If you give a mouse a cookie he’s going to want a table to go with it

If you give a mouse a cookie was one of my kids’ favorite stories. In this story the mouse gets a cookie and then needs a glass of milk, the milk leads to needing a straw, and so on and so forth until suddenly in a turn of events leads you back to the mouse wanting a cookie.

How home staging is like the mouse and the cookie

When we begin to select home staging inventory, I often feel that I’m the mouse and the stuff is the cookie. The process is always the same for me. I begin by selecting the major pieces that will need to showcase the space – a sofa, a couple of chairs, a coffee table, side tables, so on and so forth. Next I select any rugs, large plants, artwork, lamps, and then finally accessories. To keep it easy, I usually pack my boxes based first on the room, then by where they will go. For example, all of my coffee table accessories go in the same box.

inventory management in home staging training

Where the trouble often begins is when, after identifying everything I want, I make a change. Often this happens as a result of needing one piece in another home where no other piece will work. For example, I may have chosen a glass coffee table but then really have to have a glass one in another home that has a smaller living room. In the first home, I can easily change to a wooden one. This makes good inventory sense. I don’t have to go buy another table to accommodate the second home.

That said, I cannot necessarily easily just give the coffee table accessories to the second home. Each area, while packed for the room and furniture, is meant to all go together as a theme in a home. Glass tables have different acceptable accessories than wooden ones though. Now that I’ve changed the table, I’ve got to change the accessories. Far too frequently this begins a cascade effect that I like to call, “give a mouse a cookie”.

Don’t second guess yourself on a home staging project

The next way that the “give a mouse a cookie” effect comes into play is usually during occupied home staging projects, or worse yet, redesigns. I always teach my students to start hanging art or using accessories on the most important part of the space, like the focal wall. This way, if they run out of great stuff, they took care of what was most important.

home staging inventory management

When we are working in a vacant home, usually we bring everything in. While we want to avoid the “give a mouse a cookie” effect, it is part of our job to make sure that there is enough in the home to cover all the primary areas. In occupied homes, we are often working only with what the homeowner has. This means getting creative.

Second guessing your decisions is the first way for this to get out of hand. Once you have determined the right piece of art or accessory in the most important spaces, you fill in. If you don’t have enough to fill in one area, then definitely DO NOT go back and undo something you’ve already done. In the end, you’ll find that you have had a cookie, milk, a straw, so on and so forth until you stand there wishing you had another cookie. You don’t have another cookie though, you only had the one.

Realize that one cookie is all you really need

In determining if I really need more stuff, there is one question that will always give me clear reference as to what to do next.

Will bringing in or purchasing another piece create a measurable, marketable difference in the property?

If the answer is “No.”,  then then is a design decision. Design decisions mean that I don’t need another cookie. If the answer is “Yes.”, then guess what? I need to pick up some cookies. For example. Back to that glass coffee table I mentioned earlier. For house number one, the answer was that I didn’t need another cookie – although I did have to rethink my accessory choices. For home number two, I needed a glass coffee table. I already said the room was small. If a wooden table would make it seem even smaller, or that I couldn’t get a coffee table in it, then I’ve got a measurable, marketable problem. Had that glass coffee table gone into home number one already, then I would be out buying another coffee table for home number two.

Controlling your cookie diet will also usually control both your home staging inventory budget, and your customers budget. Controlling your budget  and staying profitable is the number one goal in creating a successful home staging company.

Melissa Marro

About melissamarro


Melissa Marro is an international award winning home stager and professional speaker for the home staging and real estate industry. Founder and CEO for both SAR, Staging and Redesign Training and MRRE, Market Ready Real Estate's online home staging consultation program, Marro continues to help inspire and empower new and existing stagers as well as move the industry standards forward.

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