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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Close the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

    Use outer order to put things out of view.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Clear clutter to help make you feel lighter.

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

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

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

    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, outer order,   

    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.

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

    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, ,   

    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.

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

    “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, , outer order,   

    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: , , , , , outer order   

    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.

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:38 on 2019/01/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , outer order   

    My 2019 Book Tour 


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    Outer Order, Inner Calm is about to hit the shelves! And that means I’m about to go on a book tour. I love getting the chance to see readers, listeners, and viewers face to face.

    Please note that most events require a ticket. Details and ticket links for my 2019 book tour are here. (If you have questions about an event, such as when tickets will go on sale, ask the event organizers; they're in charge of those issues.)

    My favorite part of touring is the question-and-answer sessions, because people’s questions give me a lot of ideas and insights into people’s concerns.

    In fact, I wrote The Four Tendencies book in large part because whenever I spoke about Better Than Before, even though I was highlighting the most interesting ideas about habit-formation, most people asked questions about the Four Tendencies framework.

    Similarly, when I was touring for The Happiness Project, Happier 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. So—I wanted to write a book about it. And now it's time to take it on the road!

    During previous book tours, for reasons that are mysterious to me, I’ve spent a lot of my hotel time watching HGTV shows. I do love a before-and-after, and while I never watch these programs at home, I couldn’t get enough of them on the road.

    But as I said in my “19 for 2019,” I’ve pledged that for this tour, I’m going to keep the TV turned off and read children’s and young-adult literature instead. I’ll get a lot of great reading time that way. If you have any book suggestions, send them my way. (I just discovered Peter Dickinson, wow.)

    Another thing I enjoy about book tours is that people often show me their heavily marked-up copies of my books, or their completed One-Sentence Journals. I love to see how someone has engaged with one of my books. I’m a big underliner and dog-earer, myself, so I get a big kick out of seeing my work get that treatment.

    This tour will be interesting because Outer Order, Inner Calm// is a narrowly focused book—outer order is a big subject, but it’s not as big as habits or happiness. I like tackling broad subjects (The Happiness Project, Better Than Before, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill) and I also like to go more deeply into a specific area (Happier at Home, The Four Tendencies). This book goes deep, but it’s also a very quick read.

    My hope for Outer Order, Inner Calm and book tour is to create a “get psyched” experience. Sometimes I read a book or hear a talk that gets me so fired up, I can’t wait to get started myself.

    So far, the book does seem to be having that effect! For instance, the day after I finished recording my audio-book, my audio director emailed me a photo of all the junk she’d cleared out of her office. And the book’s publicist recently told me that she’d set aside a day to tackle some major clutter piles in her house.

    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.

    As I’ve said many (too many?) times, if you’re inclined to buy the book, a pre-order really helps me. Because of the way the book industry works these days, pre-orders give a big boost to a book, by creating buzz among the media, booksellers, and other readers.

    So, as a way to thank people who pre-order, I’ve created a pre-order bonus. It’s a 21-day clutter-clearing challenge, so you can get started creating order right away. Don’t worry—everything I suggest is concrete and very manageable. Remember, we can get a surprising amount done, if we do just a little bit each day.

    Gold star to everyone who has already pre-ordered. Periodically I get pre-order updates, and it’s so encouraging when that number has grown. Thank you.

    Added bonus: do you want a signed, personalized copy of my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm?

    Pre-order now from famous 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.

    I had such fun writing this book! I hope you find it useful as you find ways to make more room for happiness in your own life.

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

     
  • gretchenrubin 10:00:05 on 2019/01/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , outer order,   

    A Yearly Challenge: How to Deal with Post-Holiday Clutter? Here Are My Seven Tips. 


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    I love the holidays! It's a fun, festive, family- and friend-filled time.

    It's also a messy, overwhelming, clutter-creating time.

    Over the years, I've developed some strategies to help deal with post-holiday clutter, and this year I added a few new ones.

    1. Each Christmas, my family spends a week in Kansas City with my parents. If possible, I try to do a round of clutter-clearing with each family member before we go. That way, we make room for any new gifts we acquire.

    2. Also before we leave town, I try to get the apartment as tidy as possible, because I know it will be a relief to return to a clutter-free home.

    3. I aim to put the holiday decorations away as soon as possible. Usually I aim for New Year's Day. This year, we didn't manage to get them down until January 5—still, it could've been worse. I love seeing holiday decorations go up; I also love seeing them cleared away.

    4. This year, as we were putting up and taking down holiday decorations, I made a big effort to weed out the items we don't love. We have a lot of decorations—it's a big tradition in my family—but there are some things that just never get used. I told myself, "Rather than leave this quirky elf in the box year after year, let me give it away, so someone who loves quirky elves can enjoy it." I tried to be as ruthless as possible before Christmas, so that these decorations would be out in the world seeking new owners before the holidays. But I did give away more things on the other side, too. As I noted in Outer Order, Inner Calm, it often takes a few passes through our possessions to loosen our grip.

    5. This year, I made a big effort to put away gift items as soon as possible. At least with my family, people tend to leave things out, and not put them away in their new places. For instance, my daughters each received a very attractive travel jewelry box. Now, where exactly does such an item belong? Rather than figure the answer to that question and put away the boxes, they each left the box on their bureau. I try to speed up this process by looking for unhoused items and helping us all figure out where things should go. I strongly believe that everything should have a proper place—not just be shoved in a closet somewhere—but it often takes some thought to decide, "Where does this item belong?" What's the proper place for a travel jewelry box? A meat thermometer? A retro pocket games device? It's not always obvious.

    6. I push myself to be honest about what gifts we will actually use—and if we won't use them, figure out to whom to re-gift them, or where to give something away. My family relies heavily on wish-lists, and one of the nice things about that is that we usually don't have many unwanted gifts.

    7. Put gifts to use as soon as possible. One of my Twelve Personal Commandments is "Spend out," and this continues to be a struggle for me. I put that fancy soap in the soap dish right away, and I wear that new sweater as soon as possible. Otherwise, I will "save" them. For instance, I love a pair of rainbow-striped pajamas I received (color!) and a great stylish gray sweatshirt, but I can feel myself wanting to keep them pristine and tidy. No, put them on, wear them! Why is this so hard for me? A mystery.

    What strategies do you use to conquer post-holiday clutter?

    Don't forget to claim your bonus if you pre-ordered Outer Order, Inner Calm.

     
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