Podcast 62: Don’t Accumulate Excessive Amounts of Things, It’s Tough When Worlds Collide, and I Fail to Visit the Park.

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

Update: Back in episode 27, in late August, I gave myself a happiness demerit for not really having a “summer.” I’ve always wanted to have a summer experience (even apart from family vacation) that’s different from the rest of the year. As promised, Elizabeth checked in with me, to ask if I have a vision for the upcoming summer. I need to apply the kind of approach that I used with such success in The Happiness Project. If you have any ideas, let me know!

Try This at Home: Don’t accumulate excessive amounts of things. Soy sauce packets, freebie mugs, egg cartons, rubber bands, etc.

 Happiness Stumbling Block: It’s tough when worlds collide.  For instance, Elizabeth felt very stressed out when Henry and I showed up on set while she was working on that TV show, to record our Very Special Episode 60.

Listener Question: “I’m a Questioner married to an Obliger. How do I make sure that I help make sure that his desires get met?” To learn about Questioners and Obligers (and Upholders and Rebels), go here.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I didn’t visit the flowering trees in Central Park. Again.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star
: Elizabeth gives a gold star to Adam for holding down the home front — without complaint — while she was in New York City for several weeks.

Remember, if you want to request bookplates or signature cards for a mother in your life, to make the gift of a book more special for Mothers’ Day — or if you want a bookplate or signature card for yourself! — you can request them here.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #62

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  • Dayna

    I’ve noticed that your Demerits are always about the person giving it and the Gold Stars are about someone else. I understand not giving a demerit to someone else. That would be mean or at least rude to tell about someone else’s mistake publicly. However, why don’t you give yourself Gold Stars?

  • Kristin Glad

    For your ‘needs a better name’ Try This At Home of having too many rubber bands. I save mine until I have a bunch and then take them into the grocery store to be used around cartons of eggs, strawberries, blueberries, etc. That’s where a lot of my excess rubber bands came from anyway!

  • Alisha

    Summer thing: My friend and I are going to try out a new cocktail every week this summer. Since we weren’t … precocious drinkers in college, we don’t actually know what lots of them are, so we always end up ordering the same two things at bars (gin & tonic in the summer, rum & coke in the winter). We’re going to look up recipes and try them at home to get an idea of what we like before we’re spending bigger money out at a bar.

    Just an idea…

    • gretchenrubin

      I have a terrible head for alcohol, so that wouldn’t work for me, but maybe there’s a way to adapt it…interesting!

    • Ana

      Commit to making a new dish using summer-only produce once a week?It can fit within your eating style, you can go to farmers markets with the girls and pick out the ingredient-of-the-week and then find a new recipe and try it?

  • Shelly W.

    I seem to accumulate a lot of plastic silverware that’s individually wrapped. I bag it up and take it to a local homeless shelter. Ditto on taking the rubber bands to the grocery store!
    For the summer ideas, maybe instead of trying to do one thing for a month, pick 3-5 fun things and do them once a week. Like Lunch Date Tuesdays, Friday Matinees, etc.
    For several years, I’ve done a summer bucket list with my kids. I ask them what makes a summer successful, and then we compile a list. Some items are quite simple like getting snowcones or having sleepovers. Others are more involved, like going blueberry picking in a town that’s a couple of hours away. Some items on the list are novel, and others are traditions.

    • gretchenrubin

      I think part of my problem is that things that sound fun to other people don’t sound fun to me. Though I might FIND them fun, they don’t feel fun (like matinees).
      I like the idea of doing something once or twice a week.

      Or the idea of some kind of mission…

  • gametime2210

    Gretchen, Maybe you could do some kind of personal boot camp this summer (especially easy if both girls will be away at camp during the same week). It could be something you want/need to do or just something fun like a children’s lit immersion boot camp or a yoga boot camp… just something you spend a week really diving into.

    I struggle with summers SO MUCH as a teacher but for the opposite reason that you do. I want the routine to stay the same but it doesn’t because I am suddenly not working and have so much more time. I live and thrive by routine, so summers can really throw me off. Plus, I get overwhelmed by all the stuff I feel like I *should* be doing.

