Dec. 13, 2022

Happiness Expert Gretchen Rubin on Decluttering and Why It Makes You Feel So Much Better

Happiness Expert Gretchen Rubin on Decluttering and Why It Makes You Feel So Much Better

Take a look around. Whether you're at your desk, in your house, or maybe in your car...are you surrounded by clutter? Sure, it can be super annoying to have to clean up all that crap, but aside from making the space less disgusting, getting more...

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Take a look around. Whether you're at your desk, in your house, or maybe in your car...are you surrounded by clutter? Sure, it can be super annoying to have to clean up all that crap, but aside from making the space less disgusting, getting more organized can also contribute to your overall happiness.

In this encore episode of The Fit Mess, we are joined by Gretchen Rubin, a popular author, and speaker, known for her wisdom on happiness and habits. Rubin has written several books on the topic, including The Happiness Project and Better Than Before. In Outer Order Inner Calm, she draws on her extensive research and personal experience to offer readers a guide to creating a peaceful and orderly environment.

In our interview, we will speak with Gretchen about the importance of decluttering and how it can improve your daily life. We will also discuss some of the key takeaways from her book, including her famous "four tendencies" framework and her advice for tackling clutter and disorganization.

Overall, our interview with Gretchen Rubin is sure to provide valuable insights and practical tips for anyone looking to create more order and calm in their life. Tune in to learn more about Gretchen's book and her approach to decluttering and organizing.

Don’t let the conversation end there. Join us in our Facebook Group where you and fellow Fit Mess listeners can connect for monthly challenges, accountability to reach your goals, and a supportive community. 

Like this show? Please leave us a review here – even one sentence helps! Post a screenshot of you listening on Instagram & tag us so we can thank you personally!


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Gretchen Rubin Replay

Jeremy: [00:00:00] take a look around whether you're at your desk, in your house, or maybe in your car. Are you surrounded by clutter? Sure, it can be super annoying after clean that crap up, but aside from making the space less disgusting, getting more organized can also be a major contributor to your overall happiness.

In this Encore episode, one of the world's leading experts on happiness will share simple things you can do today to make sense of the mess you've made, and clear a path to better organization and increased happiness.

Zach: But first, this is the fit mess. We're together, we learn to develop habits that help us live beyond our mental health struggles to create happier, healthier lives.

Jeremy: He's Zach. He lives in the future with his.

Zach: He's Jeremy and he lives in the past with his depression, and we get together once a week in the present to share the obstacles we face and how we overcome them. 

Jeremy: Our guest this week, Gretchen Rubin, you know her from the Happiness Project and.

The four tendencies. She's done tons of research on, [00:01:00] on happiness and uh, really fun conversation with her about decluttering her new book, outer Order inner com is full of advice on different things you can do to get all of that crap out of your house, out of your garage, out of that storage shed.

You're spending too much money on all of that. So we're gonna get into all that with her in just a little bit. I know for me. . My house is a mess constantly. I have a seven year old, almost an eight year old actually by the time this show posts, I have an eight year old, uh mm-hmm. , and I have a three-year-old who's almost four.

And there's just toys and clothes and shoes and homework and crafts and dolls and brushes just everywhere. And I feel like 

Zach: you're describing my house, . 

Jeremy: Keeping up with that while, you know, trying to cook, trying to do dishes, trying to do our own laundry, like all of. , it's, it can be overwhelming to just have that stuff everywhere.

So, like, like a lot of people [00:02:00] around the country, we have been decluttering and it, it is so liberating. We've. I don't know how many weekends in a row where I've just had the car jammed with bags full of stuff where we go to the Goodwill or whatever thrift store and just unload stuff and man, when you get home and that that pile that was sitting there is now out of your house.

It's like you can, you can just, you physically can breathe easier. It's amazing how much mm-hmm. stuff you can accumulate and how much it physically weights you down. Yeah, 

Zach: I, I totally get it. I think, , we talked about this a long time ago, not too long ago, but we talked about it a long time ago that like, your physical.

