Happiness: Putting the Flashlight on the Second Shelf of My Coat Closet.

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Something that always cheers me up – when I can muster the energy to do it – is to tidy up. I find it relaxing to put things away, and the resulting order calms my mind. Chucking junk mail, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, arranging everything to fit in the medicine cabinet…these kinds of activities never fail me. When I’m feeling blue, to take action to make an improvement, no matter how insignificant that improvement may be, is a tonic.

Over the past few years, I’ve thought a lot about the happiness power of clutter-clearing, and I discovered something surprising. Although I would have thought it would be easier to put things away in general areas — the coat closet, any kitchen drawer — it’s actually much more satisfying to return item to a highly specific location.

One of life’s small pleasures is to return something to its proper and precise place; putting the flashlight on the second shelf in the coat closet gives me the archer’s satisfaction of hitting a mark. Have you ever seen those peg boards where people have outlined their tools or their kitchen implements, to show where each thing belongs? (I think Julia Child had one.) That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Now I strive to have an exact place for everything in my whole apartment (except toys – I just throw Polly Pockets and stuffed animals into whatever box, drawer, or shelf is closest, or else I would never have time to do anything else). Obviously, this system makes it easier to find the things I need, which boosts my happiness, but it also boosts my happiness to have that deep sense of placement.


From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.



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