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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.
“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.
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.