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  • gretchenrubin 09:00:25 on 2019/04/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , outer order 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: , , , , , outer order 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 16:42:15 on 2019/04/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , outer order inner calm, , questions, tour   

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


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

    Some observations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A few questions keep coming up over and over:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:28 on 2019/02/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , outer order inner calm, ,   

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


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

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

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

    Beware the "frenzy of the clear."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Face the problem of the quality discard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Watch out for the challenges of the open office.

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

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

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

    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.

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 20:33:36 on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: , book cover, , , cover reveal, , outer order inner calm   

    Do you judge a book by Its cover? I do. Check out my new cover! 


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    I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my next book: Outer Order, Inner Calm. Ta-da!

    I have to say, I love this cover.

    But it wasn’t an easy process.

    Danielle Deschenes is the super-talented art director who created it (she also created the cover of The Four Tendencies), and she must have done fifty or sixty covers before hitting on this one.

    It’s funny—we looked at cover after cover after cover, and some were good but not great.

    For instance, one proposed cover was gorgeous, but just too much like the cover of Marie Kondo’s blockbuster bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

    And another cover was calm, but seemed…too calm.

    And it was all yellow. I liked the color, but I worried that so much yellow was harsh.

    In describing my own ideas for the cover, I’d said that I hoped it could:

    • incorporate the blue and yellow colors used in many of my other jackets and on my site
    • have a calm but energetic vibe, and not look like a book about meditation
    • make use of circles (I think that circles really draw the eye to a book jacket, see The Four Tendencies)
    • be eye-catching both on a bookstore shelf and in an online thumbnail

    We’d reviewed image after image, and time was passing, and at the very last moment, when we had to choose an image for the galley by the next day—even if had to be a temporary, placeholder image—she sent around a version very close to the final jacket. And everyone agreed: This is it.

    Take a look at what a masterful job Danielle Deschenes did at incorporating all of the suggested elements!

    Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

    And more than that, she suggested nature.

    This, to me, was the brilliant stroke. I love this suggestion of the sky, moon, and sunrise. This fits the book perfectly, too. The book’s epigraph is from Alexander Pope: “Order is Heaven’s first law,” and the theme of nature runs throughout.

    For instance, I quote one of my favorite passages 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!" – The Journal of Jules Renard

    And, given my current obsession with color, I love the way she uses color to suggest time unfolding and the serene energy of the natural world.

    I’m thrilled with it.

    Please note: If you don’t like the jacket, don’t tell me! As they say, this ship has sailed.

    At the same time that we were racing to finalize the jacket, I was working with editors and copy-editors to finish the text of the book.

    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 short essay, 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 was inspired to try this approach by a book that I’ve always admired: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I love the way Pollan presents his ideas in pithy, witty statements, and how he’s able to convey big ideas in such an accessible, fun, compulsively readable way. I’d always wanted to write a book in that style, and finally, I just couldn’t resist.

    As always happens, after I started writing about my own ideas, the form evolved to suit my voice and my subject. But if you look at Food Rules, you’ll definitely see the family resemblance.

    Also like Food Rules, the book Outer Order, Inner Calm includes illustrations, which I think really enliven it. In my previous book Happier at Home, I included photos of objects around my apartment, and that was a lot of fun. I’ve often thought I’d like to include more visual elements to my books.

    But I’ve never worked with an illustrator before, and it was interesting to see what Jon McNaught chose to illustrate, and how. I didn’t know I had strong views about illustrations, but it turns out…I do! I loved most of his illustrations, but there were a few things that I asked to change.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm started out as a “hooky book”—a book that I worked on when I wanted a break from working on The Four Tendencies. I’d sneak off (in my own mind) and work on the inexhaustibly absorbing subject of outer order. I had so much fun writing this book, and it’s exciting that it’s about to hit the shelves in March.

    If you’re inclined to buy the book, it really helps me if you pre-order. I have a pre-order bonus that’s not quite ready to launch, so if you do pre-order, gold star to you, and just hang onto your receipt or confirmation number, and stay tuned for pre-order bonus details. Pre-orders give a big boost to a book among booksellers, the media, and other readers.

    Want to support me and your local bookstore at the same time--and get a freebie for yourself, too? Pre-order Outer Order, Inner Calm at your local bookstore, and snap a photo of your physical receipt and save it to get the pre-order bonus when it's ready.

    Do you judge books by their covers? As a devoted reader, I think I should be able to say “no,” but I have to admit that the answer is “yes.” Though usually, it’s a matter of being intrigued by a great cover rather than being turned off by a bad cover.

    For a reveal of the illustrations and book tour details for March 2019, stay tuned!

     
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