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  • gretchenrubin 09:00:33 on 2019/04/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , motherhood, ,   

    Need a Gift for a Mother in Your Life? Some Suggestions. 


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    In the United States, Mother's Day is coming up on May 12.

    I’m a big fan for using dates as milestones, as prompts for reflection or action. People sometimes complain that Mother’s Day is a Hallmark-driven, consumerist holiday—but I think it’s nice to be reminded to think about my mother, and to remember everything she’s done for me, and to send a token of my appreciation.

    Philosophers, religious leaders, and contemporary scientists all agree that gratitude is a key to happiness. Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives; they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising. Gratitude brings freedom from envy; when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more. That, in turn, makes it easier to live within your means and also to be generous to others. Gratitude fosters forbearance—it’s harder to feel disappointed, angry, or resentful toward someone when you’re feeling grateful toward him or her.

    Mother's Day is an occasion for gratitude.

    I'm very grateful that I have such a wonderful mother! I don't want to take her for granted, or neglect to show her my appreciation -- so I think it's very helpful to get a nudge at least once a year.

    If you want to read about one of my happiest memories of my mother, look here.

    If you'd like to hear my story about why I'm lucky to have a mother who's lucky, you can listen to this two-minute "A Little Happier" here.

    We can express gratitude in many ways. Phone call, letter, email, text...or we can give a gift.

    If you're looking for a gift for a mother in your life, read on!

    From what I've heard, of the things I've created, these are the most popular gifts:

    1. The Four Tendencies course. This course is something I've created fairly recently, but people seem to love to give it as a gift. I think that's because when you see that someone's Tendency is a big factor in their lives—and perhaps in ways that they don't recognize or that are causing conflict or frustration—it seems like a great gift.

    In this course, you identify your Tendency—whether you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel—and learn how to use that knowledge to make practical changes to create the life you want. And you also learn how to appreciate other people’s Tendencies, and how to support them effectively, to cut down on stress, burn-out, conflict, frustration, and procrastination.

    For people who wouldn't take the course, there's also the book The Four Tendencies.

    2. The Gift of a Podcast.

    Give the gift of a podcast! Go to giftofpodcast.com to download the "gift certificate" and the cheat-sheet of instructions. This makes it easy to give a podcast to someone you know will love it. It's a gift that's free; it's easy; it's an experience not a thing; and there's no limit to the great content in the world of podcasts.

    3. The One-Sentence Journal for Mothers.

    This small journal makes it easy to write one sentence every day, which is a manageable, realistic way for a busy mother to keep a journal. What's surprising is that one sentence is enough to bring back floods of memories, and to capture those little moments we never want to forget.

    On book tour, many people show me their journals and ask me to sign the entry for the day—so fun!

    4. The Happiness Project

    I can't resist mentioning, this book was a #1 New York Times bestseller and stayed on the list for two years. It's all about (spoiler alert) how to be happier.

    5. Happier at Home

    And I can't resist mentioning this book was also a New York Times bestseller. It's all about happiness through the lens of home which, for most people, is at the very core of a happy life. I love all my books equally, but my sister Elizabeth says that this is her favorite book of everything I've written.

    6. The Happiness Project Mini Posters: A Coloring Book.

    If you know a mother who loves to color, here's a fun book!

    7. Personalized, signed bookplate

    Speaking of my books, if you'd like to make your gift more special and personalized, sign up here, and I'll send you a bookplate that's personalized for the recipient and signed by me. Think how happy you'll be to cross some gift-giving tasks off your list! Feel free to ask for as many as you like, but U.S. and Canada only—so sorry about that (mailing costs).

    I can be a little slow, so to make sure that neither of us has to worry about whether you'll receive the bookplates by Mother's Day on May 12, request as soon as possible.

    If you'd like to listen to me talk about my mother, you can listen to this two-minute episode of a "A Little Happier": I'm Lucky to Have a Mother Who Is Lucky.

    Do you observe Mother's Day?

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:25 on 2019/04/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , paper, , , records   

    Dealing with One of the Most Challenging Forms of Clutter: Paper Clutter. 


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    Paperwork is one of the toughest forms of clutter to vanquish. Often, it’s much more anxiety-provoking and draining than going through a clothes closet or a desk drawer.

    To decide what to keep and what to toss, ask:

    • Do you actually need this piece of paper or receipt? What specific use does it serve?
    • Have you ever used it? If you've never referred to a category of paperwork, apparently you don't need it.
    • Will it quickly become dated—like travel or summer-camp information?
    • Does the internet mean that it’s no longer necessary? For instance, the instruction manuals for most appliances are now online.
    • What’s the consequence of not having it if you do need it?
    • Was it once necessary but is now related to a part of your life that’s over? This can be hard to recognize. Do you need that sheet of home phone numbers for the members of a team that you left two years ago?
    • Could you scan it, so that you have a copy if you need it?
    • At work or at home, does someone else have a copy of this information?
    • Look in your paper-organizing gizmos. When I look at people's work spaces, I notice that they often have file stands, wall-mounted paper organizers, stacked shelves and in-boxes...all full of old papers that no one ever looks at. Unless you're actively moving papers in and out, empty out those units, and get rid of the units altogether! They're often just clutter magnets.
    • Have you verified your assumptions? For instance, when you took your current position, your co-worker told you, "I always keep these receipts," so you assumed that you need to keep them, too. But maybe you don't.

