Podcast 17: Put Things Away in an Exact Place, Beware “My Preciousss,” and the Challenge of Staying in Touch

It’s Wednesday — which means it’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Coming up: To celebrate our 20th episode, we’re going to do an episode that features our listeners. So leave us a voicemail answer at 774-277-9336, by June 24, 2015, to one of these questions:

— if you could change one aspect of a relationship, what would you change? Huge, trivial, any relationship.

— what happiness demerit would you give yourself? what gold star would you bestow?

Thanks so much to the folks who have already sent in comments. Fascinating.

This week:

Try This at HomeHave an exact place for everything. Agree, disagree?

Happiness Stumbling Block: Beware of anything we call “our preciousssssss.” Whenever Gollum refers to the ring, he calls it “my precious.” “Losst it is, my precious, lost, lost! Curse us and crush us, my precious is lost!“ Want to see a ten-second clip of Gollum talking about his precious, from The Lord of the Rings movie The Two Towers? It’s here. Also, I mention being an “Abstainer.” You can hear a discussion of that term in episode 2.

Listener Question: “What’s some deeper advice for Owls living in a Lark world? And did you realize that the tone of the show was ‘yay, Larks’ and ‘boo, Owls?'” Wow, I certainly didn’t mean to sound dismissive. I’m a big believer in the fact of chronotypes (morning people and night people), and that we should try help shape the world to accommodate a person’s Owl nature.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth feels that she’s not doing a good job of staying in touch with her old friends who live on the East Coast. Elizabeth mentions the “update” habit that we discuss in episode 2.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to my mother-in-law, who helped me re-frame the experience of plane rides, to make them more enjoyable.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Check out Smith and Noble, a solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and a free in-home consultation. Limited time.

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We’d love to hear from you: does it help you to put things away in an exact place? And what’s your precioussssss? Call: 774 -277-9336 for your questions and comments — especially for the Very Special Episode.

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 774 -277-9336.  Facebook Page.

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  • Kikki

    What a coincidence! I gave up “my preciousss” last week. I absolutely love The Daily Show and have watched every episode for the last 6 years or so. Even when I’ve fallen behind and have had a lot of episodes to catch up on. It’s something I always enjoyed but sometimes it was just too time-consuming. So last weekend I finally decided to let it go and now only watch the latest episode once or twice a week. It’s given me more time to do other stuff (like tidying up, which I’m not very good at getting round to doing!) and that makes me happier.
    I love your podcast – keep up the good work!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great example of a precioussssss.

  • I had to laugh when you talked about “My Precious.” That is literally what I named my iPhone!!!! LOL

    Aside from Apple products, my main “preciousssss” is social media. I know I spend way too much time on Facebook, Instagram, etc, but I snicker when someone suggests giving it up.

    • gretchenrubin


  • Elizabeth don’t change your voice! I think your voice (and personality) is a big part of what makes “Happier” real for the rest of us. Gretchen is where we’d all like to get with being successful in our habits and she is a wealth of information, but you are the one many listeners connect with for where we are at today (well, except for your LA writer success story I guess!). Most of us are further behind on the journey of creating healthy habits. Your voice, I think, is a part of that. So don’t change who you are with a peppy, upbeat, inauthentic version of yourself. The authenticity of the two of you together talking is what I enjoy the most! Keep up the great work, I am a huge fan. You might even be my “envy” people!

    • gretchenrubin

      I agree, I love Elizabeth’s voice.

      Thanks so much for the kind words!

    • Ophelia

      Elizabeth, your voice reminds me of a friend and former colleague, a wise and kind physician, who recently retired and whom I miss greatly. You could never change it into something better for me.

