Podcast 84: Why It’s Easier to Do Something EVERY Day, Keep a Trash Bag in the Car, and How to Deal with a Tardy Friend.

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

Update: If you live near Seattle, please come to our live event! We’ll be recording an episode of the podcast live on stage at Seattle’s Town Hall on October 13, 7:30. Tickets are $25. More info and buy tickets here. Please come, bring your friends. We hope to sell t-shirts — cash only, if we do manage to pull it together.

In episode 76, we talked about manifestos, and if you’re coming to the Seattle event, we’d love to highlight a few manifestos from listeners. So send us your manifesto for work, life, parenting, marriage, exercise, clutter-clearing — whatever! And maybe we’ll talk about it with you on stage.

Try This at Home: It’s often easier to do something every day than to do it some days. I mention The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: A Five-Year Record. A lot of people have told me that this daily, manageable structure makes it easier to keep a journal.

Happiness Hack: Daphne suggests keeping a garbage bag in the car.

Happiness Stumbling Block: The “China Syndrome” — the fantasy that we’ll automatically become adults. (By the way, I’m having my book group over tonight, and I will use my wedding china.)

Listener Question: Jessica asks “How can I handle my annoyance with my good friend who is always late?”

Gretchen’s  Demerit: I rehearse angry thoughts in my head.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her friend Karine for doing the research to find a vacation rental for their two families.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #84

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Want to know what to 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).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

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  • Le Genou de Claire

    Ha!! I’ve cured (partially) my “China Syndrome” with the strategy of abstinence. It worked for me. College-y Sweatshirts? I donated all of them (including the ones w/ my almamater emblems and alike) and now I only have good woolen-cashmere sweaters to wear everyday. Even when I go to grocery store for errand, I still wear my cashmere sweater because it’s all I have not. I figure, if I have even one sweatshirt at home (moderation), I’d use it all the time instead of my woolen sweaters. Mishmash plates and bowls? Donated all of them, now I only use my best china that we registered for our wedding, because that’s all we have at home. Ditto w/ glassware, silverware, napkins, placemats, bedsheets, toiletries (yes, never again saving those nice toiletries for someday). Sneakers? Donated all the raggedy ones, now all I have are presentable shoes that I’m willing to wear (comfortable or not-so-comfortable).

    I wonder if anyone have suggestion in curing my husband’s China Syndrome though. He never likes tipping in hotel or any kind of travel situation (he passively waited for me to tip the bellboy, for e.g., despite of me telling him, “When he comes, here’s how much you should tip, get the money ready now”). He does not drive whenever he goes back home to his parents house (HIS dad always has to give him a ride to places.. granted, they are in Taiwan and driving is a lot different than in the U.S., but still, he is a 40-something grown up man with a family of his own, can’t he take his own public transport??) He does not like to fix things around the house, as in minor home repairs (tightening up screws, changing outdoor bulbs, hanging window treatments, fixing minor things that don’t really need a handyman). I sometimes have to do it myself, after watching some YouTube videos, or I, on occasions, had to ask my neighbor’s husband to do this for me a few times in exchange for some baked goods. He is a questioner, he does not feel the slight embarrassment that his dad has to drive him places or that neighbor has to come over to fix things for us that he could have done himself. Am I being overly critical of him? Help!

    • MaggieRose59

      LOVE your forced abstinence strategy for your ‘china syndrome”. I’m going to have to try that in some areas of my own life.

      Maybe “forced abstinence” would work with your husband. What if you just stop taking care of those things that really should be his responsibility. Don’t have any cash handy for tips. Let him get tired of showering in the dark when the bathroom light goes out (keep a secret flashlight handy for yourself). But you have to behave just as pleasantly and naturally as possible (no nagging, it takes the teeth out of the strategy). I wouldn’t concern myself with the driving thing, that’s between him and his dad.

      • Le Genou de Claire

        Maggie, I agree with you, in principle. But as Gretchen said (somewhere between her 3 books and this podcast series) that those who care the most are the ones who ended up doing the job. I have a preschooler, I can’t give him a bath in the dark. If the door lock is stuck because my husband neglected to fix it, we can’t get stuck outside forever without my son whining to go back home. I did leave the outdoor bulbs and he didn’t notice, until finally I decided to change them myself because I often stay home with my son alone at night and don’t feel safe. Maybe this is just the price to pay to be married with my husband?

