Creating stress for myself and then letting go of it

meditationAfter taking a few days to think about it, we decided to put our home back on the market to sell.

I was feeling pressured trying to rid my home of dust or dirt to meet the exacting standards of potential buyers – my kids said it’s been more intense than Pesach cleaning!  After scrubbing and scrubbing, taking out all the windows and screens and washing them all, cleaning out the window tracks, dusting off the tops of the cabinets and window blinds boxes (don’t know who would have looked there but…..), I didn’t feel like my home looked better at all.  In fact, with my laser focus on dirt, I kept seeing more areas that needed to be cleaned.

Our agent wanted other agents in the city to come by yesterday to see our home since she said it’s better when the buyer’s agents personally see the home in person rather than just with pictures.  I was getting more and more uptight as the morning ticked on –  I was doing so much but didn’t have a significant feeling of progress.  When at noon I walked into the younger boys’ room and saw that ds7 decided to reorganize his shelves and move everything into a pile next to his bed and ds11 put the linen on their floor instead of where I asked him to put it, I almost burst with frustration to see a room that I thought was finished needed to be cleaned again when I still had so much to do.  

My husband was home and heard my mounting tension, and suggested I rest and try to unwind a little.  Good idea.  I was taking this waaaaay too seriously.  I asked him to let me know when a half hour went by, so I would have an hour to get things finished up before they came.

I went upstairs and chose a recording of Dr. Bernie Siegel’s to listen to, Meditations for Overcoming Life’s Stresses and Strains.  It seemed appropriate for how I was feeling that moment.  I turned it on to listen, lay down and closed my eyes.

This is what I heard, all in the slow and deliberate soothing voice of Dr. Siegel.  “……listen to your heart.  What does it want to tell you…about the pressure…that you are creating?”

I began relaxing, thinking how true it is I’m creating pressure for myself with this cleaning frenzy.  Ahhhh.  Must let go of that.  He continued, “How does it feel?” What is affecting it?  Go inside yourself- ”

“Avivah,” my husband called up in an urgent tone, abruptly interrupting my attempted meditation, “they’re here!”

What?!  It’s an hour and a half before they’re supposed to be here!  I bolt upright and rush downstairs to see that my wonderful husband thoroughly scrubbing the stovetop is in the middle of what has become quite a mess.  The stove top is sparkling but the grates and burners are all over the countertop, there are black crumbs that were scraped off that fell to the floor below, dirty rags visible – given ten more minutes the kitchen would have looked lovely, but at that moment it didn’t look good at all.

I didn’t mention that the washing machine stopped working before Shabbos so the repair man came that morning, leaving behind a working machine and a laundry room piled high with unwashed laundry. This is a room I usually have well under control.  Not this time!

I grabbed a broom to quickly sweep away the crumbs and the agents began streaming in (between fifteen and twenty) as I took a deep breath and accepted that despite my hard work that day and the week before, things didn’t look the way I wanted them to.  It was so obvious to me what a ridiculous waste of emotional energy all my tension about this visit had been.

You know what the best relaxation was?  That they were all here and now it’s not something to think about.  It was a quick visit as all of the agents went through our house – it probably took less than 15 minutes for all of them to finish.  I doubt one single one cared about my messy kitchen or the laundry piled on the laundry room floor.  I also doubt they cared about my sparkling window screens or the freshly scrubbed trissim (roll-up blinds outside the windows of Israeli homes). They were looking at the big picture, not the little details.

Having people checking out my personal space is stressful for me.  Really stressful.  I’ve had lots of time for reflecting on what thoughts are causing me to be so tense as I’ve been scrubbing during the past week.   Because I know that the real stress isn’t coming from people coming to look but the thoughts I’m thinking.  While I can’t control what people will be thinking as they view our home, I can control what I think of what they’re thinking!


10 thoughts on “Creating stress for myself and then letting go of it

  1. hoping your house will be sold, in the right time. and you should be able to find another place that is more fitting for your family. it is a very stressfull time. hatzlocha.

    1. Thanks, Rachelli! I love our home here – love, love, LOVE it – and I hope that we’re able to find something else that makes me feel as happy as this does.

  2. Can totally relate. I created so much stress for my family when we sold our apartment a few years ago. We bought our house as an estate sale, so it was in terrible condition and disarray, and you know what, I was able to see it for its potential despite the mess. If I ever sell again, I hope to remember that lesson…the right buyer will be able to see past the clutter and dirty windows :). Hoping your sale goes quick and easy!

    1. I also bought an apartment that didn’t look great but it was all superficial; it’s a wonderful apartment. The agent said I was unusual in being able to see past that but I’m sure there are lots of others like me.

      The ridiculous thing about all of my stress is that my house isn’t cluttered, it ranges from quite neat to somewhat messy depending on the time of day since we do have kids home all hours of the day! but I can put it in order fairly quickly. Just all that minutiae kind of cleaning and worrying about what other people would think was making me lose my perspective…I decided that from now on I’m cleaning it to my standards so that when someone walks in, I feel good about it. I can’t worry about other people and whatever their expectations are but that’s what I was getting caught up in.

      Now I’ve been looking at lots of photos and videos of other people’s homes, and I keep thinking, my house looks just as neat as all of these!

  3. I relate to what you say about how hard it is for you to have people – strangers – in your personal space.

    Your post has me thinking about what I can do to give myself a sense of protection when this happens – even if it is just a daughter’s friend visiting!! I feel myself get anxious and restless.

    I don’t know what to do about this yet, but you gave me a big clue with your story of listening to that recording!!

    Sending good wishes, strength and blessings your way…

    1. Judy, I think how we protect ourselves depends on what we perceive the threat to be. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this because I have two big emotional triggers- one is time pressure and the other is pressure regarding the cleanliness of my home.

      Obviously that pressure is triggered by my deeper thoughts about this, and I think your use of the word ‘protect’ really gets to the root of what most of our issues are at the core level – fear. So for me, part of what I need to do is reassure myself that I’m safe and I’m fine as I am, that what others think of me doesn’t define me.

      1. By the way, I frequently have guests and I don’t have a problem with that as long as I’m prepared. It’s when people come and I’m caught off guard that it’s an issue.

  4. This reminder is so true for me this week – we have contractors in the house to do painting so literally the entire house is tore up!! And I need to settle (my head) down bad!!! And go with the flow :) and see the opportunities that lie in the chaos lol

    I really do want to deep clean and Declutter and reduce my attachment to stuff ~ so what better way then to completely clear out a room and put it back fresh!!

    Thank you & Enjoy preparing your space!!

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