Tag Archives: clutter

A Little Happier: Someplace, Keep an Empty Shelf; Someplace, Keep a Junk Drawer.

One of the things about happiness that continually surprises me is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, and inner self-command. I write about this connection in Better Than Before, in The Happiness Project, and in Happier at Home.

This connection fascinates me; in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet or an overflowing in-box is trivial, and yet such things weigh us down more than they should.

That’s why I follow habits like making my bed and the one-minute rule, and why one of the most important strategies of habit formation is the Strategy of Foundation.

But as a friend reminded me,  it’s also important to have time for serendipity, for the unexpected — to make room for a little messiness in our lives.

Someplace, we need an empty shelf. And someplace, we need a junk drawer.

Agree, disagree? Do you have an empty shelf, a junk drawer — or both?

If you want to see the video where I show my empty shelf, just email me, and I’ll send you the link. The image posted above is another empty shelf I maintain. I do like an empty shelf!

Check out Yogi Tea. When it comes to enjoying life, little moments — like drinking a delicious cup of tea — can make a big difference.

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Happier listening!

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.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, check the schedule. 

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out Olive and Cocoa. Surprise someone you love with a meaningful gift today. Go to OliveandCocoa.com/happier to see gift options specifically chosen for our listeners.

Also check out Texture. Get access to all your favorite magazines — including back issues and bonus video content — in one super-convenient place. Try the app Texture for free by going to Texture.com/happier.

Also check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 25% off window treatments and a free in-home design consultation.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #84

We love hearing from listeners:

 

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If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

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.

HAPPIER listening!

Podcast 82: Make a To-Do List (or a Could-Do List), Why Your Identity Matters for Your Habits–and Gift Bags.

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.

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: Make a to-do list, or a could-do list.  We talked about the Four Tendencies — whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel — and you want to take the Four Tendencies Quiz, it’s here.

Happiness Hack: Our listener Carolyn suggests that if you constantly run out of a certain item, just buy it whenever you have the chance. I mention the over-buyer and under-buyer distinction; you can read about it here.

Better Than Before Habit Strategy: The powerful, sometimes elusive Strategy of Identity.  I quote from Letters of James Agee to Father Flye, where novelist James Agee wrote, after he’d been told that he really needed to cut back on his drinking and smoking:

I am depressed because whether I am to live a very short time or relatively longer time depends…on whether or not I can learn to be the kind of person I am not and have always detested.

Listener Question: Kelly asks, “How do I handle my trove of gift bags?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: I didn’t check my print job until many, many pages had been printed.

ElizabethBreakfastNook

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her long-desired breakfast nook.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, check the schedule. 

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out Olive and Cocoa. Surprise someone you love with a meaningful gift today. Go to OliveandCocoa.com/happier to see gift options specifically chosen for our listeners.

Also check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Sign up for The Great Courses Plus today and you’ll get a month of unlimited access to thousands of fascinating lectures taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: try it for free when you sign up at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier.

 

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #82

We love hearing from listeners:

 

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

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.

HAPPIER listening!

7 Tips for Clearing Clutter in the Office.

One of my Secrets of Adulthood is: Outer order contributes to inner calm.  And that’s just as true at the office as it is at home.

True, in the context of a happy life, a messy desk or a box of files on the floor is a trivial problem—yet I’ve found, and other people tell me they feel the same way, that getting control of the stuff of life makes me feel more in control of my life generally. And if this is an illusion, it’s a helpful illusion.                               

When I’m surrounded by a mess, I felt restless and unsettled; when I clean up a mess, I’m always surprised by the disproportionate energy and cheer I gain—plus, I’m able to find my stapler.

Here are some ways to fight clutter at the office:

 1. Never label anything “Miscellaneous.”

 

2. Abandon a project.

One source of office clutter is stuff related to unfinished projects. You’ve always meant to learn that software program. You were going to switch to using a different kind of planner.  You were going to review that proposal. But that stuff has been sitting in your office for months, maybe years, and it hasn’t been used. Be honest with yourself. If you’re not going to complete that project, abandon it — and get the stuff off your shelves, and off your conscience.