Clutter can actually get in the way of your happiness. Mm-hmm. And I. I spent time trying to figure out how to clear my clutter because I felt like it was bringing me down because I really wasn't.

I'm not very neat and tidy in any way, shape or form. While I have continued the practice, it's amazing how living clutter free can actually [00:03:00] increase your happiness. I think it's an amazing thing, but in the last three or four months, I've had to say goodbye to a lot of things that. I never really considered giving away or, or getting rid of, and that's actually been pretty difficult for me.

I think 

Jeremy: one of, I have to say, I think one of those things you and I have in common, and we talked about it with our guest, Gretchen Rubin she has a new book, it is called Outer order it com and it's all about this, it's all about decluttering. And, we started the conversation really just a couple of days after I'd gotten her book and as you're about to find out, the book had an immediate impact on me.

I got the, uh, digital copy yesterday and. Tore through it and within probably three pages I looked at my desk cuz I was reading it at work and I went, oh my God, this is disgusting. And got outta the wipes and just gutted it, just holy cleaned out my desk. And uh, so, so thank you for helping me have a cleaner work environment.

Well, that's 

Gretchen: great. And you know, when I wrote this book, the way that I kind of structured [00:04:00] it and presented all the ideas was that it was supposed to be a psych up book, you know, that somebody would just start reading it and then throw it over their shoulder and just couldn't start, wait to start clearing clutter.

So I'm great that it had that effect on you, . 

Jeremy: I'm absolutely. So let's talk about decluttering. Why, why is it so important? Why should people be doing this? ? 

Gretchen: Well, I wanna say that some people, there are some people who are truly clutter blind, and for them it's, it's not as important personally cuz they really, they just don't see it.

It does not drain them. Like I have a podcast with my sister called Happier with Gretchen Rubin. And my sister is one of these people. She just doesn't see it. She would never close a kitchen cabinet door in her life if she didn't if she didn't have to live with other people. And, But for most of us, it really does contribute to a sense of calm and a sense of focus and even a sense of possibility.

Sometimes when you, you get rid of these little tasks, you feel much more capable of tackling the big tasks. 

Jeremy: There [00:05:00] definitely seems to be a push culturally for this to be happening right now. Obviously, Marie Kondo is, has tapped into something as well with her. We keep reading stories about thrift stores just being overrun with people, donating things.

What do you think that show sparked something? Or was there something that just sort of needed to be pushed in this direction to, to open up people's ideas to decluttering? . 

Gretchen: Well, you know, I do think that there's just this constant I, I do think that people recognize that they feel better when they have outer order.

And so anything that kind of reminds them of it and how good they're gonna feel will inspire them to act. And so I think you're absolutely right, that Marie Kondo's show, and then of course her book when it came out several years ago. Was something that got people fo focused on it and fired up. And I think there's some things that are going on right now that make it particularly resonant with people.

One is that people feel very overwhelmed with everything that's going on in the world and everything going on generally that. [00:06:00] people feel overwhelmed and kind of overstimulated. And I think there is a feeling, I can't control the world, but I can control my coat closet. And that you do, you're trying to get yourself to a calmer, more focused place.

And one way to do that is to eliminate the visual noise and annoyances that come from just having your system clogged up with junk. And then I also think there's kind of a demographic moment. There's a lot of people who are in the season of stuff with children, but there's also a lot of stuff kind of coming down from older generations, and this has been an issue.

You know, there's been all these articles about like, people today don't want brown furniture, they don't want giant sets of China and yet, and so there's a lot of managing of, okay, what am I gonna do with all this stuff? I don't, I don't want, I don't have room for it. I don't want. And yet it's coming to me and I, and so I have to deal with it.


Zach: one of the things that I, I've always struggled with is, uh, I, I guess I don't, uh, mind the clutter when [00:07:00] I don't have anything to do, but when I've got something important that I have to do and I want to procrastinate it. all of a sudden. Yeah. The clutter all around me gets so much more important and I work on cleaning it up, and if that clutter wasn't there, I wouldn't have that.

