How Being Thankful For Clutter Is The First Step of Decluttering

November 22, 2021
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

When most of us think about clutter, there are likely many emotions and feelings that surface. Generally, the feelings surrounding an overabundance of things are typically negative, like anxiety, stress, guilt, and embarrassment.

Rarely does anyone look at a pile of ever-expanding clutter and feel a sense of gratitude, but you should. 

You may be thinking, “Why would I ever feel thankful for all of this STUFF that causes me so much stress?” The answer is simple.

If You Have Clutter, You’re Ahead of the Curve

Having more than you need is a kind of privilege that many people in the world will never experience. You do NOT have to feel guilty about that … it has little to do with socio-economic status. It doesn’t matter if you literally picked your stuff up off the street or bought it all at Neiman-Marcus … too much stuff is literally the definition of abundance.

Not to mention that owning the spaces that clutter fills up is another form of privilege. 

When you think about it, every item you have purchased (or dragged home) that has now become a part of your clutter piles costs money in one form or another. 

When you bought it, you likely believed that you had the financial means TO purchase it. Even if you went into debt or put the items on your credit card when you bought them, you had the means to purchase the items. 

If your living spaces are cluttered, it means that you likely have a home—whether that’s a house, apartment, or condo. When you have a consistent roof over your head, you are ahead of the more than the 150 million people around the world without a home

If you can’t fit your car in the garage because it is too full of dusty boxes and other stuff, you may again struggle to feel gratitude for that clutter. But, if someone is lucky enough to have a vehicle of their own, even if it will not fit in the garage, they have a resource that X amount of people would love to have. 

A cluttered kitchen can make food prep feel less like joy and more like a chore. But, when your refrigerator is stocked and your pantry isn’t empty, you are more comfortable than the 811 million people in the world who are suffering from chronic hunger.

Remember, this not an indictment of you or meant to make you feel bad about what you have—those thoughts and feelings are still the product of a faulty mindset.

Being aware of what you have and enjoy—even when it frustrates or annoys you—is a step towards shifting your perspective of your stuff from one of dread and overwhelm to a place of appreciation and gratitude. 

Only when you become grateful for what you have can you set yourself free and release it as you finally declutter for good. 

Being Thankful For The Opportunity To Help Others

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” ―Albert Einstein

Letting go of the stuff that has accumulated in your life can feel like a loss, especially if you imagine your perfectly good things thrown in the trash or wasted.

It is easy to get caught up in the negative feelings that can overtake your thoughts when you consider letting go of things you have been holding onto. After all, you are dealing with YOUR stuff in YOUR home. 

But, the holidays are a perfect time to reframe that glass half empty viewpoint into one of glass half full when you consider how what you no longer need or want can benefit people in need. 

When sorting through clutter, deciding what stays and goes, say thank you to the stuff that served you at one time and no longer does. Then consider these ideas:  

You and your family likely have an outfit for every occasion and more clothes than you ever wear AND there are families in your community who desperately need clothing right now. 

Your child’s room may be overflowing with toys, games, books and art supplies, and many across town and across the globe have nothing to fire their imaginations and stimulate their creativity. 

Your home office may be filled to the brim with old technology that you have long updated from, like old cell phones or computers, and there are plenty of people who still can’t afford a computer, tablet or cell phone. 

Finding ways to donate gently used items to those who have less than you have this holiday season is a great way to let go of things you no longer need and ensure they don’t end up in landfill.

So instead of focusing on what you are giving up, spend those moments celebrating that what you can easily release has the power to completely transform someone else’s life for good. That’s a win-win. They get something beyond their reach and you set yourself free from clutter … what could be better at this time or any time of the year?

So, instead of focusing on yourself and your feelings of guilt or shame, turn those feelings upside down and watch them transform into deep appreciation for the comfort you enjoy.

As long as there are people and greed, there will always be some people who have more than others and a system that guarantees inequity continues. You can work to dismantle that in big and small ways … and the simplest way to start is to just open your hands and share your bounty with someone less fortunate.

That doesn’t have to be smarmy or uncomfortable for you or for them—if you lead with love and generosity, you can’t go wrong.

And there are so many great organizations ready and willing to receive your unwanted things and help get them into the hands of folks who would appreciate them.

If you need help narrowing down where to donate or sell your stuff to this holiday season, check out our previous article that lists 72 Great Resources To Get Rid of Stuff Fast.

The Bottom Line

Gratitude is THE best way to appreciate what you have instead of searching for different things to acquire to fill a sense that something is missing in our lives. 

Inanimate things will never make you truly happy, and being grateful for what you already own can. 

Research has proven that when you express gratitude for what you own, it makes you feel better about what you have and improves your quality of life.

One study showed that something as small as writing down a few sentences each week about things that you are grateful for increased optimism, physical health, and happiness.  

I have a simple gratitude practice of saying thank you for all the people and things in my life as I’m closing my eyes each night … and I always fall asleep before the list is complete.

When you start to think of all of the things you are thankful for this year, be sure to include all the things you now consider clutter that you have accumulated over the years. 

Once you acknowledge how lucky you are to have more than you need, and you’ve actually said thank you to your clutter, you’ll be surprised at how easily it will now leave your life.

You’ll never get rid of something you’re fighting with … so love it instead and then open your hands.

Then you can release it and move it onto its next home … which isn’t YOURS … and get on with what really matters in your life … which is likely NOT moving things from room to room, looking for a place to stash something you don’t even need or want any more.

And if you missed our post last week, it is not too late to declutter these 4 areas of your home before the holidays. Read more here to have a clutter-free holiday season.

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!