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  • gretchenrubin 09:00:45 on 2019/05/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , frustration, guilt, , , persistence, ,   

    A Happiness Question: What Should We Do if We Feel Like We’ve Fallen Behind or Fallen Off the Wagon? 


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    When we're trying to make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative, we often find ourselves in a frustrating situation: we fall behind or we fall off the wagon.

    What to do? Here are some useful points to consider:

    1. Don't beat yourself up.

    Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more.

    Often, when we feel bad about breaking a good habit, we try to make ourselves feel better by...indulging in the bad habit! A woman told me, "I felt so bad about breaking my diet that I ate three orders of french fries." This is the cruel poetic justice of bad habits.

    2. Remember that what you do most days matters more than what you once in a while.

    If you're pretty good most days, don't get too upset if you don't have a perfect record. Don't let yourself start to think, "Gosh, I haven't exercised in ten days, what's the point of starting now?" Sure, you wish you'd exercised those ten days, but if you get back in the habit, those lost days aren't a very big deal.

    And fail small, not big. Once a good behavior is broken, we sometimes act as though it doesn’t matter whether it’s broken by a little or a lot. “I didn’t do any work this morning, so what the heck, I’ll take the rest of the week off and start on Monday.” “I missed my yoga class over spring break, so what the heck, I’ll start again in the fall.” Pick yourself back up right away!

    3. A stumble may prevent a fall.

    If you've fallen behind or fallen off the wagon, remind yourself of the valuable proverb: "A stumble may prevent a fall." Sure, you've gone through a rough patch, but you can use this experience to learn more about yourself and your challenges. Maybe you fell behind while traveling, or when you had family visiting, or when you were in a tough stretch at work. How can you use this experience to set yourself up for more success in the future?

    Let's say you were eating very healthfully, then you spent a weekend to a hotel where you ate too much of the wrong food at the all-you-can-eat buffets. So now you've learned, "I shouldn't pick the buffet option. I should order off the menu. That way, I'll know exactly what food I'll get, in a set portion." Studies show that we tend to eat more when faced with a bigger variety, and when it's self-serve, we can serve ourselves a lot! Remind yourself, "I learned this lesson the hard way. Next time, I'll make a different choice."

    4. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    When we're making resolutions, it's easy to set big ambitious goals, and sometimes it's tough to meet them. We plan to train for a 5K, or get the basement cleared out, or write a rough draft of a novel by the end of the year. Then, we fail to make progress, it's easy to get discouraged and accuse ourselves of laziness.

    Remember, any progress is better than no progress! You may not have finished a full draft, but you have an outline of your novel. You haven't switched careers yet, but you've started thinking about next steps.

    Some people find it helpful to keep a ta-da list. A to-do list reminds you of what you need to get done; a ta-da list reminds you of all you've accomplished already. A ta-da list can be a tremendous source of energy and reassurance.

    5. Consider your Tendency.

    Often, when we fail to make progress, it's because we haven't taken our Tendency into account. For instance, if you're an Obliger, you must have outer accountability. You must! That's what works for Obligers! If you see that a particular form of outer accountability isn't working, trying a different form. If paying for a trainer doesn't get you to go to the gym, try working out with a friend who's very annoyed when you don't show up. If that doesn't work, teach a class. If that doesn't work, think of your duty to be a role model for someone else. If that doesn't work, join a group on the Better app where you tell each other, "I'm counting on you to count on me. If none of us hold each other accountable, none of us will succeed."

    If you're a Rebel, don't try to lock yourself into a to-do list or a schedule. That often doesn't work for a Rebel. Think about what you want, and how you want to live up to your identity.

    If you're a Questioner, really examine your reasons. Why are you doing this, in this way? Is it the best, most efficient way, and is it tailored to suit you specifically? When Questioners struggle, it's usually because they're fundamentally unconvinced by whatever they're trying to do.

