Monday, June 8, 2009

Readying the House for the Summer Rentals

I've a lovely house in Avignon. Truly, as I sought a new home in the region, and gaped and gawked at the possibilities (and/or lack thereof) this house answered my prayers. Just the right size for the boys and me, plus a room or two to rent or to transform one day into an office. There's the garden out back where I could put a small pool, a first effort at a vegetable garden, my roses, and more. And we're surrounded by small country roads, fields filled with wheat, or this year sunflowers, and orchards of apples, pears and peaches. Each evening that I can eat my dinner with the children on the terrace I thank my lucky stars. I find it incredible that for twelve of my years in Provence I lived in a town house in town, with no terrace, no balcony, no courtyard, no garden. All meals were eaten inside the darkness of the house, and rarely did I see the clear or cloudy skies, nor the night stars. I feel blessed.

However, this house came at a price -- and one which I continue to pay in the form of a rather steep mortgage (let's say that if I got a normal job tomorrow in France, I wouldn't be able to cover the mortgage with ease). But, I chose the house with the idea of a summer rental (or two or three) in mind. My parents rented our house in New York most summers -- it is by Long Island Sound and a private sandy beach. They also rented our summer house for the weeks we weren't there, and a small apartment in the basement of the NY house. I think it was my father who was so smart about money and expenses. He immediately saw the virtues in renting our homes, and thus put into motion years of intense late spring cleanings to ready for said renters.

Hence I've followed in the tradition. Knowing that I like to spend the summer -- at least a portion of it -- with my family in Michigan, and that I've friends who might house me should I need such here in Provence, I rent my Avignon house for as much of this period as possible. My boys are either with my family in the States or with their father from the last day of school till the week before school starts. Thus another potential problem handled.

But, this remunerative act does not come without a hell of a lot of work. I begin the first day of June, and I'll be cleaning and organizing through to the afternoon arrival of my first renters on the 27th. I've removed all winter and cold weather clothes of the boys and myself, and gone through all of these, putting whatever is too small, etc., into a Red Cross bag. I've already sent most of these suitcases and cases to JP's very large garage. I'm fixing whatever needs fixing -- this year it is the kitchen and bathroom sinks and counters. They were really not in good shape, wobbling faucets, etc., So, I've bitten the bullet and put the changes into motion. The kitchen is nearly done, but now the bathroom is awaiting our attention. I've purchased an art deco hutch/buffet that I'll put a wide rectangular sink into (IKEA) with the plan that we keep the marble top of the hutch (sawing it in half/removing the middle). As the hutch is a bit tall, we'll saw off the feet... this is the plan in any case. My plumber is a bit wary, but I'm, as they say, rather determined?

Once these jobs are done, the house is pretty much in good shape -- though my roof still leaks when there are fierce rain storms, but that will need to wait till I've serious money, i.e. after the sale of the b&b in Arles. Ah yes, I need to tighten the legs of the barbecue as well.

I'll remove everything fragile or of sentimental value throughout the house -- dishes, cups, glasses, bowls, pictures of the boys, artwork, etc., I leave a stash of toys for the renters (should they have kids) and the children's books, my library, a collection of cds and the stereo, ditto my culinary library (though the majority be in English...), kitchen supplies, tools, equipment, spices, etc., And for each family of renters, I try to provide a welcome basket with some pasta, wine, olive oil, crackers, coffee, milk etc., for their first dinner and breakfast in the house.

I will repaint my kitchen floor -- something I now do yearly as the traffic that runs through the ground floor is pretty amazing: me, the 5 kids, Filou and his friend Saline, whatever friends come by, etc.,

Then, I'll attack all the machines -- scrubbing, disinfecting, etc., and I'll take out the vacuum, duster/wet clothes and sponges to clean behind and under the beds and shelves, atop every piece of furniture in those hard to reach places. I should really wear a dust mask for all this as I'll be sneezing and wheezing away.

I'll go through the sheets to be sure only the ones without holes are in the cupboard, organize them to be sure that singles/fitted/queen etc., are carefully divided up, label, and fold them to perfection.

My house has neither a garage nor an attic, nor a spare room that I close off. So, I try to get our things as compact as possible, and transfer them either to JP's or to Erick's house in Arles for the summer. I've a small space under the stairwell, and it will be full, that's certain. If I'm able, I'll hang an opaque curtain there this summer to prevent the otherwise decided eyesore.

Then, the garden -- to be freshly mown, the pool pristine, the directions on how to use said mower, maintain the pool etc., well typed out. And, if I'm all set, flowers on the table for their arrival.

It's a doozy of a job. Other years I had Hayley or Virginia (the au pair in 2007) to help out. But this year, I'm on my own. So, day by day, job by job, I'll work my way through it all.

The virtues of this act are many -- my house will be thoroughly feng shuied, cleaned, dust and cob web free, barren of personal effects. I will have had a chance to go through everything I own, clean out, remove, discard, give away. And next fall, when we move back in, I can contemplate different arrangements, or put everything back as it was, but cleaner, fresher.

But I can say now, on the 28th, I'll be a royal mess. Just let me sleep. ok?


Nathalie said...

I know exactly what you're talking about, I did that job for years when we had the barge and did it again last year with my apartment in Avignon.

However I got disorganised this year with a last-minute change of plans and I have no tenants for the summer.

If you ever get enquiries, please feel free to recommend my place : a duplex two-bedroom apartment dead smack in the centre of Avignon, close to shops, restaurants and theatres, with a rooftop terrace and gorgeous views of the Popes Palace.

Madeleine Vedel said...

If only I'd known sooner! I started getting inquiries in Feb. this year, but they stopped in May. However, if anything comes my way, I will certainly let you know. It sounds lovely!