Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. The name says it all. It’s a day to remind us to be thankful for everything we have. It’s a relatively unoffensive holiday, although I know a few who are still offended by it, but they are offended by nearly everything. Most of us join together with friends and/or family to eat and drink way more than we should. But it’s OK, because it’s Thanksgiving.
In honor of Thanksgiving, let’s talk about giving thanks and being happy with what we have. Being thankful and showing gratitude will bring far more happiness than any stuff you can buy. There’s plenty of research to documenting the benefits to our health and mental state just from an intentional practice of gratitude. Like this one from Psychology Today, this one from the International Journal of Public Health Science, and this one from Harvard Medical School.
It’s important to be thankful for the right things though. When you’re not gorging on turkey and mashed potatoes this Thursday, be sure to spend some time thinking about how thankful you are for those around you. At the very least be thankful that they’re putting up with you for the day.
In all seriousness though, it’s the relationships we have in life that we need to be most thankful for. Those are the real gifts.
I haven’t had a chance to read any of her books yet, but Gretchen Rubin has dedicated herself to studying what really makes us happy. I first heard about The Happiness Project on my favorite podcast The Portfolio Life by Jefff Goins when he interviewed Gretchen. Her website has loads of resources on happiness. She has written multiple books written on the subject and has a popular podcast called Happier.
One way to help you practice gratitude is something called a gratitude journal. These come in all forms but some of the more popular versions are available as apps for your phone or tablet. I’ve tried one called Bliss and can attest that if you stick with it for a little while, the act of recording the things that you’re thankful for is a great way to start thinking more about it. You’ll find yourself more frequently appreciating the small moments in life or the people around you that make you happy.
The standard gratitude exercise in Bliss gives you a simple box to type in and says “What are you grateful for?”. It also reminds you to include why you are grateful. Other exercises deal with thinking about the future, honoring people, finding meaning in your work, and others.
I used Bliss pretty consistently for about 3 or 4 months as a test. I stopped for several months I guess because I got busy and kind of forgot about the app. About 6 months later, I saw it on my phone and opened it up. I started reading all the entries of things I was grateful for and it felt great. That day I wrote this:
“I have ignored this app for months but I am thankful for it because I just read through my entries for the past year and it lifted up my mood. It reminded me of how much I have to be thankful for.”
I often forget to stop and be thankful for what I have in life and that’s why I like Thanksgiving so much. Let’s all practice a little more gratitude every day and become happier and healthier people. I’ll start by saying thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving. You’re turn.
Well, it’s that time of year again. You know, shopping season. Black Friday seems to have turned into Black November. With all the Early Black Friday deals and the “leaked” ads this year, it’s worth repeating my warning from last year.
Don’t fall for it!
That’s right. We all know darn well that most of the one-day-only, limited time, act-now-or-it’s-gone-forever deals will be back at some point. Why do we let the retailers push us around and make that impulse buy? They’re playing on our desire to save money and feel like we’re getting a great deal that just a special few were able to find.
I’m not a psychologist and I’ve never even played one on TV but there’s definitely something with that tactic of a limited time offer. I’ve fallen for it many times and not just when shopping. My wife and I learned a lesson when we lived in Georgia and our apartment complex hosted a party complete with door prizes. We thought it was great when we won a free week at a fancy fitness club.
Of course, when we went to redeem it, we were offered instead to trade it in for a FREE MONTH if we signed up to be members - but only if we signed up right then and there. The deal seemed foolproof. We had to commit to a minimum number of visits in that first month and if we didn’t like it, we could just cancel our membership.
We took it but after we left that day, we quickly agreed that it was a bad idea and we would cancel at the end of the month. Unfortunately, they didn’t always record our visits so when we went to cancel, they told us we couldn’t. Ultimately, we had to get the Better Business Bureau involved and they finally let us cancel.
If it wasn’t for their insistence that we had to take that deal right then without the ability to go home and think about it, we certainly wouldn’t have signed up. We were newlyweds barely paying the rent. We had no business signing up for an expensive fitness club.
Since then, we are leery of any deal that involves a quick decision, a long term commitment, and our money.
Quick Decision + Commitment + Money = Bad Idea
Honestly, you could remove the commitment and it’s still generally a bad idea.
I won’t deny that there are some great deals out there this month, but I want to caution you to buy with a purpose. Avoid impulse purchases just “because it’s a great price” or a “limited time offer”. Figure out what you want to buy ahead of time and THEN shop for a good deal. If you’re big on Amazon, one strategy is to put something you want in your Amazon List. Often, if it gets discounted as part of their Daily Deals they will notify you. A coworker just bought something at a great price this way.
Finally, if you’re gift shopping, I want to remind you to go for non-clutter gifts like experiences, memberships, and consumables. Thanks for reading, and if I’m on your shopping list, I like Scotch.
Have you ever noticed my quote in the header of my website?
One thing I’m proud of is that I haven’t purchased any organizing products in a while. I often find that as I get rid of things, I free up space on shelves, in cupboards, and in closets. Then, I don’t need to buy more containers to store stuff in. Sometimes I do need to buy something so I thought I could throw out a few tips on buying storage items.
1) Buy when you have to store something specific and you know how you want to do it, but don’t have a suitable alternative on hand.
We have too many bicycles, but I’m not allowed to get rid of any of them yet. I bought the joist hooks for my garage a while ago and I use them all the time. I wanted to get them up off the floor and hanging some in the garage seemed like the best solution.
2) Buy after purging the excess items and when you know exactly what size container/shelf you need.
Instead of buying a storage tote or a new shelf, can you put it in a box or bag you have sitting around? When I went through my daughter’s closet, we had recently returned from a trip and had a damaged suitcase. I was going to throw it out, but ended up using it to store all her dance outfits and shoes that didn’t fit her anymore. When I organized the family room I didn’t buy any containers or shelves. I found that as I removed toys to get rid of, I was able to reclaim shelf space and several storage totes.
3) Buy when you’re storing kids’ clothes to save for a younger sibling and you don’t already have containers. (The rule still stands to purge anything you can first.)
It’s important to store these properly in a plastic tote or bag. You want to keep odors and insects out, especially if you’re storing it all in the basement. Don’t go overboard by saving every single piece of clothing for the next kid though. It’s OK to be a little selective and get rid of some items that you’re not in love with or may have stains. Chances are they have more clothing than any one kid needs anyway.
4) If you’re buying plastic storage totes, clear ones are great because you can see exactly what’s inside. They’re also ugly because you can see exactly what’s inside.
If you’re going to shove them in the basement someplace where no one will see them, I would go with clear ones. If they’re going to be on a shelf and visible in the open, you may want to go with opaque storage totes. You can make a fancy label for each one if you want. If the contents will change often enough, you could even use chalkboard tape (yes, that’s a thing) for a label.
5) Finally, unless you’re certain you won’t use it again, don’t get rid of empty storage containers.
I know that sounds like something I would normally recommend against. We gave away several over the last couple of years but recently found that we could use them. We’re holding off buying more though, hoping that if we purge enough excess that we won’t need them.
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2017