Tag Archives: lists

Like Me, Do You Get the Urge to Do Spring Cleaning? Here Are Some Areas I Plan to Tackle.

One of my great realizations about happiness (and a point oddly under-emphasized by positive psychologists) is that for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should. After all, in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet is trivial. And yet over and over, people tell me, and I certainly find this, myself, that creating order gives a huge boost in energy, cheer, and creativity.

So I’m a big believer in the value of clutter-clearing.

Also, I’m a big believer in using outer milestones as a catalyst for action or change. Whether that’s New Year’s day, September (the other new year), my birthday, or a holiday, I think it’s helpful to be reminded that I might want to make changes in my life. (Yes, Questioners, I know you think that January 1 is an arbitrary date. Noted.)

So spring, for me, is a reminder to think about spring clutter-clearing. I’m not inspired to do deep cleaning like window-washing, carpet-cleaning, or anything like that. Spring reminds me to tackle nagging clutter build-ups.

I look for places where I tend to stick things and forget about them. Do you have this problem? For me, I’m looking at these areas:

My Spring Cleaning areas to tackle:

Closet shelves

Are any items jammed in? Can I see the clothes that are stored there, at a glance? Are piles teetering precariously? Can I easily reach the things I want? Is there plenty of room to put things away? I need to tackle the shelf in our main coat closet.

Dump zones

Where do I tend to “collect and neglect?” It’s time to dig out those piles and make decisions about where things should have a permanent home. Or if they don’t deserve a permanent home, where will they go? Speaking of which…

Thrift-store pile

I need to make a few trips to the thrift store to drop off the books, clothes, and other things we’ve collected to give away. They’re still clutter until they’re out of the apartment.

Bedside drawer

I recently thought I’d lost my passport, and  I was in an utter panic until I realized what had happened. We keep our passports in the drawer of my husband’s bedside table (not sure why, but that’s what we do), and his drawer was so jammed with stuff that my passport had been pushed out the back of the drawer into the space behind it. Fortunately I realized pretty quickly what had happened, and was able to wiggle it out. Time to clear out that drawer — and my bedside table drawer is just as bad.

File holders

I have two file holders in my office. In theory, I use them for active files that I need to be able to get my hands on quickly. In practice, I often put materials there when I’m not sure what else to do with them, and then they languish. So I’m going to see what I’ve got there, and figure out a permanent place for those files. If they’re so important that they have to be at my fingertips, why don’t I ever look at them?

If you’re interested in reading more about spring cleaning and clutter clearing, check out…

 

The great thing about clutter-clearing — and the thing that surprises me every time — is how energizing and satisfying it is, once completed. A month ago, I tackled my giant messy pile of past-their-prime white t-shirts, and I still get a thrill of pleasure when I see my short, neat stack of acceptable t-shirts.

What areas are you planning to tackle for spring cleaning? Any hints about effective strategies for solving — or better, avoiding — clutter?

I Do Love Writing Manifestos. Here’s My 11-Point Manifesto for Podcasting.

As I mention in episode 76 of the Happier podcast, I love writing manifestos — and I think it’s a very valuable exercise. Whenever I try to distill my ideas into a clear, succinct list, I find that my understanding improves, and I have a much better sense of what I’m trying to do.

I’ve done a Happiness Manifesto and a Habits Manifesto. And, of course, when Elizabeth and I started our podcast, I had to write a Podcast Manifesto.

As with all my Manifestos, this one is aspirational. It’s not necessarily what I do, it’s what I try to do.

Here it is:

  1. Be clear about what we’re doing.
  2. Remember the four desires of the listener: hunger for stories; fun of companionship; desire to learn; ease of listening.
  3. Be consistent, and also surprise.
  4. We don’t have conflict, but we do have differences.
  5. The more we reveal ourselves, the more others connect with us.
  6. Beware of banter.
  7. Remember how people listen.
  8. People love to learn, and people love to teach and share.
  9. It’s good to have fans, and it’s great to have a community.
  10. Connect with listeners in as many ways as possible.
  11. A strong voice repels as well as attracts.

I find myself thinking about the points of the Manifesto often, when we’re preparing and recording each episode. Let me know if you think I’ve forgotten something for this manifesto.

Do you find it helpful to write a manifesto — for work, family life, a creative endeavor, life aims?

What Are the Funniest Movies? 11 Suggestions to Get You Thinking.

I have a friend who’s going through a very rough patch, and I said to him, “You need to take short breaks from your worries. Why don’t you make an effort to watch funny movies? They’ll give you a little boost, when you’re feeling low. And taking good care of yourself will help you deal with this situation better.”

He agreed, but as we were talking about it, he said, “Maybe it’s because of everything I’m dealing with, but I can’t think of anything I want to see. The only funny movie I can think of is Caddyshack. And I’m not even a huge fan of Caddyshack.

