Bored with your standard exercise routine? Try photographing a small apartment. I didn’t take the pictures, of course, but I hadn’t gotten in to see the one-bedroom I’d listed, and I was a bit dismayed to see both the vacuum cleaner and the Swiffer sitting in the entryway. The photographer was a true sweetheart, but the next hour was a game of moving the vacuum cleaner to the living room so the foyer could be photographed, moving the dirty dishes into the foyer so the kitchen could be photographed, moving the ashtrays into the bedroom so the living room could be photographed, and moving the laundry and guitars into the living room so the bedroom could be photographed.

Thankfully, the bathroom was pretty OK.

Oh, the tenant had tried; his laundry was neatly piled, and the thing that looked like a bong but that I’m sure was a piece of sculpture was thoughtfully shoved into the kitchen cabinet. But I couldn’t get over the mess and called my sponsoring broker, who tactfully said, “Well, he’s not a decorator.”

The owner had asked me what she should do to help her make her asking price – glaze the tub? Redo the plasterwork? And now, after an hour in the apartment, my answer was simple: rent your tenant a storage space so that his suitcases don’t sit in the front closet so there’s a place to put the vacuum cleaner.

Despite the clutter, I made three appointments to show the place the next week. It was relatively cheap for New York – i.e., under $550K – and agents had been calling, and I knew from my experience trying to place renters how frustrating it was to work with a place you couldn’t see.

The day of the showings, I felt pretty ready to go. I finished up some writing in the morning, and I had a terrible cold, but I could just manage to hold my head up without looking like I was suffering from a grisly hangover. My watch matched my blouse, and I left myself just enough time to swing by the office and see if my business cards had come in, because otherwise, what was I going to hand out?

Hand out…omigod, sell sheets! Don’t apartments usually come with sell sheets? Three nice customers are going to walk in the door, see the premises, and I’m going to hand them…what? I have no collateral material, for heaven’s sake, I’m a writer, all I do is produce printed crap all day long, and now I don’t have any!

I tear out of the house, deciding that I can still make my first appointment if I skip the office, and if I can somehow whip up a sell sheet I can explain to customers that my name and phone number are on the sheet. I gamble against going to the Kinko’s near me, betting I can find one near the listed apartment. I put on my makeup on the subway train (not for nothing have I lived in New York for 18 years) and I get to the place with half an hour to spare.

Apparently, my lecture about cleanliness and godliness had sunk in. I still have to hide a few pairs of shoes, but the clothes I had folded and put in the closet a few days ago are still neat, and the dishes are done. I pick a living room corner to stash the vacuum cleaner in, just so it’s not the first thing you see, and head out to the street with 15 minutes to go.

Across the street from the apartment is the kind of hipster cafe where kids form bands, and I notice with delight it has Internet access! And printers! God loves me. The blessings of health and family may not have opened my eyes to that fact, but hey, an Internet cafe in the desert!

I pop open a Word document and write the address and the price at the top; my strongest three sell bullets next (pet-friendly building!) and then, zoom, I pull a floorplan off my webmail, and stick my name and phone number at the bottom. I notice that my photos are actually in now, but resizing them on the fly just seems way too complicated, so I go with just the floorplan. It’s black-and-white, but otherwise not bad.

And I’m only five minutes late when I cross back to the lobby, sell sheet in hand, to meet the first customers of the day.

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