Podcast 111: Beware of Storing Stuff, Another Look at the Stumbling Block of Emails, and the Challenge of Little Slips of Paper.

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

Update: Let me know if you’re experiencing a cut-off during an episode. Thanks for any help in diagnosing this problem.

As Elizabeth mentioned, my new coloring book has hit the shelves — fun! The Happiness Project Mini-Posters: A Coloring Book with 20 Hand-lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame. It hit #1 in Amazon’s “Adult Coloring Book” category (a surprisingly huge category). Above you can see a sample page that my younger daughter colored for me.

Try This at Home: Beware of storing things. Unless you’re storing things like holiday decorations or seasonal gear, “storage” often means “shoving it into a dark corner and forgetting about it for years.” Which can be draining and even expensive.

Happiness Hack: Our listener Amanda suggests, “Flip a coin to make a decision.” As Amanda points out, this is a strategy that can work for Questioners who are stuck in analysis-paralysis. Not sure if you’re a Questioner? Here’s the quiz to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

Happiness Stumbling Block 2.0. More on emails! Things to do, and things not to do.

Here’s the Harvard Business Review article I mention: Kabir Sehgal’s “How to write email with military precision.” Many helpful points.

Demerit: I’m surrounded by little slips of papers reminding me to do a bunch of things I don’t want to do.

Gold Star: Elizabeth found a “missing puzzle piece” — the shoe repair store! So simple, so helpful.

New feature: I’m starting a new feature; each week, at the end of the podcast, I’ll list “Two Resources for You.”

  1. Want a list of great books in children’s and young-adult literature? Here are my 81 favorites.
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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #111

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Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” The first shows are Side Hustle School and Radical Candor. Elizabeth’s show with her writing partner, Sarah Fain, will be Happier in Hollywood, so stay tuned for that.

HAPPIER listening!

  • Patty

    I sometimes experience cutting off at the end of little happier episodes. I listen on my iPhone 5S with the Overcast app. Sometimes if I download the episode again it fixes it. Hope this helps.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks! Very helpful.

  • Sachi

    Hi Gretchen & Elizabeth,
    In response to your discussion on using the do not disturb function on a cell phone, I wanted to point out that you can create “exceptions” to the do not disturb function. I personally use the do not disturb function but I have customized it to allow all calls and only text messages from my “favorite contacts.” As you have pointed out, most people text late at night/early in the morning but rarely call at these times of day. I figure, if its an emergency and someone needed to get in touch with me they would call rather than text and I would be able to wake up to it (as opposed to having my phone on silent) but it still filters out text messages from from friends and family who may not be considering the time difference. Love the podcast!

  • Diane Carrara

    Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth. Regarding the late night texts, I have an android and there are settings for “Sounds and Notification” where you can set each type of sound from mute to loudest on a sliding bar. Type being Ring (phone calls), Media (sound type apps like podcast, youtube, etc.), Notifications (email/text, etc) and System. For those who only want to have the phone on at night for emergencies you can easily set the ring to a low volume and everything else on mute. Maybe there’s something comparable for the iPhone. I have Do Not Disturb, too.
    I actually turn my phone on silent or off because I still have a landline for emergencies. 🙂
    Hope that helps!

  • Analise Brower

    The storage discussion is so interesting to me. I find that often there’s a real value judgment about “having stuff” versus “not having stuff” — and that in today’s pop culture, minimalism is help up as the standard for happiness in a way that’s weirdly moralizing. (“Too much stuff” = “you’re not living a good life.”) I agree that there’s a difference between clutter for clutter’s sake, like things you genuinely don’t use, and treasured or beloved things that have a memorial meaning to you. Perhaps it comes down to curating, like Gretchen said in the episode. I just wish we (as a culture) didn’t attach value judgments to living in different ways. Some people love ‘clutter’ because it helps them feel creative. Some people love having very few objects because a sparse space feels ripe for ideas. To each her or his own — maybe it’s a kind of “know yourself” question, too.