    • Mimi Gregor

      I also got rid of all my “grubbies” and only wear my nicer things. I mean, why have a closet full of nice clothes that you never wear because you’re saving it for a “special occasion”? Every day is special! (When I cook, I wear an apron.) We also have just one set of china, silverware, glasses. I just don’t understand why people have their loved ones use crappy looking plates (or worse yet, paper plates) and save their “good china” for guests that they may only see once a year and don’t even really like! It feels good to look presentable and to set a lovely table on a daily basis. And it’s no more trouble than it would be to use plastic plates and dress like a shlub.

  • Fleur Raps

    This cast was so timely. I’m reading the slight edge by Jeff Olsen, have you read it? It’s also about creating little habits everyday that lead to greatness or happiness! I also resonate with the ‘one day’ I’ll be a grown up or ‘one day’ my cupboards will be organised, in reality it’s nots going to happen unless I do it! Thanks again for a great podcast.

  • I have definitely found it is easier for me to walk and do yoga every working day than just some days. It takes the decision process out.

    • Anna

      Yes – I also have certain things I do every working day, it is great for ‘moderators’ like me because at the weekend you enjoy skipping it…..and I think that once I retire (not too long now) I will keep this up, so there will still be a weekend feeling in my life!

  • I recently started sending surprise gifts to people. Although my budget is not large enough to send my friends gifts from Olive & Cocoa, I have sent things that people seem to really like. I sent a friend whose beloved dachshund died some dachshund salt and pepper shakers. (I knew they would make her laugh because the spices shook out from the rear end of the dog!) I sent a teacher a collection of BoxTops. It is nice to reinforce connections with surprises.

    • Gillian

      On the surface, it seems like a wonderful thing to do – if you are very skillful at selecting the gifts and are 100% sure the person will want and love what you give. Personally, I would hate to be on the receiving end of such generosity. These little gifts, generous as the thought may be, can greatly contribute to the clutter in a person’s life and can make the recipient feel obligated to return the generosity (even though it’s not expected). For someone not good at gift-giving, this is a huge burden. For people who are trying to simplify and declutter, such gifts just contribute to the material clutter in their lives. Rather than a physical gift, I would much more appreciate a phone call or e-mail or time spent together – go for a walk, go for coffee or lunch, just visit. Sorry to be a grinch but true generosity and thoughtfulness must include such considerations about the recipient.

      • I understand what you are saying, Gillian, but I think you are being quite judgmental about me (and others) who send surprise gifts. I am very clued into the lives of my friends. I am selective about what I send and who I send to. I’m sensitive to clutter myself and I know which of my friends are decluttering and trying to downsize. They are not the people I am sending gifts to.

        I understand that you do not want physical gifts, and your point is well-taken. But please do not assume that because I send my friends surprise gifts occasionally that it replaces spending time with them.

        • Gillian

          Sorry, June. It wasn’t meant to be judgemental; just pointing out that not everyone is a willing recipient. I congratulate you for taking this sort of thing into consideration and envy you your ability to give perfect gifts. I don’t have that ability and neither do a lot of other people so I’ve often given inappropriate gifts and received gifts that I would really rather not have. So, for me personally, a life without gifts – giving or receiving – is much much simpler.

          • Elena

            I completely agree with you Gillian, I too don’t enjoy giving gifts and receiving them causes disappointment most of the time. For this reason the podcast about “Five love languages” was quite enlightening for me. I am a person of “quality-time” more than anything else. I don’t believe in gifts at all but the difficult thing is to persuade some people around you.

  • Once again, I’m making my bed everyday. I tried this last year, and I was so anal about it that I made a chart with 63 squares and marked each one off as I created this new habit. Can you believe that even after 63 days I still stopped making my bed once the chart was complete?! I’m not sure why it’s so difficult for me to make my bed!

  • Paria

    LOVED this episode. I definitely still have “China Syndrome” with respect to many things, including time management and finances. I was truly surprised (!) that I never “grew into” being on time for things and remembering to pay my bills, but remained the same scatterbrained daydreamer I had been as a kid.

