Episode 20 | (00:00):
Hey there, friend. Today, we're going to be talking about the number one midlife activity that is the very first step to defining your legacy so you can live a lighter life. And who doesn't want to live a lighter life? Especially in midlife, right?
When we say legacy, some of us think legacy is something really huge and grandiose, like, "Oh, I've got to give away a million dollars" or "I have to start a foundation" or having buildings named after you. That is not what legacy is at all.
I like Maya Angelou's definition best: "Your legacy is every life you've touched." That includes a legacy of investing in one person or a small group of people over your lifetime...or hundreds, or even thousands or millions of people. It's talking about the places where you make a difference, and this includes your family too, especially after you're gone.
So today we're going to talk about a little midlife activity that can get you thinking a little more deeply about your legacy and help you start living a simpler life, a life of simplicity right now, so things get a little bit lighter and you have one less thing to think about, right? Alright, you ready to do this? I know, I'm excited about this topic. I'm so excited you're here. So let's get going.
Hey there, Easy Ager. Before I get started, I wanted to remind you if you are not already on the Insider's list to be an Easy Aging® Insider, go to TheEasyAgingShow.com, get on that list, and you're going to have first access to new episodes, any special offers and free trainings that I'm going to be giving. So it's simply TheEasyAgingShow.com, and I'll see you over there, okay?
Today, I'm going to start with a little story. You know, it was the late eighties and I was a young professional. I had gotten out of college, and I guess you would call me a yuppie back then. I think we were called yuppies back then, weren't we?
So I felt like, I don't know, something was missing. I felt like I was kind of spinning my wheels with all the accumulation because back then, I remember that every weekend I would gather my friends and we'd go to the mall and we would buy things.
And then the next weekend, I would gather my friends and we would go to the mall and we would buy things. That was kind of what we did in our spare time. But with all this accumulation, everything started feeling heavy. I mean, I knew that I wanted less because I was feeling so overwhelmed with all my stuff, especially when I had to move. Now, I don't know about you, but I moved a lot in my twenties.
All I really wanted was a simpler life, but I had no idea how to do that. There wasn't a lot of reference to this simplicity or minimalism type thing, so I started snooping around for information.
When I was snooping around, I found a Saint that I thought, "Well now, that's pretty cool." His name was Saint Francis of Assisi. (I hope I said that name right.)
And Saint Francis had abandoned a life of luxury, a life of privilege, so he could take a vow of poverty to follow his calling from God. While I didn't know that I wanted to take a full vow of poverty, I knew I wanted to take a vow of something. You know, I thought, "How cool is this? Just to have a vow to live a simpler life, a life of simplicity." That resonated with me so deeply.
I took a vow of simplicity in 1990. I didn't really know what it meant. I didn't know what it looked like. All I knew was that it was what I wanted, but I had no idea what I was doing.
Over the years, I found a few books on simplicity, including Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It was the one with the pink cover.
Now when I say this, most of the women around me go, "Oh, I remember that book!" Do you remember that book? It was like a little devotional book with a theme for each month.
I remember quite clearly that this is the first book that helped me get a really firm grasp of what I was trying to do, and it helped me understand how the simple things can be so incredibly fulfilling on a daily basis.
Once I had the concept of simplicity in my head, I slowly started to release things. It was awkward and inconsistent, but I was giving it my best shot.
And the great part about this was that it was right before the minimalist movement became mainstream. I was so excited when that happened because that gave me more information. More books started coming out, more blogs started coming out about this...
so I had things to reference. And as I read about it, I knew I would never be a true minimalist. I started viewing myself as more of an essentialist, only having the things in my life that were essential and not having much extra, not having a whole lot of excess.
When I started thinking about my life in simpler terms, I started thinking about what my life would look like while I'm here. But I naturally started moving toward what is my life going to look like when I'm gone from this earth.
All I knew was I did not want to leave a huge mess for my family. I didn't want them to have to clean up after me. I mean, number one, that would be a huge burden for them. But number two, I thought it would be kind of embarrassing if I had all these containers of things that meant nothing to them, things that they weren't even going to use.
So I started reading a blog one day, and it talked about legacy and how you had to decide what legacy you wanted to leave. Do you want your legacy to be a bunch of containers of stuff that nobody wants or needs? I got really excited about this article because that was exactly what I was trying to do, but I couldn't articulate it properly.
One of the first places to start evaluating your legacy is your stuff. Now I'm talking about a midlife activity where this is the very first step you can take in defining your legacy. I don't think we think about it too much because we're still here. A lot of us don't like thinking about it at all, because that means we're going to be gone.
But have you ever thought about the legacy that you're leaving? Maybe it's time for you to start thinking differently about your legacy, primarily because you have one. You will have a legacy when you're gone, whether you like it or not.
But the big question is, is this the legacy that you want to leave? So, as I said earlier, one of the big parts of the legacy I wanted to leave was to keep things simple for of my family.
One thing that turned the tide for me was when I started asking myself one little bitty question. I would pick up an item and I'd ask myself, "Does this bring value to the legacy that I want to leave?"
For me, asking that question made it so much easier to start releasing things. I mean, it reframed everything for me.
