Updated: Nov 5, 2019
The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.
― Brother David Steindl-Rast
About six years ago I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I am revisting her message as it applies to decluttering and simplifying at home.
In her book, Ann, looking to banish her anxiety and discontent, challenges herself to keep a log of one thousand things she is grateful for. In the process, she learns to see more beauty in life and live joyfully in the moment.
In counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. -Ann Voskamp
I don't know about you, but that statement rings true for me. Before reading that book, I had never viewed myself as ungrateful. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who did. However, thinking of every little thing to be thankful for can seem a bit tedious, right? Can't we just say thanks for everything and be done with it? Whether too busy, or just too lazy, it's much easier to rattle off the same old list of things we are thankful for, rather than look for the gifts in the mundane. It's easy to recognize the gift of a beautiful sunset, but it can be hard to notice more subtle gifts, like hot water for a shower, without a major change in perspective. Our world is moving too fast and we are much too busy to notice these everyday gifts.
Ann states that, "Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus." It is increasingly hard for anyone to stay focused in our culture. We've made life more complicated and there is too much going on. Simplification through decluttering is a wonderful tool to help one focus. And sure enough, an increased sense of gratitude always occurs through the process.
As my family assessed each of our possessions as we simplified, an overwhelming sense of gratitude was totally unavoidable. It become obvious that decluttering is such a privilege! We Americans have so much! Did you know that if your household earns $40,000 a year you are in the top 1% of the world economically? Having far more than you need or want brings a humbled sense of gratitude that is not easily lost. It is a joy to donate unneeded possessions and pass your blessings (both physical and non) on to a stranger.
At the last, this is what will determine a fulfilling, meaningful life, a life that, behind all the facades, everyone of us longs to live: gratitude for the blessings that expresses itself by becoming the blessing.
Making space for what you love and need in your home automatically translates into making more space for what you love and need in your life. Physically seeing that you have more than enough brings about a huge perspective change. This perspective change has an incredible ripple effect on all aspects of life. Being more present and intentional with time, for instance, is just one of many other benefits of simplification. I would say most of us believe we have enough stuff (and the debt to prove it), but not enough time. Thinking about where our time is going and for what can turn your world upside down. It's down right uncomfortable for many.
Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.
They say time is money, but that's not true. Time is life. And if I want the fullest life, I need to find fullest time. -Ann Voskamp
I have had a few gratitude journals over the last few years. I can't say I have always been super disciplined with this tool. I think maybe for those who are more pragmatic (ok, obtuse) and less poetic, the physical act of simplifying your possessions can have the same effect. For me, I need gratitude to smack me upside the head instead of whispering in my ear.