    If you don't know your Tendency—whether you're an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or Rebel—you can take the free, quick quiz here.

    6. Are you giving yourself healthy treats?

    When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. If you're asking a lot of yourself these days, make sure you're helping yourself feel energized and cared for by giving yourself healthy treats, whatever that might be for you. For me, it's reading children's literature.

    But make sure these are healthy treats. You don't want to try to make yourself feel better by indulging in something (wine, impulse purchases, sweets, messiness) that will make you feel worse in the end.

    7. Remember, it's easier to keep up than to catch up.

    Sometimes, when we're creating a healthy habit or practice, we need to catch up. We need to clear out a lot of clutter before we can maintain good order. We need to adjust to life without the morning doughnut. This is hard, but remember that once we're caught up or accustomed to a new way, it gets easier. It may take a few tries to get over the initial hurdle, but remember that the situation will get easier once it's more ingrained.

     

    Stay the course! Don't give up! My book Better Than Before examines the 21 strategies that we can use to make or break our habits, and one of the most helpful strategies is the Strategy of Safeguards. It's all about how to anticipate challenges, and how to deal with it when we run into trouble.

    It's a very common frustration.

    Have you found any great ways to stay on course, even when you feel as if you're falling behind?

     
  • 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?

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:40 on 2019/04/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , dessert, Emily Luchetti, Erin McHugh, , , , So Who's Counting   

    Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh: “We Are Big Believers in Doing at Least One Fun Thing a Day, However Small.” 


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    Interview: Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh

    How I love quotations—I collect them myself in giant troves, I collect books of quotations, and I love sending out my free daily "Moment of Happiness" newsletter with a terrific quotation about happiness or human nature (sign up here if you'd like to get it).

    So of course I was immediately intrigued by the new book from two friends and authors Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh. So Who's Counting?: The Little Quote Book About Growing Older and Still Kicking Ass is a book of quotations that remind us that with age comes the opportunity to ask, "What's next? What do I really want? What have I learned the hard way?"

    I couldn't wait to talk to Erin and Emily about happiness, habits, aging, and self-knowledge.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Emily: Exercise. Either a hike or working out at the gym in a TRX/weights class. The former I do on weekends with my husband and a friend. The classes first thing in the morning during the week. I feel more productive, energized, and ready to take on the world once I have gotten my body in gear.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Emily: Don’t worry so much about what other people think. And don’t compare yourself to others. Be your own authentic self. Now that I am older I take many things less personally. I can keep myself and others happy. I don’t have to forfeit what I want over others’ needs.

    Erin: That it isn’t an inalienable right. Happiness is work, and it needs constant attention and upkeep. Feed it and it grows. And that, along with the time to pursue it, happiness is worth more than any commodity on earth.

    You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Emily and Erin: What turned out to be a revelation for us while we were working on So Who’s Counting? was getting to delve in and discover more about the people we quoted, not just the quote that ended up on the page. We conferred on every passage in the book—more than once—and researched where each came from, whether it was a speech, a letter, a passage from a book. But in doing so, we went down the most intriguing and rewarding rabbit holes. We found that Julia Child’s family had a cook growing up, and young Julia could have cared less about food. We were reminded about Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War draft, how it caused him to lose all his titles, left him on the sidelines during his best fighting years, but became the beginning of his journey as a humanitarian. How Maya Angelou’s life was burdened by a past as a sex worker, and a childhood in the Jim Crow South. And though these were people we had never met, we found then began to influence us in profound ways.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Emily: I took the quiz (I love things like this!) and am an Upholder. “I do what others expect of me—and what I expect from myself.” In my younger days only the first part of this sentence would have been true. I took care of others needs and put myself last. A real plus about getting older!

    Erin: I’m a Questioner. By profession I’m a writer and an interviewer: so it’s no surprise that curiosity drives me even when I’m practicing neither!

