Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Organizing and Happiness


I just finished reading Gretchen Rubin’s fabulous book, The Happiness Project:  Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.  What took me so long to pick up this book?

For one year, Gretchen chronicles her experiences as she test-drives studies and theories about how to be happier.  The book is an organizer’s dream as Gretchen tracks each resolution on a chart and takes a truly systematic and thorough approach to trying to live a happier life.  Plus the book is chock full of inspiring, thoughtful ways to look at day-to-day life, and getting organized is one of the first things Gretchen tackles in hope that outer order will bring inner peace.

So this week, in honor of a great read (which I encourage you to check out), here are my six favorite organizing lessons from The Happiness Project. 

1. Lurking Objects:  “Objects that needed to be put away, objects that didn’t have a real place, unidentified lurking objects – they all needed to be placed in their proper homes. Or tossed or given away.” I love that Gretchen refers to objects as lurking – it’s too perfect and so true. 

2. Mom’s Wisdom:  “Make a list, do a little bit each day, and stay calm.”  This is advice straight from Gretchen’s mom, and I couldn’t agree more.  The thought of getting organized can be overwhelming, but it can be accomplished by breaking down each project into manageable tasks.

3. New Ways to Think of Clutter:  In all my reading and research about organization, Gretchen has the most interesting (and hilarious) way to diagnose types of clutter.
  • Nostalgic Clutter – Things we cling to from earlier in life
  • Conservation Clutter – Things we keep because they’re useful to someone, just not us
  • Bargain Clutter – Buying unnecessary things because they’re on sale
  • Freebie Clutter – Gifts, hand-me-downs, and giveaways
  • Crutch Clutter – Things you use but know you shouldn’t.  Gretchen uses a great example of a horrible green sweatshirt bought ten years ago.
  • Aspirational Clutter – Things you own but only aspire to use
  • Outgrown Clutter – Things you own but don’t use anymore
  • Buyer’s Remorse Clutter – Things you hold onto rather than admitting you’ve made a bad purchase 

Do any of these sound familiar?  If so, stop, drop and declutter.

4. Four Thermometer Syndrome:  Gretchen describes how she could never find her family’s thermometer, so she kept buying new ones.  Once the clutter was cleared, she realized:  1) She had four thermometers, and 2) She never used the thermometers in the first place.  Getting organized ends dreaded duplicate purchases and helps you understand what you actually need and use. 

5. Gretchen’s Fourth Commandment:  If a task takes less than one minute to complete – “Do it now.”  That goes for hanging up the coat, putting newspapers in the recycling bin, and putting away the umbrella.  This is a good tip to remember to keep clutter from piling up.

6. Evening Tidy-up:  If you take ten minutes before bed to do simple tidying around the house, mornings become calmer.  Imagine not stepping on Legos on your way to the kitchen for coffee!  This is one tip I give clients for maintaining organization, and I’m happy to see that it worked for Gretchen.

Another reason I’m so HAPPY I read this book is that I came across this fantastic quote from Benjamin Franklin, “On the whole, though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet as I was, by the endeavor, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been had I not attempted it.” 

So true, Ben, so true.  

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