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?

Big Announcement: the “Better” App Is Now Free to Use!

My obsession with my Four Tendencies framework is just as strong as ever.

Ever since I first came up with the Four Tendencies framework, I’ve grown more and more interested in it — and more and more people keep asking me questions about it. (Don’t know about the framework? Don’t know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the quiz here.)

People want information about the Four Tendencies, and they also want help — they email because they’re eager to join an accountability group, they want to work with a coach who understands the Tendencies, they want to apply the framework with their medical patients or as a manager at work or with their coaching clients. And I hear from a lot of parents who want to use the Tendencies (especially parents of Rebels).

I’m finishing up my book The Four Tendencies (sign up here to hear when it goes on sale in fall 2017), but I also wanted a way for people to exchange ideas and questions. I’ve been staggered by people’s brilliant insights, imaginative solutions, and compelling examples. Henry James couldn’t do better.

So I created the app Better, an app to help you harness the Four Tendencies framework to create a better life. You can use it as an app on your phone, or you can use it on your desktop.

Since launch, there has been so much fascinating, helpful discussion on the Better app. It’s exciting to see how everyone puts the Four Tendencies into action – at home, at work, in health, and in life.

I can hardly drag myself away from reading the comments and posts.

When it launched, there was a $9.99 monthly charge for the app, but as publication of The Four Tendencies drew nearer, I started to think about how the app experience would be better and better (sorry, couldn’t resist that) as more people contributed.

And I knew that for some people, a fee is a barrier.

So I decided to make the Better app free for anyone who wants to join. The more, the better, for all of us.

If you know people who would be interested, or who would benefit from the discussions here, or want to start or join Accountability Groups, please let them know they now can join for free.

I hope this change makes your life a little better!

Revealed! Three Excellent Books for April: How to Influence Others, a Romance, and an Art-Filled Memoir.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

— one outstanding book about happiness or habits or human nature

— one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

— one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

Now, for the three book-club choices. Drumroll…


A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

This is an absolutely fascinating book about persuasion — how do we persuade other people, and what do they do to persuade us? It’s written in an accessible, interesting way, and is one of the rare books that truly transformed my way of seeing the world around me.

 

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An outstanding children’s book:

Flower by Elizabeth Craft and Shea Olsen

Of course I can’t resist recommending the excellent young-adult novel by my sister. The tag line is “She had a plan, then she met him.” There’s romance, temptation, secrets, family drama, best friends, college applications, extravagant gestures, celebrity...delicious. If you enjoy listening to Elizabeth on the Happier podcast, you might get a kick out of reading her book.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An eccentric pick:

Another Part of the Wood: A Self-Portrait by Kenneth Clark

I love memoirs, and I loved reading this self-portrait of Kenneth Clark, the museum director, art historian, and presenter of the blockbuster TV series Civilisation. I especially love reading memoirs by people who describe why they love their work so much.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


If you want to make sure you never miss a month’s selections, sign up here for the book club newsletter.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

I continue to read book after book on the subject of color — it’s odd to find myself fascinated by this highly specialized topic. It’s definitely contributing to my desire to collect giant sets of colored pens and colored markers — which I can now use in the coloring book I created! The Happiness Project Mini-Posters: A Coloring Book with 20 Hand-lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame hit the shelves this week. It shot to  #1 in Adult Coloring Books (a surprisingly large category) which made me very happy.

Lately I’ve been in the mood for memoirs. Any great ones to recommend? Or books about color, of course.

Obliger-Spotting in the News? Rex Tillerson on Becoming Secretary of State.

As I may have mentioned, I’m obsessed with my Four Tendencies framework, in which I divide all of humanity into four types: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. (Don’t know your Tendency? Take the short quiz here.)

As I go through my days, I’m always searching for greater understanding of the Four Tendencies; I search for patterns and insight. Am I right that Rebel children are often especially close to their grandparents? Do many Questioners love to share links and articles?

I also constantly search for examples of the Four Tendencies in real life and in memoirs, movies, novels, and TV shows.

It’s crucial to remember that we can’t determine a person’s Tendency from the outside — we need to know why a person talks or behaves a certain way.

But at the same time, it’s true that sometimes people do say things that seem to be a powerful indication of Tendency. I was struck by this fact when I read about an interview with Rex Tillerson.

Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp, was named by President Trump to be Secretary of State.

In an interview about his new position, Secretary Tillerson said, “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.”

He explained that his wife “told me I’m supposed to do this.” She also told him, “God’s not through with you.”

Secretary Tillerson added, “I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to the ranch to be with my grandkids.”

“My wife convinced me…She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”

To me, this sounds like an Obliger. The expectation is coming from the outside. What do you think?

Of course, because Obliger is the largest Tendency, it’s also likely that Tillerson is an Obliger because that’s the Tendency a person is most likely to belong to.

From these comments, Secretary Tillerson doesn’t sound particularly enthusiastic about this responsibility. Obligers have told me, however, that they’ve had the experience of starting a position because they felt obliged by an outer expectation, and then finding a real passion for that position. Sometimes passion follows, rather than leads, as we grapple with a new expectation.

What’s your view?

(Note: These days, any mention of politics can bring out people’s combative sides. Please keep the conversation civil and about the TENDENCIES.)

My book The Four Tendencies will hit the shelves in September. If you’re inclined to buy the book, it’s a big help to me if you pre-order it now. Pre-orders are extremely important for building buzz and support for a book among booksellers, the media, and the publisher.

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.
  2. Want a personalized, signed bookplate? Email me to request as many as you like (within reason). Be sure to include your mailing address, and U.S. and Canada only–sorry, mailing costs.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #111

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier 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!

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!