    • HEHink

      Same here! At first it feels so nice to abandon the daily grind, but then as the end of summer approaches, I’m depressed that very little of what I feel I should have been doing actually got done. I’ve decided that my family seems to need a school year routine, and a separate summer routine. We started to develop one last summer, and I want to try building on it this summer. I’m going into it with certain projects and activities in mind, so I can actually schedule the time to do them. I also want to use the time to try out habits that I hope will make our school year routine easier, like making freezer meals, and re-vamping our dinner routine so it happens earlier.

  • statmam

    When the little half-used bottles of hotel shampoo begin to accumulate, I pour the shampoo from the little bottles into the regular big bottle of shampoo so I can get rid of the little plastic containers. Purists may gasp at the thought of mixing different shampoos, but it usually turns out fine.
    When I was young, the event that kicked off summer for me was when my uncle, an elementary schoolteacher, would pack up the paperback library from his classroom and leave the books at our house for the whole summer. A huge box of FRESH BOOKS! What could be better? Every year there would be a mix of exciting new purchases along with the old favorites. These days, I continue the summer tradition by collecting a small box of age-appropriate children’s paperbacks and magazines and sending them to a family with kids sometime in July (a different family every year).

  • Mimi Gregor

    Gretchen, I know how you love to cross things off your to-do lists, so next year, why don’t you mark on your calendar “go on magnolia walk” for a certain date. I have a hunch that seeing it on your agenda will make you more apt to do it so that you can cross it off. That way, you get double the enjoyment: the walk itself, and crossing something off your list.

    • gretchenrubin

      Good idea – but the problem is that their blooming time is unpredictable!

      • Mimi Gregor

        Then maybe schedule a special weekly excursion along this route with Barnaby. It would be a treat for both you and Barnaby to see the park as the seasons change, and since it’s a weekly thing, you would eventually catch them in bloom.

      • Carla

        Perhaps put it on the calendar at the earliest time they might bloom, then move it to the next day until it happens. That way it stays fresh in your mind.

  • Ruth Carter

    How about, “don’t stockpile”?

  • Michelle

    I had just left a voicemail about my summer dilemma when I listened to the podcast! We must be on the same wavelength. Summer on the brain…

  • Kathleen Paley

    Catchier phrase: STOP STOCKPILING!

    • gretchenrubin

      THAT’s it. YES, thanks!

  • Sarita

    About rubber bands — most of them end up in my house after being used to hold mail together. I stash them in a sandwich-size plastic bag. Once the bag is full, I put it in the mailbox for the mail delivery person to reuse.

  • Pam

    I used to pick up shampoo bottles in hotel rooms, but I realized I actually never use them. Great solution from the company I just started working for – they collect sample size bottles for a homeless shelter. So now I can still indulge my urge to collect free stuff, but I’m doing it for a good cause, and I’m not actually keeping it in my own house.

  • Susan B.

    So, Gretchen, you forgot to remember to go outside to nature?? Go to the reservoir tomorrow: there are beautiful cherry trees still in bloom! And you could walk a little farther and go the Conservatory Garden – the lilacs should be out soon.

    • gretchenrubin

      Once a week, I go for a walk with a friend and we go through Conservatory Garden. So gorgeous!

  • Susan B.

    Taken yesterday at the reservoir near E. 90th St.

  • A couple thoughts about making summer special: I love a good theme. I have an annual vacation at the lake and a few years ago I saw the movie “Mid-August Lunch,” an Italian movie about their Ferragosto holiday in mid-August when everyone goes to the beach to escape the heat. I decided that I would celebrate Ferragosto each year, so I go to the lake (French Lake, ironically), watch Italian movies, have simple meals with good wine, take walks (“passegiata”) and enjoy the time with friends. Theme ideas are endless… immerse in the world of Shakespeare and see as many “in the park” plays as you can, dine al fresco whenever you can, watch movies on rooftops whenever you can, rate waterfalls, fruit cobblers, s’mores, or doggie parks. 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Regarding excessive amounts of things, I am always amazed when I see people with excessive amounts of soy sauce, forks, and parmesan cheese packets in glove compartments in people’s cars.

  • Martina Hart

    I was in NYC last summer. It’s really hot in the middle of the day and I know you are a red head so I am guessing that being out in the middle of the day is not your idea of fun. But the combination of daylight savings and the balmy weather makes evenings a really good time in NYC in summer. And there is so much to do.

