4 Simple Ways Gratitude Can Help You Get Rid Of Clutter and Debt

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Two months ago I met a girl named Megan at Jeff Goins Tribe Writers Intensive. I was interested in her story for two reasons. One, she recently paid off $25k in debt, a feat which Alyssa and I are trying to accomplish this year. Two, she is in the process of building (or planning) her first Tiny House. Her story relates to mine on so many levels in that she sees and acknowledges the relationship between living a simple life and how it can lead to happiness in so many ways.

I’m honored to have her guest post on my blog, another goal of 2015 is to bring in like minded writers to help post more relevant content on HeathPadgett.com. I’ve found there’s a lot of joy in sharing the positive message of others, and it’s something I’m really excited about.

Today’s blog is a perfect read for anyone struggling to see the positive things in their life, and for people who might be trying to pay down or pay off debt of any kind.

Enjoy 🙂


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“If you have debt, I’m willing to bet that general clutter is a problem for you too.” -Suze Orman

Debt and Clutter

As I thought about my own journey with paying off $25k in student loans, which led me to start decluttering my life, I began to wonder if others had noticed a similar connection between these two freedom-snatchers.

So I asked.

While there were a few who didn’t have a problem with either and a few more who only had a problem with one or the other, I was overwhelmed by the responses from those who’ve dealt with both. Here are some of their thoughts when asked about the correlation:

“The clutter definitely contributes to the debt.” -Debbie B.

“The more progress I make on my debt, the less clutter I have. When the debt pay off slows down, the clutter increases. There is definitely a connection for me.” -Kayla L. H.

“I’m assuming the bills are lost in the clutter, which leads to being in debt?” -Bobby B.

“The debt but especially the clutter gets out of hand and I kind of give in to it.” -Deb. K. F.

There were hundreds of similar comments, some even discussing why we do this to ourselves.

Did we learn it from our parents? Is it fear of not having enough? Do we just want to reuse everything we can because we don’t want to be wasteful?

Are we too busy? Have we believed we can’t succeed in these areas? Are we overwhelmed? Are we distracted?

Are we a free spirit, so it doesn’t bother us much? Do we not even notice it? Is it our stage of life?

Do we lack adventure and fill our lives with chaos and distractions? Are we trying to impress others with our purchases (by having something new or expensive or by showing we’re smart enough to find great deals?

Honestly, I can relate to all of these to some extent. A question I like better is:

How Do We Change?

There’s one last comment I want to share that hints at what plays a key role in what helps us change:

“My husband and I live in a tiny apartment and we try hard to keep clutter out. We have more wins than losses now. I think it’s because FPU and paying off debt taught us about contentment.” -May B.

She credits learning about contentment. So often we think of contentment as keeping us from something that could benefit us. We think that gain is godly when in reality godliness with contentment is great gain.

Not gonna lie, I get really excited when people start posting what they’re thankful for in November. I’m right in there with everyone who says we shouldn’t only be thankful around Thanksgiving. But how often do we practice that? How often do we challenge ourselves to share what we’re thankful for everyday of the month?

I worked in a therapeutic wilderness program where we shared “gratefuls” before every meal. We didn’t have internet. We didn’t have cellphones or stylish clothes. We didn’t even have a toilet. But we still had gratitude. When all of that “stuff” is stripped away, you’re a whole lot more grateful for it. You’re also more grateful for something as simple as a warm meal or a nearly empty room.

My favorite building in America is Thanksgiving Chapel. While exploring downtown Dallas in February of 2014 with a friend from the area, we stumbled upon this building.

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The spontaneity of the day allowed us to satisfy our curiosity.

The place seemed closed, but we tried the door anyway. I was delighted to find the place empty and quiet. It was such a peaceful place especially compared to the bustling city. Not only did the atmosphere take my breath away with its uncluttered walls, but so did the surprise I felt when I looked up.

The stained glass ceiling added to the wonder of the place. But it didn’t stop there. Where a pulpit might stand in a different chapel, there was a table with paper, a pen, and a bowl. It was an invitation to give thanks.

The magic of the moment did not end there. One of my favorite parts of this experience was reading what others had written and placed in the bowl.

