“But Jane–imagine, you could die tomorrow. I don’t think you will, but…. who’s going to take care of all this crap?! Oh, God! I don’t think we can all finish this today. This will take hours.” — Margareta Magnusson @ 3:10
I’m going to die. Okay, I got that one out of the way. Yes, I’m going to die. No, I most gratefully do not have a terminal disease that I know of. However, I am all of a sudden (as in the last year) starting to actually think about the art of dying. Because though it is oft-repeated cliche, it’s also actually true: If you can plan and get past your own death, you truly, truly are free to live.
What is it that I want people to remember about me when I’m gone?
More importantly: What is it that I still want to do? Still must do? What gives me joy and most honestly–what steals and kills it?
I realize there are some things holding me back.
Like many people, moms especially, I feel the daily crush of:
- Work outside of the home
- Kid’s activities
- Taking care/helping a parent
- Too much email
- More bills with less money
- Too many questions asked of me
- Too many decisions required by me
- Too much time doing and far too little time just being
For a few years I’ve been handling the status quo despite dizzying headaches and a chestpain that never seems to subside. Despite trying my darndest to eat mostly healthy, take supplements, exercise at least a couple of times a week and not freak out despite areas of life we aren’t sufficiently prepared for.
This question has been haunting me the better part of a year:
WHY CAN’T I SEEM TO HANDLE MY LIFE ANYMORE?
I realize it’s more than just the myriad of responsibilities and the changing hormones of menopause (which that of in itself often feels like I roll out of bed in the morning after a losing end of a bar fight the night before.)
It’s no longer satisfying enough for me to survive each day. My spirit is begging me: PLEASE….let me LIVE….AGAIN! I remember who you were, do you?
You may have heard of it. It’s also known as the Swedish Art of Death Cleaning. It’s not morbid at all. In fact it’s super freeing. At least it looks like it is. That’s because I’ve just begun. But I have started. Consciously.
This is Swedish Death Cleaning: You start systematically going through and purging your stuff that would not bring others joy, were you to pass.
I have had to realize some hard truths about myself this year: Primarily this one:
You get what you choose in life. If my life is challenging, it is because I have elected to make it so. I have made it so by the dreadful disease of hanging on.
Not just stuff. Emotions too. For every object I own, there must be ten corresponding feelings that go with it. To toss the object, means to throw away a part of myself. Or does it?
After consulting the internet and articles and videos, I can unequivocally confess that I hang on to memories and souveniers and items….most all of them. It’s as if I spent 30 years of my life documenting through photos and writing and saving trinkets from trips and memorabilia as proof that life my life–my family’s life was good. Proof, that I was a good mom. That I took my kids to some amazing places. That despite challenges and setbacks, our family had a fantastic time here. But in the process of saving and documenting all these memories, I lost sight of something: My kids have grown up, save one– our baby, who at nearly 13, is 2/3 grown! It’s painfully sad, but childhood is actually a short chapter in our lives, despite a few long days.
Apparently, my husband and I have done at least an okay job because guess what: They are living their own life now. Working and relationships and planning and hoping for their futures. All good things. All not requiring things I thought were worthy of saving:
- Souveniers from trips and interesting (to me) household objects
- Kitchen stuff they might want one day
- DVDs and tapes we watched together; games we played, crafts we made
- Books we read together and many that were never read at all but I always hoped we would
- Baby clothes and blankets
- Albums from my childhood. Wait, you’re a Millennial and you’re telling me you don’t want to listen to Mom’s old favorite music? What’s that? You say you can just listen to it on Spotify if ever interested? Oh.
The painful truth is, the above items are an infitesimally small fraction of what I actually saved. To list it all would be to bore the reader, and depress myself unbearably. Because starting today I have vowed to myself I will do this:
I will prayerfully and hopefully and with encouragement begin a year of Döstädning. Though it is emotionally painful to release things, I am going to try to anyway.
If I were to die tomorrow, what my kids would inherit would be cruel and inhumane. It would be a house full of scrapbooks and notebooks and clothes and books. If I haven’t put it together well in all these years, how on earth could they do it in days to weeks? I must think about this.
I choose to think about this with joy, not self-condemnation, but with a divine sense of urgency because I love them so.
I have limited time left with my parents. I have limited time left myself. I hope I have all the time in the world with my kids, but life in it’s sometimes cruel and majestic mysteries have already shown me this very real truth:
NONE OF US ARE GUARANTEED ANOTHER DAY
So with that, starting today, I will live different. I will be giving less gifts and I’m also begging others for less. I don’t want things from people. I do want genuine face-to-face time, not texting, emailing, or that altogether phony but noble indefinite plan to get together “someday soon”.
I want to be free to wake up and be creative. Or active. Or responsible. Or all of the above. But it’s impossible, if I’m chained to objects and the repositioning of them, as opposed to the releasing of them and in return the freeing of myself.
It’s going to take a while. One doesn’t get fat overnight. Neither does one get fat with stuff suddenly. Like a new diet and exercise routine, it’s going to take some profound spiritual muscle and some heavy mental lifting. I suspect I’ll be doing a lot of crying, so I am allowing myself a small fund for tissues. But otherwise, NO NEW STUFF!
It will take time: Boxing up and donating or selling will mean choosing how to spend my time with intention. It will take mental energy even when I’m physically tired. I will do it anyway.
It will take courage: This was so special to me, but I’m choosing to let it go.
It will take efficient time management: Dear Lord, since seconds count in life, help me decide swiftly and efficiently as I handle this object.
It will take prayer: Beloved object, mere thing–you served me so well at one time, but it is now time for us to part. I now put you in the garbage and bid you adieu.
Perhaps some prayers will be painful: You are attached to a sad or painful memory to me; I no longer need to hang on to you. I am purposely choosing to let you go.
Or perhaps this prayer: Dear object, gift from someone I truly love: I was not a good steward of you. Whether it was personal taste or disorganization, I did not enjoy you. It is with love, I fondly remember the giver as I release you, said object, into other hands or a new dimension for you.
Whether I close my day or close my life, I do hope I can leave this world honestly with this prayer:
God: I had an amazing life, overflowing with people and moments and blessings galore! I got so much more than I deserved! Thank you! These are the things I hold in my heart through every transition of life: Love.
That’s it. One word. The only thing that we truly carry from this world to the next.
Let the gentle purging process begin.
Liz Fave Resources:
By the way, my neighbor wrote the second book. Because when you let it go, you’re free to do what you love!