Podcast #10: Special Episode! Live from Elizabeth’s Cluttered Closet.

My sister Elizabeth Craft and I are having a great time doing our new podcast,  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Elizabethclosetbefore1Today’s episode is completely different from our usual format. Because I was in Los Angeles for my book tour for Better Than Before,  we were in the same place (which we usually aren’t). And Elizabeth had the brilliant idea that we should record ourselves as we observed one of our familiar sisterly rituals: whenever I visit Elizabeth, we clean out her closet.Elizabethclosetbefore2

So this episode comes straight to you from the depths of Elizabeth’s closet. Which happens to be a walk-in closet in Encinco, California.

I’ve always loved before-and-after photos, and here are some from her closet.

Among other things, we discuss why, trivial as it may be, cleaning out a closet is likely to make you happier; why you should designate a recipient for your give-aways, before you start clearing; why you should actively ponder your stuff; why it’s helpful to store something in an exact place; why you shouldn’t get organized — plus there’s  a shoe-sorting montage. elizabethclosetafter1

We had a great time doing this — though I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it more than Elizabeth did. Note that we both wore Kansas City shirts, in honor of this occasion.elizabethclosetafter2

We’re thrilled–we’ve hit more than 600,000 downloads, in just eight episodes! Thanks for listening! And we’ve heard from so many listeners — which we love. (By the way: if you like the podcast, we’re sheepishly asking people to rate and/or review it, if time and inclination permit; that’s very helpful for a new podcast like ours.)

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors! Like Smith and Noble. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and a free in-home consultation.

And to Travel Zoo. Head to www.travelzoo.com to sign up for a free membership–or download the highly rated Travel Zoo app.

Want to get in touch? Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Phone: 774-277-9336 (774 HAPPY 336). Click here for the Facebook Page — post your own “before and after” closet photos, we’d love to see them. Or comment right here.

And we would love to hear from you — about whether you were inspired to clear a closet– and if so, if it made you happier — your questions, and any other comments.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click here to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what you can usually expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).

Each week, we give  a “Try This at Home” suggestion, for some easy habit you can try, as part of your ordinary routine, to boost your happiness—something like setting an alarm to signal your bedtime, or using the one-minute rule, to help yourself stay on top of small nagging tasks.

We also suggest questions to help you “Know Yourself Better”—like “Whom do you envy?” and “Are you a Marathoner or a Sprinter in your work style?”—and explore “Happiness Stumbling Blocks,” those small, seemingly insignificant parts of daily life that drag us down—everything from aforementioned problem of the Evil Donut-Bringer to the fact that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

We “Grill the Guest” (well, we plan to — we haven’t had a guest yet), consider “Listener Questions,” and finally, we get even more personal, and each of us either gives ourselves a “Demerit” for a mistake we made that week, that affected our happiness, or awards a “Gold Star” to someone or something that deserves recognition.

We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

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Tell us what you think! Drop us a line at @gretchenrubin, @elizabethcraft, Facebook, podcast@gretchenrubin.com, or call 774-277-9336. Or just add your comment to this post.

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Happy listening! Or I should say, HAPPIER listening!

  • This episode just made me totally happy!!! I love listening to your sisterly banter in each episode, but this one just took the prize. I was listening to it during my prep period at school & im sure the entire building could hear my howling laughter! And, yes, you did inspire me to clean out my closet!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! that’s great to hear.

      • “Plumber’s Situation” – hahahahaha

        • gretchenrubin


  • This was fun! I think I could be a professional declutterer because I find this so much fun. And I have very little because I am a minimalist so I never get my fix!

    • gretchenrubin

      So glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  • Mimi Gregor

    I’m a minimalist, so cleaning my closet twice a year is not a big task. I try to keep my clothing down to a “capsule wardrobe”: fewer items of good quality rather than an abundance of crap. I have a neutral based wardrobe — mostly black, with some brown and white. I don’t buy anything unless a) I love it, and b) it goes with everything else in my wardrobe. I could conceivably just reach in and select random items and put together an outfit from that. Also, I have everything organized by category: tops on the higher rod, separated into t-shirts, pullovers, shirts, and cardigans/blazers; and a second rod is hung from the top rod that holds my skirts and trousers. I have a fabric shoe cubby hanging off the top rod, which holds all my shoes (I don’t need a lot. Most are black, except for a pair of nude pumps. They are sorted from casual to dressy.) On the other side of that are hanging my few dresses. On the shelf are my three handbags: an every day one, a backpack, and a dressy purse. Above the shelf, I have nails hammered into the wall that I hang my three hats on. I can see everything at a glance, and I could find what I am looking for in complete darkness, because everything has it’s place.