    Some additional conversations...

    Whenever we clear cutter, it's useful to ask, "If I had to replace something I've tossed or given away, how hard would it be?" This question can help with papers. If you shred a bank statement but end up needing it, you can get the statement online or call your bank. If you toss your diary from high school, you can't get it back. So think harder about the diary than the bank statement.

    Beware of binders! For some reason, I've noticed that many people have an urge to put papers in binders. But do you really need those papers at all? One of the biggest wastes of time is doing something well that didn’t need to be done at all.

    Along the same lines, I got an email from a teacher who complained about how much time she’d spent shredding old lessons plans and student essays. Why do those papers need to be shredded at all? I talked to a guy who was planning on putting all his papers in chronological order in binders (binders!), then realized that most of the paperwork was related to pet insurance, and he could access his account online. He didn't need to save those papers at all.

    Some people worry about regret—that they'll sort through the papers, get rid of a lot of it, then wish they'd kept some of it. In my observation, this is rarely a problem. However, if it's a real stumbling block for you, create a holding box. Put papers in that box for six months—or even a year, if you're really worried—and see if you ever need to retrieve anything from that box. If you don't, get rid of the box—and importantly, don't re-open it first! Or you'll re-ignite the whole problem of uncertainty.

    We want to get organized, but not too organized. Don't make files so specific that you can't find anything later, or so that you spend all your time labeling files.

    I've come up with a system that works really well for me. I have a folder for every month of the year, and any information related to that month goes into that file, whether it's a party invitation, agenda for speaking at a conference, information about a school event for my daughter, or notes for one of the live shows that Elizabeth and I are planning. That makes it easy to know exactly where to find timely information, no matter what part of my life it relates to, and easy to see when paperwork is no longer necessary.

    Bonus: To make those files more fun to maintain, years ago, I bought bright, well-designed folders and had my then-little daughter Eleanor write the days of the month on them. It's still fun to see her childish handwriting when I grab a folder.

    This kind of paper clutter is difficult, but so rewarding! Think of how great you'll feel when you get that pile of files off the floor, or clean out that curled up, yellow papers. It's tremendously free and energizing to clear out that stuff.

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:51 on 2019/04/12 Permalink
    Tags: Binge Mode, , , , , Game of Thrones   

    In Honor of “Game of Thrones” Season 8, I Apply My “Four Tendencies” Framework to the Principal Characters. 


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    Like many people, I'm a huge raving fan of Game of Thrones. I've twice read the books by George R.R Martin, and I've twice watched the HBO TV series. I love it!

    And I can't wait for the final season of television to begin on April 14. (And I can't wait for George R.R. Martin to publish another book, but that may be a long wait.)

    I also love the podcast Binge Mode, where co-hosts Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion do deep dives into the entire canon of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter series. In a recent episode, they sorted the main characters from Game of Thrones into the Houses of Hogwarts—yielding a surprising number of Slytherins, by the way.

    So, inspired by that effort, I decided to apply my Four Tendencies framework to the main characters of Game of Thrones. Who's an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel?

    If you want to know your own Tendency, you can take the quick, free quiz here. (More than two million people have taken the quiz.) Or read the book The Four Tendencies.

    For this exercise, I'm referring to the TV show, because I've seen the show more recently than I've read the books.

    For some characters, the Tendency is fairly easy to decide. For instance...

    Stannis Baratheon is an Upholder. Consider: When Stannis and his men were besieged during war, they were saved when smuggler Davos Seaworth brought supplies through the blockade. After the war, Stannis knighted Davos for his act—but he didn’t forgive Davos’s earlier crimes; he enforced the law by chopping off the tips of the fingers on the outlaw’s left hand.

    Later, when his older brother King Robert Baratheon dies, Stannis believes the crown should pass to him, as the next-oldest male in line. So he fights to assume his rightful place, and sacrifices everything he values along the way—even though he doesn’t even seem to want to be king.

    Tyrion Lannister is a Questioner. Of everyone in the show, he is the person who asks questions like, "Why are things the way they are? How could they be done better? How could we make change to make society run more effectively?" He's seen doing research, investigating the world, finding out how different cultures do things differently.

    Jaime Lannister is an Obliger.

    Cersei Lannister is a Rebel. Note that this pair exhibits the pattern that's so often seen: when one member of a pair is a Rebel, almost always the other member is an Obliger.

