It’s Time to Stop Judging My Life On Someone Else’s Values

Over my lifetime, I have often found myself looking at my house through a different lens.

As a teenager, the hold-over gold velour couches and brown shag rug in the living room were generally ignored by me until the occasion arrived to invite a school friend inside. They became mortifying, shameful objects that mocked me as a poor kid whose parents had no style. Not that most of the families in town were better off, but, still, I wished for something classier at those times.

As a college student, I rarely considered my surroundings more than to discern whether or not there were enough clean bowls for a rapid-fire breakfast before my first class or if the sheets smelled sour. Until Dad came to visit, and then it was a race to clear the kitchen of the silverfish that were constantly scurrying through the cupboards and wash every stitch of clothing and vacuum the cat hair up as best I could so it wouldn’t coat his white athletic socks. Nobody but him ever took their shoes off to come in my apartment.

After marriage, it was my in-laws who most skewed my lens, giving me the critical eye for dust or crumbs swept into the corners of the kitchen. This intensified more after having children despite the fact that their house is not immaculate, either.

I will occasionally don a new pair of spectacles for gatherings we host – a barbecue helps me scrutinize the weeds growing in the cracks of the deck and the fingerprints on the windows always look worst at night for dinner parties when the light from the kitchen is reflected off of the smudgy panes.

Despite all of that, there is nothing so soul-baring as readying your house to put up for sale. The knicknacks have to be banished and the caulk in the shower – black from years of mold – has to be scraped out and replaced. The carpets need to be shampooed, or replaced altogether, after years of chocolate milk and coffee spills, muddy shoes and dog-treasures dragged across them. I never realized how many doors we have in our house until I had to wipe them all down and touch up the paint where it has chipped off from slamming or furniture dinging into them or canine claws scratching to BE. LET. IN. ALREADY. I also never noticed how tarnished the brass door knocker is or paid much attention to the gap between the washer and dryer that fills up with lint.

After a few weeks of packing things and purging others, culling through what goes and what just goes away, I thought I was ready. I thought I had busted my butt preparing the house. And then my real estate agent came in. And she brought with her all of her “feng shui’ wisdom and years of experience and pared down and shifted and, while I never quite saw things through her lens, I began feeling tired.

Which is how I generally feel when I see parts of my own life through a different set of eyes. Tired. That’s because it usually means I begin making to-do lists for myself and bending over backwards to conform to a standard other than my own and, I’m not sure which of those things is more exhausting – running through a list of new tasks, or running through a list of tasks that didn’t originate with me – but I’m not sure it matters.

In the end I know that, for this one purpose (selling my house as quickly as possible), such a process is necessary. But it has caused me to question whether it was necessary all of those other times I chose to look at my life or my house or my parenting from a viewpoint other than my own. I do think it is important to be able to see things from other perspectives, but when it ends up giving me a different set of values about myself, maybe it is all a bunch of hooey. Especially if it makes me feel judged and defensive and not good enough.

So this one time, I’m going ahead and wearing myself out. Pressure-washing the front walkway to get rid of moss and replacing the front door knob with a new one and packing away all of my favorite photos and mementos. If only so that I can sell this place and settle in to a new house where I can put them all out again and relax into my own point of view again.

6 replies
  1. chriswreckage
    chriswreckage says:

    You're making me tired just thinking about it! Ugh! Good luck getting the house in order through the eyes of potential buyers. Maybe once the move is over, you'll remember this lesson you've learned and get a chance to relax and enjoy what you have.

  2. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    Oh Kario! I can relate so easily to this post! I know that "fish eye" perspective so well. I often find myself thinking those same thoughts when I know someone is coming over who lives in a spotless (and often kid-less) house! I am technically "kid-less", in that they don't actually live here anymore, but they might as well live here because their rooms are packed to the ceiling with outgrown stuff!

    I applaud you for getting down to it, doing what needs to be done to get the house sold. And, I'll be sending you sustaining thoughts as you get 'er done! I've told my husband that I don't want to sell for exactly that reason. It makes me so tired to think about the effort it would take to get the house ready for the "fish eye" lens!

    PS ~ Do you live nearby? You know Klager Lilacs, so you must be fairly close! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Annie
    Annie says:

    This is exactly what I struggle with. I'm always trying to tidy up before someone comes over. Throwing stuff in cupboards and sending piles behind closed doors. I may think things are clean but then I put on my glasses and wow…it's gone to hell in a hand basket! To think I sold real estate for fifteen years and probably was one of those people who had to give the bad news that there's more work to do. Let's hope not. I think it sounds judgmental. Yes, the goal is to sell the house quickly, but not by making a seller feel bad. Good luck with the sale, Kario! When you get to the new place, make a rule that you will live how you want without getting stressed over the mess.

    B. WHITTINGTON says:

    It's funny how we all view things so differently and how we change over the years.
    I was raised in a very orderly home so that's how I'm comfortable doing things in my house. BUT I've noticed that as I've grown older, I am comfortable letting certain things slide.
    We've sold several homes so I know what you are going through. Looking at your own place through the eyes of a potential buyer.
    Good luck with getting things ready.
    In your own place once again, you'll relax and forget all the bad of the experience.
    Plus there is a certain feeling of accomplishment when you get everything done all at once.
    We had a neighbor once who was preparin to sell and who got their house in such good order they loved it all over again and did not move!
    Blessings, Barb
    author of VADA FAITH on Kindle
    Barbara A. Whittington

  5. Alicia D
    Alicia D says:

    i feel your pain!!! just "play the game"… it will all be part of your past soon. You do what you need to do to get where you want to go :).

    i love the way you process these things. so many of us feel the same way, but can't express it as well as you do :). HANG IN THERE!


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