  • AJHred

    Your conversation about storage reminds me of this great Seinfeld stand up bit that finally convinced my dad to start decluttering – he has a house, his veterinary clinic, a building beside the clinic that’s the family dumping grounds and he had a storage unit for a while, so it was long overdue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfYzlSNHapA

  • Karl

    One problem I have is when to throw away magazines. I pile them in a bin, but when do I toss them? I have a couple of subscriptions and there are always articles that I do not have time to read. Weekly magazines are the worst. Before I can even finish a couple of articles from the New Yorker, another one arrives. Then some times there are article that I’d like to share (another issue – people should avoid sharing articles because that can be annoying – but there is always the temptation to share). Should I just clear them out when the next magazine shows up? Do you keep your magazines? Any tips?

    • kairos

      Why don’t you just stop your subscriptions?

    • LoriM

      Lots of magazines are available online and you can read/share them that way. I think this podcast even had/has an online magazine sponsor? Maybe keep the most beautiful paper subscription for your coffee table and get the rest online.

    • Jackie

      I like the look of a small stack of magazines on my coffee table, and I only get 2 subscriptions, so they don’t build up too much. I usually purge catalogs monthly or seasonally, and magazines annually or semiannually. It takes a couple hours to cut out pictures, articles, or recipes I want to keep, but the stack of “keep” items is usually just 10-20% as tall as the stack of magazines was when I started. I can also make notes in my phone or bullet journal if I want to remember something but not keep a whole article.

      Any way to integrate a small stack of your favorite subscription into your decor?

      Another option is an electronic subscription, and you can save articles that interest you.

  • excursivey

    Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth – I wanted to add to a couple comments previously made about late night texts and calls. As you often point out (accurately), you only have control over yourself and no one else. If you know late night texts or phone sounds will disturb you, then the only way to eliminate the annoyance is to change your phone settings. As the other posters pointed out, luckily there are tools available on most phones now to eliminate the problem. Whatever the etiquette SHOULD be, in REALITY the solution is to change your own behavior/expectation.

  • Jessica Feldmann

    Regarding Gretchen’s demerit for the little pieces of paper, try bullet journaling. I had the same problem with writing down little notes (I tend to remember info better when I write it out and also can refer back to it later), which often got lost in the shuffle or I also ended up with a stack of papers I didn’t want to deal with. I researched how to do bullet journaling and it has eliminated the tiny papers problem and I also feel a huge weight of relief knowing that I always know where my notes are. I have a separate one for work and one for personal. I use it to make to do list, take notes on podcasts I love (yours!), Plan meals/weekly calendars, etc. I made sure they are pretty notebooks and they fit in my purse so I can take them with me anytime. I’m an upholder so I’ve found that I’m now held accountable to checking things off in my bullet journal more so than I ever was with little pieces of paper.

    • Jackie

      I love bullet journaling, too! I found the “dude’s guide to bullet journaling” on YouTube to be much more concise than some other tutorials that go into more detail about the artsy details.

  • gametime2210

    Two things: First, please don’t leave things for kids to go through later. I cannot tell you the amount of anxiety and stress I have felt just thinking about all of the stuff I’m going to have to deal with when my parents die. Also, if your items are curated and you only keep what you truly love, your children will have a much richer, complete picture of who you really are and what makes you tick.

    Next, I use to have a job where I too was constantly jotting little notes on small pieces of paper. I got a spiral notebook and would tape the small notes onto the bigger pages of the notebook. Once every note on a page had been dealt with, I’d tear that sheet out. It was quite helpful to have them all in one spot.

  • Such good advice about storing stuff. Love the podcast!

  • Lola Pierre

    Regarding the urge to send someone a text late at night–there *is* an option (on Android phones) to schedule sending a text later. I use this feature all the time!

