Happy Thanksgiving! Photo by Rachel Andrews

 

I’d like to add to the Thanksgiving gratitude conga line, but with a twist. Many gratitude practices involve journalling about what a person is grateful for. That’s a wonderful thing to do, and certainly does facilitate the feeling of gratitude, which is the aim of the practice. So what I’m about to propose isn’t a change in that protocol, just an addition to make the practice more grounded.

We all have a lot of stuff. Even the most minimal amongst us (yes, that was fun to say in my head) have an accumulation of things surrounding us at all times. It can be easy to underestimate the exact amount unless you are very conscious of it, like when you have to move. We’ve all found out exactly how heavy books are when packed in a box, how much space those seemingly slim cd cases really take up, and that there is no easy way to pack lotion, paint, or perfume.

I have moved over ten times in the last ten years, which has given me twenty trips of moving all that I own. That’s a lot of stuff carrying and you can definitely bet that each time I moved, less stuff came with me. I wasn’t suddenly enlightened; I was tired of packing, carrying and unloading stuff. I kept what was useful to me, what I genuinely needed and wanted, and a few personal mementos, one of which was a sweatshirt that my late Grandmother used to wear.

What happened to me as a result of that, was that I knew exactly what I possessed. I knew each paper clip, each highlighter, each t-shirt and every single sock. There was nothing hidden under a drawer or behind a desk. Cleaning out my space each year so totally, and handling every object I owned really put me in ownership of my stuff. I realized that as long as I was fully aware of my possessions, they did not posses me.

And here we are at the gratitude part. When we choose what we surround ourselves with, even if it’s nothing fancy, our natural gratitude goes up. We have made a conscious choice to keep something around, and therefore we attribute value to it. If we didn’t value it, it wouldn’t have made the cut. This may seem simple, but don’t forget that our environment mirrors our inner world. Clean up your space, and you clean up your whole being.

Another perk is that you can see with your eyes what your values are. I once realized that almost everything I owned was either an art supply or a finished piece of artwork. Right now, a whole floor of my house is devoted to crafting and art. That tells me, and you, a lot about who I am. What does your stuff say? If you don’t feel that it reflects who you are, ask yourself why this is the case. Why do you have an environment that holds incongruent values?

And by the way, since we are talking about the holiday season here…you can get rid of presents that people have given you. If you are holding on to things just because someone gave it to you, take back the power and donate, recycle or trash the thing. There is nothing worse than clogging up your closets with junk under the excuse that you don’t want to be rude. I bet that person doesn’t even remember what they bought you anyway. If this is a problem for you, be very aware of what you give people – is it something of value or closet-stuffing material?

This is a practice. It’s about knowing and valuing what you have, and isn’t that what gratitude is all about?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!