    • Angela Richardson

      I agree with this comment! I have trouble focusing when people talk and often drift even if I’m interested in what they are saying, but never with Elizabeth. Her voice is unique and I find it both comforting and calming to listen to. This is one of my favorite podcasts and I love what you both bring to it. Thank you so much for your insight! I find listening to the podcast has made me reflect on just who I am and what I should be doing to be my most productive and happy. The best part is that it has made me realize that there isn’t a single “best” way of doing everything, and that instead of striving to do things the ‘best’ way, I should be striving to do things in the best way for ME. It’s helped me accept who I am and this has made a huge difference in my life and in my relationships with others, as I recognize our different tendencies and ways of doing things now.

      And about having an exact place for everything….I don’t understand people who DON’T live this way! For me, everything has a place and must go there! If things are out of place I feel very frazzled and unable to focus on other things. Usually I think it’s good because I am very organized and don’t waste time looking for things, but I do find it a problem sometimes because I can’t spontaneously stop what I’m doing to do something else if things are out of their places even for a short while – like if a friend drops by or I’m running behind schedule and need to go do something else. And coming home from vacation is a nightmare! I’m exhausted but can’t rest until all my bags are unpacked and everything is put back in it’s place. I’m still trying to be more flexible and get a bit better about it, but I’m also learning to accept that it’s just a part of my personality!

  • statmam

    My precioussss is the boxes of old paperwork that I feel compelled to go through before tossing…y’know, in order to save the one valuable sheet that might or might not be lurking there. Each box occupies current space and future time – space and time that I’d prefer to use differently. As an otherwise rational person, I find the irrationality of my attachment to the precioussss particularly annoying.

  • Mimi Gregor

    I find it vital to have an exact place for everything. It is such a time-saver! I don’t have to search all over for things, because I always make it a point to put them back in their proper place. Also, if my husband needs to know where something is kept, I can tell him exactly where to find it without dropping whatever I’m doing to get it for him. It also makes it easier during a power outage, as I know exactly where to find the lighters, candles, and the flashlights, instead of stumbling around in the dark.

    And Elizabeth — I love your voice! As you have a deeper register, “perky” would be all wrong. You have the perfect languid voice for making ironic statements and laconic observations.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear that this try-this-at-home-works for you —

  • S_ifat

    Ha ha:-))) I was laughing out loud, Gretchen was so funny. I know I’m gonna say ‘my precioussss’ a lot today. My real life precioussss is the time I go to bed. I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. so it’s very Very important to me to go to sleep at 21:30. Yes, I know it’s very early for some people but I do get up very early. I can go to bed at 22:00 but I get very agitated if something keeps me from going to bed on time, I keep telling myself: I need my rest, I need my rest. I guard my sleep time too much sometimes. My (daily) gold star to myself is a continuation of the ‘precious’ though. – I get everything I Have to do ( exercise, cooking for the kids, walking the dogs etc) by 8 a.m and I feel so good after, I have the whole rest of the day for myself. I feel like I control the day, and not feel like I’m being dragged from one chore to the other.
    My favorite episode yet!
    Elizabeth, I love your voice and, of course, what it says 🙂

    • My precious is very similar — it’s my hour or so in the morning before the rest of the household is awake! I am definitely not a lark, but with two small kids and two jobs, even my owl self is exhausted by the end of the day. I’ve worked hard to establish the habit of waking at 6 or 6:15, and if one of the kids is up that early, I find myself getting angry and resentful! I want to keep the early-for-me morning habit, but be able to share the time happily.

  • Angela Carpenter

    i’m an extreme lark married to an owl. we have small kids. and while at first it makes sense to let the lark handle the kid shift in the morning and let the owl take over in the evening time, the problem with that is that each parent spends his/her best brain time doing things like building the same lego tower over and over. then when it’s time for him/her to do work, whether it’s paid work or other things that require effective thought, they are exhausted. so we find that the opposite schedule works well: let the lark work first in the morning and have the owl play with the kids then. then switch in the afternoon. we find that it breeds much less resentment, and then we are each more present for our kid time because we’re not worrying about other stuff we should be doing.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great solution to take advantage of both people’s energy levels.

  • gretchenrubin

    Thanks so much for the kind words – about the podcast, and Elizabeth’s voice!

