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

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


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

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

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

    Some additional conversations...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Focus on one area.

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

    2. Fix whatever is bugging you the most.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    4. Make it fun to get the job done.

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

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

    Follow the one-minute rule.

    Observe Power Hour.

    Go shelf by shelf.

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

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

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

    What are some of your favorite tips for spring cleaning?

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

    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?

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

    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.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:40 on 2019/02/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , inner calm, , ,   

    My Outer Order Manifesto for My New Book “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” 


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    One of my favorite exercises is to write a "Manifesto." No matter what subject I study, I find it helpful to try to distill my ideas into succinct statements of the most important principles.

    For instance, I’ve done a Happiness Manifesto, a Habits Manifesto, and a Podcast Manifesto.

    It’s a fun, creative, and clarifying process.

    So of course as I was writing my new book Outer Order, Inner Calm, I wanted to write an accompanying manifesto. As with all my manifestos, this one is aspirational—it’s not necessarily what I do, it’s what I try to do.

    Agree, disagree? Did I miss anything important?

    • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
    • Without delay is the easiest way.
    • Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time.
    • It’s easier to keep up than to catch up.
    • When in doubt, toss it out—or recycle it, or give it away.
    • Remind yourself: I have plenty of room for the things that are important to me.
    • If you can’t retrieve it, you won’t use it.
    • One of the worst uses of time is to do something well that need not be done at all.
    • Accept yourself, and expect more from yourself.
    • What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
    • Creating outer order isn’t a matter of having less, or having more; it’s a matter of wanting
    • what you have.
    • Things often get messier before they get tidier.
    • Store things at the store.
    • Little by little, you can get a lot accomplished.
    • Nothing is more exhausting than the task that is never started.
    • There’s no one "right" way to create and maintain order.
    • Clutter attracts clutter.
    • The days are long, but the years are short.

    What would you add?

    You can download this manifesto as a PDF here.


    My publisher is giving away 24 copies of Outer Order, Inner Calm!

    Enter to win on Goodreads. *Sorry, the giveaway is only open to readers in the US.

    If you’re inclined to buy the book Outer Order, Inner Calm, I very much appreciate pre-orders—pre-orders really do make a difference for authors, by creating buzz among booksellers, the media, and readers. To thank readers who do pre-order, I’ve created a pack of bonus materials to help you start creating outer order even before the book hits the shelves.

    You’ll get access to a special 21 Day Outer Order Challenge that includes videos, a PDF checklist, and 21 days of email prompts to guide you in the challenge. This 21-day project isn’t currently available for purchase—it’s only available for readers who pre-order Outer Order, Inner Calm. After the book goes on sale on March 5, I’ll charge $12 for this special upgraded 21-day project.

    I do believe that in just 21 days, we can make concrete, manageable changes that will help us create the outer order we crave. By taking the time to get our stuff under control, we make ourselves feel calmer, and at the same time, more energetic. Step by step, we can create a serene and orderly environment.

    Claim your preorder bonus here: outerorderinnercalmbook.com/bonus/.

    Do you want a signed, personalized copy of my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm?

    Pre-order now from the beloved indie bookstore The Strand, and you can have it shipped anywhere (yes, internationally!) or pick up in store once the book is out on March 5.

     
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