Neuroscientists tell us that gratitude is good for us. They say that each act of gratitude gives us a psychological boost. However, some types of gratitude can be completely misplaced.
There’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed in the online clutter clearing courses I teach. It used to be that people would sort through the items they owned and make decisions about what to keep and discard. But I’ve noticed that something new has crept in in recent years. Some people now believe that the correct way to do this is to first thank their belongings before letting them go.
My courses usually have participants from about 20 countries around the world, so they represent a fair cross-section of global declutterers. What concerns me most is how easily this practice has been accepted by some of them, with no real discernment into what it actually means.
Gratitude is good for us
Studies show that people who are grateful tend to have better health, better quality of sleep and are more satisfied with life in general. And those who actively express gratitude instead of just internalizing it develop stronger relationships with the people around them.
So it’s very clear that being grateful and expressing thanks are beneficial to everyone. Gratitude is also a quality we can choose to actively cultivate, along with other soul forces such as integrity, enthusiasm, empathy, heartness and joy. They are essential to anyone engaged on a path of personal development.
But gratitude can also be misplaced.
Thanking your belongings as you let them go
People tell me that the advice to thank their belongings before tossing them in a charity box or throwing them in the bin can be traced back to the influence of Marie Kondo’s books. At first, it seems to be a reasonable, considerate and kind-hearted idea. But when you take the time to think it through, it is seriously flawed and has worrying repercussions.
Suppose you decide to let go of some socks. Kondo advises us to first say to the socks, ‘Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,’ or ‘Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me.’ In that way, you express gratitude for them being in your life. And if you never wore them, instead of regretting wasting your money, you can thank them for teaching you not to buy things you don’t really need or like.
But wait. The socks can’t hear you. They don’t have ears. And they are certainly not conscious. They can’t understand the words you say or appreciate the feelings behind them. They are inanimate objects. Pouring your thanks into them goes nowhere. It is misplaced gratitude.
There is a way that you can incorporate gratitude into clutter clearing as you let your unloved or unwanted possessions go. However, a very different approach is needed.
The purpose of clutter clearing is to find the right balance – not so many possessions that they hold you back, but enough to be able to live your life to the full. So when you let go of something that you no longer need or love, first acknowledge yourself for having the wisdom and courage to move forward instead of being stuck in the past. Learn from owning the item so that you can make better choices in future.
In this way, it will have served a purpose in your life, even if it was an impulse purchase or a poor choice that turned out to be clutter in the end. Instead of beating yourself up, you can get value from the experience. Take a moment to understand how keeping the item helped you to move forward or held you back.
Then, to express gratitude for having owned it, thank the high spiritual forces that support you in your journey through life. Call this whatever you will (God, the Universe, a Higher Power). But direct your thanks upwards, not downwards to the physical world, which locks you into materialism.
Thanking your belongings before letting them go says there’s you and the physical world and that’s all there is. Each time you do this, it’s a nail in the coffin of spiritual connection for you and the entire human race. You may have been persuaded that it’s oh-so-spiritual to relate to your things in this way but, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. It disconnects and isolates you from those levels.
Being so immersed in the physical world is a sure recipe for getting to the end of your existence and having no idea what it was all about. Consciously choosing to open to higher realms takes more effort, it’s true, but brings much more meaning, purpose and joy to your life.
So next time you find yourself tempted to thank your socks or your shoes or your home or your car, think bigger. Go outside your own little world and consider the forces of creation that made all these things. Connect to your own higher purpose and how owning things can hinder or help you on your path. Then make your decision from that standpoint about whether to keep something or let it go and how to express your gratitude for having had the use of it.
Copyright © Karen Kingston 2020
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