I'm sure I'd find something else to procrastinate with, but you know, how do you, how do you get yourself if you're not used to taking care of the clutter? You know, how do you make that mind shift into just putting things away and keeping things tidy? Well, 

Gretchen: you're talking about procrast clear. and Procrast Clearing is indeed a popular method of procrastination which is when something that never bothered you before, it now feels like an urgent task that must be completed before you can sit down and do something else.

Yep. So I think you have to recognize for what it is, it's not true clutter clearing, it's procrastination. There is helpful preparation where I think, you know, if you are sitting down to your desk to do an important task there. , putting things away, getting rid of trash, putting dirty dishes away, putting pens and pen cups, all that [00:08:00] stuff, you know, within reason can't help you get focused and get ready.

But that's helpful preparation. Whereas procrast clearing is often things like, I need to deal with this entire bookshelf and maybe I need to alphabetize it, or maybe I'll, I'll arrange the books by, by color, you know, that kind of thing. Um, where it's not re related to the task, it's just sort of like a gentle, general feeling of uneasiness.

But it's only, you only feel it because you want a reason, reason not to be working on something else. , 

Jeremy: does, uh, does, does clutter though, does it come from a, a deeper place of is there something psychological going on? Are we just living too fast paced to lives? Are we just lazy, like. What leads people to end up surrounded by piles of things that they don't need?

Gretchen: I think, I think a big part of it is decision fatigue. It's hard to make decisions, and it's a lot easier just to keep something, to just shove it in a drawer than it is to decide, do I want it, do I want to give it away? Is it worth it to give it away? Does anybody want this [00:09:00] thing? If I do give it away, where do I give it away?

Do I recycle it? Do I throw it? So sometimes it's like, okay, I have all these clothes that my child has outgrown. It's just easier to put them all in the attic than it is to sort through them and decide what to do with them. So I just keep them all. But at some point you have to deal with it. And then sometimes we have, we, our possessions give, give us bad feelings that we're trying to avoid.

So maybe I spent too much on a pair of pants and I never wear them. So every time I see them, I feel guilty. . But if I give them away, then I'm really acknowledging that I spent money on something that I never wore. Or maybe I have a project that I never finished, like a thousand piece puzzle. Well now I don't want to even finish it, but I just leave it out because I feel like, well, I should finish it.

And again, if I just gave it away, I would feel like I made a mistake. I but abandoning a project. The quickest and easiest way to finish a project, or we have things related to a fantasy self where it's something, it's an, it's an idea that we wish were true about ourselves. Like, I'm gonna play, I'm going teach myself to play guitar, so I [00:10:00] have a guitar, but I never do teach myself 

Jeremy: Can I a fantasy.

I can I just jump in right there? I literally, last week I had a, I have an or had an electric guitar that I think I've had for 20 years that I know the same Wow. The same four chords today that I knew the day I bought that thing. And it, it was one of many things that I looked at all the time and went, ah, I really, you know, I gotta set some time aside to do that.

And I've been saying that to myself for 20 years and I finally just went enough and I just picked, picked it up, took it to the guitar store, sold it to him, and it still hurts. Like I still am like, ah, you know, maybe if I go in there I can buy it back and maybe I can still get it. But, but I know I'm never going to do, and, and PS I've got two other guitars, so not, not that big of a deal, but Right.

But it, when I read that in your book, I just went, oh my God, that this is me. I'm, cuz I we're going through this at my house right now. We've, we just took like 20 bags of clothes to the thrift store, like just unloading tons of stuff. My kids finally took their like 400 plastic cups and went, nah, we don't need these.

We have, we have like these five cool ones that. So it just, so much of what [00:11:00] you're talking about in this book really just is, is re resonating with me right now. But the guitar one, I was like, that is too weird that it's just spot on. The exact dream that I had to let go of to make space for other things in my life.

