We moved to Idaho at the end of October last year. We lived in a small apartment in the suburb of Meridian. It was cold outside. The boys were one and three years old. They ate different things. They slept at different times. Finding a long enough stretch of time to get out and about was very difficult. Add to these circumstances complimentary satellite television (for the first time in my life I could view more channels than rabbit ears could conjure) and one had all the fixins for a minor television addiction.
I spent an inordinate amount of time watching HGTV ("Home and Garden Television" for my family members who also have never had cable.) It was one of the few channels that could be counted on not to be inappropriate for children, and I was quickly hooked. Room makeovers, interior design competitions, people looking for new houses, homeowners finding out what their homes are worth...what's not to like?
Well, OK, there were a few shows that I quickly learned to avoid. Shows that do things on the ultra cheap and feature lots of crafty "re-purposed" items. As I've said before, I like things to be what they are. And, on the other end of the spectrum, I took a pass on the shows that focus on $35,000 bathroom renovations. I recently saw a bathroom featuring glass "vessel"-style sinks. I don't want to have to Windex my sink every time I use it to keep it looking nice. Also, only one sink in a "master bath" is just fine with me. I don't really need company when I brush my teeth.
Once we moved into our house in Boise, I stopped watching TV during the day. For a long time. But upon putting our house on the market, I allowed myself to be sucked right back in.
One show I enjoy wasting my time with is House Hunters. A house-hunting couple takes a look at three different places and then decides from among them. The US version can make me a little crazy, depending on the subjects of the particular episode. "I don't really like the color in here...this closet's only big enough for MY clothes...this isn't a very big master..." and my most despised comment: "The kitchen's OK, but I really wanted GRANITE counter tops." Don't people know that these counter tops will look as dated as avocado appliances and goldenrod medallion vinyl flooring in about 10 years? As Mark Helprin says in his novel Freddy and Fredericka, "I wonder where in the world there is a hole big enough to swallow all the granite counter tops that in a few years will be marching out of kitchens like an army of the dead.”
Now that HGTV has House Hunters International, the domestic version has lost much of its luster. This program is FASCINATING. I watched a German and Dutch couple search for a home on the Italian coast, where the ages of the available properties varied not by decades, but by centuries. "Is this the original floor?" Why, yes, it is the original floor. From the sixteenth century. I've seen a Brit and Australian looking for a house in Jamaica. And a Japanese couple buying an apartment-sized home in Paris. It's fun to see what does or doesn't come with a house in different places. It's so different everywhere, and so are people's expectations. But the challenge of choosing a house is the same for everyone to whom money IS an object: deciding which items on a long wish list are the things one wants most.
The show that's caused me trouble, though, is not House Hunters. It's Designed to Sell. On this program, some hapless person trying to sell his house is rescued by a designer with a team of carpenters, who spends $2000 and fixes all of the nasty things that would put off potential buyers. The show culminates in an open house at which a steady stream of nicely groomed people wander through the house and "ooh" and "ah" over all of the improvements.
When our realtor started holding open houses to sell OUR house, my only frame of reference was Designed to Sell. I did not have a team of carpenters. I did not have a budget of $2000. That, however, did not prevent my perfectionist tendencies from kicking in. I banished all clutter and piles of stuff. Everything was put in its place. So much so that I think it borderline creeped some people out. After a few open houses yielded no offers, we asked our realtor if he thought there was anything we needed to do to make the house look better. "No, they love it," he replied. "They love the colors, they love the furniture. Actually, someone asked me if anyone lives here or if the house was staged."
Well, that's just silly. No one would stage a house with a fake cat, complete with litter box. But it did make me think I was going a little overboard with the HGTV.
That and the fact that Nels identified the host of House Hunters by name.
"Mommy, is that Suzanne Whang?"