There’s Power in Gratitude

Whether it’s our own thankfulness or someone else’s, gratitude does more for us than just pointing us towards contentment. But that’s a post for another day. Here are the four ways I’ve found that gratitude can help us get rid of debt and/or clutter:

  • Considering that others will be grateful for something we don’t even use can help us get rid of it. That may be done through selling it to pay off debt, but even a donation can benefit us financially. If we have less stuff, we can live in a smaller and less expensive home.
  • Thinking of how grateful we (and our family and friends) will be when an item is gone can help overcome reluctance in parting with it. Is it hideous? Does it get in the way? Instead of focusing on all the reasons we want to keep it, we should try thinking of all the reasons we’ll be glad it’s gone.
  • When we are using what we have (and are grateful that we have even that much), we’ll be too busy to miss what we gave up. If we complain about what we don’t have or what we “need,” we’re wasting a beautiful moment. Making sacrifices to get what we want is wonderful, but let’s not complain about the sacrifice. Let’s be thankful when we get what we want rather than taking it for granted as a need.
  • Gratitude will keep us from impulse spending. Not only do we begin to realize we don’t need as much, but we also have a more positive state of mind. This reduces our desire to make purchases just for that shopper’s high. This in turn keeps us from future negative feelings associated with buyer’s remorse.

Now, who’s still not thankful for gratitude?

Sadly, there are tons of people in the Dallas area who have never been to Thanksgiving Chapel. I lived nearby for three months and had never even heard of it. My friend who lived there had no idea about it.

Imagine how many people walk right by it. Some of them see it. Maybe they even kind of like it. Everyday, crowds of people have the opportunity to go there, with very little inconvenience. But they choose something else instead.

They are missing out.

Now imagine how many people have walked through this entire day without seeing anything to be grateful for. How many see it, but don’t take the time to stop and enjoy it and express that gratitude?

Like the people in Dallas, you have the opportunity everyday to be inspired by gratitude. Don’t pass it by. Don’t just read about other people’s life-changing experiences with it. Choose to have your own encounter with it. Have your family share what they’re grateful for before a meal today. Celebrate Thanksgiving all year long.

The best time to start is now.

What are you doing today to practice gratitude? Leave a comment below and be sure to include something unique from this week that you’re grateful for. Bonus points for reading what others have to say. You’ll be thankful you did!

Don’t be like most of those people in Dallas. No matter how inconvenient thanksgiving may seem, it’s always worth it.

Don’t miss out.

M. C. Starbuck is grateful for being born and raised in GA. She’s a world traveler and tiny house enthusiast. If you want to develop the habit of gratitude in order to get rid of debt or clutter, sign up for her newsletter where you’ll also automatically get her free E-book, Living Tiny Starts Before You Own A Tiny House.


12 Responses

  • Thanks, Heath, for all you did to make this post happen.

    Now I’m going to take my own advice and share what I’m grateful for this week. 🙂

    1. Bundling up with my happy one-year-old nephew to walk to the mailbox.
    2. How excited my brother got when I mentioned one of his favorite novels (Beautiful Ruins), which I finally started reading last night.
    3. The sweet and hilarious ladies at the blood donating center yesterday.

    • Megan,

      I love these. In fact Alyssa and I do something everyday called “family time”. We say 3 things we are grateful for, one thing we’re looking forward too, and one thing we are working on.

      If I were to say 3 things I am grateful for today, it would be these:

      1) A new adventure, we made it out to our new/temporary home in Santa Cruz, CA last week and will be here until March
      2) A guest post from a new friend (sincerely)
      3) The opportunity to continue pursuing my dream of being a writer/entrepreneur

      Thanks for sharing this post and being a friend!


      • Congrats on the move! I think I read that you guys do the “family time” thing. I like the addition of what you’re looking forward to and working on. I’ll have to remember that. I love your gratefuls! Thanks for sharing them with me.

  • Oh my goodness, I’ve been to Dallas every summer for our Seminar and never heard of this chapel! I’m putting it on the agenda for this year. Thanks for sharing the results of your poll and your story!

    • Haha, someone else told me they work in downtown Dallas and have never been but were looking up Thanksgiving Square recently. I told her I hope I didn’t build it up to much…it might not be as magical when you know what to expect. Plus, the atmosphere could be different if other people are there. I’m so glad you’re gonna try to go, though! This is really making me want to go again. Thanks for reading.

  • What a great post. I had never thought too much about linking gratefulness and clutter with your financial health. I started journaling just before the new year. Each day starts with 3 things I’m grateful for and an affirmation. Each day ends with 3 things that made today great as well as one thing that could have made the day better. It really helps me be excited for each day and end each day with a smile.

    So I guess I can say I am very grateful for journaling and its daily impact on my life!

    • That is a wonderful way to start your day! I started journaling early on in 2014 and it’s made a huge impact on how I start my day and beginning with the right mindset. I can definitely feel it on those days when I don’t take the time to journal. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

    • Great comment. Thanks for sharing! I love journaling, too. Reading Ann Voscamp’s 1000 Gifts has gotten me to write what I’m thankful for nearly every day. I can tell a difference when I’ve gone a while without doing that.

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