It's hard to say which is harder, selling a house or not selling it.

Gazing out at the FOR SALE sign on my front lawn, I watch a car pull close to the curb. As it idles, a woman dashes out of the passenger side, grabs a flier, eyeballs the house appraisingly, frowns, and gets back in the car. The car speeds off.

In my head, I yell, Good! Who needs ya? I wouldn't sell this house to you if you paid me double. Now get outtaheah, ya bums.

It wasn't always like this. When we first put the house on the market, I was puppylike with excitement. "Hi! Come on in. Want to see our house? You'll love it. We sure do. Lots of great memories here. Yep. Let me show you around.

"It has a few problems," I'd jabber. "But look at these wood floors. Loblolly pine. Not sure you can even get it anymore. And the ceilings - tall, huh? But it's not just the structure. It's the feel. It's got an incredible vibe, don't ya think?"

Back then, we kept our house spotless. No towers of mail on the dining room table. No piles of magazines on the coffee table (or anywhere else). No blue jeans hanging from the rocking chair. No pairs of shoes in the den. No CDs strewn all over the living room. No unwashed dishes in the kitchen. No spider webs in the corners. No dust balls on the bookshelves.

We walked through our newly glistening house as if guests in someone else's home. The furniture shined. The tables gleamed. This was not our beautiful house. But it was. And I liked it. I developed a new philosophy: Live your life as if every day might be the day you sell your house.

But as time wore on and no serious offer was made, we slacked off. Day-old newspapers began making cameo appearances on the couch again. Unread magazines started piling up. A handful of CDs never made it back into their alphabetized places.