It’s supposed to feel just like home when Donald Trump steps inside the White House residence for the first time as president on Inauguration Day.
His clothes will be hanging in the closet. The kitchen will be stocked with his favorite foods. Windows will have been washed, carpets vacuumed or replaced, and fresh linens and towels will be in all the bedrooms and baths. No packed or half-empty boxes will be lying around either, unlike a typical home move.
Trump and his wife, Melania, can thank the nearly 100 butlers, maids, plumbers, electricians and other staffers who maintain the private living areas of the White House. The crew will have just the hours between Trump’s swearing-in and the end of the inaugural parade to remove all traces of President Barack Obama and his family and make the Trumps feel at home.
“I’ve called it, for years, organized chaos,” says Gary Walters, a former White House chief usher who oversaw the move in-move out process for four presidents.
The “chaos” breaks out moments after the outgoing president and the president-elect depart the White House for the oath-taking ceremony at the Capitol. However, the process itself starts after the November election when the White House chief usher reaches out to the incoming president’s team to begin coordinating the new First Family’s big move.
Melania Trump toured the living quarters in November when she accompanied her husband to the White House for his postelection meeting with Obama.
Trump, the businessman and reality TV star, now lives primarily at his three-story penthouse at Trump Tower on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and may continue to spend considerable time there because his wife and their 10-year-old son, Barron, plan to remain in New York until the school year ends.
The Obamas started packing up their belongings weeks ago. Crates and boxes lined hallways and filled the East Room last week. Mrs. Obama isn’t doing a lot of packing herself, but she recently said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that “I’m doing a lot of pointing” to indicate what needs to be boxed up.
Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he’s taking books, clothes, mementos and furniture bought since he became president. He and the first lady didn’t bring many large items with them because they left their home in Chicago intact. They also won’t be going far when they leave the White House.
After vacation in Palm Springs, California, the Obamas will settle into a rented mansion in Washington’s upscale Kalorama neighborhood. In a break with tradition, they plan to stay in the capital for a few years so their 15-year-old daughter, Sasha, can graduate from her private high school.
One of their new neighbors will be Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared, who will become a senior adviser to his father-in-law. The couple plan to move into a mansion in the same neighborhood with their three young children.
As the transition of power takes place at the Capitol on Friday, the White House residence staff oversees the transition from one family to another in a manner befitting an HGTV special.
Moving trucks for each family are positioned nearby and are directed through tight security to the White House when they get the all-clear.
Residence staff members are broken up into groups and given specific assignments. Some will pack the Obama family’s remaining items, and another group will carry them out to the truck. Other staffers will bring the Trumps’ things into the White House while still others unpack and put them in their designated places.
All the while, “you’re changing sheets and you’re changing towels and the housekeepers are working feverishly,” said Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.
But, adds Walters, “the end product is that when the new president and first lady come through the North Portico door after the parade that they walk into their home. Everything is in place.”
For Trump, a real estate mogul whose brand is flashy luxury, the move may mean bringing some of his flamboyant style to the White House. Trump’s penthouse in Manhattan and his hotels are known for their marble columns, crystal chandeliers and gold.
Earlier, before welcoming the president-elect for a pre-inaugural reception, the outgoing president, the chief usher and the residence staff traditionally meet for what often is an emotional goodbye. Over the years, the staff often becomes attached and protective of the president and his family, particularly those who serve two terms. In Obama’s case, many of those assigned to the residence are people of color and have been especially proud to serve America’s first black president and his family.
Trump is expected to follow tradition and stay at Blair House, the government guest house across from the White House, before the inauguration.
But how might he spend his first night at the White House?
Trump is thinking about sleeping in the famed Lincoln Bedroom. He said so during a recent lunch with historian Douglas Brinkley and other guests at Trump’s South Florida club. A guest at the lunch recalled the conversation and Brinkley confirmed its accuracy.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.