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Podcast 290: Very Special Episode: An Extravaganza of Hacks! Hacks for Relationships, Pandemic, Clutter, Travel, and More.


Update: We're  excited to announce our next book club choice: Yaa Gyasi's unforgettable novel, Transcendent Kingdom (Amazon, Bookshop). Start reading, and send in your questions and comments. We’ll be talking to Yaa Gyasi in October.

Very Special Episode: An extravaganza of hacks!

Pandemic hacks:

  • If you can't travel for vacation, take a week off and unplug completely from the internet.
  • In place of a traditional journal, take screenshots of texts to remember this season.
  • Start a Power-Craft-Hour to keep up with creative projects: set a Zoom time to work on projects with friends as they work on their own projects. (This is a twist on our idea of Power Hour.) Particularly good for Obligers who need accountable time for creative time. Along the same lines, for work, a listener suggested the app FocusMate.
  • Use a hanging organizer to store face masks. This is the hanging organizer the listener mentions.
  • Use lunch boxes to organize kids' school materials. This is a good example of our Try-This-at-Home question, "Do I already own this?"
  • Include surprise guests to enliven group Zoom calls.

Relationship hacks:

  • Use the 1-10 scale to decide who should make a decision; the person who cares the most gets to make the choice.
  • When you hug your kids, wait for them to let go first.
  • If you're feeling annoyed by your sweetheart or spouse, practice gratitude for the "marvelous mundane."
  • When trying to make conversation—for instance, an adult trying to make conversation with a college student—ask a question for which you know this person has an actual answer. It's much less stressful.
  • From Kate Bowler of the terrific Everything Happens podcast: If you're going through a challenging time, pick "one small, dumb thing" that makes you happy—and tell everyone. I mention the fascinating journals of May Sarton, such as Journal of a Solitude (Amazon, Bookshop).

Parenting hacks: 

  • Set aside a "quiet time" after lunch each day.
  • Listen to an audio-book during lunch time to minimize bickering and noise.

#Walk20in20 hacks:

Travel hacks:

  • Pack your shoes in a hotel shower cap to safeguard your clean clothes.
  • As the very last thing you do, conduct a final room sweep. But this sweep must be the very last thing you do.

Clutter hacks:

  • Participate in a"Buy Nothing" Facebook group in your neighborhood.
  • Before starting to clean a messy kitchen, consolidate everything to one area.
  • To open a plastic bag, gently stretch the plastic.

I must mention that Outer Order, Inner Calm is one giant hack list!

Lightning Round of hacks:

  • Stand while talking on the phone to boost your executive function, increase your focus, and use energy.
  • Re-purpose beautiful serving knives (such as a silver cake knife) into book weights.
  • Use Google Translate's audio feature to hear how to pronounce a proper name.
  • To get full use out of towels, clothes, and sheets, flip the stack over.
  • You can’t be angry if your armpits are exposed. "Hands up, baby! Hands up!" (Of all the hacks, this may be my favorite.)
  • Keep the roll of fresh trash bags at the bottom of the trash can.
  • To chill a bottle quickly, wrap it in a wet paper towel before putting it in the fridge.
  • From Gretchen: To make sure someone can't read text that you've crossed out, write random words over the original text.
  • From Elizabeth: Listen to a podcast while you do your grocery shopping.

To hear Elizabeth's bonus hack, listen to the very end of the episode—what we call the "button." (We do a button for every episode.)

Keep sending in your brilliant hacks! We love a great hack.


  • Looking for ways to be happier at home? Click here to download my free PDF with nine tips for finding more happiness at home (just scroll down to “Happier at Home”).
  • Could you use some accountability in keeping up good habits? Join the community on my free app, BETTER. Visit the app on your computer or search your app store for “Better Gretchen Rubin.” You can join a small accountability group or simply join the conversation related to habits, happiness, the Four Tendencies, and more.

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