    Daenerys Targaryen is an Obliger.

    Jon Stark is an Obliger.

    To determine people's Tendencies, it's not enough to see what they do; we have to understand how they think. For instance, the fact that a person is leading a "rebellion" doesn't necessarily indicate Rebel. That person might lead a rebellion against the current ruler because he or she wants to hold fast to a higher law; or because a system is arbitrary, corrupt, or inefficient; or to save the people; or because that person wants to run things in his or her own way.

    So for some characters, I can't pinpoint the Tendency.

    Arya Stark: is she a REBEL/Questioner or a QUESTIONER/Rebel? It's often very hard to decide where someone falls in this combination. For instance, it took me a long time to decide which description fit Steve Jobs (QUESTIONER/Rebel). I lean toward deeming Arya a REBEL/Questioner.

    Tywin Lannister: he could be an Obliger, but I have to say, I pick up an Upholder vibe from him—probably because he so often expresses the thought, "Why can't people around here just get things done?" which is a very typical sentiment for an Upholder.

    I've thought a lot about some of my favorite characters, but we just don't know enough about the thoughts of Sansa Stark, or Varys, or Petyr Baelish, or Margaery Tyrell.

    Agree, disagree?

    Speaking of Game of Thrones, I got a big kick out of this scene between Jaime and Cersei—it reminded me of my own "The days are long but the year are short."

    If you want to read more examples of the Four Tendencies from books and movies, here's a list.

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:37 on 2019/04/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , tidiness   

    Need Some Easy Steps to Start to Tackle Spring Cleaning? Try These Simple Tips. 


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    We often hear about "spring cleaning," and I have to say, I really understand why it's a tradition.

    For me, when the days become longer, the temperature becomes warmer, and all of nature is being renewed, I get the urge to sweep through my home and office and get rid of the junk. Everything outside my personal space feels so fresh, I want to re-create that feeling indoors.

    This impulse reminds me of a quotation I love, from Jules Renard:

    “Oh! Old rubbish! Old letters, old clothes, old objects that one does not want to throw away. How well nature has understood that, every year, she must change her leaves, her flowers, her fruit and her vegetables, and make manure out of the mementos of her year!” - Jules Renard, Journal

    However, it's easy to feel the urge to do spring-cleaning, but it's a lot tougher actually to begin.

    In the United States, spring is here, and if you want to create outer order as part of the new season, consider these manageable steps:

    1. Focus on one area.

    Some people get overwhelmed if they imagine spring-cleaning their entire surroundings. If that's your issue, focus on just one area.  Tackle clothes, or papers, or books, or toys. Often, once we start, it's easier to keep going—and even if you create outer order in just one area, that's a gain in any event. And while you're at it...

    2. Fix whatever is bugging you the most.

    Some experts argue that we should all start to clear clutter in a specific area, such as clothes. I disagree. I think we should fix the biggest nuisance.

    Most of us have many areas of clutter, but one particular area causes the most irritation. For me, it's the pile that accumulates in a corner of our bedroom. For someone else, it's the kitchen counter; for someone else, the front hallway.

    On the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, my sister Elizabeth sometimes calls me a "happiness bully" because if I see an opportunity for someone to become happier, I can get pretty insistent. As part of this aspect of my personality, I recently convinced my friend Michael to let me help him create more outer order in his apartment. For him, the biggest problem was the top of a long chest of drawers in his bedroom. A massive pile had accumulated there, and although the rest of the room was in good order, that mess made the whole room feel chaotic. Fixing that area gave a disproportionate boost.

    In the office, it's often a window sill. Gosh, we love to jam stuff onto our window sills! The benefit of clearing a window sill is that not only does it create more order, it even creates more light, because the window isn't blocked up.

    3. Resist the urge to "get organized" by buying set of containers, matching jars, hangers, files, binders, or other supplies.

    Often we buy stuff that allows us to jam more clutter into place. Instead, use my favorite test with all your possessions: Ask "Do I need it? Use it? Love it?" If you don't need it, use, or love it, you should relinquish it. And when you've eliminated everything that you don't need, use, or love, you probably don't need to "organize" much. You can just put things away.

    It can be very fun to buy organizing items—they're so enticing! They make it seem like we could organize every aspect of our lives. Remember, it's harder to use these things than to buy them. Best case scenario is that you don't need any special gizmos at all.

    4. Make it fun to get the job done.

    How can you make this process more fun? Might you listen to a podcast, listen to your favorite music, invite a friend to keep you company, set yourself challenges like "I'm going get this entire closet cleared out in 45 minutes!"

    5. If the idea of doing "spring cleaning" doesn't appeal to you, because you don't want to dedicate an afternoon or weekend to clearing, try very small steps.

    Follow the one-minute rule.

    Observe Power Hour.

    Go shelf by shelf.

