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.