You never know how much stuff you have until you put it all in a box.
I say this (and write it) all the time, but it’s true. Most of us feel we’re packing pretty lightly, that our life doesn’t include a ton of excess, that we don’t own too much or buy too much or eat too much or socialize too much or criticize ourselves too much — until we see our life from an objective perspective.
Once we start pulling things out of the closet, once we begin organizing the drawers, once we try to pack it all into a cardboard box — that’s when we realize just how cluttered our life really is.
What we really need to do is take an inventory.
If you’re like most people, this is the time of year when you start thinking about what you want next year to look like. You may have considered some New Year’s Resolutions, or you may be boycotting resolutions. Either way, I’m guessing you’ve spent at least a little time thinking about how you want 2014 to look differently from 2013.
The problem is, most of us spend a good portion of time thinking about what we want to add to our lives without first considered what already exists in them.
I thought about this recently while I was reflecting on the last year of my life.
The thought came to me accidentally, to tell you the truth. I was scrolling through my phone, looking at pictures, when all of a sudden I realized: the last 12 months of my life has been so full.
So much had happened, I realized. So much has changed.
I’ve published a book, moved to Nashville, been to Europe on vacation with my husband. I’ve made new friends, traveled through a dozen states (at least), turned 30 years old, raised $30,000 (with your help) to build a classroom in Uganda, spent time with family, visited Guatemala with Food for the Hungry, run a 10k, and watched people I love have babies and get married.
It’s been a full year; and I don’t say that to brag.
I say that because, my guess is, your year has been really full, too.
Something incredible happens when you just spend a little time taking inventory. You realize how much you had in the first place.
You never realize how much you have until you put it in a box.
There are a few reasons taking inventory is so valuable as we try to move forward into our next year.
First, we realize how “rich” we really are.
When I go through my closet to clear out old clothes, I realize the complaint that I have “nothing to wear” is really unfounded. I have so much to wear, I forget I have most of it.
The same is true for events and achievements in life. Next time you catch yourself thinking the last year of your life has been a waste, go through your Instagram profile. In the place we tend to record our most proud moments, chances are you’ll find memories of the most lovely, wonderful things that have happened to you in the past 12 months.
We are all more blessed than we realize. Our lives are really full.
Second, an honest inventory points to our priorities.
When I spend time to determine where I’ve invested my time, money and energy, I discover what matters to me most. Not what I say matters, but what really matters. I might not like what I find there, but if I’m willing to be honest about it, the information can be incredibly valuable.
Am I spending my time, energy or money on things that really matter?
Is there a disconnect between what I say matters to me; and what really does?
When we take an honest inventory of our lives, we’re able to see how we want to move ahead differently in the future. For example, in my own honest inventory, I realize I spent way too much time, energy and stress over my e-mail inbox. What a waste. I’m not going to do that again next year.
What would it look like for you to take an honest inventory of your last 12 months?