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Reinventing Herself as a Home Stager

Former stay-at-home mom finds her dream career: Rearranging decor for houses going up for sale

Q: What's the hardest part of being a stager?

A: For me, sometimes the hardest thing is to convince people that they really do need to let go of the house and not to take offense, for example, if the house doesn't look anything like the way it looked when they lived there. The hardest thing about putting your house on the market is to make the psychological break with the house. So as a stager, that can sometimes be very difficult. You have to be careful not to offend people.

The business part of it is also a challenge. As far as the inventory goes, if you don't have enough furniture in storage somewhere, you won't be able to take on enough jobs. And then people will say, "Oh well, I guess I just have to hire somebody else." If you have too much, your storage costs get to be too high. In the beginning it's a constant juggling act. At some point you have to say, "The business is going to stay about the size that it is now." You're going to have to accept the fact that you can't take on seven jobs or something, otherwise you need more personnel. I can only be one person, and in order to give the attention to detail that I think is so important in these jobs, I have to limit myself.

Q: I'd imagine this job requires a ton of physical stamina, right?

A: That's exactly right. You go downstairs, you meet the movers, you walk up and down the stairs several times — and if you're tired, that's just too bad, because the house is going on the market tomorrow and the clock is ticking! When I have restrictions on time, I also find myself doing a lot more of the heavy lifting — literally. Helping the movers unload the truck, because we've got to get it done before the photographer comes.  

"Sometimes you just need to be as introspective as possible and figure out what it is that, when you're doing it, you're happy about the fact that you're doing it."

Q: But you seem to love it just the same. Would you say that this job feels like "work"?

A: Yes and no. Every job has scut work involved. In this job, the paperwork is enormous — and that's complete scut work to me. To some people that might be the best part of the job, but to me it's not. But because I keep my eye on what the finished product is going to be, I'm able to put one foot in front of the other and just get it done. Because in the end I know I'll look back at the whole project and say, "OK, that was challenging, but I did it."

Q: What's your advice to people looking to reinvent their lives or careers, but don't know where to start?

A: The most important thing is to look inside of yourself and figure out what makes you happy. Sometimes you just need to be as introspective as possible and figure out what it is that, when you're doing it, you're happy about the fact that you're doing it. Because as I say, chances are, if you like to do it, you're going to be pretty good at it. And even if you're not good yet, you enjoy it so much that you're willing to put a lot of time and effort into becoming good at it, because it's something that you already like to do.

It's not necessarily obvious in the beginning, so you may have to have a few false starts. For me, it wasn't so much what I wanted to do — it's that I knew what I didn't want to do. Narrow it down. That's just as important.

Next: Advice for aspiring stagers. >>

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