Life Lessons in a Trash Bag :: What I Learned About Life From My Garbage

Do you ever feel guilty throwing things away? Last week as I was cleaning my home, my trash bag got stuffed to the gills. Old birthday cards, mismatched socks, stained t-shirts, keychains, flashlights, report cards, all resisted me as I added them to the bag. “Keep me!” they said. “I’m perfectly good for someone! You’re wasting if you throw this away. Don’t you care about the person who gave me to you?” I kept tossing in spite of the “voices” and had a realization as I looked around at my adorable home.

I’m learning to overcome physical clutter in my life, and it’s challenging because of the guilt and worry about eventually needing something. Yet, it’s worth it because my home has become a place I love. Driving up to it makes me smile and going into my welcoming space is such a comfort each day. I’ve learned that in order to keep my home a happy, comforting place, I must be choosy about what I keep and brutally unafraid about what I throw out. Now it’s time to learn to apply this principle in more areas of my life.

purging the clutter

For most of my adult life, I’ve been trying to build a net big enough to catch all the things coming my way. Call it FOMO, or whatever, I just can’t stand to rule out possibilities. Just like keeping all of the things clutters up my home, keeping all of the thoughts, opportunities, appointments, memberships, and roles clutters my brain. The past year of my life has brought a cleansing of sorts. I had allowed a toxic relationship to consume almost all the space in my head and heart. A dysfunctional work environment contributed to my mental chaos. As 2021 began, I made some difficult and final choices that have freed up some breathing room to allow light in. As I sat there enjoying my cute little cottage, I had a knowing in my heart: Just like I can’t keep all of the physical things if I want to have a lovely living space, I can’t keep all of the intangible things if I want a lovely mental space.

For years, my life has been a flowing river and I’ve run myself crazy trying to build a dam big enough to catch all of the things passing me by.  Day by day, I’m learning that it’s ok to let something pass. Not everything is meant to stay. Not everything or everyone that passes by is meant for me. By trying to make room for all of the things, I leave myself no room for the things, opportunities, people, and loves that are truly mine.  

These days I’m becoming less of a dam builder. I’m content to stay in the river of my life and let it flow, reaching out to hold onto only what’s meant for me. Finding the beauty, the joy, and the wonder around me is much easier to do when I’m not frantically trying to catch it all and keep it forever. In a trash bag full of useful things not meant for me, I found a lesson that is most definitely meant for me:  Joy can’t be hoarded. Fulfillment can’t be kept for future use. Neither can be had in any major way if I say yes to every single possibility because the clutter will crowd out the good stuff.

There is a certain freedom and peace once we push past the guilt and fear. I can’t let Fear Of Missing Out make me actually miss out! What truly belongs to me is worth having, even if it means something else must pass me by. No longer will I live trying to catch everything, yet missing the most important things. Letting go of what isn’t meant for me isn’t easy, but it’s my key to creating the life I truly love.

Rebecca has called New Orleans home for over 16 years. She transplanted from Florida and after she endured Hurricane Katrina with the people of New Orleans, the resilience, culture, and shared love of life captured her heart. She is a mom of 3, ages 22, 17, and 10. Rebecca loves all the ages and stages, having experienced a kindergartener and a senior in the same year! Rebecca is Executive Director of a local assisted living home, and bringing love to life is her passion. She has been writing and blogging for years and enjoys speaking to groups both business and community. In her spare time, Rebecca will be making a pot of coffee for impromptu entertaining, having family dinner with the kids, or sitting on her porch swing with a good book or a delicious drink, or both!

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