  • statmam

    In a podcast with two hosts, it’s an advantage to have speakers with two distinct voices. Even a first time listener will have no trouble telling you apart.

  • Pam Davis

    One of the things I would like to change in just about all my relationships is moving from a dependent to an independent person which includes allowing others to make decisions on my behalf, telling me the “best” way to do things (and me going along with it!), and basing how I feel about myself by the approval I get from others! I just turned 60 this month and I think it is time to grow up and take charge of myself!

  • My Precious is totally my iPhone/social media. Easily. I’m the worst! I just took Facebook off my phone so I can stop scrolling through everyone’s lives and focus more on my own and not have so many distractions. I’ve got it on my iPad still, so when I get home from work, I allow myself 20 minutes to check out everything and then I have to stop! My work has improved and I feel like I’m better with my friends instead of posting the picture we literally JUST took and tagging them in it and looking at how many likes I get. One phone to rule them all!

    Elizabeth, I love your voice! I’d listen to you read an ebook or just narrate my day! 🙂

  • Courtney Hunt

    My Precious is diet soda. Coincidentally, I listened to the podcast just after a doctor’s visit for suspected kidney stones. I quit cold turkey yesterday but I miss my precious! I feel like it’s my only vice and I don’t want to give it up. But, as I also don’t want to ever experience pain like I did yesterday, I must.

    As to the larks/owl issue, I thought you all were perfectly fair in your podcast. However, us owls are a bit sensitive after years and years of snarky lark comments such as, “You’re just not a morning person.” etc. So maybe that explains the sensitivity.

    And Elizabeth, your voice is lovely. Ignore the troll!

    • Oh Courtney, I feel your pain. I am hopelessly addicted to Diet Dr. Pepper. I hope your withdrawal isn’t too bad and that you’re out of pain soon. And I agree, Elizabeth. I like your voice.

    • Jennie Williams Lutton

      You might try seltzer and juice to make your own “soda.” I like pineapple juice and grapefruit juice myself!

  • Jill Hanson

    I think your voice is lovely and distinctive, Elizabeth! Perhaps a demerit should go to the person who made that unhelpful comment! 😉 I suppose My Precious might be staying up too late, checking Instagram and catching up on blogs way too late at night. I know I need to get to bed earlier, but once I get that second wind around 11 pm, I’m powerless!

    • gretchenrubin

      Ah, the dreaded second wind!

  • Penelope Schmitt

    Exact place: I can remember a grad school apartment experience in which one of my roommates, a girl who was surprisingly from a big family, had NO idea of putting dishes away in an orderly manner. It seemed behavior from ‘a different planet’ to me. I have exact places in my kitchen, my bathroom, my chest of drawers, my clothing closet . . . but you know what? I DON’T have exact places for my sewing tools and notions. The ‘approximate place’ is really not good enough. I spend a whole lot of valuable time looking for things I need. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Andrea

    Gretchen, I love the podcast (both you and Elizabeth — as well as your dynamic together — are fun to listen to), but I miss the quizzes you used to post on Tips or Quizzes Wednesdays! Any chance those are coming back on a different day?

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear that you’ve missed them!

      I’ve been planning to get back in that habit, on a different day.

      This is a great push to get it going —

  • Beast

    My precious? Netflix. I spend too much time (way too much) watching shows. There are so many things I want to do that are fulfilling that I just don’t because I want to watch that next episode of Daredevil or Sliders or whatever TV show from my youth I am in the mood for. I have decided to go on a Netflix fast for the month July, so we’ll see if I can get in more reading and sleeping and practicing my bass guitar.

    • emd04

      Netflix is the same thing for me. It just keeps loading episodes and then I look at the clock and it’s waaaaay later than I thought!

