How To Prepare Your House To Sell

We sold our house to the first person that walked through it. We never expected it to sell that quickly—its older, quirky, and houses don’t seem to typically sell that fast, not for a price we’d want to sell it for. We know that it was just God’s time for us to move, so he made it happen–but we do have a few getting-ready-to-move tips that we found useful, not only in maybe getting that house to sell quickly, but also in making the subsequent packing/moving easier.

1) Meet with a realtor before listing

When we decided we might want to move sometime in the next year, we had our realtor over that originally sold us our house to look around and tell us what to work on to get it ready for the market. He gave us a list of need-to-do things and a list of would-be-nice things. Our house is an older house, so we did have a little list of inexpensive but work-intensive things to do—replacing faucets and shower fixtures and laying linoleum and touching up paint, etc. I’m glad we did this before listing the house—they were relatively inexpensive and made less that needed to be “fixed” later after we were under contract.

2) Declutter
downloadI love decluttering—it feels like losing weight or something, so instantly gratifying! I like to declutter in waves—I think I went through the house probably three times since we first started thinking about moving last fall. The last wave was the most intensive—I used a checklist from Pinterest (click here for the list) that systematically went through every room in the house. When it was all said in done, I ended up getting rid of probably 1/4th of our things. I found the areas where I’d needed to declutter the most were in the kitchen (lots of glasses, plates, utensils, etc, that I never used), in our serving dishes (lots of wedding gifts that were lovely but never used in the past 7 years!), and some furniture. I honestly can’t even remember what all we got rid of—which maybe shows how little those things will be missed!

3) Spring Clean!

This part of the process was a little odious, but well-worth it. I scrubbed floors and baseboards and washed carpets. It was exhausting! I have to say though, it was nice to have such a fresh-smelling, squeaky-clean house at the end of it though.

That is really all we did—just getting the house in tip-top shape. We didn’t do a ton of staging, aside from putting away toys, and luckily what we did was enough to get it sold!


What tips do you have for preparing a house to sell?

The Big Poetry Giveaway 2015



I am a Southerner, a poet, mom of 2 daughters (with another on the way), a wife, a believer, an English professor, the oldest of three daughters.

I believe in singing each and every day, a clean kitchen, and  the ever-sustaining powers of coffee.

I like baking things with my daughters, long walks in spring weather, the power of syntax, honest-to-goodness letters, and when it rains all day long.

I am always looking for: yardsale vintage typewriters, poets I’ve never read before, the quiet moments in busy days

My writing process is translating the beauty in the every-day



Book 1: Keeping Me Still, by Renee Emerson

Keeping Me Still FlatI am giving away a copy of my book, Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014).

Keeping Me Still is about being a wife, mother, sister, daughter in the South; the spiritual and physical wrestling with questions that are only answered in the living through them.

A sample poem:


I spend my days at the farmhouse.
Always the sound of cows;
at night, the dreams of cows.

Their paths through the grass,
the way they watch
when we walk in the yard.

The blue wildflowers break
underfoot; a first frost, winter’s ritual.

At church the other women
say I should know, by now,
my baby’s differing cries.
That I should be well-versed
in the language of need.

Among the cows, a line of geese
moves through the blank repetition
of pasture. Modest as nuns.
Finally, one rises to flare its wings.


for my second book giveaway–

Book 2:  Best New Poets 2014“Best New Poets is an annual anthology of 50 poems from emerging writers. Each year, a guest editor selects 50 poems from nominations made by literary magazines and writing programs, as well as an open internet competition.”

I think this series is a great read, not only because of all the fresh voices included, but also to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in poetry today.

A sample poem:

The Mackerel
by Carey Russell

They lie in parallel, a fabric
of tails and heads, each inch
iridescent like sunlight

on gasoline. Their eyes,
a frozen phalanx
of the same singular

expression, push outward,
watery prismatics in a soap
bubble. Grey shadows

tiger-stripe the scales
into radiant sections,
a lived wallpaper.

Even now they appear
to be bolting forward.
How happy they seem to be

together, a collected self,
selfless. They don’t care
they’re dead, ice-packed

in a mold-pocked crate
dripping on Canal Street.
We talk as if death were a line

to be crossed. But look at them.
Tell me where they end.




To enter to win a book, please leave your name and email address by midnight, April 30th, 2014, in the comments of this post, and I’ll draw two names from a hat the week of May 1st, 2014.

Don’t forget to check out Kelli Russell Agodon’s blog where she has the complete list of poetry blogs participating in the giveaway this year. Good luck and happy poetry month!

poems of relocation

as bryan and i prepare for our 6th move in 7 years (my 5th different state to live in!), and i pull out the packing tape and box things up room by room, and i think about all those past moves. how easy it was to pack and move to boston, just us two and the car full of stuff we could’ve left behind. how difficult it was to move to the kentucky farmhouse, so pregnant and wanting so badly to have a more permanent place to call home.

i’ve not found many poems on the subject, but i’ve written many on relocating, moving, digging up roots from one home to plant another. moving can be emotional and difficult–changing so much of your day to day, everything about your day to day, from where you sleep to who you see at the grocery store. its also exciting–the new opportunity, all the possibility, not knowing, exactly, what your new life will be like.

