Outer Order, Inner Calm

Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness

About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this lovely, easy-to-use illustrated guide to decluttering, the beloved author of The Happiness Project shows us how to take control of our stuff—and, by extension, our lives.
Gretchen Rubin knows firsthand that creating order can make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. But for most of us, a rigid, one-size-fits-all solution doesn't work. When we tailor our approach to suit our own particular challenges and habits, we can find inner calm.
With a sense of fun, and a clear idea of what’s realistic for most people, Rubin suggests dozens of manageable tips and tricks for creating a more serene, orderly environment, including:
• Never label anything “miscellaneous.”
• Ask yourself, “Do I need more than one?”
• Don’t aim for minimalism.
• Remember: If you can’t retrieve it, you won’t use it.
• Stay current with a child’s interests.
• Beware the urge to “procrasticlear.”
By getting rid of things we don’t use, don’t need, or don’t love, we free our minds (and our shelves) for what we truly value.
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Listen to a sample from Outer Order, Inner Calm

Praise for Outer Order, Inner Calm

Accolades and Praise for GRETCHEN RUBIN
#1 New York Times bestselling author
Member of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100

“Aided by her formidable intelligence and willingness to try anything, she spent a year road-testing every theory about happiness she could get her hands on, using her own life as the road.” —TIME
“Once you’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s tale of a year spent searching for satisfaction, you’ll want to start your own happiness project and get your friends and family to join you. This is the rare book that will make you both smile and think—often on the same page.” 
—Daniel H. Pink, Drive
“Rubin had learned that there was a close correlation between habits and happiness, so she figured out how we form them, use them, and change them. Once I came to understand habits as harnessing our own laziness—making a habit frees you from decision-making, which you can use to your advantage—my relationship to them changed permanently.” —The New Yorker
“Lays out life’s essential goals… serves as a kind of detailed instruction manual on how to achieve them.” 
—New York Times Book Review 

“If anyone can help us stop procrastinating, start exercising or get organized, it’s Gretchen Rubin. The happiness guru takes a sledgehammer to old-fashioned notions about change.” Parade

“Gretchen Rubin combines deep research and observations from her own life to explain how habits emerge and—more important—how they can change. It’s indispensable for anyone hoping to overhaul how they (almost unthinkingly) behave.”
—Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
“Gretchen Rubin is a writer after my own heart—seriously brilliant, very warm, and funny. I think she’s amazing.” —Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird and Help, Thanks, Wow

“Gretchen Rubin’s superpower is curiosity… Weaving together research, unforgettable examples, and her brilliant insight, Better Than Before is a force for real change.” —Brené Brown, Dare to Lead and Daring Greatly
“With her characteristic mix of delightful charm, thoughtful research, and insightful advice… Gretchen Rubin shows how to add fun, joy, and harmony to your home life.”
—Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

"Loaded with practical solutions and impeccable research. Rubin is also a fine writer, and her enthusiasm for improving lives is contagious."
—Harlan Coben
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Outer Order, Inner Calm

