Our neighbor down the street died before Christmas. Robert was single, in his sixties, and genuinely a nice fellow. His terminal diagnosis had come only three months before his death.
I had met Robert a few times at neighboring parties and felt shocked when I heard he was dying. I had sent him a note to tell him my husband and I were thinking of him – those words just skimmed the surface of what we really felt. Here was a man our age, living life as we were, retired and free to do what he pleased and then in one short sentence, his life was over.
A few weeks after he died, I was walking by his house, and noticed a large trash bin had been placed on the driveway. It looked out of place this big steel, rusty, ominous container sitting on his well-maintained yard. I felt sad wondering what would end up in there. A week before, I had noticed activity around the house, cars being moved out of the garage and some furniture placed in a moving truck. The bin had a different feel to it. It would contain the items that no one else wanted. Things that Robert would have found worth keeping but others would put in a trash heap.
This left me thinking how many of my life’s “treasures” would be worthless to others. There was a time where materialistic things were very important. They symbolized an achievement. I had to keep up with the “Jones”. I felt I had to fit in. Thankfully, I have come to the realization that it is not things that are important in my life. It is the relationships that I have formed. It is the connection I have and time spent with those around me. This is what I treasure more than anything else.
I had to work to achieve this. I had to give up a lot of self – righteousness and entitlement.
I would like to share with you three simple steps that can also give you peace of mind and have you live the rest of your life with peace, power and completeness.
Step 1: Cleaning your space
A course I took some time ago had us de-clutter our home keeping only those things that gave us joy. Trust me, there was no joy looking at a dress I had paid way too much for ten years ago thinking I had to hang on to it. The only reason I was holding on to it was guilt. Then there were the nick knacks, the gifts, and ornaments that I felt I had to keep –for years. The feeling of relief dropping them off at the good will centre was amazing. I had found a new freedom living in my own home. As the space around me was de-cluttered – my mind became less busy.
Step 2: Strengthening relationships
Make a list of people that you have had a falling out with. See if you are more committed to being right or being in a loving relationship. It is easy to hold onto grudges, making others wrong. This only robs us of having a life of freedom. Be willing to initiate a conversation of forgiveness and de-clutter that resentment file in your mind.
Step 3: Strengthening your relationship with yourself
Forgive yourself for all those times that you made choices that were not in your best interest. Leave them in the past. You did the best you could at the time, with the abilities you had. The reason that you continue to think about them is because you have filed your past in the present time. Into the trash bin they go
I began to wonder if I would have any regrets if faced with a terminal diagnosis. I looked at those in my life that I could have a deeper connection with. The important conversations I could start. This life that I am living is not only about me – it is about the people that I see every day. It is about other human beings that I have the privilege of connecting with, whether it is with a smile or conversation.
Death has encouraged me to look at the clutter of my life, the stuff of my life and to begin to de-clutter sooner rather than later – to lighten the load so to say.
Oh yes, Robert and his trash bin? When I peeked inside his bin the other day there were only a few pieces of scrap lumber in the bottom of his bin. I closed my eyes thankful in knowing that he left this world de-cluttered and in peace.