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Erin: Time—especially as one grows older—seems to whiz by. You’ve got to keep it in your grasp! A good calendar with some structured activity, whether it’s yoga, writing, getting together with friends, and whatever else pleases you, is key. Then the distractions don’t seem as...well, distracting. And Emily and I are both big believers in doing at least one fun thing a day, however small.

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Emily: When I turned 60, I became aware of time in a good way. It hit home that we each only have one life and should live it to the best—whatever that means to you. For me, it’s a different answer each day. Some days it will be all work, sometimes all play. Sometimes something totally new, sometimes something I have done a zillion times. That’s what makes life exciting. I never really celebrate my birthdays but at 60 I wanted to make a statement to myself and saw it as an opportunity to do something I always thought would be fun but never did, I had a luncheon (cooked by Chef Jonathan Waxman) for about 70 women in the food world. It was electrifying to be in that room. Since then I have tried to make more time for these friendships and connections. We are always all so busy. You need to make a concerted effort to get together. And it’s worth it.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Emily: “Someday is Today.”

    Erin: Singer Lauren Hill says at the end of one of her songs, “Everything is everything.” From the first time I heard it, I have found it such a valuable reminder for me. It means “Every little thing matters,”  “Every moment counts,” and “Even the tiny things sometimes end up being the thing that makes the difference.”

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Erin: I wrote a book a few years ago called One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better, in which I tried to do just a small, positive thing each day as I went about my business. Almost immediately it clocked the way I looked at the world, and how I approached life on a daily basis. It trained both my head and my heart to be aware, mindful, kinder. I treasure the experience and take myself back to its pages constantly to remind myself that better doesn’t have to be hard.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Emily: "Never trust a skinny chef." For sure, I know how hard it is to not succumb to sweets. Especially when there are several ten-pound boxes of chocolate on the shelf. But it is possible to enjoy desserts and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s all about moderation. I started a movement around it called dessertworthy. Pastry chefs like to bake but we also like to exercise, eat veggies, and fit into our jeans. People don’t automatically assume a wine maker is an alcoholic or a pharmacist is a drug addict.

    Erin: Writing a book is never a simple task. It’s long, arduous, vexing...but always rewarding.

    SWC COVER

     
  • 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?

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:26 on 2019/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , The Home Edit   

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin: “An Efficient and Beautiful Space Gives Us Peace of Mind and Streamlines Our Routines.” 


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    Interview: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin.

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are friends and business partners. They started "The Home Edit" to reinvent traditional organizing and merge it with design and interior styling.

    The Home Edit service will organize every space in the home, from bedrooms and kitchens, to closets and pantries. Every project receives meticulous attention to detail, carefully considered systems, and a signature aesthetic. They can come to you—even if you're in a different state—or work online.

    This team serves as the organizers to the stars, including huge celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon.

    Their new book just hit the shelves: The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals.

    As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to hear them discuss their views on clutter, organization, habits, and happiness. More outer order for all!

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Clea and Joanna: Can we say organizing or is that too obvious? But, seriously—an efficient and beautiful space gives us peace of mind and streamlines our routines. When you know what you have and where it is, it’s the simplest thing and yet so gratifying.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    As two people who’ve now made a living off of their type-A (or let’s be honest, neurotic) personalities, we’ve come to learn that following your intuition and passion is worth the risk—even if it scares the hell out of you at first. In fact, we didn’t know much about each other when we decided to start a business together. We had lunch—a four-hour lunch—and discussed worldwide organizing domination. The only thing we could really discern is that we felt like we had a similar work ethic and that we didn’t do anything halfway. We got that gut feeling that we’re just the kind of people who go all in—and thankfully, we did.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    As organizers, we’re the first to say that routine is everything. And when it comes to making or breaking a habit, we believe that it comes down to being honest with yourself and creating systems that simplify and ease you into the process. For instance, I hate working out and I’m constantly making excuses for why I need to skip. So I started packing a gym bag and putting it in my trunk. The fact that I didn’t have to do the extra step of choosing what clothes to wear or having to go home to change was what I needed to jumpstart the habit, without me even realizing I was doing it.