In my study of happiness, I’ve realized that for most of us, outer order contributes to inner calm.
More than it should.
In the context of a happy life, a messy desk or a crowded coat closet is a trivial problem—yet getting control of the stuff of life often makes it easier to feel more in control of our lives generally.
When I’m surrounded by a mess, I feel restless and unsettled. When I clean up that mess, I’m always surprised by the disproportionate energy and cheer I gain, plus I’m able to find my keys. A friend once told me, “I finally cleaned out my fridge and now I know I can switch careers.” I knew exactly what she meant.
By getting rid of the things I don’t use, don’t need, or don’t love, as well as the things that don’t work, don’t fit, or don’t suit, I free my mind—and my shelves—for what I truly value. And that’s true for most people.
Often, when disorder starts to creep in, I think, I don’t have time to fight my way through all this stuff! I’m too busy to deal with it! But I’ve learned that by managing my possessions, I can improve my emotional attitude, my physical health, my intellectual vigor, and even my social life.
Now, no matter how busy I am, I force myself to take at least a few minutes each day to impose some order. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by multiple writing deadlines, I spend twenty minutes cleaning my office, because I know that clearing my papers clears my mind.
I’ve also found that once I start, it’s easier to keep going. True, sometimes it feels auspicious to do a big clutter-clearing on New Year’s Day, or as spring cleaning, or as pre–Labor Day prep—but now is always the best time to begin. A friend told me, “I woke up one morning and on impulse decided to tackle my basement. I spent my entire Sunday down there, and I was so pumped by the end that I wanted to keep going all night. I got up early on Monday morning just to sit there and gloat. It gave me such a lift at the start of a tough workweek.”
We want to cherish our possessions and we also want to feel free of them. I want to keep every toy that my children ever loved, but I also want to have plenty of space in our apartment.
With outer order, we achieve that balance.
Outer order offers nine promises:
1 OUTER ORDER SAVES TIME, MONEY, SPACE, ENERGY, AND PATIENCE. I move more smoothly through my days. I don’t waste time searching for things; I don’t struggle to put things away; I don’t have to run out to buy a duplicate of something I already own. It’s easier to clean. I feel less frustrated, less rushed, and less cramped. I’m not frittering my life away on trivial chores and annoyances.
2 OUTER ORDER FOSTERS PEACE WITHIN RELATIONSHIPS. I spend less time nagging at or arguing with other people. I avoid boring questions like “Where’s my passport?” “Where’s the toner?” “Who left the mess in that room?” “Where does this go?”
3 OUTER ORDER CREATES A FEELING OF SANCTUARY. I experience true leisure because I don’t feel pressured to jump up and deal with a mess. Once visual noise is eliminated, I feel more focused and there’s more room in my mind, my schedule, and my space for creative activity. Instead of being sources of stress, my home and my office are places of comfort and energy. I can revel in the beauty of my possessions because I can see and reach everything easily. I have plenty of room for everything that’s important to me. Our physical experience colors our emotional experience, and when my body is in a place that’s orderly, my mind becomes more serene.
4 OUTER ORDER REDUCES GUILT. I feel relieved of guilt about the possessions I’ve never used and the projects I’ve never finished. Because I make better use of what I already own, I can buy less in the future. And I know I’ll leave a lighter burden for others to handle after I’m gone.
5 OUTER ORDER ALLOWS ME TO PROJECT A MORE POSITIVE IDENTITY TO MYSELF AND TO THE WORLD. I feel greater self-possession; I feel more self-assured and capable. Once I’ve cleared away the things I don’t need, use, or love, my surroundings reveal to me, and to others, the things that matter most to me. Careful curation means that my space and my possessions reflect my truest identity.
6 OUTER ORDER RELIEVES ME OF THE FEAR OF PEOPLE’S JUDGMENT. I’m more hospitable because I can invite people over without hours of preparatory cleaning. I don’t panic at the prospect of an unexpected guest or an emergency repair. I’m pleased to show my space to others.
7 OUTER ORDER REFLECTS WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW IN MY LIFE. Because I’ve let go of things that once—but no longer—played an active role in my life, I have more time for what’s important right now. No more giant toys from my children’s babyhood, no more rows of thick law books crowding my office bookshelves. I keep a few precious mementos from the old days, but most of my space is devoted to what’s important now.
8 OUTER ORDER CREATES A SENSE OF POSSIBILITY. When too much stuff piles up, I feel paralyzed. Digging myself out of the mess seems insurmountable, so I stay stuck. When clutter is gone, I have more choices about the future: what to buy, what to do, where and how to live. Because I’m no longer hemmed in by possessions, I feel a sense of renewal.
9 OUTER ORDER SHARPENS MY SENSE OF PURPOSEFULNESS. I know what I have, why I have it, and where it belongs. I make good use of everything I own. There’s nothing random, no uncertainty, no default choices. I’m surrounded by meaningful possessions that are ready for me to use them.

About the Author

Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin is one of today’s most influential observers of happiness and human nature. She’s the author of many books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers Outer Order, Inner Calm; The Four Tendencies; Better Than Before; and The Happiness Project. Her books have sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages. She hosts the top-ranking, award-winning podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, where she explores practical solutions for living a happier life. Raised in Kansas City, Rubin lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. More by Gretchen Rubin
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