    My new book (can't resist mentioning that it's a New York Times bestseller) Outer Order, Inner Calm has more than 150 ideas for creating outer order. But these will get you started!

    A strange, almost paradoxical thing happens when we clear clutter: when we get rid of things we don't need, don't use, and don't love, we often feel like we end up with more. It's very common for people to remove two giant bags of clothes from  their closet, and then exclaim, "Now I feel like I have so much more to wear!"

    The process of creating outer order makes us more engaged with the things we keep, and so our lives feel more abundant, even though we've removed a layer of stuff. This is another reason that spring cleaning makes our surroundings feel more energized and vibrant.

    What are some of your favorite tips for spring cleaning?

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:42:15 on 2019/04/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , questions, tour   

    Report from My Book Tour! Some Observations and Insights from the Road. 


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    I'm visiting many cities across the United States as part of my book tour for Outer Order, Inner Calm. Many writers don't like to go on tour, but I love it. I really enjoy getting to meet book readers and Happier listeners, and I'm very interested to hear what people have to say on the subject of outer order.

    Some observations:

    I'm noticing that many people apparently buy the book as a helpful resource, or possibly a gentle nudge, or possibly outright pointed commentary, for someone else. I'm often asked to inscribe a book with sentiments such as "You can do it!" or "You got this!".

    It's interesting to me that many book clubs are reading this book. I wouldn't necessarily have thought it would be a candidate for a book group, but there's indeed much to discuss.

    I've been struck by how many people who attend book events come through the Happier podcast.  It's tremendously fun to see the two strands of my work coming together.

    I've been surprised by how many people have told me that of all the books I've written, Better Than Before is their favorite. I love all my books, and I love Better Than Before, so I don't know why that's a surprise. Maybe because it's about a subject—how to make or break habits—is often considered a challenge.

    Speaking of Better Than Beforepeople often bring their old books for me to sign, so my life flashes before my eyes as I see the various covers and editions of my previous books. That's fun, especially when a book is very dog-eared or marked-up. I love to see a much-read book. I really mark up  books when I read (except library books of course).

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    When I speak, my favorite part is always the question-and-answer, because I'm so curious to hear what's on people's minds.

    A few questions keep coming up over and over:

    • "Because of a death or downsizing in my family, I've inherited a bunch of stuff. How do I manage it?"
    • "How can I teach a child the value of outer order?"
    • "How can I use the Four Tendencies framework to get myself, or someone else, to do a better job of maintaining outer order?"
    • "How do I manage my emotions? I want to create more outer order, but it's very hard for me to relinquish things that have sentimental value."
    • "How do I manage digital clutter?"
    • "What should I do with my photos?" Once a woman started crying as she asked her question, because she was so overwhelmed by her photos.

    Fortunately, the book Outer Order, Inner Calm tackles all these issues! It would be discouraging if I found out that I hadn't addressed issues that were pressing on people's minds.

    One funny question: a Happier podcast listener asked if I'd been sticking to #10 on my "19 for 2019" list. I'd added the item: "On my book tour, read children's literature instead of watching HGTV before-and-after shows, which for some reason is what I want to do when I'm alone in a hotel room."

    Yes, I've kept this. I realized that as an Abstainer, it would be easier for me to follow through if I watched no TV. So I haven't turned on the TV once! I've been reading adult literature as well as children's literature, but I accept that as within the spirit of the resolution.

    Speaking of "19 for 2019," many people included "Go to a Gretchen Rubin event" on their lists. Several people even asked me to sign a copy of their lists—so fun to see.

    I'm sure no one else noticed, but I thought it was funny when someone introduced me by saying that I'd "walked hand-in-hand with the Dalai Lama" instead of "arm-in-arm." A big difference!

    Another question often raised by audience members—and journalists—is how my approach differs from that of Marie Kondo. It's so different!

    I love the work of Marie Kondo. I read her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as soon as it came out, years ago, and I binge-watched Tidying Up as soon as it was available on Netflix. I see tremendous value in her approach.

    But the fact is, Marie Kondo has a very specific, structured way to approach outer order. On the TV show, the specificity of her approach is softened somewhat, but in the book, it's clear: to do it right, follow the KonMari way.

    From my observation, there's never just one way to achieve an aim. There's no magic, one-size-fits-all solution that's "best" or "most efficient" or "right." People are different, and different approaches work for different people. So while I love Kondo's work, and have followed some of her suggestions, I don't think there's one best way.

    Marie Kondo is a simplicity-lover, but many people are abundance-lovers.

    Marie Kondo says to do clutter-clearing in one big effort, but many people prefer to tackle it a little bit at a time, with strategies like the "one-minute rule" or "power hour."

    For some people—like me—it would be a waste of time and energy to follow her advice to unpack my bag every night, put things away, and re-pack the next day.

    You can read more about my thoughts on Marie Kondo's work here.

