Make your bed.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

A few days ago, I was writing my list of tips for how to keep your surroundings uncluttered, and I included the extremely important tip, “Make your bed.” But I realized that making your bed is an act important enough to deserve being its own resolution.

Now, it’s true that some people thrive on a little chaos. They find a disorderly room to be comfy and casual. When one of my friends was growing up, her mother made such a big deal of keeping the house clean that now my friend has gone far in the opposite direction. Very far. Most people, however, even if they may find it tough to keep things tidy, prefer to live in orderly surroundings.

I love a calm environment, and making the bed is one of the quickest, easiest steps to keeping our bedroom orderly. Also, I get a real feeling of accomplishment from having completed this small task. It’s nice to start the day feeling that I’ve crossed something – however minor – off my list. It starts me off feeling productive, disciplined, and efficient.

Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, picking one little task to improve your situation, and doing it regularly, can help you regain a sense of control. Making your bed is a good place to start. It might help you build momentum to keeping other, more significant resolutions.

Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

And now for a moment of blatant self-promotion…

‘Tis the season to buy presents, so I’m going to make a plug for my biography, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill.

I wrote that biography thinking, “Churchill is the most interesting person ever, but if you don’t know anything about him, and want to dip your toe in, learning about him requires a huge commitment. Every WSC biography is at least 800 pages long, if not multi-volume, and almost all his own work is multi-volume. I want to write a manageable book so that people can learn enough about Churchill to want to tackle those other volumes.” I wanted everyone to be as interested in Churchill as I was.

When my book came out, however, I learned that the people most likely to want to read about Churchill are the people who already know a lot about him. If you know someone who is a big Churchill fan, I offer Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill for your gift-giving consideration. I’m biased, of course, but I do love that book – of course, it’s simply not possible to write a boring book about Churchill. He is supremely fascinating. And this is my one book that became a bestseller.

Ok, enough self-promotion!

A reader who started her own happiness project realized the importance of being grateful. To help other people appreciate the power of gratitude, she worked every morning from 5:00-7:00 for months to create an iPhone application that allows you to keep a gratitude journal in your phone. So cool. Check it out: happytapper.

Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

If you’re still annoyed by the multiple emails from Feedblitz…

…hang in there. Typepad is working on the problem. Turns out the problem isn’t with Feedblitz but someplace else in the chain.

I hope to get this will be fixed soon. I know it’s a pain to get those unnecessary emails. Please bear with me!

Clutter: One big tip – don’t “treat” yourself – plus eleven quick tips for keeping your home uncluttered.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: One big tip – don’t “treat” yourself – plus eleven quick tips for keeping your home uncluttered.

When you’re feeling blue or overwhelmed, it’s tempting to try to pick yourself up by indulging in a “treat.” Unfortunately, a guilty pleasure is often just that – an ice-cream sundae, a cigarette, an extra glass of wine, an expensive splurge, and other treats give a short-term boost, but then just deepen your blues as guilt and remorse set in.

I realized that one of my personal “treats” is the decision not to pick up after myself. Instead of trying to tidy as I go, as I usually do, I let small tasks mount up. “I can’t possibly be expected to do something like that,” I tell myself. “I’m too busy/too frazzled/too upset/too rushed. I deserve a break.”

The problem is that, in the end, the mess makes me feel worse. Maybe I enjoy a tiny buzz from flinging my coat onto the hall floor, but the disorder just makes my bad mood deepen. (Plus it’s not nice for anyone else, either.) On the other hand, serene, orderly surroundings make me feel better. Outer order brings inner calm.

Now, instead of “treating” myself to a mess, I make a special effort to keep things tidy when I’m feeling low.

Here are my tips for quick, easy steps to keep your surroundings uncluttered. Practically all of them are simple enough to be followed even when you’re feeling extremely overwhelmed:

1. Make your bed.

2. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper.

3. Hang up your towel.

4. Keep magazines out of sight (people disagree with me on this one, but I find it impossible to keep stacks of magazines from looking messy).

5. Shut all drawers, cabinet doors, and closet doors as you go.

6. Pick up the mail, immediately sort it, throw away junk mail, and put real mail in the proper place (I have drawer for bills and a file for invitations).

7. Put dirty disher in the dishwasher, or failing that, the sink.

8. Deal with the recycling. It differs a lot from place to place, but you know what you’re supposed to do.

9. Put books away in the proper place: back on the shelf, in the library-return pile, or in the donation pile. Speaking of that…

10. Keep a bag of things you want to give away. As soon as you decide you don’t want or need something anymore, put it in the bag. Every so often, drop off the bags at a thrift store.

11. Hang up your coat. My epiphany: I never hung up my coat – why? – because I didn’t like dealing with hangers. Eureka! I decided to start using a hook. Problem solved.

“Treating” myself to overlooking these steps feels illicit and fun for a moment (yes, I realize how boring my life must be if throwing my coat on the floor feels illicit), but in the end, I just end up feeling worse. If I follow these de-cluttering steps, even if I don’t do anything else to keep my apartment in order, the chaos stays at an acceptable level.

What have I missed? Are there other quick steps to take to keep your home uncluttered?

I get a bick kick out of Dumb Little Man, and never fail to find very useful and interesting material there – very engagingly presented.

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If you’ve emailed me in the last week…

If you’ve emailed me in the last week to ask for a copy of my personal Resolutions Chart or to be put on my newsletter list, there’s a good chance I never received your note. Some of my emails went undelivered. Now the problem seems to be fixed, so if you think of it, email me again at grubin AT SYMBOL gretchenrubin DOT COM. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” or “Newsletter” in the subject line.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Talk about re-framing! I was complaining about getting too much email — but I’ve learned that it’s better to get too much than not to get it at all.