Black Friday Special: A 2 step guideline to help you navigate your purchases this blessed Black Friday.
I tend to get a little more pensive around the holidays. Maybe it’s the lights, the crispness in the air, the coming together of family and friends to break bread and just be with each other more intimately perhaps than they are at any other point during the year.
For Thanksgiving in particular, gratitude is always what’s served up alongside the stuffing and the pumpkin pie. Many families – mine included – will go around the table and share what they are most grateful for.
But what does it really mean to be grateful? And how can we as a nation celebrate gratitude when not even 12 hours later do we find ourselves standing in line at a store waiting to get an extra discount on some item we may or may not even need?
I’m a sucker for a good deal, so please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not judging. I’m just observing the irony with which the nation comes together to celebrate gratitude on one day, but tramples all over their fellow humans the next, all in the name of a few extra dollars (or rather, a few less).
As a Canadian, my Thanksgiving was in October. And in our tradition, the day after Thanksgiving is spent spending more time with family, eating leftovers, and maybe participating in a family football game or going to a movie we’ve all been wanting to see. We’re not better than you, though. Our crazy “Black Friday” takes place the day after Christmas, the other holiday centered around gratitude and family. It’s called “Boxing Day”, and the rules of engagement are the same: lines, deals, trampling on each other (though we tend to say sorry a lot, even if it is said through gritted teeth and a death stare in our eyes).
So I bring back back the question again:
What does gratitude mean to you? And how does Black Friday fit into the whole deal?
It seems to me that when it comes to the things we acquire in our lives, we tend to get excited about them when they are new, but forget about them all together soon after we’ve received them. They are no longer bright and shiny. They are old and tattered. And when that happens, we want new stuff to replace it with.
In thinking about this, I just happened to be listening to Sheryl Crow’s Soak up the Sun when she said:
“It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”
In that sense, gratitude (and really, happiness) isn’t about getting the things you want. It’s about wanting the things you already have.
Take this laptop, for example. It’s two years old. It still has a CD drive in it (you remember those round shiny things that used to play music?). There have been at least 10 (or 50) new models and styles of Apple laptops since I got this one. But this one works for me. It’s got old post it notes from my husband on either side. It fires up when I need it to. It travels well. And it allows me to write the articles, pitches and book pages that I write on a daily basis. Why would I need a new one just because this one isn’t bright and shiny anymore, or because a new one is 50% off? Maybe it doesn’t sparkle in your eyes, but it does in mine. And until it dies, there is no need for me to get a new one. I’m grateful for all the ways it shows up for me.
My husband and I are expecting our first child in February. In an effort to get ready for her, we have been feverishly purging our place: cleaning out our office/guest room to make it her space and only hers. That requires not only cleaning out that space, but also cleaning out the rest of the house too (garage, kitchen, cabinets in the living room, etc.).
A few weekends ago, I spent three hours, three days in a row cleaning out….well….stuff, for lack of a better word. And I do mean “stuff.” Junk. Things I hadn’t seen in ages. Mail I hadn’t opened since it arrived here a year ago (seriously, United, if you send me another credit card offer I think my head might explode. But I’ll take a free flight, so go ahead and send me one of those). Useless items that have sat around collecting dust (and spider webs and daddy long legs) for the last few years, none of them serving any purpose other than to mess with my feng shui and make me crazy. And why? Because what if one day I might need them? Oh dear.
By the end of the purge, I had gotten rid of cookbooks, aprons, random hair and safety pins, name tags from conferences I barely remember going to, and countless other random and not-so-random but useless-to-me stuff.
My motto for the purge was simple: If I haven’t seen it in the last 6 months, and I haven’t used it since I got it, it goes, no matter how much I think I like it.
Four boxes later and a trip to goodwill the following week, I was starting to feel lighter.
A friend of mine recently told me about a book called The Life-Changing Magic Art of Tidying Up. I haven’t read it yet (though it’s on my list), but one of the things she told me about it stuck with me:
When it comes to the rules of de-cluttering, try following this rule:
If it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out or give it away.
I like this, but it seems to be missing something. Because not everything in our homes bring us joy (unless you’ve had a love affair with a stapler or a paper clip, in which case, all the power to you, sister). Some things (like staplers and paper clips) are just needed for the daily operation of life (and I’m assuming that point is touched upon in the book. I really need to read it). When discussing this with my friend, Craig, he told me his rule, and it rounded out the advice for me:
When confronted with a piece of clothing or something in your house that you are debating giving away, don’t ask yourself if you’ll ever wear it or use it again. Instead, ask yourself this:
Will someone else get more use and joy out of this than I will?
Or to put it in Thanksgiving terms, will someone else be more grateful for this than I am?
If you’ve got a closet full of clothes you haven’t seen in ages, or a garage full of stuff that you only know half the contents of, do you really want the things you’ve got? How can you want something you don’t even know you have? And more importantly, how can you be grateful for it?
It’s not a sin to want things. I want things! I’m always going to want things! But the key to gratitude and happiness is to want the things that we have, and when we don’t want them anymore, give them to someone who does.
Call me crazy, but I believe that if you want to call things into your life, you’ve got to make space for them. If you’ve got stuff cluttering up your home, but you ask the universe for more stuff, why would it send it to you? What proof have you given it that you’ll honor something new if you don’t even cherish what you’ve already called in?
To create abundance, you have to create space. In order to do this, only keep things in your home, your car, and your life in general that bring you joy and serve a purpose. What makes the cut for me?
Great books. Cozy blankets for getting comfy on the couch and reading those books. Candles. Candle sticks. My piano and sheet music. My laptop. The photographs on my walls that are littered with the smiling faces of my friends and family. My favorite cookbooks. Clothes that make me feel sexy. Clothes that make me feel cozy. My husband, Ted (yeah, he can stay).
What brings you joy? When you look around your house right now, do you see that there might be room to get rid of something? Or perhaps more than a few somethings? Do you realize how good it will feel not just to throw it away, but if it’s in good condition, to give it to someone else who might get joy out of it right away? Imagine the gratitude that will emanate from both parties.
So today, as you contemplate whether you will brave the storm of people who will flock to the stores for the blessed Black occasion, ask yourself:
Is there anything I really need?
If the answer is yes, then all the power to you – go and get that deal, you bargain hunter! But perhaps to offset your purchase(s), spend a few hours this weekend going through one room – or even just one drawer – in your home. Throw out or give away the items that no longer serve you or bring you joy, and decide to give them to someone who will be more grateful for them than you are (even if that someone is the trash).
Want what you’ve got, and you just might find yourself being the happiest, most grateful person you know. Now there’s a recipe for Thanksgiving that no one will have trouble digesting.
This article originally appeared at DelectableYou.com
Photo credit to the author.