3. Beware of freebies, swag, and give-aways.

Yes, you went to that conference, and they gave you a branded mug, t-shirt, metal water-bottle, journal, pen, and an eraser in the shape of a cow. But if you don’t have a clear plan to use these things, they’re clutter — and the best way to deal with that clutter? Don’t accept those freebies in the first place.

4. Don’t get organized.

When you’re facing a desk swamped in papers,  don’t say to yourself, “I need to get organized.” No! Your first instinct should be to get rid of stuff. If you don’t keep it, you don’t have to organize it. You can spend a lot of time filing papers that you don’t even need to keep—and one of the biggest wastes of time is to do a chore well that need not be done at all. (See also #7.)

5. Establish ownership. This is a particular problem at the office.

Often, clutter sticks around because it’s not clear who owns it– those aren’t your files, and no one seems to know why they’ve been in the hallway for two years, but how can you throw them away? If you encounter something that you think is clutter, take the time to ask around and find out if anyone wants it. It’s surprising how often things go unclaimed. Relatedly…

6. Beware the tragedy of the messy commons.

When several people use one area, and no one person is responsible for keeping order, people tend to become messy and careless. Establish some system—for instance, by taking turns, assigning people to oversee specific areas, or enforcing the expectation that people mind their own messes—for making it clear who’s responsible for any disorder. This is related to the painful truths about shared work.

7. Toss unnecessary papers.

Paperwork is one of the toughest forms of clutter to vanquish.  Ask yourself: Have I ever used this paper? Could I easily replace it, if it turns out I need it? Is this information on the internet (e.g., manuals)? What’s my reason for keeping it? Does it become dated quickly (travel materials)? What’s the consequence of not having it if I do need it? Could I scan it, so I can keep it as a reference but get rid of the physical paper?

NOTE: Outer order contributes to inner calm — for most people. But not for everyone.

Some people thrive on disarray; they find it stimulates their ideas and doesn’t slow them down. It’s probably related to being an abundance-lover instead of a simplicity-lover.

Some people are just clutter-blind. They simply don’t see the clutter. It doesn’t affect them for better or worse. They just don’t see it.

Different levels of clutter-acceptance can lead to conflict, because the people who love order tend to try to badger the disorder-tolerant people into cleaning up. I always remind myself, “There’s no right way or wrong way, just the way that works for a particular person.”

As part of my “Design my summer” project ( you can hear me talk about it on the Happier podcast), I wrote a little book called “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” I’m just finishing it up now. It was so fun to write that book! So if you have any great tips about clearing clutter — at the office or at home — I’d love to hear them, to see if there’s anything I’ve overlooked.

What are your great clutter-clearing tips?

Episode 73: Get Rid of Something Useless, What to Do When Everything “Turns to Ashes”–and Something Beautiful for Free.

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

Update: We’ve heard from so many people about their signature colors, from episode 71; we’re going to do a Deep Dive soon. And despite her screaming, Elizabeth has now successfully ordered fabric for their banquette.

Try This at Home: Get rid of something as soon as it becomes useless. Harder than it sounds! Elizabeth mentions Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Happiness Stumbling Block: How to cope when everything “turns to ashes” (as it did, for Elizabeth).

Listener Question: Whitney asked about what to do about the fact that her very loving mother-in-law has given her a diaper bag that she doesn’t want.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth has delayed going to the doctor for too long. We talk about the Four Tendencies framework — if you want to read more about it, look here.

 Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to the New York Public Library’s collection of digital images that are in the public domain. Free to share and reuse. Beautiful, amazing! What a treasure trove! The beautiful collection I mention — Plante et Ses Applications Ornamentales — is here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, it’s here.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Sign up for The Great Courses Plus today and you’ll get unlimited access to thousands of fascinating lectures taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: Get One Month Free when you sign up at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier.

And check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #73

We love hearing from listeners:

 

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

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.

HAPPIER listening!