Gretchen: But that, and that's exactly right, because now that you're not beating yourself up for not playing guitar, you can have more time to do the things you actually like to do and more space for them. And you only always wanna have that nagging feeling every time you look at it. Like, ooh, you know, when am I gonna make time for that?

Yeah. I, yeah, it really, it's very freeing. Just to get rid of all that stuff that is sort of just tugging at the corners of your mind all the time. I think that's, People fa find clutters so draining. And then why they get the giant boost when they clear it out. Because over and over people are like, they just feel so good.

It doesn't really make sense. It's like, why just get getting rid of an electric? Like yeah, on the one hand it makes you feel sort of sad and whistle. But then on the other hand, don't you feel great every time you pass by the place in your house where you used to see it and it's gone, it's just like, ah, it feels like a relief.

Jeremy: It's that. And when I handed [00:12:00] it over to the guy at the shop and he plugged it in to test it, and he actually knew what he was doing. That's great that somebody is gonna make that thing sound the way Yeah, it was intended to because I couldn't do it, so that felt good. 

Gretchen: No, I think for a lot of people that's, it's very comforting to remember you're not making good use of it.

But if you put it out into the world, somebody else could get great use out of it. And so in a way it's wasteful to just keep it like, you know, gathering dust on a shelf when it could be out in the. Doing its little job. Yeah. Um, you know, very well. One of 

Zach: the, uh, things that surprised me about going through something like this was, the pain and discomfort of making the decision of getting rid of something.

But then once it was gone, like you mentioned just a minute ago, the, the freedom that you feel from. It was really quick that that freedom came to me and I felt better about it, and I was actually very surprised at how quickly I felt better about it, even though while I was making the decision it was very painful.

Is that abnormal [00:13:00] or is, have you seen that to be the norm when people make that decision to give away something, that the freedom just quickly hits? . 

Gretchen: Well, one thing that surprises people is really truly how you, how rare it is for somebody to regret it. It's people often worry about regretting it. It's very rare.

I mean, I'm not saying it never happens, but it's rare that somebody gets rid of something that, where they truly feel like they made a mistake. Just about every, you know, there's something called the Endowment effect, which is a psychological phenomenon where we endow the things that we own with more meaning.

And so we have sort of an our, our default is to hang on to. So, when in doubt, you're probably earring on the side of keeping things, even though when in doubt, throw it out or recycle it or, or, or, or give it away is a good rule. So yeah, I think people underestimate how much pleasure they will get from it, and they might overestimate the likelihood of bad feelings of getting rid of it.

The one thing I would say is that a lot of, a lot of [00:14:00] experts really argue against keeping like journal old journals and things like that. To me, the riskiest thing to get rid of is something that can never be replaced, like a journal. I would always say like the electric guitar, if you decided you just passionately wanted an electric guitar, you could get another one, but you can't get your high school journals back.

So those are the things where I would say, if you're not sure, really give yourself a little time to think about it. Cuz sometimes people get this thing, which I call Frenzy of the Clear, which is they get. Worked up with how good it feels to get rid of everything. They just start kind of throwing away everything.

Yeah. It's kind of funny. And, and in that case, you sort of wanna say like, hang on, stay mindful here. Let's really use decision making and think about what you want. And with something that is irreplaceable. It's one thing your college notes where it's like, okay, are you really gonna read your chem notes from, you know, sophomore year of college?

Maybe not right, but a journal or something. Or like, letters from an ex-boyfriend. I'm like, Hmm, really think that over. I'm not saying you wouldn't [00:15:00] necessarily get rid of them, cuz you might, but, but they are, they're of a different class in my. 

Jeremy: Well, in your book you have basically sort of five stages that help someone sort of go through that process and, and make those good decisions.

Can you talk a little bit about those five stages? 

Gretchen: Well, but the thing about the five stages is you don't have to do it in, in in that order because sometimes people just wanna jump in and I'm just like, whatever. Like, don't stop yourself. Don't think you have to do something in any particular order because, uh, whatever works for you is the right thing.