  • HEHink

    Treating myself to a mini-celebration with your blog right now, after clearing some clutter. We moved into our current home a year ago, and settling in is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. I’m spending lots of time this summer still deciding just where those exact places for many things are going to be and creating them where necessary. While clearing off the top of my dresser today, I was thrilled to find that many small items I had been needing to put away for months already had an exact place somewhere else in the house! It truly was a happiness boost to a) find that I’ve made more progress than I thought, b) actually put things in their spots, and c) have my bedroom look that much nicer.
    Oh, and btw, I’ve always loved travel time for the same reasons as your mother-in-law does. It’s the perfect time for guilt-free reading or crossword puzzling!

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent —

  • Jackie

    My precious= two fav podcasts (yours 1), reading, and my gym time. (They often go together, NOOK reading/listening makes the miles fly).
    I have a shrine in each of my exam rooms complete with PDF’s I downloaded Exercise Better, Eat Better, Work Better, Read Better. They are going like HOTCAKES! Thank you for great inspiration to share with patients. Books are being purchased!

    Also, I have worked night shift so I understand the world does not favor people who sleep during the day. Not my choice though. My husband of 29 years is an upholder/LARK.He drives truck. I am a questioner/owl who has learned the importance of going to bed on time to get up in time. He gets up at 2-4 am I get up later at 530am. Hardest part is dinner after 6 is too late. We eat with the early bird (read senior citizen) crowd. Not ready for that yet!

    And I often want to join in the conversation and post/call in but time does not afford (you do fine without my comments/?). Thanks for freedom to stop reading a book I am not getting into.

  • PrettygirlfromQuebec

    From episode 1 i loved elizabeths voice and free careless loving personnality! Even wrote it in a review somewhere.. She should be ln tv or wherever more podcast internet !!!
    Congrats for a show shere we can hear accomplished/real women.

  • Victoria Cortes

    Elizabeth, I have a recommendation for keeping in better touch with your East coast friends: voxer! It’s a voice message service via a free app. I keep in touch with friends from both far and near this way. We leave each other messages whenever it’s convenient and we listen to them whenever we want- right away, a couple days later, two week later. It’s great entertainment on my long commutes and it’s such an easy way to keep current with friends. I haven’t seen my friend from Portland in years- and that’s hard to believe because I feel so caught up with her- due to voxing several times a week.


  • Marie-Claire

    The nastiest “precious” I’ve ever been victim to was smoking, and I always say that quitting is the hardest thing I ever did in my life, even worse than giving birth to and raising three kids–that was over 40 years ago but I remember it like yesterday! Any current “precious” pales in comparison: reading in bed too long in the morning, and staying up too late; I feel I could improve on those fronts without too much resistance!

  • Ruth Carter

    I have a place for everything. Many people, including me sometimes, believe me to be over precise. The only example I have where having a set place isn’t helpful comes from when my grandmother began suffering from dementia. My aunt tried to be helpful by putting my grandmother’s clothes away in specific drawers but my grandmother couldn’t remember where they were. It worked better for her when she had some of everything in each drawer.

  • Jeanne

    Elizabeth, I love your voice too. And Gretchen, love your “toothy” smile. How can you be happy if you’re not being yourself?

  • Jess

    LOL at Elizabeth at the end! *Yaaay* I love your voice — it reminds me of Daria 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed that little extra bit!

  • Rachel Stansberry

    I want to say that I love the way Elizabeth sounds! Don’t change anything, be Elizabeth. I listen to a lot of podcasts and I really appreciate the differences in your two voices. It’s a great balance.

  • HGert

    My Precious segment cracked me up! I think my morning short, non-fat, no-whip mocha is MY “precious”. Liz, since reality t.v. is yours, I’m wondering if you’ve seen the show “Unreal”. It’s a snarky look at behind the scenes of a reality t.v. matching making show similar to “The Bachelor”. Total guilty pleasure!

  • Sara Halgrimson

    Listening to the podcast I really didn’t think I had a precious. But then when I got to work I realized what it is….peanut M-N-Ms!

    • gretchenrubin


  • Ophelia

    My Precious is time in my sewing room. I love it there; it’s a haven of peace, serenity, creativity, and forgiveness. It restores my good humor and feeds my soul.