This is a poem, found in Keeping Me Still, that I wrote around 2009 i think, when moving from tennessee to massachusetts:

Moving North

We learn an empty house,
the look of a room as a cavity
to be filled. We learn to portion
and take everything to keep,
in labeled boxes that make
angles and a jigsaw fit.

In the story, the sisters cut portions
from their feet, to fit
the shoe. The prince knew
when the blood seeped
over the bridge of the foot,
down the pointed heel.

Cushion wedding
dishes with winter
sweaters, cradle picture frames
with newspaper, perfumes
with plastic bags.

Nothing will break.
It will all fit.

In the Smokies, vacationing
and young, we ate
at a catfish place where you
catch and kill from a pool.

Walking in, my sister’s shoe
(She was walking in
my shoes, that did not fit) fell
in the water. My sisters
held my heels, and I reached,

belly in the slime of the concrete bank,
and I pulled her shoe from the waters.

The boxes shift in the back.
The rear window, obscured.
The sun, obscured by clouds
rolling in from the North.
from Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing)


what are some of your favorite poems about moving, relocation, a new home?

24 weeks!

Baby size? as big as a cantelope! oh my!

100_8631Sleep? some nights good, some not so good—its hard to tell if its pregnancy really or if we just have a lot going on.

Foods I am loving? I feel like I could eat Mexican everyday—but pregnancy-heartburn makes me pay for it.

Foods I am hating?
nothing in particular! I’m a little tired of my old cravings—grapefruit and greek yogurt (not together). strawberries are good. Eggrolls and Korean beef are amazing. All soups are good.

Best moment this week?
She woke me up one night this week, kicking me like crazy. This was a good moment though because all in all she’s been the quietest easiest little thing; if my belly wasn’t out-to-there I would forget I was pregnant. I don’t have a lot of quiet moments to think and daydream about her during the day—not with the other girls and all the craziness of the move—so it was good to have that quiet time to daydream about this little girl I can’t wait to meet.

Symptoms? Some pregnancy heartburn, some hip-pain at the end of the day, nothing horrible. its getting harder and harder to carry june, and she’s not too thrilled with that—it makes her want me to carry her more (“down, down” she yells at me, arms held up in the air. She will NOT say “up” though she can. I say “june, say ‘up’, that is what you are asking me” and she says “no. Down.”). zu told me at church though that she has an idea—“when your arms are too stressed to carry june, put her on your shoulders and hold her by her feet!”. I haven’t given this a try yet though.

What I miss? I wish I could move furniture! And heavy boxes! if I work too hard I feel bad at the end of the day and have to put my feet up. I also hate unintentionally falling asleep, like an old person, right on the floor sometimes when playing with the girls.

What I’m looking forward to? Getting settled in our new home and in our new town!

Emotions: stressed, terrified, nervous, excited, eager, content, hopeful, expectant. I’m pregnant, emotions are what I’m good at right now.

a new adventure

In three weeks, we’ll be leaving our little Georgia town for the last time, moving states away to bryan’s hometown.

we’ve thought about moving there at least three times before–we’d stroll the neighborhoods near his parents house, picking out where we’d like to live. but we never seemed to end up there–instead we’d go to poetry grad school in the north or seminary in kentucky or the university job in rural georgia. now here we are, finally moving where we kind of always thought we’d end up.

it probably all seems pretty fast, but bryan and I tend to talk (and talk and talk) and pray and maybe scheme a little and deliberate just between the two of us for ages before we let people in on what we’ve got in mind. And what we’ve had in mind is moving.

suitcasesWe’ve loved this little Georgia town—we have friends here we’ll dearly miss, favorite places I’ll never forget taking the girls to as they’ve grown up the past three years (ridgeferry, honeymoon, downtown and riverside strolls). june was born here, zu said her first words and took her first steps here, we owned our first home here. We learned a lot about who we are in Christ here—I’ve seen bryan grow into a more godly husband and father, I’ve learned about hospitality, community, how to be a mother.

Over the past year and a half though, we’ve felt more and more God pulling us away from here—for many reasons, but what they all boil down to is that God hasn’t allowed the root-putter-downer in our marriage (bryan) to settle here the way he’s let me (the flighty one) settle here. I’ve seen it happening since we first moved here and its always made me think we wouldn’t be here forever.

So when my boss and the higher-ups granted my request to become a full-time online professor (did I mention that I have The Best Job Ever?), we saw that door to leave finally swing open. at first we thought we’d go one place, then another, but after seeking out some godly counsel and talking and praying about what our hopes and dreams are for our family, we knew that we needed to be where we (well, bryan) started—back in his little Arkansas hometown.

We put our house on the market, figuring it would take likely til summer to sell, and we’d have all those little logistical things (oh a home, a job for bryan, etc) sorted by then.