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    We travel a lot—especially now that we’re on our book tour. We’ve both woken up on multiple occasions and completely forgotten what city we’re in. We literally have to remind each other. In order to stay sane and not lose our routine, we’ve become better about prioritizing our time and commitments—and not feeling guilty for it.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    We have two particular mottos that we live by that have actually become parallel to our brand—Surviving Not Thriving and Low Bar Lifestyle. It’s all about setting the bar just low enough that you can accomplish all kinds of bite-size victories because life is too short to feel residual guilt about not wearing real pants or making it to the gym every day. We feel the same way about organizing. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a smaller project, then taking the confidence and knowledge you gain from that and applying it to something larger.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    We find that people tend to view organizing as extremely overwhelming or near impossible. The truth is that if we can do it, you can do it. It’s why we decided to write our book in the first place—to give people the tools and a step-by-step guide to creating efficient and beautiful spaces in their own homes. The other common misperception is that an organized space will take a ton of effort to maintain. The truth is that when you create systems that work seamlessly with your space and lifestyle, maintenance is as simple as putting things where they belong and setting aside time each month for a mini edit. Labeling and color-coding with ROYGBIV are methods we use that act as instructions (or a guilt mechanism) to put things back in their designated home.

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:26 on 2019/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin: “An Efficient and Beautiful Space Gives Us Peace of Mind and Streamlines Our Routines.” 


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    Interview: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin.

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are friends and business partners. They started "The Home Edit" to reinvent traditional organizing and merge it with design and interior styling.

    The Home Edit service will organize every space in the home, from bedrooms and kitchens, to closets and pantries. Every project receives meticulous attention to detail, carefully considered systems, and a signature aesthetic. They can come to you—even if you're in a different state—or work online.

    This team serves as the organizers to the stars, including huge celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon.

    Their new book just hit the shelves: The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals.

    As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to hear them discuss their views on clutter, organization, habits, and happiness. More outer order for all!

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Clea and Joanna: Can we say organizing or is that too obvious? But, seriously—an efficient and beautiful space gives us peace of mind and streamlines our routines. When you know what you have and where it is, it’s the simplest thing and yet so gratifying.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    As two people who’ve now made a living off of their type-A (or let’s be honest, neurotic) personalities, we’ve come to learn that following your intuition and passion is worth the risk—even if it scares the hell out of you at first. In fact, we didn’t know much about each other when we decided to start a business together. We had lunch—a four-hour lunch—and discussed worldwide organizing domination. The only thing we could really discern is that we felt like we had a similar work ethic and that we didn’t do anything halfway. We got that gut feeling that we’re just the kind of people who go all in—and thankfully, we did.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    As organizers, we’re the first to say that routine is everything. And when it comes to making or breaking a habit, we believe that it comes down to being honest with yourself and creating systems that simplify and ease you into the process. For instance, I hate working out and I’m constantly making excuses for why I need to skip. So I started packing a gym bag and putting it in my trunk. The fact that I didn’t have to do the extra step of choosing what clothes to wear or having to go home to change was what I needed to jumpstart the habit, without me even realizing I was doing it.

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    We travel a lot—especially now that we’re on our book tour. We’ve both woken up on multiple occasions and completely forgotten what city we’re in. We literally have to remind each other. In order to stay sane and not lose our routine, we’ve become better about prioritizing our time and commitments—and not feeling guilty for it.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    We have two particular mottos that we live by that have actually become parallel to our brand—Surviving Not Thriving and Low Bar Lifestyle. It’s all about setting the bar just low enough that you can accomplish all kinds of bite-size victories because life is too short to feel residual guilt about not wearing real pants or making it to the gym every day. We feel the same way about organizing. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a smaller project, then taking the confidence and knowledge you gain from that and applying it to something larger.

