Look around you and you can see what in your life brings you joy. It could be anything, a person, an animal, an activity. The exciting element of life is everyone is different, something may bring you joy, someone else finds it not interesting.

Since we all are different, we have so much contrast in discerning what is good, what is bad, what we love and what we dislike. Contrast is good because without it we would not realize the blessings that abound in our lives. While you are looking around, discovering everything that brings you joy, notice what brings you sadness, anger or fear. Eliminate these things in your life if you can. If you can’t, then hide them.

During December, it helps me to remember the true meaning of Christmas. The excitement, the fun, the love and the sharing. As the Wise men said, “Behold we bring you tidings of great joy.” This month is a preparatory month for the year ahead. Feeling it with joy, love and gratitude sets the stage for a delightful 2020.

This year a gift to family members are old pictures. After going through many photo albums while downsizing my mom, who kept everything, I sorted the pictures by families. Some are distant cousins whom I haven’t seen in years. One was of an uncle, who suddenly died at 42 with four young children. He was a sweet, special uncle and it was a shock. I remember how his young children didn’t really realize what was happening and how intuitively they just knew it was sad. I found a picture of his sweet family right before he died in front of his old Pontiac he loved.

My blessing to these cousins this year is this photograph. As I convinced my mother it now was time to “let go” of some of these treasures, she loved the idea of blessing others with them.

There is something to be said about purging and decluttering — it feels good. The other positive side effect is the opportunity to bless others. This is a lesson to be learned for all of us aging. We can hang on to all “that stuff” or we can bless someone else with it and watch a new found excitement and love for the treasured gifts. Many great-grandchildren were able to receive homemade Christmas decorations. Probably no value to anyone at the thrift store but priceless for family members who received them.

As we decluttered and staged my mom’s home for sale, it had some positive effects on myself and my siblings. I now have started decluttering and giving to children things they want. My brother is doing the same. Instead of leaving a burden for your loved ones it’s a wonderful way to make this Christmas special with a passed down heirloom. Not all children have the space or are ready at this time in their lives for these treasures. Therefore, I created a tote with each child’s name and stored away their treasures. This way when it’s time and I’ve gone to my heavenly resting place, each child can have their tote or totes of special memories to go through at their leisure. It’s a win-win, decluttering and a destressing benefit for me and a treasure trove of memories for them. An added bonus is less bickering or hurt feelings later.

There will be some things no one wants, silver that needs polishing, china, old tchotchkes, hand knitted doilies, etc. You could box these up as well in hopes as your children age, they have a new appreciation of these antiques or you can gift them to a well-intentioned thrift store.

One great lesson learned is labeling. What you remember today might not be something you remember in later years. Label everything. Pictures, who are the people/places and events. Label old antiques, where they came from, who they belonged to. We discovered an old trunk that was brought over by ancestors when they came to America at an auction. The trunk didn’t mean much to most attendees of the event, but to my husband knowing his great aunt packed her belongings into it to travel to a new country full of hope it meant the world. We now have gifted our oldest daughter with this trunk.

Another lesson, once you gift an item to people, what they do with it is their business not yours, so let it go. For instance, that treasured antique bed passed down for generations now is painted black. You can see a positive in that at least it was kept and now being used. Storing stuff in attics, barns, sheds does no one any good.

As you are discovering the joy in your life, it’s always good to share with others. People who might be family blood or chosen. That one act of kindness to a stranger may change their lives forever. Joy is contagious and a generous gift.

Susan Rider is Speakers with Spark’s lead dynamo. She lives in LaRue County.