    I also want to say that I appreciate your understanding for the chronically late among us — some of us really do have stuff going on that makes it hard. And I for one do not object to being “manipulated” by being told an earlier time — I actually love it when people do that to/for me, because it saves me the stress and embarrassment of being late!

  • Cate Tucker

    OMG! I am holding my book club at my house for first meeting of the fall and I was planning on using paper plates, what am I thinking? I’m breaking out the china AND my crystal that I never use enough. What a wake up call Gretchen! This one is a Eureka moment for me, since I just read/heard this podcast today. Thank you, thank you, TY, ty, etc….

  • Julia

    I refer to the China syndrome all the time, I am 22 so just on the edge of being a real grownup. For me, an Airmiles card (a travel points card in Canada, not sure if they have it in the US) symbolizes being an adult – I feel like I won’t be grown up until I have one. Great episode!

  • guest

    Instead of using a trash bag in the car, just make a habit of clearing garbage whenever you stop for gas. It is quite convenient to use the station’s garbage cans right next to the gas pump. My hands are always too full when going from car to house to deal with trash then. Sometimes I stop at a pump just to empty trash (esp. after a road trip) even if I’m not getting gas.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great idea!

    • Kimberly Rasmusson-Anderson

      I use a trash bag in my car, but always empty it when I fill up my tank. It makes it much easier for me to know that I just need to empty the garbage bag in my car, rather than rummage through my whole car picking up trash. Seems so simple, but this has been a great happiness hack for me! Now my kids help me keep the garbage corralled in the trash bag too.

  • D

    I have totally experienced “it’s easier to do something everyday” but for my BAD habits! I have recently moved and starting a new job was intending to really use the strategy of the clean slate to focus on healthier eating habits and less sugar. But with the stress of it all I found myself giving myself slack and allowing some treats on the tough days…. well with a new job and new life every day is a tough day! Now I’m having trouble kicking my sweets and snacking every evening BAD habit that I seem to have formed! Any tips on using this everyday habit to combat a bad everyday habit!

  • Patricia

    As a chronically late person, one thing that others can do that helps motivate me to be more on time is when people take the time to let me know, gently but honestly and directly, how my tardiness affects them personally.

    Another factor to keep in mind in this discussion is ADD or related differences in how our brains work. I am someone who really wants to be on time, who works hard at improving in this area with some success, but still fails at it fairly regularly. Somehow it is just incredibly difficult for me to have an accurate overview of time and how long things take, though I am competent in other areas of life. My tardiness causes a lot of frustration, for me most of all.

  • Marialena Gallagher

    One of my favorite quotes about adulthood is from Backstage by Jacqueline E. Smith: “… like, I always thought adulthood was just something that happened to you …”

  • Elaine Serrão

    I use the strategy of giving the other person a “fake time” in both ways, to people who are always late and for people who are always punctual.
    I am Brazilian living in Germany, and so you can imagine that there are some differences between both cultures regarding punctuality. Back in Brazil, I was not considered someone who arrives late, but it doesn’t mean I was punctual. The thing is, for private appointments, we are usually (usually!) not unpunctual, but FLEXIBLE. – Let’s meet tomorrow for a coffee? – Sure, what time? -Uhm, between 8:00 and 8:30 PM? – Yes, deal! Sometimes I arrive at 8:12, my friend at 8:27. Next time, the other way round and everybody has to wait once in a while. However, the first time I tried this in Germany, it was something like this: – Would you like to meet between 8 and 8.30 PM? -Oh, wait. 8 OR 8.30??!! It made no sense to my friend; I had to decide one single meeting time. Awful. 😉
    Another situation is a party at home. In Brazil, NOBODY (ok, few people) arrives on time. We say “we don’t like to open the party.” So, if the party starts at 7 PM, the guests start arriving at the earliest at 7.30 PM. Here in Germany, the bell rings on 7:00.00 PM and I am still applying my makeup. Therefore, I used to give “fake times” in Brazil, and I do it here in Germany as well. To Brazilians I say “let’s meet between 6 and 7 PM”, to Germans, “the time is 7:30 PM”. As a result, I get my party starting at “between 7:15 and 7:30”, nobody is late, and my face looks nice 🙂

    Ps. For professional meetings, it can be quite different, and I believe most people can make it punctual (when not, we say there was a lot of traffic jam 😉

    Love your podcast,
    Cheers,
    Elaine