    In my observation, the problem arises when a certain system (like KonMari, David Allen's Getting Things Done, minimalism, etc.) doesn't work for people, and they get discouraged and think that their situation is hopeless, because they've failed with a specific approach.

    My own view is that if one way doesn't work or doesn't appeal, just try something else until you find what works for you. If something doesn't work, that's still helpful, because you've learned value information about what does and doesn't work for you, so now you can try something different.

    One last note: It has been great to meet so many people who are doing The Happiness Project Experience this year, and to hear how the program is going for them. I've been very gratified to learn that people are really enjoying it.

    Thanks to everyone who came to an event! I so appreciate the enthusiasm and support.

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:10 on 2019/03/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   

    How Clearing Clutter Can Help You Lose Weight, If That’s Something You’d Like to Do. 


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    I've thought a lot about happiness and good habits. In my books The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before, I explore what actions we might take to make ourselves happier—and how we can shape our habits to help us actually do those actions.

    One habit that many people would like to follow? They'd like to eat more healthfully. People have many reasons to want to do this—to manage their blood sugar, to avoid food sensitivities, to cultivate their cooking skills, and for many people, to lose weight. (You may argue that people should eat healthfully for good health, and not frame this issue about "weight." That's true for many people. I'm not saying a person should do this—however, I talk to a lot of people about the habits they want to form and why, and many people do indeed report that they want to lose weight.)

    Another habit that people would like to adopt? They'd like to maintain outer order more consistently. As I write about in Outer Order, Inner Calm, for most people, to a surprising degree, outer order contributes to a feeling of inner calm, inner energy, a sense of possibility.

    And, I've noticed, these two habits often go together. Not necessarily for rational reasons, but in practice, I've observed (in other people and in myself), when we get our stuff under control, we feel in more control of ourselves, our actions, and our bodies.

    As odd as it sounds, cleaning out your coat closet can make it easier to avoid the vending machine at work. Good habits build on each other. Outer order builds a feeling of inner self-command.

    How can you harness this connection between outer order, eating healthfully, and losing weight? Consider...

    Close the kitchen.

    One common eating challenge for many people is nightly snacking. Dinner is over, but around 9:00 p.m. we wander through the kitchen, eating a handful of this or that. Or at 11:00 p.m., we find ourselves spooning ice cream out of the container, or peanut butter out of the jar (my husband's favorite treat).

    To help end this, close the kitchen. Put everything away properly, with no open bags on the counter or half-covered dishes in the fridge; close the drawers and cabinets; wipe the counters; turn off the lights. If your kitchen has a door, close the door.

    By creating an orderly, closed kitchen, you help signal yourself, "Eating time is over for the day." It feels odd to go back in there, and it discourages you from just "looking around." Bonus: brush your teeth.

    Create outer order to harness the power of the Strategy of Inconvenience.

    If a bag of potato chips is sitting open on the counter, it's a lot easier to reach in and grab just a few—and then keep going. If the bag of chips has a clip to keep the bag tightly closed and is sitting behind a cabinet door on a high shelf, it's much easier to resist. Research shows that to a hilarious degree, we're very influenced by the slightest bit of inconvenience or convenience. Along the same lines...

    Use outer order to put things out of view.

    When we see something, we think about it. When we don't see it, it's easier to forget that it's even there. So if you've baked cookies for your kids to take to school, box them up and put the box out of sight right away. If you leave the box out on the counter, you're more likely to keep reaching in. If you're worried that your child will forget to take the cookies if they aren't right by the door, put the box in a plastic bag and knot the bag shut, so you can't see them, and you'd have to rip open the plastic bag to get to the box. Then put the bag with the cookies by the door.

    Do not expect that you'll be inspired to eat more healthfully by keeping clothes that no longer fit.

    Very often, when people go through their closets, they find clothes that no longer fit. These items haven't been worn in years, but people hang on to them, to signal to themselves, "One day I'll be back to that size, and then I'll wear these things again."

    Giving these clothes away seems like an admission that this change will never happen.

    In my observation, the presence of these clothes doesn't help people eat better. If you want to eat better, work on that! My book Better Than Before is crammed with ideas to help you change your eating habits. But the guilt and anxiety—not to mention the crowded closet—created by these unwearable items doesn't help. Their presence acts as a discouraging drain, not a helpful spur.

    When I'm helping a friend to go through a closet, and we run into this issue, here's what I say—and it really works.

    I say, "Imagine the day when those clothes fit again. Do you think you'll feel like wearing these jeans that have sitting on the shelf for years, unworn? Or do you think you'll want to buy some new jeans?"

    This is a hopeful prospect. And it's true! This thought often allows people to give away those clothes.

    Clear clutter to help make you feel lighter.