Let me give you an example. I picked up this little crumpled paper hat. The edges were bent. It was a little bit faded, and I started smiling because I started remembering, "Oh, that was the time we went to so-and-so's birthday, and then we went to the bar and then we picked up some more of our friends...
And then we all went dancing. And then we went to the 24-hour waffle house and had breakfast. And it was such a lovely evening of celebrating this person. Oh my gosh, I love that so much."
Then I asked myself the question, "Does this hat bring value to the legacy I want to leave? Well, obviously the answer was no, because my family is not going to have the first idea what that paper hat means.
The memories don't live in the hat, the memories live inside of me and I can revisit them anytime I want. So when I thought about this not bringing value to the legacy I want to leave, it was easy to release this little hat. Now, if I had felt strongly about the hat, I would've taken a picture of it.
There is an interesting book I recently read...
It's called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter. It is by a woman named Margareta Magnusson.
She uses a Swedish word that means "death" and "cleaning." Now, it's not nearly as negative as it sounds. It sounds kind of seriously horrible when you first hear it. But in Swedish, this term simply means removing unnecessary things and making your home nice and orderly as you get closer to leaving this planet.
To be clear, this is not minimalism. This is just simply living a life of simplicity. It's simplifying your life. It's about going through your belongings to decide how you want to get rid of things that you don't want or need anymore.
Thinking about Swedish death cleaning is not a sad thing. It's actually something to be celebrated because you're going to be taking a huge burden off your loved ones after you pass.
By midlife, we have more than likely had to clean out someone's house after they're gone, and it's generally a huge chore.
When you simplify now, you're going to simplify your family's efforts later, right? It's going to simplify their efforts dramatically as they're cleaning out your house. It means they're not going to go through those piles and piles of newspapers or magazines that you just didn't get on EBay because you wanted to sell them, right?
Or they're not going to have to go through the millions of vases or baskets that you've accumulated, that you've collected. They are not collectibles, you just happen to have accumulated a lot of them.
Remember, as they're cleaning out your house, they are going to be grieving. So by doing this type of cleaning regularly, this type of simplifying regularly, you have made their lives easier. After you're gone, that means they are simply going to be going through practical, useful things that you had that you actually used when you were here.
And that includes things like clothes that actually fit your body — not the body image that you have in your head — I mean clothes that fit your actual body that you have right now as you're hearing my voice, hint, hint. ;)
When they get into your kitchen, they're not going to have to clean out 25 spatulas because from what I understand, unless you're a professional chef, you probably only need one or two, maybe three spatulas, right? Depending on how much you cook, you don't need 25.
Books. Oh my gosh, that's a huge one for me. I was such a book hoard. I would buy a book almost every week, so I had a ton of books and I started looking at them, seeing how they were adding value to my legacy.
And I said, "You know what? If I've already read these and I'm not using them for reference...
...and I know I'm not going to go back and re-read them because I know how it ends..." Give them away. I started giving away a ton of books. If they were more recent, I take them to Half-Priced Books.
But I was thinking, "You know, Michelle, these items all blessed you." All of these items from the kitchen to the clothes to the books or whatever, they blessed me at a certain time in life and now it is time for me to bless someone else by giving them away.
When you get to sentimental items, the things that matter the most to you, I have a suggestion. Why don't you start giving them away now? These sentimental items are beautiful things.
My mother started doing this. She gave me some of my favorite things of hers, probably about five to 10 years before she passed.
And she loved it. She loved seeing the joy that I got out of having this thing in my house.
You've got to understand these are some of my favorite things in the whole world, and I saw them every day when I was growing up. When she gave me this, she said, "Hey, do you want this vase?" And I'd say, "Oh my gosh, I, I love that vase. Yes, I want that vase," or whatever it was.
I mean, I felt like she was giving me a piece of the home that I grew up in. You know, she was giving me a piece of our family. That piece got to live there, at her house, and now it gets to live in my house. So it was very nice to have those things around me and they are still, to this day, some of my favorite things that I own.
I'm not going to tell you how to do this. I'm just giving you some ideas on how to think about your legacy at midlife. But the first thing you do is to find what legacy you want to leave.
What are you leaving to your loved ones? Who is cleaning up after you and what are they going to have to go through?
Now you can think about your legacy and the big, grand, overall thing. But right now, I just want you to think about your legacy of stuff, okay? Stay focused on this area and ask yourself, "How can I make this process easier for my loved ones?" by taking little baby steps every day or every week or every month.
Remember Easy Aging® is not about taking huge, massive action. It's about taking little, fun-sized actions, taking little bite-sized nuggets of action to help you get where you want to be. So ask yourself how you can do that.
And of course, the second thing is grabbing the item and asking, "Does this bring value to the legacy I want to leave?
You know, living a life of simplicity now is just going to make your life lighter now. You're not going to have so much clutter. You're going to allow your house, your garage, your shed, whatever it is, they're going to breathe a little bit more because you have fewer things.
You're not just lightening your load now. You're lightening the load for your loved ones later.
So that's pretty much it for today. Once again, go to TheEasyAgingShow.com, get on my Insider's mailing list, and until next time, peace, love and blessings to you and yours. Take care, bye-bye.