    We have the Festival of Sydney in Summer with lots of outdoor cultural events and free concerts. You don’t have it as a festival but free Shakespeare in the park and free outdoor screenings of met opera performances at the Lincoln centre and movies at Bryant park make summer in NYC a pretty special time. If these are the kind of things you could enjoy maybe make a couple of evenings a week time to do something special and take advantage of the wonderful cultural menu you have at your doorstep.

    And Gretchen if you ever want to do a house swap to Sydney, let me know.

  • Raina Singh

    It is Autumn in New Zealand and for years the trees are beautiful shades of orange, gold and red – I drive past and have told myself constantly that I should pull over and go for a walk and take some photos. This year, after listening to Gretchen’s Demerit, I decided to make it happened – and it happened! It was utterly delightful and I felt like a kid again amongst the leaves.

    • Marcia @ Organising Queen

      Raina, I just posted about this this morning on my instagram @marcia0608 – I’m in South Africa so we’re also in autumn now!

  • Emma

    Accumulating excessive amounts of things used to be a problem for me, but now I nip the issue in the bud and REFUSE the packets of sauce/plastic cutlery if I know I’m not going to use them.

  • Liliana

    Hi. Very curious about a comment Elizabeth made. She mentioned Mad Men had one of the best scenes in TV. Currently binge watching the serious and would love to know where this TV moment is. I believe it was Season 7. Can you pass on the Season and Episode numbers? Thank you!

    Your loyal fan.

  • LD

    In summer, even if I don’t do anything else to alter my routine, I try and eat breakfast outside every day. If your apartment doesn’t have outside space, you could head to the park and eat your breakfast on a bench. It’s a lovely way to start the day.

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s a great idea.

  • Rachel

    My fiance and I have the same issue in our relationship that was discussed. I am a Questioner and he is an Obliger. Often it feels like we do a lot of the things I would like to do and not as many as he would like to do. We have frequently had the conversation of how it seems like we are never on “his schedule”. This is highlighted most on the weekends. Lately, as a way to even out the schedule, on Saturday mornings we will sit down and each write a list of the things we would like to accomplish during the weekend. Not a long list but around 3-5 things. Then we make it both of our goals to make sure everything gets accomplished. This has worked for me in that he is now expressing everything he wants to do and has created a little bit of accountability for him in that I can ask about his list. So far this has been very helpful in our relationship but any other ideas for creating more accountability are welcomed!

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a terrific strategy. Brilliant way to make sure that both members of a couple get factored into the plans.

  • Anna in France

    About stockpiling – Elizabeth has the wisdom: “Know what you use”. It goes for many things in the house, also how many socks you buy, panties etc. I finally saw the light on this after many years of making far too much jam and chutneys from fruits/vegetables in our garden. You know, I never even eat jam! I only need some for my husband and for visitors, and a few jars to give away. Now I know the quantity to make and no more – no need to use every last plum.

  • Kathrin J

    For summer, make an effort to go outside. That will differentiate the time period from the winter season while giving you the added physical benefits of sunlight, such as Vitamin D production! Another way I enjoy summer is by wearing my “summer clothes” (tank tops and dresses that are better for the warmer, brighter season). Going on a lunch date is the perfect way to engage with friends, be outside (walk to restaurant or sit on patio), and look forward to wearing a special outfit!

  • Carla

    With regard to your rubber bands, I know my local library can always use those, as well as pens and other random office supplies.

  • I love having a summer-only habit. A few years ago, I masterminded “alfresco Fridays” which occurred every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I found a restaurant with a huge back patio. Customers ordered at the counter, then found their own tables. Refills on iced tea and lemonade were self-serve. Very picnic-y.

    I spread the word to all my friends that I would be lunching from 12 to 1:30 every Friday. Anyone could join me. They could bring friends. They could arrive on time and leave early. Arrive late and stay to the end. Zip in for just a soda. Whatever.

    I always brought a book in case no one showed up, but people always did. I had lunch with two friends (at minimum) and over a dozen on a few occasions. I might do it again this summer.

    • gretchenrubin


  • Marcia @ Organising Queen

    I’m surprised that nobody’s mentioned the clip with George Costanza from Seinfeld on worlds colliding https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBZVaNpwub8