It Just Doesn’t Matter Anymore

woman reading book girl yellow dressSometimes revelations arise from the most unlikely things.

I didn’t start reading fiction until I was 40, because I thought it was a waste of time. My nose was always in a book, but I only read non-fiction (because it taught me important things). Then I discovered Nora Roberts and experienced the indulgent escape that mindless romance books provide. So I began balancing my reading between fiction and non-fiction, and I’ve been doing that ever since. However, it’s come as a complete surprise how many valuable things I’ve learned from reading fiction.

At the beginning of the summer, I picked up a few novels from the thrift shop (where I’ve been buying many of my books lately – and donating them when I’m finished). A couple of weeks ago, I cracked open a book that, from the cover, looked like good beach reading material. I wasn’t expecting it to change my life.

The main character in Barefoot, by Elin Hilderbrand, is a type-A personality who makes lists about everything…she even has a separate list of all her lists. I got a chuckle out of that because, in some ways, I could relate. Then she gets diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctor tells her to stop making lists. She complies, for the most part. But as every list maker knows, it’s hard to turn off this ingrained habit. So she makes a list in her head – a list of things that no longer matter. Now, I don’t claim to know a thing about cancer, but I totally get how your perspective can shift drastically when you are faced with the possibility of dying. As I was reading this book, a friend of ours died suddenly – he was only 48. It really got me thinking about all the little things that seem to matter until bigger things come along, like a life-threatening disease or a death of a loved one. It brought new meaning to the worn out phrase, life is too short.

So I decided to start my own ‘List of Things that No Longer Matter’. And I found it to be very liberating. It released me from perfectionistic tendencies that kept me tethered for so many years.

The funny thing is when we get clear on the things that don’t matter, we zero in on the things that do. It becomes easy to let go of the unimportant. It fosters gratitude for what we may have taken for granted.

My list is getting longer because I add to it throughout each day. Here are some of the things I added today:

My List of Things That No Longer Matter

• Scrubbing pots and pans until they’re sparkling
• Making the bed the minute I wake up
• Reading to the end of a book I’m not enjoying
• A ringing phone left unanswered
• Getting less than a perfect score
• Being stopped at an endless red light
• Paw prints on a clean floor
• Wearing the wrong shoes

I could go on and on, but I want to see your list. I hope you’ve been inspired to start one. I can’t tell you how much happier this simple exercise will make you feel. Please share some of the items on your list in the comments section below.

Share this:

This post has 13 comments

  • For My List of Things That No Longer Matter:
    Getting all of the dishes cleaned and put away right after dinner

  • Jamie says:

    Top on my list of things that no longer matter is “yesterday’s mistakes and undone tasks”. Beccause I can’t get yesterday back, I might as well look foward.

  • Terry Cook says:

    Trying to keep up with the weeds in my garden.

  • Leigh Francis says:

    I look after my Mom (who lives across the street from me). I’ve had to accept that I cannot have all of my projects/tasks at both houses finished when I would like.

  • Trish says:

    I am the primary family caregiver for my mom, who has dementia. I change my priorities more easily and with less guilt these days using the following value statement: “People need to come before things”. And of course, I’m a person too. This simple principle is quite liberating.

  • Nancy says:

    Hellen, I like the saying “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.” My list of Things That No Longer Matter includes getting upset at rude or indifferent customer service (unfortunately, in too many situations it is becoming the norm); worrying about doing the small tasks perfectly and redoing them when it doesn’t really matter; collecting more “stuff” that I don’t need.

    I miss watching NEAT on television. One of my favorite episodes was about Messy Maria. That’s when I realized I was a “visual learner,” just like Maria. It was comforting to discover that was why I loved color coding my files, and why I was afraid of forgetting about information I put out of sight! Thank you!

  • Lindsay says:

    I just happened to see this article on “My list of things that No Longer Matter” I thought it would explain how to let go of items that have been stored forever.

    I have been having cat scans every 6 months for the last 1 1/2 years to monitor a nodule that was found during a routine x-ray. I had a scan this past Sunday and was told my doctor would have the results on Wednesday.

    I came home from work Monday evening to find a message from my doctor’s office to call back ASAP. I spent Monday night trying not to think the worse but wondering what was ahead for me, and how it effect my never ending to do list.

    When I called Tuesday morning the nurse told me my results were stable and would be booked for another CT in 6 months. I was so relieved to learn that I am not in any immediate danger and I could get back to normal again.

    I will be making my list of Things That No Longer matter but more importantly, am realizing what really does!

  • Roger Wilson says:

    There will be a song about this. Stay tuned.

  • Willow says:

    “Paw prints on a clean floor.” Thank you for writing this! I wish I had read it earlier today when I was feeling extremely frustrated at my otherwise lovely little pets. A great reminder to not sweat the small stuff.

  • Wanda Mays says:

    I became what I call, ‘the Keeper of the stuff’ when my parents became ill and passed leaving my broth and myself. Then when he passed, I have this house with everyone’s ‘stuff’. At times it has been awfully overwhelming. So, I rid the house of clothes, books, furniture and items that weren’t mine or loved. Now that I am down to just my things, I seem to have run out of steam. I took all the clothes out of the closets and drawers, even the just washed things and put them in one bedroom to be sorted out and they have now been in there for a month! After I made my list, I have pared down the wardrobe, given shoes and purses away and now I can focus on just what I love.

    • Wanda, so sorry for your loss. I know first-hand how emotionally taxing it is to go through our loved ones’ things after they’ve passed. What you’ve already done is quite an accomplishment. You have a great attitude – focus on what you love. Be kind to yourself and continue taking baby steps. You are doing great!

  • Heather says:

    When my son passed away at 27, it took me months to clean out his closet. He had Down’s Syndrome and lived at home. I started with his shoes and had to stop. Then, I tried his bedding. Finally, when it dawned on me that others could be wearing his things, I was able to donate the rest of his clothing. Your tip of one small step at a time worked for me.
    Thank you, Hellen, and I loved your show, “Neat”!