Aretha RespectWhile working with a client in her basement one day, I pulled a box out from under the stairs. The area was dusty, full of cobwebs; the box, water-stained and dilapidated.

“What’s in here?” I asked. She didn’t know.

The top of the box was filled with yellowed, age-worn newspaper. As I dug a little deeper and unwrapped the first item, my client exclaimed, “Oh, those are my grandmother’s dishes! Those are very special and precious to me – that’s all I have to remember her by!”

Really? The first thing I felt compelled to gently point out is that things are not memories. Things can trigger memories, but the memories reside within us.  Imagine what your life would look like if you required a thing in order to remember any other thing – a person, a place, an event – we’d be overwhelmed with a huge clutterpile of things. Aha – you’re beginning to see an issue I deal with on a regular basis.

The second point I made was that if, indeed, these dishes were special and precious, they didn’t belong in a water-stained box under the basement stairs. That was not a place of honor for the one tangible thing that represented the memory of her grandmother.

We took the box of dishes upstairs. We unpacked them, washed them, and made a place for them in the dining room so my client could actually use them. She loved the idea that with each use she would think fondly of her grandmother, who had been an important and influential person in her life.

I think that’s how you show respect – for things and for the memories they represent.

If and when the time comes when you can no longer keep the “thing” or no longer have a use or a need for it, passing it on –  releasing it out into the universe – is another awesome way to show respect. Think of the positive energy created by allowing someone else to love and use what was once precious and special to you. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

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