Journal Mental Health/Wellness

How a Cleared Counter Keeps Me Calm

Written by Dusty Reed

Lately I’ve been feeling myself bubbling.  Fear, anger, irritation, anxiety.  Everywhere I turn I find a trigger.  From the breakfast trappings scattering the table AGAIN this morning to the constant stream of horrific human behavior plastering the inter-webs.  From child sexual abuse in every pocket of society to my bathroom sink plugged up because my five year old thought washing money was a fun way to spend the morning.  I can feel myself seething.  I’m having trouble keeping it all together.  Even though I don’t mean to, I’ve been spewing snarly comments to the family like the clattering lid of a pot about to boil over.  I’m tense and on edge.  When I let myself get like this, it’s hard to find peace.

What makes it worse is when I can’t even find a calm spot of sanity in my own home.  Everywhere I turn I find scattered Legos, dirty laundry, and the remnants of meals served three meals ago.  I am not a neat freak. Unfortunately, I’m a terrible housekeeper.  But I’ve learned that when my mind is swirling in chaos, I need to SEE order somewhere in my tangible life, an organized place for my eyes to rest while I calm my raging emotions.

messy counter

I’ve decided to make the place of focus in my home my kitchen peninsula.  I can’t get the whole house in order in five minutes. I CAN get the peninsula cleared in five minutes, though. For me, this has been a total sanity saver.  The peninsula can be a hot-spot for clutter.  It’s a drop zone.  It’s where the mail gets tossed.  On any given day you can find miscellaneous craft supplies, toast crumbs, library books, and half empty glasses of milk.  There are often combs and ponytail holders, Hot Wheels cars, and at least one glob of homemade crab apple jelly.  When my emotions are churning and the mess in my home environment isn’t helping, I clean off the peninsula.  I put everything away in its right spot.  I ignore the other messes screaming for attention in other rooms and scrub the dried egg off the counter.  I shut out the anxious thoughts creeping around my head just long enough to find a home for the sunscreen and toss the empty BBQ sauce bottle into the trash.  With a final swish of a disinfectant wipe across the counter, I feel my heart rate return to normal. 

I usually take an extra minute just standing there at my clean and orderly counter simply to take a few calming breaths and appreciate the place of peace I’ve carved out.  It’s usually enough to motivate me to tackle the next hurdle in front of me.  Sometimes that means continuing to clean.  Other times it means finding a more appropriate way to handle the fight breaking out in the living room over which movie to watch.  More importantly, the tidied environment has created a fresh space in me to sort out my feelings, pray through them, and move forward.

When you feel your emotions or anxiety bubbling and churning, what helps you?  Have you noticed a spot in your home environment that calms you as you clear it?

About the author

Dusty Reed

Dusty is a wife, a mother and a friend. Having grown up in a big city, she is now raising her family of seven on a farmstead in rural Nebraska. During weekdays Dusty can be found teaching her children at the dining room table. Or napping; it can be exhausting raising five kids!

Dusty is always on the lookout for ways to avoid housework. Her favorite ways are meeting friends for coffee, preparing meals to take to others, or simply laying in a hammock with a good book. Often feeling like an inadequate mess, Dusty is allowing God to enter into those fragile parts of her heart to heal it. Anything she learns along this tangled path of life, she longs to share with others.

2 Comments

  • Dusty, Great story & yes, I’ve always found that I needed one special place in my home where I could go to relax, and that was my top priority for keeping the space clean & organized. It doesn’t have to be big, or fancy … just a place where nothing screams take care of this or that.

    I can also relate to cleaning the countertop as last week it was doing the dishes for me, after 2 major technology problems … and then restarted my day fresh!

  • Thinking of when my children were young and even now…my sewing room was my place. I could create and my soul was satisfied. Peace reigned in my heart.