    In the default Messaging app, once you have composed a text, select the Menu button at the top right (the three horizontal lines). Click “Schedule message,” set a future day/time, and click Done. Then click the Send button, which now will have a little clock icon signifying that it is scheduled to send later. If you make a mistake or change your mind, you can delete the text as long as it hasn’t been sent yet, and then it won’t go out.

    Before I discovered this option, I sometimes would think of a question I wanted to ask a friend late at night, but would worry it was too late to text and would plan send it in the morning. Then I would forget in the morning! Now that I can schedule messages any time, this doesn’t happen.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to know about this feature —

  • Beth Lassiter

    Here’s a NON-TECH solution for late night texts. If you plug in a set of head phones/ear buds you will still be able to hear the phone ring tone but not the text alert. (Sorry – I don’t have one of those fancy “wireless only” phones yet so I don’t know a non-tech solution for those.)

  • LoriM

    Little slips of paper – these drive me nuts, too. I try to write all my to-do’s on a full piece of paper – sometimes a list which I keep at work – with work lists at the top and personal lists at the bottom. I try to make it last a week but a bullet journal is probably a better idea.

    And if I have a home to-do, which I keep remembering at work but then forgetting to do at home, I’ll write it in big print on a full piece of paper and stuff it in my purse or bag where I’m sure to see it when I walk in the house. (Hey, maybe I should use that “timed text” thing so I get a text about it just as I arrive home)

    Having said that, another thing that bugs me is notes that people give me with important info on them – on tiny pieces of paper. When I was working as an assistant to an estate planning attorney, I actually composed a magazine article for seniors – “How to work with your attorney.” But the main point I wanted to make was “Write (or preferably print/type) all communications on a FULL piece of paper.” You are just asking for things to get lost when you write them on a scrap of paper. When I get one, if I can’t deal with it right away, I often tape it to (or type it on) a full page, just to avoid its getting lost.

  • Jackie

    Little slips of paper are my downfall, but if I put those little snippets into my planner (bullet/action item style) or Outlook at work, they are much easier to keep track of. The Outlook tasks function is a great tool for me as it has room for notes and can have a due date or reminder attached.

    I also worked in an office that used an Outlook email draft as an ever-changing to do list. It helped keep the inbox and calendar clear of routine minutiae.

  • Carol

    Hi, Gretchen and Elizabeth!
    Regarding the issue of storage (which is also related to clutter and organization), I strongly suggest looking into the work of Marie Kondo, a renowned Japanese “tidying consultant” and author of the books “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy”. While some parts of her books and approach are more suited to the Japanese/Eastern culture and might not make much sense to the American/Western culture, she does make some great points:
    – Discard first, organize later: she says that people often try to organize before actually reviewing what they have and discarding the clutter. Her idea is that, by discarding first, later on it will be much easier to organize it all, and you might not even need to invest in extra storage space or storage supplies.
    – Tidy by category, not by location: she says that often people keep items of the same category spread out in different locations within the home, and then trying to tidy by location can make it difficult for you to actually grasp how much you do have.
    – Follow the right order of categories: she says that people often try to tidy by unknowingly starting with what she considers the hardest category, sentimental items (photos, keepsakes, etc). That sets people up to failure. She suggests working with categories in a particular order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, and lastly mementos. If a particular item of the first categories brings very strong feelings, you move it to the memento category. This way, by working with each category, you hone your decision making skills, and by the time you reach the memento category, it will seem less daunting.
    – Keep what sparks joy: there are so many guidelines to help people decide what to keep and what to discard (the item’s condition, time since you last used it, etc), but her basic one is to keep what sparks joy: what you really like, what brings happiness to you, what you truly enjoy – or what is actually useful and necessary in your life. I found that to be such an interesting concept!
    Anyway, her books are highly recommended! She gives much more detail into the principles of her tidying method and the reasoning behind them. Even if someone is not willing to follow her method perfectly, learning about it can still be helpful.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes! I have interviewed her here on the blog, and also written about her books a few times.