  • Randee Bulla

    I’ve been meaning to clean out my closet for spring and about 5 minutes in I stopped the podcast and just did it. Whew. I feel so much better already!

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent! Great to hear that!

  • Traci Paris

    Hi Gretchen, I just listened to this podcast while cleaning my long-neglected desk and I swear it made the task easier! I’d love it if you had additional “out in the field” decluttering sessions. For me, it’s encouraging and comforting to hear someone else make decisions to keep or toss while I’m in the midst of decluttering. Thanks for the episode and the impressive “Before” and “After” pictures. You and Elizabeth did a great job.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! great to hear that you found it helpful. It was so much fun to do it.

  • Dominique

    When I heard the topic of this podcast I cracked up – the day before I cleaned out my closet and got rid of 5 garbage bags full of clothes. I also packed up three bins of clothes for storage. I heard about the idea of “wardrobe capsules” and fell in love with it. The concept is a great way to keep the items you love, rotate and refresh your wardrobe, but also have a very clean, minimalist, and organized closet. If you haven’t already you may want to check the idea out! LOVE your podcast, I’ve put some of your suggestions to the test (if it takes less than two minutes, now I just do it!) and they have really made a difference. Can’t wait for next week’s episode!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! that’s so nice to hear.

  • edsen1

    As an simplicity loving, underbuyer I too find it hard to sometimes give up things that I shouldn’t reasonably be wearing/using because they are too worn; one idea that I have recently implemented is to ask myself if I’d want to have a guest use this item? (especially useful for household goods like towels, sheets, etc) if the answer is no, then maybe I shouldn’t be using the item either.

    Also, the idea of ‘filling the gap’ when getting rid of an item that is worn but that you still use can backfire; I may ‘fill the gap’ but then not get rid of the original item as planned or sometimes getting rid of the item first will propel me (remember: underbuyer!) into replacing it (though not always)!

    Thanks for the show, I do feel like it makes me ‘Happier’!

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great question, as a way to prod yourself to get rid of things! I will definitely use that.
      I find that as an underbuyer, I’m very reluctant to get rid of things, because I so dislike finding the replacement. Even getting rid of the original thing may not make me do that.
      Thanks for the kind words!

  • Dixie

    I posted this question before, but forgot where so I do not know where to look to see if it was answered : what is the benefit of observing a demerit?

    I love that you have a podcast and enjoy your books, btw.

    • gretchenrubin

      Ah, we talk about that in an upcoming episode! Stay tuned!

  • Grandma Honey

    I was so happy to come here and see pictures because I had a hard time visualizing it all during the podcast. But it was inspiring nonetheless, because right after listening I cleaned out one drawer and found a card I had written to a friend SIX years ago after her mother’s funeral, but never sent. So I mailed it off yesterday! This goes right along with your rule if you are missing something, clean up. I’m sure this friend is still missing her mother and the note included many references to her eulogy. It made me happy to send it.

  • Stephanie1

    I wish I had a closet as big as this one! And thank you for the pictures! This is very inspiring, I have to declutter my home!

  • jrskis

    I just had to mention “The LIfe-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, which I ready earlier this year, which has made a huge difference for me. There are two recommendations I’ve found extremely helpful. 1) Decide what to keep, not what to get rid of. It’s a very big change in mindshift. 2) Does an item bring you joy? If not, don’t keep it. I’m amazed at how much I have gotten rid of (and I’m still not done). I am so happy to come home now and be surrounded by things I love (and to have room in my closets and drawers).

  • Kim S

    I couldn’t get good pictures, but I did clean my closet and I feel so much better, not even so much for how much room I have but for ALL of the stuff that I got rid of. Woo hoo!

    • gretchenrubin


  • Tanzle

    I’m struck by the size of the closet and the amount of clothes Elizabeth has. I thought I was lucky getting the other half of the 6ft wide wardrobe in our 1940’s house. Just wait till I show my husband that I really don’t have that many clothes 🙂

  • Dawn Sly

    Thank you for posting the before and after photos of Elizabeth’s closet. I have a large walk-in closet, too, and it is so packed I can barely walk in it. I need to clean it out, but feel so blocked because all of the magazines show beautiful closets where everything is perfect. I get trapped in the perfection loophole – if I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t do it at all. What I love about Elizabeth’s closet is that it is now very neat and organized, and it looks like a REAL person’s closet and not some magazine spread with beautiful coordinated storage bins, etc. Thank you for Gretchen and Elizabeth for being authentic. Gretchen, I have read both the Happiness Project and Happier at Home, and I am currently listening to Better Than Before on Audible. I also love your blog and your podcast. Thanks!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! thanks!

      Great to hear that it strikes a chord with you.

      Good luck with YOUR closet!

  • Alicia B.

