Thursday, August 11, 2016
You may have noticed, if you have been poking around my Etsy shop, that I am away from my studio this month. My banner has an announcement about being away and my processing time for shipping orders has been changed to a couple of weeks. Although I am fitting in some fun during this time, the month of August is hardly summer vacation for me. This time away is all business.
I am lucky enough - or unfortunate enough, depending on your perspective - to live in a town that is heavy on summer tourism. Very, very heavy. Saratoga Springs is known for its healing springs and the water that bubbles forth, but even more so for the horse racing that triples the population of my little upstate New York town every summer.
For hotels, restaurants and shops, this population boom pours money into our local economy. But you can't increase from a population of 30,000 to 100,000 and have enough beds for every visitor. That's where the cottage industry takes over. And by cottage industry, I mean not only cottages, but houses, condos, apartments, lofts and any other dwelling that can be rented out during this equine explosion to the people willing to pay absurd amounts of money to stay in Saratoga in the summer.
Renting my house out for four weeks every August has become a natural rhythm to my year. The dance begins in June when I walk around my house and take a look at it through a stranger's eye. The upstairs hallway needs to be re-painted; the central air conditioning should be serviced; the front porch has a column that has some rot. Then I call my handy dandy contractor and start scheduling. The Fourth of July means it is time to tackle the basement. When I first started renting, I would carefully assign a way to get rid of the flotsam: old toys would go to friends who had younger children; I could salvage something else with a little paint or with some repair work; unwanted books were collected and donated to the library; good things we no longer wanted could be sold at a yard sale or on Craigslist. It took more planning and running around than I have the patience for 12 years later. Now I just pick a sunny Saturday and put unwanted stuff out on the sidewalk with a "free" sign and pitch whatever is leftover at the end of the day. Done.
A clean basement means I can start packing up things here and there, putting them in containers and bringing them down. Renters expect that a house will be depersonalized and look much like a B&B, but with the convenience of home. (I leave my fridge full of condiments, salad dressings and even leave behind eggs, butter, milk and cheese. Who wants to rent a house and then have to go buy all kinds of little foo stuffs? I leave the basics of salt, pepper, jelly, ketchup, mustard and, in the case of my fridge, anchovy paste, chili paste with garlic, Better Than Bouillon and soy sauce.)
By the middle of July, I have worked through most of the house and am very happy with all the excess stuff that is out of my life. I hit the clothes closets and start by packing up the winter stuff that I won't be wearing until fall and end with summer stuff currently in my wardrobe rotation. I eventually touch every article of clothing that I own and we all purge a surprising amount so that we don't end up storing things we will get rid of when we unpack.
The next step is a deep cleaning. I used to do this one by myself and I am a rabid deep cleaner. I figure if I am going to clean something once a year, then I am going to use a toothpick to get in all the tiny places and really clean it. But, again, after renting for more than a decade, I have learned to be smarter. I now hire two women to come for half a day. We all clean top to bottom, and it's done all at once so nothing has time to get dirty again.
The last stop is my studio. I wait until the morning that I am moving out to change the shipping times, then I put any of our remaining personal items in, lock it up and get the heck out of Dodge. I consider renting a part-time seasonal job because of the hours I put in getting the house all ready.
But lest you think I take time off while renting, I am fitting in some work here and there. Nobody can take a month off when they own their own business. I have been staying with family in another state, where I have been looking at new places at which to wholesale my Petal People cards. I am researching possible venues that match my criteria, visiting shops to check out the look and feel of the place and its customers, collecting business cards, and making mental notes about display ideas so I have a good list and am all ready when I send out my wholesale inquiries early in 2017 for the spring gardening season. Oh and I am also raiding everyone's gardens for flowers to press for new designs to create this winter when everything is quietly sleeping under a blanket of snow.
I thank the customers who are still purchasing out of my shop with long processing times for being so patient and understanding while I am away. I will be back soon!