    It's interesting: over and over, when people get rid of things they don't need, don't use, or don't love, and create outer order, they say, "I feel as if I've lost ten pounds." That's the simile that comes up over and over again. Outer order creates a feeling of lightness, of greater ease and freedom—people literally feel like a weight has lifted off their bodies. So if you're feeling weighed down or burdened, clearing clutter can be a way to create a feeling of lift and energy in your mind—one that will actually energize your body. And that feeling of energy, in turn, will make it easier to stick to good habits. (That's the Strategy of Foundation.)

    How about you? Have you experienced a connection between outer order and healthy eating?

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:00:14 on 2019/03/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    Tips on How to Help a Friend Clear Clutter. 


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    Some outer-order experts argue that you'll do a better, quicker job if you clear clutter alone.

    That's certainly true for some people. They want to go at their own pace and make their own decisions.

    And it's also definitely true that some people are not good clutter-clearing companions. One friend said that when her mother tried to help her go through her closet, all she heard was, "You can't give that away!" "That's still perfectly good!" "You might find a way to wear that!"

    But from my experience -- both as the clutter-clearer myself, and as the friend who's helping -- I think it can often be helpful to have a companion.

    A professional organizer can be great, obviously.

    But even a friend can help with morale, the drudge work, and the decision-making.

    In my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm, I make a point that there's no magic one-size-fits-all solutions for establishing order; we all need to do it in the way that's right for us. Also, outer order is something to pursue if it makes you (or someone else) happier; not for its own sake.

    As part of my happiness-bully side, I beg my friends to let me help them clear clutter; I love to play this role.

    Here are some things I've learned:

    Often, people want you to witness their appreciation for a possession. They want to share an important memory, or they want you to admire something once dear to them. I find that after talking about an item, people are sometimes able to relinquish it. Help them explore these memories and associations.

    Sometimes, it helps to take a photo of an item. Or if there are several items that are important for the same emotional reason, you can help them identify their favorite and get rid of the others. The favorite college t-shirt, not every college t-shirt.

    Use gentle language and re-framing to help people let go. Instead of saying, "Realistically, you haven't fit into those outfits in five years, I really don't think you're going to be able to get back to that size," say, "If your body changes, don't you think you'll feel like getting new clothes? You won't want to wear things that have just been hanging in your closet this whole time."

    Or instead of saying "That's not flattering" or "That's completely out of fashion," say, "Well, it looks good on you, but you have many things that look better. Don't you think you'll end up wearing those things, instead?"

    Be a quiet, helpful presence. Often, I find, people don't really need my help at all. I don't need to do or say much. Just by being there, I help them set aside time to think about clutter, stay focused, make the extra effort (like running to get the step ladder to check the top shelf of a closet, instead of ignoring it), and make decisions instead of procrastinating. As you'd expect, this is particularly true of Obligers, for whom I act as outer accountability.

    Point out people's reactions. It can be hard to know ourselves and our own responses. I say things like "It doesn't seem like you really like that," "You just said that you've never used that," "You have a dismissive look on your face when you hold that," or "I see your face light up when you're holding that." Whether they agree or disagree with my characterization of their reaction, people get clarity from it.

    Make sure you both have the same vision. Recently I helped a friend clear her closet. She loves clothes, has a lot of clothes, and wanted me to help her go through them. She was defensive at first, because she was afraid that I'd try to get her down to a capsule wardrobe. So I had to reassure her, "You love clothes, you love having lots of choices, you can keep all the clothes you love. I'm just here to help you identify the items you don't like, don't wear, or think don't look good anymore."

    The point isn't to get people to a particular predetermined outcome; it's to help people clear away whatever feels like clutter to that person.

    If you're looking for more ideas for how to clear clutter and add beauty, get a copy of my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm.

    Do you ever help other people clear clutter -- friends, children, sweetheart, co-workers? Have you found any strategies that help?

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:28 on 2019/02/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Ideas I Wish I’d Had Sooner, So I Could’ve Included Them in “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” 


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    As a writer, I'm often frustrated because I'll have a great idea -- once it's too late to include it in my book.

    I've been thinking about outer order and inner calm for a very long time, and I'm so fascinated by the subject that I'm still finding new angles or making new observations.

    These ideas came to me too late to include in the book, but in case you find them helpful:

    Beware the "frenzy of the clear."

    Just as divers can experience the dangerous "rapture of the deep," I've seen people experience the "frenzy of the clear," when they become so intoxicated by the joy of relinquishment that they start tossing or giving away just about everything. When I was helping a friend clear clutter the other day, he threw away an unopened package of padded mailer envelopes. When I asked why, he said, "Those things never work!" I answered, "What are you talking about? Those things always work!" I fished out the package and took it home myself. I mail things constantly, so this was useful to me.

    The frenzy is helpful, because it makes it so easy to let things go, but too much frenzy could lead to mistakes and regret. Stay mindful.

    If you're annoyed by other people's clutter, and you consider yourself "the neat one," ask yourself, "Have I worked to eliminate clutter altogether, or am I just managing clutter in a neat way?"

