375: The Easiest Way to Clear Clutter, a Tempting Loophole to Avoid, and How Do You Like to Socialize?

If you want to watch Elizabeth and me talk as you listen to the episode, you can watch on YouTube. If you want to know more about the Rebel Tendency — and also Upholder, Questioner, and Obliger Tendency — learn more here

Try This at Home

Clear clutter by not buying. Some ideas to avoid buying things we don’t really need, use, or want:

  • Store it at the store
  • Delete online accounts so you have to check out as a guest every time
  • When shopping online, enjoy the fun of filling your cart, then abandon it
  • Use the buddy system for big or small impulse purchases, depending on what tempts you
  • Don’t use a basket or cart
  • Circle back for anything that’s not on the list
  • If you really feel like buying, buy gifts — for a specific person. We mention the over-buyer/under-buyer distinction.

Need more ideas? My book Outer Order, Inner Calm is packed with suggestions. The bingo card for clutter-clearing your kitchen is here. The bingo card for clutter-clearing your workspace is here

Happiness Hack

Avoid the “Aragog Loophole.” In my book about habit change, Better Than Before, I identify ten categories of loopholes:

  1. False choice loophole—”I can’t do this, because I’m so busy doing that”
  2. Moral licensing loophole—”I’ve been so good, it’s okay for me to do this”
  3. Tomorrow loophole—”It’s okay to skip today, because I’m going to do this tomorrow”
  4. Lack of control loophole—”I can’t help myself”
  5. Planning to fail loophole, formerly known as the “Apparently irrelevant decision loophole”—”I decided to explore one of my old neighborhoods and…well, look at that! I’m right in front of my favorite bakery. And of course, I couldn’t possibly pass up their cookies.”
  6. “This doesn’t count” loophole—”I’m on vacation” “I’m sick” “It’s the weekend”
  7. Questionable assumption loophole—”It’s not possible to quit eating sugar”
  8. Concern for others loophole—”I can’t do this because it might make other people uncomfortable”
  9. Fake self-actualization loophole—”You only live once! Embrace the moment!”
  10. One-coin loophole“What difference does it make if I break my habit this one time?”

A listener describes a Harry Potter-inspired loophole: the Aragog loophole. She quotes from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Amazon), where Aragog the giant spider says, “My sons and daughters do not harm Hagrid on my command, but I cannot deny them fresh meat when it wanders so willingly into our midst.” Send me anything related to loopholes! I want to write a Little Book of Loopholes. 

Know Yourself Better

How do you like to socialize? Questions to consider include:

  • short or long time together
  • ritual or novelty
  • with few people or many
  • what’s more important: the activity itself, or the company of another person

Listener Question

A listener asks for suggestions of quotations suitable for good-byes or transitions. Please send your ideas, and I’ll gather them into a PDF.  

Demerits & Gold Stars

  • Gretchen’s Demerit:  I’ve been twisting my hair a lot lately.
  • Elizabeth’s Gold Star: She gives a gold star to the habit of driving her son Jack to school each morning; the daily time with him adds so much to her day.


  • If you’d like to get these show notes emailed to you with each episode, sign up here.
  • If you’re looking for a gift for a mother in your life—or for yourself—consider my bestselling books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. I know from previous years that they’re very popular gifts.

What we’re reading

  • Elizabeth: The Candy House by Jennifer Egan (AmazonBookshop)
  • Gretchen: You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar (AmazonBookshop)

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