Prepping my home for sale has been as enjoyable as giving myself a wedgie with a piece of barbed wire.
The upside is that my house is now cleaner than it's been since I moved in six years ago. Closets have been organized, floors have been scrubbed, and the fur balls under the sofa have been surgically reattached to the cats.
The realtors have been great about pointing out little things that might annoy potential homebuyers – personal photos, desktop clutter, lingerie hanging from the ceiling fan – things I've grown so accustomed to seeing that I don't even notice they're there.
But the realtors missed something. It took one of the housemates to point it out the other morning as I scrambled around prepping for a showing.
"I'm surprised the realtors haven't said anything about the stairs," he said.
"What's wrong with the stairs?"
"Unless the potential buyers have the same first and last name as your ex husband, they might not appreciate having his name written in bright yellow letters on the bottom step."
And damned if he wasn't right. Obviously, I knew it was there. When the home was built six years ago, we opted for sort of a modern industrial look. The stair rails are done with custom-finished wood and wire cables, while the stairs themselves are tile with steel corner pieces.
Word of advice – you don't want to fall in my home unless you enjoy brain injury.
The steel caps on the edge of each stair came from a local supplier that thoughtfully marked the buyer's name on one of the pieces in the supply yard. For the first few months after the house was finished, it was a running joke. After that, I remember asking my then-husband if the words could be removed. He told me he'd tried and failed, so I pretty much stopped noticing the name was there.
When I told this to my housemate, he laughed. "Ten bucks says we can get it off in thirty seconds with nail polish remover and steel wool."
"Thirty seconds sounds a little fast for getting off, and doesn't the steel wool hurt?"
He wisely ignored me and went to retrieve the steel wool from under the sink. I headed upstairs and came back down with a bottle of nail polish remover.
Two minutes later, all traces of the name were gone.
"This is why every writer needs good critique partners," I told him.
He frowned. "To scrub their ex-husbands' names off their stairs?"
"No. To help them fix the things they've stopped noticing or decided aren't fixable."
"Right," he said. "With steel wool and dirty jokes."
Hey, whatever works. It's true that the greatest value a critique partner or beta reader brings to the table is the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes. Even if that person isn't a grammar expert or a writing whiz, he or she can still offer a new perspective. I can't tell you how many times one of my critique partners has picked up on an error more glaringly obvious than a bright yellow name on a staircase, and I've found myself dumbfounded. How did I not notice that?
Easy. There's a sort of blindness that sets in when you're too close to something, whether it's a manuscript, a relationship, or anything else in your life.
If you're a writer, have you ever had a critique partner point out something so ridiculously obvious you couldn't believe your own ignorance? For non-writers, tell me about a "captain obvious" moment elsewhere in your life!
I'll be spending some quality alone-time with the steel wool and nail polish remover.