So I want to make him a long list of funny movies, Some thoughtful, some goofy, some old, some new, so he has something for every mood. I’m sure this list could be much longer.

What movies have I overlooked — or never seen myself?

 

Watching funny movies or TV is a great way to get a quick mood boost. It’s true: laughter is good medicine.

It made me happier just to think about these movies! This list would make a great appendix to my book about happiness, The Happiness Project.

What movie can make you laugh, every time?

Got the Urge to Do Some Spring-Cleaning? Avoid These 5 Classic Mistakes.

It’s spring! (In my part of the world, at least.) And with spring comes the urge to do some spring-cleaning. The warmer weather and the fresh breezes make me want my home to feel orderly, spacious, and clean.

So far, I’ve tackled three kitchen cabinets, a closet, and my pile of white t-shirts. It feels great.

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. (All New York Times bestsellers, I can’t resist adding).

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. And clearing clutter is so energizing and cheering!

I’ve learned the hard way, however, to avoid these classic mistakes during spring-cleaning, or clutter-clearing generally:

1. Don’t get organized.

When you’re facing a desk swamped in papers, or a closet bursting with clothes, or counter-tops littered with piles of random objects, 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. My sister wanted me to help her organize her papers, and after we threw away the papers she didn’t need to keep, there was nothing left to organize. Excellent.

2. Don’t buy fancy storage gizmos.

Ironically, it’s often the people with the worst clutter problems who have the instinct to run to a store and buy complicated hangers, drawer compartments, etc.  Don’t let yourself buy an item until it’s absolutely clear that it will help you organize objects that are truly necessary—rather than act as a crutch to move clutter around or to jam more clutter into place.

3. Don’t save things for the hazy future.

Some things are  worth keeping — but not most things. I was once helping a friend clear her clutter, and when I gently suggested that she might give away that pantsuit that she wore to work eight years earlier, she said, “Oh, but my daughter might want to wear those one day.” Really? I don’t think so. If you get a new dog, you’ll probably want a fresh dog bed, and if you lose a bunch of weight, you’ll probably decide to buy a new pair of jeans.

4. Don’t “store” things.

It makes sense to store holiday decorations, seasonal clothes, baby things you intend to use again, and anything else that’s useful for a particular time. But often, when we “store” something, it’s because we know we don’t really need it, or use it, or care about it much, but we just want to get it out of the way. Usually, it’s easier to throw something in the basement, attic, or garage than it is to figure out what to do with it. But in the long run, it’s better not to “store” that stuff but to give it away, recycle it, or toss it right away — without an intervening period in storage.

5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Things often get messier before they get tidier. If you dump out every drawer in that big chest, you may run out of energy and time before you’re finished sorting through all of it. Take one drawer at a time. Of course, sometimes it’s necessary — and even fun — to spend a whole day or weekend clearing clutter, but often, it’s more realistic to tackle smaller aims.

Remember, we often over-estimate what we can do in a short time (one afternoon) and under-estimate what we can do over a long period, a little at a time (spending thirty minutes a day clearing clutter, for a month). Keep the process manageable.

What are your tips for clearing clutter? What mistakes have you made, in the past?

Tips for Knowing If You and a Friend Would Be Good Traveling Companions.

I’m way behind on reading my magazines (are we the only household in American who gets The New Yorker magazine every day?), so I only just read an interesting piece from the March 21 issue of New York magazine, The Complicated Part of the Friend Trip.

In a subsection, “Whom Do We Invite?” the article cites psychologist Michael Brein’s compatibility scale, which asks:

  1. Do you have similar activity levels?
  2. Do you have the same day/night patterns? Say, does one person want to get up early and start the day, while another person wants to party late into the night?
  3. Do you have the same sense of “time urgency”? In other words, does one person want to make a plan and stick to it, while another person wants to keep things loose?

I think these are three terrific questions to ask.

For several years, my family has taken a summer trip with another family, and it’s really important to think about compatibility — and also to accept that your family’s way isn’t necessarily the right way, or the wrong way.

For instance, the family we travel with has a higher group energy level than my family. Before ending the day, they’ll often squeeze in an extra museum stop or historical site. My family — right or wrong — needs a lot of down time. I used to feel bad about the fact that we were missing out, and wimping out, but now I accept the fact that our families are just different.

Also, I’m different from the other adults on the trip: unlike the rest of them, if there’s a schedule, I really, really want to stick to it. Upholder that I am! But the other adults, and also kids, are fine with last-minute changes. Even though it makes me uncomfortable, I remind myself, “The point is to have fun together. Even if we’re not seeing this giant fountain.” That helps me remember not to nag or complain when the plans start to change.

Do you find these questions helpful? What other questions are useful to consider, when you’re planning to travel with someone?