    Thank you so much for this post! I hired my friend Emily, who is a part time organizer to help me with my closet clean out–It has changed my life! Everything in my closet is an option to wear because I was saving things post pregnancy JUST IN CASE it fit! Huge mistake because those things will be out of style anyway. My closet it tiny anyway but you don’t need a huge closet, make it work for you! Here are my before and afters. Now i can finally breathe…

  • Sam K

    As a type 1 diabetic myself, I found it hilarious the way Elizabeth just goes along with Gretchen’s assumption that ALL that diabetes stuff must be necessary. Maybe it is, but if you’re anything like me (and I suspect that you are), I bet lots of it isn’t.

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  • Top Shelf Closets

    Sometimes it isn’t the cleaning that’s hard, it’s getting started. Boy when it’s done though, it’s a great feeling! Great post…funny gals!

  • Melissa Anders

    You two crack me up. I loved the conversation about the clothes with tags and that Elizabeth declared that it was her a 5lb-away shirt and how Gretchen noted it was a bad shopping pattern but then you just both moved on … a total sister moment.

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  • AKMartin

    Great episode. One thing I think would be a great “resources” add-on for this podcast (and others on de-cluttering) is ideas for how to donate, recycle, or otherwise thoughtfully get rid of things in a way that sends the least amount of stuff to the landfill and gets useable and recyclable things to those who need/want it. For a start, NYC.gov/wasteless has a great list of such resources (not all are NYC-based, some are national) and I bet other cities do too. Some of my favorites are Better World Books (for recycling books), Soles 4 Souls (recycling running shoes), Project Green Ball (recycles tennis balls into equestrian arena footing!), textile recycling programs (at NYC Greenmarkets), electronics recycling programs (local ones as well as Greendisk, which will send you a “technotrash can” for home or office that you fill up and send back to them for recycling when full). There are tons of others, and I think it would be a great resource for you to offer some listings/ideas for this – really helps one feel better about getting rid of clutter when you know it is not going to the landfill (especially for “finishers” like me, who hate to throw away something that still has some use left in it!). Cheers, AKM

  • Caitlin

    I know I’m really late joining this discussion (I’ve just found the podcast and am working my way through the archive whilst doing admin at work).
    I loved sorting out my closet about 6 months ago and figuring out how to make it work for me. Personally, the thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction is that my clothes are in rainbow order, it makes me smile every morning.
    I also spend 10 minutes on a Sunday evening pulling together outfits for the work week, right down to accessories & u/wear so that all I have to do in the morning is grab the set.

  • Shannon Cyrkin Payne

    I’ve read The Happiness Project all the way through 3 times and religiously follow your FB page, Gretchen, but I had yet to start listening to the blog until last week. I know… major happiness demerit right there! Anyhow, this comment is actually for Elizabeth/both of you about closet organization:

    I am a naturally unorganized, organization-lover. I love the home organization blog posts and magazines and Pinterest pages…but my house tells a different story. I do, however, have a completely magical hangin- clothes organization system that makes me soooo much happier and (though it sounds tedious and painstaking) makes my mornings quicker, laundry day a breeze, and gives me that amazing feeling of sticking to a habit!

    My closet is organized by style, and then by color. It’s that simple, and that complicated. On the left of my walk-in closet are hangable tank tops, starting with bright white, then cream, mixed colors with a predominantly white base (repeat in other color categories for mixed colors with predominantly ____bases), moving to yellows, greens, blues, purples, then pinks, reds, browns, grays and blacks. Lather-rinse–repeat with blouses, short-sleeved sweaters, long sleeved sweaters, then dress pants, skirts, blazers, then coats, and finally dresses. Yes, each of these clothing categories is also “rainbow sorted”…so in the end you can tell where one category begins and ends by the appearance of white clothing. Costumes are separated from the rest of the clothes by a hanging shoe bag and largely stored in cheap Ikea garment bags. To eliminate what used to be a clothes rack of about 50% unused hangers, I now take my clothing item off its hanger when I wear it and place the hanger on a lower hanging rack (like for pants, below the shirts) that I’ve left empty and deemed ‘hanger storage’.

    For me, this is the ultimate “a place for everything and everything in its place” system. I spent forever thinking that a closet where anything could be stored anywhere made putting laundry away much easier. Now, just writing that sentence makes me feel crazy. Like I said, laundry and mornings are a breeze at this point! Now the only time I wonder where in God’s name my ____ shirt is when I’ve forgotten to pick up the dry cleaning 😉

    Sidenote: I also exclusively use those black felted hangers (except for heavy coats), and I turn them all the same direction with my shirt and dress fronts facing left – so that when I pull it out with my right hand, the front of the outfit is visible!

    Thank you ladies for fostering a new and different way to think, learn, and create happiness. Loving this podcast!