A Little Happier: Accept Myself, and Expect More from Myself.

It’s time for the latest A Little Happier.

It’s a Secret of Adulthood: I want to accept myself, and expect more from myself.

Here, again, are those quotations I read:

In The Dyer’s Hand, in the essay “Reading,” W.  H. Auden wrote: “Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrown and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.”

In a 1961 letter included in the collection The Habit of Being, Flannery O’Connor wrote, “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”

If you want to read more about my struggle to start driving again, I write about it in Happier at Home.

If you want to sign up for the “Moment of Happiness,” the daily quotation about happiness, habits, and human nature, sign up here.

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Do You Feel the “Pleasure of the Expected?” Like the Opening Routine of the Tonight Show.

“There is such a thing as the pleasure of the expected. Opening routine of ‘Tonight Show’ provides it; millions would feel cheated if the ceremony were changed.”

— Kenneth Tynan, “Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale,New Yorker (FYI: salto mortale is the circus term for an aerial somersault performed on a tightrope.)

I definitely feel the pleasure of the expected. For instance, my family and I have been watching The Larry Sanders Show, and I love the moment in the beginning where we hear Hank say, in a low voice, “We’re on in ten seconds, so get ready to have a good time. All right, here we go. This is exciting, isn’t it?”

In fact, I get such a kick out of it that predictable moment that we included it as a clip in episode 60 of the Happier podcast. You can listen here, at 12:55.

How about you, do you feel the pleasure of the expected? Are there things that you enjoy, as they unfold in the same way?

Got the Urge to Do Some Spring-Cleaning? Avoid These 5 Classic Mistakes.

It’s spring! (In my part of the world, at least.) And with spring comes the urge to do some spring-cleaning. The warmer weather and the fresh breezes make me want my home to feel orderly, spacious, and clean.

So far, I’ve tackled three kitchen cabinets, a closet, and my pile of white t-shirts. It feels great.

One of the things about happiness that continually surprises me is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, and inner self-command. I write about this connection in Better Than Before, in The Happiness Project, and in Happier at Home. (All New York Times bestsellers, I can’t resist adding).

This connection fascinates me; in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet or an overflowing in-box is trivial, and yet such things weigh us down more than they should. And clearing clutter is so energizing and cheering!

I’ve learned the hard way, however, to avoid these classic mistakes during spring-cleaning, or clutter-clearing generally:

1. Don’t get organized.

When you’re facing a desk swamped in papers, or a closet bursting with clothes, or counter-tops littered with piles of random objects, don’t say to yourself, “I need to get organized.” No!

Your first instinct should be to get rid of stuff. If you don’t keep it, you don’t have to organize it. My sister wanted me to help her organize her papers, and after we threw away the papers she didn’t need to keep, there was nothing left to organize. Excellent.

2. Don’t buy fancy storage gizmos.

Ironically, it’s often the people with the worst clutter problems who have the instinct to run to a store and buy complicated hangers, drawer compartments, etc.  Don’t let yourself buy an item until it’s absolutely clear that it will help you organize objects that are truly necessary—rather than act as a crutch to move clutter around or to jam more clutter into place.

3. Don’t save things for the hazy future.

Some things are  worth keeping — but not most things. I was once helping a friend clear her clutter, and when I gently suggested that she might give away that pantsuit that she wore to work eight years earlier, she said, “Oh, but my daughter might want to wear those one day.” Really? I don’t think so. If you get a new dog, you’ll probably want a fresh dog bed, and if you lose a bunch of weight, you’ll probably decide to buy a new pair of jeans.

4. Don’t “store” things.

It makes sense to store holiday decorations, seasonal clothes, baby things you intend to use again, and anything else that’s useful for a particular time. But often, when we “store” something, it’s because we know we don’t really need it, or use it, or care about it much, but we just want to get it out of the way. Usually, it’s easier to throw something in the basement, attic, or garage than it is to figure out what to do with it. But in the long run, it’s better not to “store” that stuff but to give it away, recycle it, or toss it right away — without an intervening period in storage.

5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Things often get messier before they get tidier. If you dump out every drawer in that big chest, you may run out of energy and time before you’re finished sorting through all of it. Take one drawer at a time. Of course, sometimes it’s necessary — and even fun — to spend a whole day or weekend clearing clutter, but often, it’s more realistic to tackle smaller aims.

Remember, we often over-estimate what we can do in a short time (one afternoon) and under-estimate what we can do over a long period, a little at a time (spending thirty minutes a day clearing clutter, for a month). Keep the process manageable.

What are your tips for clearing clutter? What mistakes have you made, in the past?

Podcast 66: Why It’s Helpful to Give Advice Only When Asked, and the Challenges of Email Etiquette and Vacation Hangovers.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: We got many interesting responses to the “Stop stockpiling” discussion from episode 62.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. I talk to viewers about questions, comments, suggestions. You can watch the most recent one here. If you want to join the conversation live, I do them on Tuesdays at 1:00 pm Eastern. Join in!

Try This at Home: Only give advice when it’s asked for. Harder than it sounds. If you want to watch the short scene I mentioned from Star Wars, it’s here.

Advice can be tiresome, but it can also be life-transforming. So…

For our next Very Special Episode, episode 70, let us know: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? For work, love, parenting, life…what really made the difference? Let us know! Email us at podcast @ gretchenrubin .com, comment below, or best of all, call us. We’d love to hear your voice as you tell the story.  774-277-9336 (77 HAPPY 336).

Happiness Stumbling Block: Email etiquette. Email issues come up all the time.

Listener Questioner: Sarah asks for tips for readjusting after a great trip away — the “vacation hangover.”

Gretchen’s Demerit: For a whole day, I didn’t meaningfully engage with any member of my family. I was just lost in my own thoughts, and going through the motions.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s kindergarten class had a terrific “Young Authors” program.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #66

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Agree? “A Little Too Much Anger Can Destroy More Than You Would Ever Imagine.”

“A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you would ever imagine. Above all, mind what you say.”

— Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

How I love all the novels of Marilynne Robinson. Housekeeping, so brilliant. I just read Lila for the first time, which made me want to re-read Gilead. It is a rare kind of book: a novel told from the perspective of a deeply good person. A beautiful, beautiful book.