    In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    We find that people tend to view organizing as extremely overwhelming or near impossible. The truth is that if we can do it, you can do it. It’s why we decided to write our book in the first place—to give people the tools and a step-by-step guide to creating efficient and beautiful spaces in their own homes. The other common misperception is that an organized space will take a ton of effort to maintain. The truth is that when you create systems that work seamlessly with your space and lifestyle, maintenance is as simple as putting things where they belong and setting aside time each month for a mini edit. Labeling and color-coding with ROYGBIV are methods we use that act as instructions (or a guilt mechanism) to put things back in their designated home.

     
  • 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?

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:09 on 2019/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: Ashley Whillans, , , Harvard Business Review, , , , Time for Happiness,   

    “If Time is Money, Money Can Also Buy Happier Time.” 


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    Interview: Ashley Whillans

    Ashley Whillans is a Harvard Business School professor and behavioral scientist whose research explores the connection between how we spend time to how we experience happiness. Her recent Harvard Business Review series "Time Poor and Unhappy" looks at why we feel so starved for time today when, in fact, we have more discretionary hours than ever before.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Ashley about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Ashley: My colleagues and I have conducted survey and experimental research with nearly 100,000 working adults from around the world. Across studies, we find that the happiest people prioritize time over money. People who are willing to give up money to gain more free time—such as by working fewer hours or paying to outsource disliked tasks—experience more fulfilling social relationships, more satisfying careers, and more joy. Overall, people who prioritize time over money live happier lives. Importantly, the benefits of choosing time over money emerge for the wealthy and less wealthy alike. Even spending as little as $40 to save time can significantly boost happiness and reduce stress. Our research suggests that even small actions—like savoring our meals, engaging in 30 minutes of exercise, or having a 5-minute conversation with a colleague (vs. focusing on work) can significantly shape happiness, more than most of us predict.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Ashley: Over and over, I find that prioritizing time over money increases happiness. Despite this, most people continue striving to make more money. For example, in one survey, only 48 percent of respondents reported that they would rather have more time than more money. Even the majority of people who were most pressed for time—parents with full-time jobs and young children at home—shared this preference for money over time. In another study, the very wealthy (i.e., individuals with over 3 million dollars of liquid wealth sitting in the bank) did not always prioritize time over money either. These data suggest that a key challenge to reducing feelings of time stress and increasing happiness for a broad range of the population is psychological: most people erroneously believe that wealth will make our lives better. Research shows that once people make more than enough to meet their basic needs, additional money does not reliably promote greater happiness. Yet over and over, our choices do not reflect this reality.

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Ashley: As a happiness researcher, I should know better than to choose money over time. Yet, admittedly, like most people, I make these trade-offs suboptimally. I worked for an hour during my wedding reception and I can often be found typing on my laptop or taking work meetings in spa locker rooms. However, a recent experience solidified for me the importance of focusing on time over money. Two weeks ago, one of my closest friends from graduate school shared some devastating news: Her 32-year-old, fit, healthy partner was dying. Out of nowhere, her partner was diagnosed with terminal metastatic cancer. He was given three months to live. In her fundraising page my friend wrote, “We thought we had all the time in the world.” Today, my friend and her boyfriend ‘immediately-turned-husband’ are trying to savor every second of their time together before the inevitable. As a 30-year old myself, who has focused most of the last 10 years on my career (often at the expense of my sleep, my health, and my personal relationships), this experience was a wake-up call. None of us know how much time we have left, and we cannot take money with us. I have studied the importance of prioritizing time for years. And now, I have started truly trying to live this priority.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Ashley: Benjamin Franklin wrote “Time is Money.” My personal mantra is a play on this familiar quote: “If Time is Money, Money Can Also Buy Happier Time."

