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  • 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?

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 09:00:08 on 2019/03/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , declutter, ,   

    A Writer’s Milestone: My Book “Outer Order, Inner Calm” Hits the Shelves Today! 


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    I dedicated The Happiness Project to my family.

    I dedicated Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill to my mother and father.

    I dedicated Happier at Home to my sister, Elizabeth.

    I dedicated Better Than Before to my family, again.

    I dedicated The Four Tendencies to my agent, Christy Fletcher (Questioner).

    Outer Order, Inner Calm is dedicated to you: my readers, listeners, and viewers.

    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.

    If you flip through the book, you’ll see that it’s written mostly in short, separate bursts of ideas and suggestions. At the beginning of each of the seven sections, I include a one-page introduction, but for the most part, it’s a collection of quick, concrete tips. It’s meant to be something you read fast to get yourself psyched up to clear clutter.

    I first came up with the phrase "outer order contributes to inner calm," when I was writing The Happiness Project more than ten years ago. It was a "Secret of Adulthood" that I included in my "Happiness Project Manifesto."

    I paced through our apartment to size up the clutter-clearing challenge I faced. Once I started really looking, I was amazed by how much clutter I had accumulated without my realizing it. Our apartment was bright and pleasant, but a scum of clutter filmed its surface...

    Once I'd finished the closet, I went back through it once again. When I finished, I had four bags full of clothes, and I could see huge patches of the back of my closet. I no longer felt drained; instead, I felt exhilarated. NO more being confronted with my mistakes! NO more searching in frustration for a particular white button-down shirt!

    - The Happiness Project

     

    When I was touring for The Happiness ProjectHappier at Home, and even Better Than Before, I noticed how energized people became during any discussion of outer order. Any time the subject came up, people laughed, talked among themselves, and were clearly interested. The fact is, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, and any time the subject arose, people wanted to hear more.

    Even after spending all this time thinking about outer order, it still surprises me how much it matters—how much energy, focus, and cheer we get from creating outer order. It seems like a fairly trivial thing to worry about, but the effect certainly isn’t trivial--for most people.

    Just last night I cleaned some clutter from our utility closet. (Yes, even after writing this book, I'm still finding pockets of clutter in the apartment.) And this morning I walked over the closet, just to gloat at the beautiful order.

    I'm thrilled that this day has finally come. Outer Order, Inner Calm hits the shelves.

    Curious about some of the "behind-the-scenes" elements of making this book?

    If so, I wrote about the cover design process, working with the illustrator, recording the audiobook, and "a day in the life" during this busy season.

    Many readers and listeners have asked how they can be helpful -- which I very much appreciate! If you'd like to support me and help readers find this book, you can:

    • Share a photo of your copy of the book on social media (tag me @gretchenrubin and use hashtag #OuterOrderInnerCalm)
    • Leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Audible, or wherever you purchased your copy.
    • Request the book at your local library
    • Share a before-and-after photo on social media or your own blog if you tackle clutter using the ideas from the book. Use the hashtag #OuterOrderInnerCalm and of course tag me @gretchenrubin. I love to see a great before-and-after.
    • Share a link to your favorite Happier podcast episode with a friend or on social media
    • Share a quote from the book on social media

    I had such fun writing this playful, hopeful book. I hope it helps you discover ways to make more room for happiness in your own life.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:13:59 on 2019/03/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    What I Read This Month: February 2019 


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    For more than two years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I now put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in January 2019, the full list is here.

    February 2019 Reading:

    Pride by Ibi Zoboi -- a wonderful re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, set in Bushwick. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it's a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up."

    The Chosen Ones by Scarlett Thomas -- This is the second in a YA series by Scarlett Thomas. Now I have to wait for the third book to come out.

    Eva by Peter Dickinson -- How I love Peter Dickinson! A girl is in a terrible accident, and wakes up with her mind implanted in the body of a chimp. Very interesting. Straight sci-fi.

    Earth and Air by Peter Dickinson -- More Dickinson! Short stories on the theme of earth and air. Wonderful. Fantasy.

    Angel Isle by Peter Dickinson -- What can I say? More Dickinson. The sequel to The Ropemaker.

    The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K. Le Guin -- Dickinson got me in the mood for Le Guin. These are various essays.

    Spring by Karl Ove Knausgaard -- Another author I love. You're either on this train, or off this train. I'm on it, all the way.

    How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee -- I love essays and kept hearing that I had to read this collection.

    Still Life by Louise Penny -- One of my most bookish friends keeps urging me to read Penny, even thought I don't usually like mysteries, and told me to start with this one. I really enjoyed it.

    How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand -- I skimmed this book. Very intriguing look at buildings, cities, and how time changes a place. Loved the illustrations.

    The Anatomy of Color by Patrick Baty -- I also skimmed this very dense book. It's an extremely comprehensive, authoritative and odd examination of historical issues related to color.

    My Father's Fortune by Michael Frayn -- I love Michael Frayn's work and love memoirs, so had to get this book. A very loving account of a family and a time in history.

    The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson -- how had I not read this book before? What a title.

    What have you read recently that you'd recommend? I'm particularly in the mood for essays and memoirs. Plus as part of my "19 for 2019," I vowed that during my upcoming book tour, I'd spend my time in hotel rooms reading children's/YA novels instead of watching before-and-after HGTV which (for some reason) is what I usually do. So I'd also love some children's/YA recommendations.

    Announcement! We decided to launch the Happier Podcast Book Club. We'll discuss Dani Shapiro's Inheritance on episode 212 (airing March 13). Spoiler alert: it's really, really good.

