How A Holiday Reminds You To Give Away — And Express Gratitude

(This article was originally published on SharpHeels:

If Thanksgiving, as a word, could be shortened — like Christmas is to “Xmas” — I’d call it “Giving Day.”

As in giving away everything that we think we need, but don’t; everything we can’t use, including our sometimes less than confident selves; and all the stuff taking up space in our lives that keeps us stuck.

While acknowledging that it was a woman, Sarah Josepha Hale, who pushed Thanksgiving into this permanent spot, we can also thank Congress who finally made it official by providing every fourth Thursday in November not only for a feast, but a feast of giving, and giving away. Let me explain more:

  • Let’s start with giving away every piece of clothing or accessory that does not fit, is too worn, or that we don’t need. By doing so, we free ourselves from the distraction of unnecessary items. How many times have you gone in your closet and found that you can’t really see what you have – simply because pieces you cherish are jammed together with those so-so items. By giving space to ourselves and our belongings, we can breathe and be thankful.
  • And, if you want to tap into how thankfulness can allow for freedom and peace of mind, think about the idea that if you pare down what you own, you release yourself from the demands of owning so many things that you actually feel enslaved to them. What can happen is that you find are no longer distracted by piles, collections and possessions, and more able to breath, live and give thanks.
  • I’m not saying to get rid of your treasured scarf from a friend or your husband’s collared shirt that you sleep in, but simply to look around at all that you do have – i.e. be grateful in a big way – and then work to see if you could appreciate life more if there was, in fact, less stuff.
  • On another note, how about giving up the unhappiness we generate every time we compare ourselves to someone else? Instead, be thankful for the joy of actually being alive, and a body that simply supports you, unfailingly, in your day-to-day living.
  • As long as we are in the giving mood, let’s give away our frustration of not finding a personal style we love. If we look at the uncluttered closet we organized (see above), we are left with what we love (hopefully), and that can go a long way in defining our signature style – our sartorial autograph, so to speak. What do you notice about what you have chosen to keep? Is there color? Are there patterns? Do you love dresses versus pants? Our clothing is a second skin, and in wearing only those things we love and think are beautiful, we are giving ourselves importance and relevance, and therefore creating a style based on who we are.
  • Lastly, let’s give thanks especially for our clothing — in that fashion gives us a sense of belonging to one another. We all wear it and have to deal with it in some way, making us part of a community of people that make up our culture. Fashion’s function is twofold:

    • At its best – that multicolored, paisley scarf, the sweeping knife-pleated skirt — it is art that you wear; it is a celebration of something beautiful.
    • Fashion also helps us to stand out. We are all connected, but styles and patterns and shapes express our individuality, and help us in our very human requirement to be seen. And when someone notices that, fashion gives back, in a sense, in that someone else has appreciated our (sometimes painstaking) artistic efforts.

No matter what, resolve to spend more time in the soul-gladdening process of thanksgiving (yes, with a small “t”). It may be time well-spent: this week I heard Jane Albright, a college basketball coach, talk about sports strategy. But she mentioned something else: her team is instructed to write down at least fifty things for which they are thankful. Like so many of us would be, they are incredulous that she wants fifty items! Yet, despite their protests, most go past that number once they start.

There’s no better time than now to give yourself a gift of fifty things for which you are thankful. You’ll feel excited, inspired and ready to give up your second helping of dessert. Or maybe that’s enough giving for one fourth Thursday every year.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

― Oprah Winfrey

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