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Ashley: The book that changed my life is Dan Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. This book introduced me to the scientific study of well-being. Dan Gilbert argues that we often mispredict what will make us happy. His persuasive arguments and energetic, insightful and witty writing inspired me to become a social scientist. Specifically, this book solidified my interest in conducting research to learn how to successfully nudge all of us to spend our time and money in ways that are most likely to promote happiness.

     
  • 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.

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:00:25 on 2019/02/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Some Advice I Give Myself Over and Over, About My Romantic Relationship. 


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    I love my husband Jamie with all my heart.

    But as research shows—and I've found this in my own experience—married couples often treat each with less courtesy than they show to friends, or even strangers.

    I find it all too easy to snap at Jamie, to read my email while I'm talking to him on the phone, or to get annoyed by some of his habits.

    I remind myself often to take good advice—that I know perfectly well!

    Here are the challenges that come up most often for me, and the advice I give myself most often.

    1. Don't take things personally.

    It was really helpful for me to realize that Jamie is a Questioner, and that Questioners often intensely dislike answering questions. Before I understood this, I always wondered, "Why does he refuse to tell me what he's making for dinner, or what time we're supposed to arrive for the party?" I thought he was subtly trying to drive me crazy. But now I realize, "Yeah, that's an annoying thing about a lot of Questioners; it doesn't reflect on our relationship, he's like this with everyone."

    2. Use gentle language.

    Elizabeth and I just talked about this idea on the Happier podcast. I can be short-tempered and accusatory. Sad but true. I constantly make an effort to speak more gently, to say, "Do you know where the latest copy of The New Yorker is?" rather than "Did you throw away The New Yorker before I've read it, the way you always do?"

    3. Connect with love.

    I have so many resolutions related to creating a tender, attentive connection. Especially in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I write about the many ways I try to show affection. For instance, the very first thing I do every morning is to give Jamie a kiss, and I get up to say hello or good-bye every time he comes and goes from the apartment.

    4. Look for ways to be thoughtful.

    I used to wish that Jamie handed out gold stars more often than he does—and in fact, I still wish he did, but I've accepted the fact that he doesn't. I remind myself that I'm doing thoughtful things for him not because he'll thank me, but because that's the way I want to be, that's the kind of atmosphere I want to live in. I'll buy him his favorite kind of shampoo if I notice that he's running low. I'll send him funny photos or cheerful updates during the day, especially when he's traveling.

    5. Make the positive argument.

    I'm very interested in the problems of shared work (one of my very favorite posts that I've ever written is on the subject), and this is an issue in marriage. Because of a phenomenon called unconscious over-claiming, we unconsciously overestimate our contributions or skills relative to other people’s. This makes sense, because of course we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do. According to Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, “when husbands and wives estimate the percentage of housework each does, their estimates total more than 120 percent.”

    When I start telling myself things like, "Jamie never helps," "Jamie never plans," "Jamie never answers my emails," I make the positive argument, and remind myself of everything he does do.

    In David Dunning’s fascinating book, Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself, Dunning observes:

    [People] can argue anything. If asked to argue that some assertion “A” is true, people can do that. If next asked to argue that the opposite of “A” is true, they can do that, too, often with the exact same ease and effectiveness…When testing a hypothesis, people tend to emphasize evidence that confirms the hypothesis over information that disconfirms it. For example, if I asked someone whether he or she was an outgoing individual, that someone will likely sit back to think about times he or she has been an extroverted, sociable person…if I asked the same person whether he or she is the shy type, he or she would likely think of exactly…opposing examples because they confirm the new hypothesis. (46-47)

    I have really found this to be true.

    I have Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness, and the Sixth Truth is: "The only person I can change is myself." I can't assign resolutions for my husband to follow (as tempting as that sounds; it wouldn't work). Nevertheless, I've found that when I change, a relationship changes, and the atmosphere of my home changes.

    How about you? What advice do you have to repeat to yourself, about your relationship to your sweetheart?

     
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