    • Sarah Baroody

      This does not seem like a problem! I think a precious is something you know isn’t good for you in excess.

      • Ophelia

        Thanks, Sarah. I guess all good things can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. I do neglect my other, less enjoyable duties but even when I neglect my teen daughters in service of my obsession, they know it’s for my mental health. It doesn’t harm anyone, but last week I forgot to pick up my daughter at driver’s ed because I was up there, engrossed. I did manage three of the four trips there that day on time, though.

  • Dianne Ochiltree

    My precious is Face Book! It’s so easy to keep scrolling down the news feed, checking in on old friends and colleagues…but then I realize my to-do list is too-late-to-do. So I use a timer!

    • Sarah Baroody

      Me too Dianne. I found a helpful tip: make sure to “favorite” your best friends on Facebook so their posts float to the top of your feed. Then you can very quickly check in without endless scrolling to make sure you aren’t missing anything critical.

  • Amy

    I’m a little behind in my podcast queue, and just listened to this one today. And I SO identify with Elizabeth’s comment about organizing the LEGOs! As a mom to two boys (4 and 9 years old) who both LOVE LEGOs, we now own several organizer boxes (like those for storing small tools/hardware bits) and indeed, it is like a meditation for me to sort through a bazillion LEGOs. It is immensely satisfying to put each piece in their tiny labeled compartment. And repeat ad infinitum. (BTW there is an ongoing discussion among many of my FB friends/LEGOmaniacs/parents of LEGOmaniacs as to the best way to sort: by color or brick type. We like brick type!) And yes, I DO have a labelmaker and have labeled my older son’s drawers (“pants and sweatshirts”, “shirts and shorts”, etc.) as well as kitchen shelves. A place for everything and everything in its place! Other areas of our house are not so organized, but for some things we have exact locations where they get stored. Thanks as always for a great podcast! I always find something to identify with in your discussions

  • Milou

    I am a bit behind. Just found out about this podcast a few weeks ago. But I am trying to catch up during my walks that I have put on my weekly calendar a few times a week for my own happiness. Slowly but steadily I am getting closer. Keep up the good work! In every episode I can relate to at least one of your tips or stories. Funny is that I first listened to the podcast and then saw your photos. I had totally different persons in my head. It is kind of the equivalent of a screen adaption of a book. And the voice of Elizabeth is (in my humble opinion) not monotonous. It is a great counterbalance of the activeness of Gretchen. The fact that you two are sisters, gives the podcast so much more depth.

  • Sarah Baroody

    My precious is my IPhone and I know I’m not alone here. I just read HP, just started the podcasts and BTB. I am now doing my own happiness project as my 2016 new year’s resolution. January’s theme is “lighten up” (parenting, eating, decluttering)… But part of my daily initiative is to change my habits around my iPhone. I realized that it was the first thing I looked at when I woke up and the last thing I did at night. It occurred to me that it had a place of HONOR in my life that it didn’t deserve. I could spend an hour on it before even getting out of bed….and then I felt gross about myself…every day….for years! So this year I gave myself a rule: no iPhone the first hour and last hour of being awake. Instead I exercise/pray/read/journal. I feel so good!! It starts my day on the right foot. I haven’t given up my iPhone altogether, I still check it throughout the day, but it’s much much less. Not because I’m having to use a lot of will power, but because the seeming POWER of the iPhone is LOST because I unhinged the habit just by changing the time I can use it. This might be a helpful exercise for us “moderators”. If you don’t want to quit something entirely, just change the association/timing.

    • Ophelia

      I think it’s interesting how you’ve diminished your phone’s place in your life by fencing it in, away from the start and end of your day. I’m going to think about how those parts of the day may hold more meaning for my life’s direction, but also how the other hours in between are precious, too. I, too, spend the end of my day looking at my iphone and thereby lose needed sleep. What other parts of my day are deserving of replacement with FB updates? Probably none.