Is Your Home or Office as Calm and Ordered as You’d Like?

Is your home or office as calm and ordered as you’d like?

If not, read on. This week, we’re very excited to share a Q and A with my friend Gretchen Rubin, about her latest book, Outer Order, Inner Calm. I love Gretchen’s approach (to this topic and to life in general) because her starting point is that we’re all very different, and what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Gretchen and I are friends and fellow authors, but we couldn’t be more different in our approach to ….just about everything. 🙂

We hope you enjoy!


Susan: Why bother worrying about outer order?

Gretchen: To a surprising degree, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More than it should! After all, in a happy life, a crowded coat closet or a messy desk is a trivial issue—and yet most of us feel that when we get control over the stuff of our lives, we feel in more in control, generally. We get a weird burst of energy and cheer when we create outer order! So even if it does feel trivial, it’s worth addressing.

Susan: What’s the best way to maintain outer order?

Gretchen: Despite what many experts claim, there’s no one “right” way to clear clutter. Some people are minimalists; some love abundance. Some people want to take ten minutes each day for a month to clear; some want to do an all-day marathon purge. Some people feel a deep emotional attachment to possessions, others don’t care much. When we create outer order in the way that’s right for us, it’s much easier to maintain it.

Susan: Most of us realize that we feel better when our environment is reasonably orderly. So why is it such a struggle?

Gretchen: Even when we know we feel happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative when we maintain outer order, often we don’t. There are many reasons, including:

  • We’re pressed for time so take short-cuts
  • We don’t want to make tiring choices, like “Do I need this?” “Do I already own this?”
  • We feel emotionally attached to possessions, so they build up
  • We don’t have enough room to put things away or don’t have a system for where things belong
  • We’re furnishing a fantasy self (“I’ll become a gourmet chef!” or holding on to an outdated identity (“I might need the formal business suits again one day”)

Susan: We’re all looking for ways to make travel easier and more pleasant, and one of the challenges of travel is that there’s so much stuff to keep track of. Any ideas?

Here are some travel tips:

  • Create a “bowl of requirement”
  • Make a habit of the travel tidy-up
  • Beware of buying souvenirs
  • Use Ziploc bags for toiletries

Susan: What are some tips for making a home or office more ordered?

1.    Follow the one-minute rule – anything you can do in less than one minute, do without delay. This tip is great for people who don’t have the time or energy to do a major clutter-clearing. It’s astonishing how much clearer your surroundings get if you follow it.

2.    Have a weekly power hour – keep a list of annoying tasks that are contributing to clutter. Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time; Power Hour is the one hour each week to get those tasks accomplished.

3.    Identify your beneficiaries, and donate quickly – it’s easier to let things go when you know they’re heading into good hands.

4.    To decide what to keep, ask yourself, “Do I need it? Do I use it? Do I love it?” If not, you should get rid of it.

5.    Keep five spare hangers, and no more than five, in your closet. Hangers take up a surprising amount of room, even empty.

6.    Store it at the store. Instead of buying something that might come in handy, one day, decide to store it at the store until you need it.

7.    Beware of freebies, conference swag, and hand-me-downs. You don’t need an endless supply of promotional tote bags, mugs, or journals. These things may be “free” but then they cost us time, energy, and even money when we try to relinquish them.