    For example, are you putting the plastic containers back in the kitchen cupboard, closing the cupboard door, and complaining about how messy the cabinets are? Or are you pulling out all the plastic containers, sorting them, getting rid of the ones that don't have lids or are just nasty, and giving away the ones that aren't needed? Often, in my experience, people who claim to be "neat" are keeping things tidy at a very superficial level, and without consciously realizing it, they're expecting other people to do the work of deep elimination and decision-making.

    If you're annoyed by other people's clutter, ask yourself, "Have I truly done everything within my power to clear all of my own clutter?"

    A friend was complaining about how messy his wife is, how there's stuff everywhere even though he's very neat, and that they have a junked-up extra room that he'd like put to a better use. Then he casually mentioned that amid that junk was a big tub of athletic shoes that he'd moved from their last place but hadn't opened since. Start with yourself! He had a great idea, though, which was...

    If you're trying to nudge yourself to clear a space, think about what other use you can make of it.

    Could this walk-in closet be a little playroom? Could this storage room be turned into a library, a music room, or a yoga room? It's more satisfying to be getting something than to be relinquishing.

    Face the problem of the quality discard.

    Some items are of a quality that's too good for their purpose. Sometimes a store will use a box that's really, really sturdy, or I'll get excellent shoes bags. This is annoying, because what can be done with these things? I remind myself: if I can't use them, they're clutter, and need to be given away, recycled, or tossed.

    Be willing to discard an item that you love deeply, but are sick of.

    I had a jacket that I wore non-stop on my book tour for The Happiness Project. I wore it so much that my agent emailed me to say, "When I look on Google Images, every photo is you in that same jacket. You CANNOT KEEP WEARING IT ALL THE TIME!" I did continue to wear it very often, for years, but now I'm just so tired of it I'll never wear it again. I haven't worn it in three years, in fact. It's time to say farewell. Someone else will love it as much as I used to do.

    Ask necessary questions to get something out of a holding pattern.

    I write about this in Outer Order, Inner Calm, but here's another example, on the subject of something I love but am sick to death of -- my mother lent me a blue-striped jersey summer shirt that I wore a lot for a few years. Then I got sick of it. Last summer, I  didn't wear it all, but it was still in my closet, because I wondered, "Would my mother like this (excellent) shirt back, or should I give it away?" Just yesterday I emailed her at last! She said, "Send it back, I'll figure out what to do with it." Now I can send that shirt on its way. Does your sister want your old maternity clothes? Does your friend want your belts? Find out.

    If something doesn't fit or needs repair, give yourself a time limit and do it.

    If you can’t be bothered to do it in the next three weeks, you probably don't care. And from my observation, by the time people bother to set a time limit, they've actually owned that garment for months or years.

    NOTE: Don't spend money to fix an item that you don't even like! I've made that mistake. I tell myself, "I don't wear these pants because they're a little long," so finally I get them hemmed, and after paying good money I admit to myself, "Nah, I just don't like them. The length was just an excuse not to wear them."

    When clutter is truly clear, we should know everything that is in our home.

    We should know what's on every shelf, in every drawer, in every closet, in every box. There are no mystery areas. If someone says, "Do you own a hammer?" the answer is easy.

    Watch out for the challenges of the open office.

    I touch upon this issue in a few different places in Outer Order, Inner Calm, but I wish I'd written more about it. I've read a lot of discussion about the challenges posed by the lack of privacy, noise, and interruptions in open offices, but I haven't seen any discussion of the visual noise. I know that whenever I visit an open office, I feel overwhelmed by all the stuff that I see. Even if everyone's individual "desk" is neat, it still looks wild -- and of course every desk isn't neat. Plus there are the outdated holiday decorations, abandoned items, piles of office supplies, and so on. If you work in an open office, do you find this difficult?

    I have a feeling that this list will keep growing! Especially after Outer Order, Inner Calm officially hits the shelves on March 5, 2019. If you have any insights or suggestions, let me know. I love to hear different approaches for creating outer order.

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:00:27 on 2019/02/19 Permalink
    Tags: audio-book, , , , , ,   

    I’ve Recorded the Audio-Book of “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” 


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    Do you like to listen to books?

    I've recorded the audio-book for Outer Order, Inner Calm. Yes, in case you're wondering, I am the voice of the book. (I won't make that mistake again!)

    I always enjoy the recording process. It’s interesting to go back through the book I’ve written and read every word aloud. One time, I got to sit in the studio recently occupied by the legendary Jim Dale when he’d been recording (under heavy security) one of the Harry Potter books.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm was a fun and relatively quick book to record. As you'll see if you flip through it, it's written in snappy, concise paragraphs, so it didn't take me many hours to get through it.

    Nevertheless, I'm always astonished by how physically demanding it is to record a book. My voice gets tired, which isn't surprising, but just sitting up straight in a chair all day gets very draining.

