'cosy' feeling.

  3. I think your points are spot on. Plus, we want to 'makeover' any place that isn't ours. It's pointless and silly to raze a yard/garden before you've seen it's year long cycle. How do you know what you'll like and what will work in the landscape? Leave everything as is and let it reveal itself.

  4. Oh T--you are such a genius!