Minimalism for me is not the practice of giving up everything I own.  Instead, it’s the practice of elevating the things that mean most to me and getting rid of the rest.  By doing this – by consciously examining everything I have – I am constantly participating in an exercise in gratitude.

Most things we previously thought we needed don’t “spark joy”.  This is how Marie Kondo, a celebrity organizer from Japan describes the thought process behind de-owning in her new book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. This is an extraordinary way to judge your items.  Sometimes, you instantly know that something belongs in your life because it does spark joy and you are incredibly grateful for having it in your life.  Those are the things you keep.

With my journey to minimalism as a backdrop, I’ve thought a lot about the true meaning of Thanksgiving and what gratitude can do to my life year-round.  Gratitude seems to be the straightest path to happiness.  David Steindl-Rast, a monk and scholar, describes the link in his 2013 TED Talk and also gives us a framework for living gratefully: “stop, look, go”.  He says,

Grateful people are joyful people, and joyful people, the more and more joyful people there are, the more and more we’ll have a joyful world.”

So, with that in mind, here is a list of nine things that I’m grateful for today.  I bet you’re also grateful for at least one of these too.

  1. My kids are healthy.  They’re not always happy or clean or acting perfectly, but they’re amazing and if I’m lucky I’ll get to spend a lot of time with them for years to come.
  2. My relationship with my parents is intact.  More than intact, actually.  Though they live 1000 miles away, but I see them often, we talk every week, and I know that they will be there when I need advice – any time.
  3. We live in DC. What an amazing city to be in the middle of!  We have free museums, parks galore, we’re an hour from the mountains, and two hours from the beach.  People enjoy visiting this city and you can meet practically anyone here.  There may be terrible traffic, but it’s a really great place to live.
  4. I work on something I care about. Opower has a double bottom line.  Yes, we need to make money to stay in business, but we also care deeply about saving energy, which leads to a cleaner, more livable planet for all of us.
  5. I can still hike. I’ve never been in any major car accidents, I’m healthy, I eat right, and I’m (relatively) young.  If I want to get out into nature in a nearby park or climb a mountain or explore the woods in my backyard, I can still do that.
  6. Travel. There’s nothing more fun than planning a trip and taking it. I live for discovering new things, especially things that challenge my basic core beliefs. I feel lucky that in this day and age I can get almost anywhere in less than 24 hours.  Not many humans in the history of the world can say that.
  7. Optimism. I’m grateful that I’m able to find the good in everything, naturally.  I just need to be reminded sometimes to do that more often.
  8. Time. I’m thankful that I learned an important lesson about work in my 20’s: don’t work overtime, instead prioritize. It turns out that the more time off you take, the more productive you are at work and the better your performance appraisals are (if you work for a good company that values your achievements over face time).
  9. The fact that minimalism exists.  Think about it.  Minimalism is a solution to the ultimate first world problem.  It’s crazy that having too much stuff is even a problem. That means that what we do have is adequate food, clothing, shelter, water and everything else that allows us to survive.  I’ve never had to worry about that and I am so, so thankful and humbled by that fact.