    Usually, I hold a pillow in front of my stomach the entire time, to muffle "stomach noises" (to which I'm prone.) This time, however, the only pillow available was very stiff, and it made rustling noise that interfered with the sound, so I couldn't use it. My stomach, fortunately, stayed quiet.

    As happens every time I record an audio-book, I learned that I’ve been unknowingly mispronouncing a lot of words.

    For this book, I discovered that I mispronounced "template." With "Keurig" and "preparatory" I wasn't wrong, but I had trouble getting the words out properly.

    My excellent director May Wuthrich and I debated the proper pronunciation of "vice versa" and "coupon," and in each case, it turned out that we were both right. (I pronounce them "vice versa" and "kyupon.")

    We found one missing word and one un-artfully repeated word; fortunately, my editor said that we still had time to fix the final version. Phew!

    Want to know more about Outer Order, Inner Calm?

    You can read a description of the book here.

    You can read a sample chapter here.

    And of course you can listen to a sample of the audio-book here:

    You can read this post about the jacket design, and this one about the illustrations.

    My hope for Outer Order, Inner Calm is that you'll start reading or listening to the book, and before long, you'll spring to your feet, unable to resist the siren call of clearing clutter. It feels so good to get rid of things we don't need, don't use, or don't love! This book is meant to make that process as easy and as pleasant as possible.

    Because that's my aim for the book, I was very pleased that the day after we finished recording, my director May emailed me a photo of the clutter she'd just cleared out of her office. Listening to me read the book aloud got her inspired.

     
  • gretchenrubin 15:00:25 on 2019/02/15 Permalink
    Tags: , daily, , question, ,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: Describe a Day in the Life of Gretchen Rubin. 


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    I'm often asked what my typical day includes.

    I wish I could have a highly routinized day. My fantasy is to live the life of a Benedictine monk—and I mean that quite literally. I've done a huge amount of research into the Rule of St. Benedict and how monastery time is structured because it's so appealing to me.

    But alas, I can't manage that.

    The beginning of my day is usually predictable.

    At 6:00 a.m., I wake up (even on the weekends and holidays). I get dressed, spend 10-15 minutes clearing clutter in our kitchen, family room, entryway, etc. I take my dog Barnaby outside for his morning walk, then head up to my computer to start working on my emails. (I know, many productivity experts say that a morning person like me shouldn't waste good mental energy on emails--but I find I can't settle down to my day until I've cleared out my inbox.)

     

    At this point, my husband Jamie and my daughter Eleanor are getting ready for the day. I talk to them until they leave. I continue working until sometime between 8 am and 10 am, at which point I exercise. I go for a forty-minute walk in Central Park, or I do my weekly yoga class with my mother-in-law, or I do my weekly session of high-intensity weight training.

    From this point, my days differ wildly.

    I might be writing—could be a book draft, a newsletter update, a blog post, a script for a podcast episode, jacket copy, a written

    interview. If I'm in the stage of my work when I'm actually writing or editing a book, I aim to write or edit for at least three hours on that project. Three hours may not sound like a lot, but believe me, it's a lot of writing for one day (at least for me). When I'm in maximum concentration mode, I often take my laptop to my beloved New York Society Library and work at a desk hidden in the stacks. I love to do my writing in a library.

    If I'm not writing, I'm talking. I might be doing an interview, meeting someone for lunch or coffee, recording a podcast episode, or having a call with someone.

    My days differ dramatically depending on where I am in my book cycle. Right now, because my book Outer Order, Inner Calm is coming out in March (have I mentioned that I have a book coming out? Oh right, I think I have), much of my day is related to the book launch, plans for the book tour, creating the pre-order bonus, etc.

    Once that book is well launched, I'll begin to work on my next book. I've already started reading, thinking, and taking notes, but at this point, the intensity will ramp up dramatically.

    Of course, throughout these days, I'm hacking away at my never-ending scroll of emails. For me, email is very valuable. Usually, it's the most efficient way to get things done, and I love to hear from readers, listeners, and viewers—my understanding of my subjects has been deepened tremendously by what I've learned from people emailing me. So I don't begrudge the time I spend on email—but I also try to stay on top of it, because I dislike knowing that I've fallen far behind.

    As the day unfolds, I'm also reading and writing on social media. For me, social media feels like time well spent. I don't have the feeling that it's sucking away my time or that my usage is out of control. Whether that's because I'm an Upholder, or for some other reason, I'm not sure.

    And of course, I see friends and family. I make lots of fun plans, and fortunately for me, my husband also makes fun plans.

    At night, and especially during the weekend, I try to spend a lot of time reading. Some weekends I get a lot of reading done, some weekends are so busy that I can't read much.  I feel like I never read, but I do see that I manage to get books finished. It's a mystery to me. I always want more time to read!

    Is your schedule pretty predictable, or does it change dramatically? I love as much routine as I can manage.

     
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