But our house sold in 4 days, to the first person that looked at it. who needed an april 10th closing date!

we’d planned on kind of hanging out in the doorway of our “open door to anywhere” that God gifted us with—just kind of teetering in the frame of it, peering out—but with our house selling, I think we’re getting a bit of a shove through, a get-moving (literally!).

we don’t have everything completely figured out—a few big question marks are still hanging around. but i know that i am thankful that my job has become even furthermore my dream job–a professor but also home with my babies all day. and bryan is excited about starting ministry with the church he grew up in. and both of us know it will be such a blessing for our girls to grow up with their grandparents being more than the people-seen-on-occasion–having them as part of their lives.

sometimes God calls us to take some risks and to not know all the steps before we start walking in them. and its sort of scary, but a good scary! So now we start our new adventure…

To the Ex-MFA Teacher

this article has been floating around facebook: Things I Can Say About MFA Programs Now That I No Longer Teach In One by Ryan Boudinot. As a creative writing teacher at the (lowly? modest?) undergraduate level, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on his assertions:

“Writers are born with talent.”

Yes, of course! But I think that EVERYONE is born with some degree, however small, of writing talent. If you read Gregory Orr’s Four Temperaments, I think you’ll find that everyone is born with a propensity for one of those. Its a matter of developing what they have and cultivating in them what they don’t have.

Often, in my creative writing classes, the students that seem to be “natural talents” at writing have actually been nurtured as writers before they were writers. A student who had a mother who was book-crazy, a student who had a father as a preacher, a student who had a grandmother who told fantastic lies–they are picking up on language somewhere.

Every person, if they work hard enough and long enough, can write well. Not everyone has the ability to become the next Robert Frost or T.S. Eliot–just like everyone can learn to play basketball but not everyone is going to be the next Michael Jordon.

So much of finding success as a writer has to do with persistence and reading (a ton) and writing (a ton).

As much as young writers love to be told that writing talent is just something you are born with (because then why work for it? and also it means you are special, gifted, above the rest), I don’t find this idea useful as a creative writing teacher. I instead believe that every student has some measure of talent that can be cultivated and some genre of writing that they can excel in, if they work hard enough.

“If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.”

I think that there are So very many exceptions, this broad statement doesn’t hold up. Maybe someone never tried writing as a child or teenager–because of economic / educational disadvantage, troubled family life, whatever– that does not mean that they don’t have the natural ability and gifting with words necessary to become a very successful writer.

“If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.”

I honestly agree with this one–you’ll never have More time to write then when you are in a writing program where most of your job is To Write! If you don’t have time to write, its because you aren’t making the time (and if you aren’t making the time, is it really that important to you?). You can’t expect to become better at something you rarely do or practice.

“If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.”

I agree with this one too. If you are struggling in my creative writing class, its likely because you’ve not read a thing I’ve assigned all semester. Reading is the best way to learn to write, the absolute best. Read much and read often.

“No one cares about your problems if you’re a **** (bad)*** writer.”

Not necessarily true, in life, but probably true in memoirs–if you have a story worth telling, don’t automatically have people discount it because the writing is poor.

“You don’t need my help to get published.”

I’m not a big fan of self-publishing, and I do think that connections you make in writing programs are valuable. But mostly I’m an optimist–I think that getting published has to do with the quality of your work and your persistence.

“It’s not important that people think you’re smart.”

 Definitely true. There are too many poets sucking the life out of their writing by being too focused on sounding intellectual, smart, eloquent. Worrying too much about impressing someone with a poem kills it every time.

“It’s important to woodshed.”

I agree with this too. Its ok if every poem doesn’t get published or even read. Its ok if books worth of poems are never published. Everything you write goes into those future poems, future books. I wrote probably four times the amount of poems that are in Keeping Me Still, so many of which never saw the light of day. Much of a writers work is done alone, without any public notice or acclaim.


So ex-MFA teacher guy, I’d say I mostly agree with you, or at least about half-so. What do y’all think?

Fashion Therapy for Three Year Olds

For about a month, zu had a problem that we could not for the life of us figure out. I won’t go into detail, to save her from future embarrassment, lets just say she was potty trained and Regressed.

We tried taking her to the pediatrician (tummy problems?), tried ignoring it (a cry for attention?), considered punishing it (especially after the wiping-it-on-the-floor incident…), and the potty-charts upon-potty-charts, but nothing seemed to work.

Then my friend jenn mentioned that maybe this is a Control issue, not a rebellion or necessarily emotional issue like we’d thought. We’re planning a move and I’m pregnant, so there’s a lot going on in z’s little 3year old world. A lot that she has no control over.


is it any wonder she loves Fancy Nancy?

so I stopped doing what they typically advise you to do with 3 year olds—give them a couple options of what to wear in the morning, to limit choices—and instead let her have full reign of her closet.

the problem stopped! She loves picking out her own clothes—she lays out her outfits the night before and sometimes also before nap, for those afternoon wardrobe changes. And sometimes also her sister’s outfits, though junie owns a disappointing amount of “casual dresses”.

If we had only known it was as easy as letting her mix leopard print, stripes and tutu-skirts, we would have had a lot easier time this winter. Fingers crossed that the success continues….