     
  • 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.

     
  • 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 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.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:27 on 2019/02/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World, , , Isabel Gillies, ,   

    “Making One’s Bed In My Mind Is the Most Direct Road to a Happier Life.” 


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    Interview: Isabel Gillies

    Now, how do I know Isabel Gillies? The answer is lost in the sands of time. We have several mutual friends, perhaps that's how.

    She has had a very interesting, varied career. She is an actor who appeared, among other places, on the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and in the movie Metropolitan.

    She's also a highly successful writer. Her bestselling memoir Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story recounts the story of how her first marriage broke up, while A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story is about the challenge of getting on with her life after the divorce; her young-adult novel Starry Night is about the passion of first love.

    Now in her latest book, she's tackled a different kind of subject: Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World.

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

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

    Isabel: Making one's bed in my mind is the most direct road to a happier life. It's manageable, satisfying and cozy.

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

    As I edge closer to 50, I find that happiness comes from trying the best you can to stay right in the very moment you are in. Don't worry about the past or future, just be in the moment. Noticing the light, or a smell, or the sound of the dog breathing will help you just be right where you are.

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

    I did a lot of research for Cozy, and what tickled me the most was that when I asked people what makes them cozy, everyone smiled.

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

    YES! I quit smoking. I used a nicotine patch. Right before I turned 25 I thought, "It's kind of sexy to see a young woman smoking, it's really not sexy to see an older woman smoking." I marched to the drug store, got the patch and never smoked again. It was about making up my mind, and committing.

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

    Upholder (just took the quiz).

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

    TEENAGERS! No, it's not them per se, it's my inability to stay in the moment, and put everything in its right place. Someone once told me that teenagers are on a roller coaster and as a parent your job is NOT to get on the roller coaster with them—just stand on the side. Sometimes I get on.

    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.?

    Even though I'm healthy (knock on wood), recently my doctor told me I had gained 12 pounds in 2 years. I have always eaten anything I wanted, whenever I wanted—but I guess when I hit menopause that all got turned on its ear. I walked out of his office and decided I would think more about calories in, calories out, and act on it daily—I got an app! I'm having radical acceptance about it. We change—what is there to do but deal with it?

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

    "Radical Acceptance."

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

    Stephen King's On Writing. When I decided to become a writer, I read his book and followed his lead. I'm dyslexic and was an actress. I never had any expectation of becoming a writer so I never took a class or workshop. King was my teacher.

    In the area you’re writing about, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    I'm writing about being cozy. I think people believe coziness is about fires, hot chocolate and cashmere sweaters. I'm making the case that coziness comes from the truth of who you are. You can be cozy on the subway; I always am. If you know what you like, your beat, your point of view, you can carry that anywhere you find yourself and call upon it to find coziness, even challenging circumstances like a hospital.

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:34 on 2019/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , illustration, , ,   

    Revealed! Some of My Favorite Illustrations from the Book “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” 


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    With each book I write, I think, "I'll never have as much fun writing a book again." And then I love the next book project even more.

    Many aspects of writing Outer Order, Inner Calm made it particularly enjoyable.

    In it, I use a very accessible, concise approach. This book is meant to be read quickly, to get you fired up to clear clutter. I was inspired by a book whose structure I've always admired: Michael Pollan's Food Rules. I'd always wanted to write a book like that—and I did!

    I also loved the opportunity to include illustrations. The strange, dreamlike book Profane Waste is my writing presented with the photographs of artist Dana Hoey. In my book Happier at Home, I included some of my own photographs of my home. I've always wanted to explore visual possibilities again.

    For Outer Order, Inner Calm, illustrations seemed right. I love the beautiful, highly distinctive work of British cartoonist and illustrator Jon McNaught, and he did a terrific job of adding an additional layer of visual interest and engagement to the book.

    I was really lucky that Jon was interested in taking on this project. He's got a real cult following and is a very successful graphic novelist, and he often creates the covers for the London Review of Books. You can see his work on Instagram here.

    For instance, I got a huge kick out of this illustration—can you guess why? Jon decorated the mug with the bluebird featured on the cover of The Happiness Project. I often incorporate that bird into various designs, and the bluebird of happiness is my personal symbol. I'm not sure how many readers will notice this insider reference, but I enjoy it!

    Some illustrations proved to be a challenge. For instance, one tip suggests that you might "Create a seasonal photo gallery" with a collection of themed photos that are displayed only for a short season. In my family, we have a Halloween display (Halloween costumes over the years) and a Valentine's Day display (our annual Valentine's Day cards).

    The first version of the illustration showed an array of many different kinds of photos. And the photos were hung on the wall. It took a couple of iterations to get to a visual representation of a "seasonal photo gallery."

    It also took us a few tries to get the right illustration for the "travel tidy-up." The first attempt showed an unpacked overnight carry-on bag, but I meant that you'd go through your backpack, purse, or briefcase while you were waiting to board.

    I was particularly focused on the final illustration—both because it came at the end of the body of the book, and because the last tip is my very favorite. I won't reveal it here—spoiler!—but it makes me choke up with emotion every time I read it.

    The idea is powerful, but...how to convey it in an illustration? Without being overly mawkish or clichéd? It was a very tough challenge. When you look at the book, see what you think. I think Jon hit exactly the right note.

    As a writer, I want to push myself with every book: to write more clearly and more beautifully, to think more deeply, and to take advantage of all the possibilities of the form.

    This playful little book taught me a lot.

    Thank you to everyone who has preordered the book. Be sure to claim your pre-order bonus here.

     
  • 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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