Um, but there is a logical. Think about it. And the first is to make choices because the first thing we should do is to decide what to keep and what to relinquish. And that should always, that is really helpful place to start because everything else is easier if you just have less stuff to manage, you know?

The next one is to create order. And of course, it's easier to create order, create order if you've made the decision to get rid of something. To get rid of it. Like my sister had tons and tons of paperwork and she was very concerned about how to [00:16:00] organize it. But then when she realized she didn't need to keep any of it, well then her work was done.

She didn't have to organize it. She didn't have to create any paper order because she didn't have any papers left. Another one is to know yourself. And this is something that kind of comes up throughout which. Really, people are very different in, in the kind of challenges they face, the kind of clutter they acquire, their values, the kind of habits that they, they, they uh, are attracted to.

So you really wanna know yourself and, and people wanna get to different places too. Like they're abundance lovers and, and simplicity lovers. And simplicity lovers. They like their shelves and empty counters and not a lot going on. So they really might wanna get rid of a lot of things, you know, be minimalist and then abundance lovers like profusion and choice and collections and stuff.

And they don't want a capsule wardrobe. y That's because they love abundance. And it's not that one person's right and one person's wrong, but when you see how people are approaching things differently it can help [00:17:00] you understand why, why people are doing things that maybe don't make sense to you.

Or another. Uh, another one is to know are you an under buyer or overbuy? Some people buy too much. Some people buy too little and never get rid of anything cuz they hate to buy. So again, it's. What kind of stuff is your problem and then it's easier to fix it. Another one is to have helpful habits because what we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.

So it's more helpful to like create and maintain order in kind of small ways that can just be part of your everyday life. Rather than ev, you know, spring cleaning or, you know, every six months we're gonna do some huge project. Well, that's very easy to postpone. Uh, for a lot of people. They don't have the time and the energy to do that.

So if you have these little habits that can just make your life a. Easier, more orderly, more serene, um, as you go, which I, I think for busy people is very attractive. And then the final thing is to think about how to make your environment more beautiful, because the whole point of this is to really feel [00:18:00] good in your surroundings.

And so part of it is are there little ways that don't add to outer order, but that might Make you feel like your space is more pleasant, whether that's at work or at home in your car, what are some of the things that you can do to just elevate your surroundings? So those are the five stages.

So in 

Jeremy: that, you mentioned how it's basically gonna be a little different for everybody. How do you, you're, you're famous now for the four tendencies. How do the four tendencies play into the kinds of people that are dealing with this from different. Aspects like, or different points of view, uh, 

Gretchen: right. So I'm gonna explain these now.

There is a quiz on my slash quiz if anybody wants to take a quiz that will tell them what they are. And 2 million people have taken this free quiz. But, but you can often just tell who you are from this description. So, it's whether you're an upholder, a questioner, an obliger, or a rebel.

And this has to do with how people either meet or resist [00:19:00] expectations, outer expectations like a work deadline or a request from a friend, or inner expectations like your own desire to keep an year's resolution, your own desire to teach yourself to play electric guitar. So upholds readily meet outer and inner expectations.

They keep the work deadline, they keep the New Year's resolution without much bus. They wanna know what other people expect from them, but their expectations for themselves are just as important. Then there are questioners, questioners, question all expectations. They'll do something if they think it makes sense.

They resist anything arbitrary, ineffective, or unjustified. So they're making everything an inner expectation. If it meets their inner standard, they'll meet that expectation. If it fails it. They will push back. Then there are obligers. Obligers readily meet at her expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations.

A friend who said, I don't understand it. When I was in high school, I was on the track team and I never missed track practice, so why can't I go running now? Well, when she had a team and a coach expecting her to show up, No problem. But when she's trying to go [00:20:00] on her own, she struggles. And then there are rebels.

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They wanna do what they wanna do in their own way, in their own time. Uh, they can do anything they want to do. But if you ask or tell them to do something, they're very likely to resist. And they typically don't like to tell themselves what to do.

Like they won't sign up for a weekend spin class cuz they don't know what they're gonna wanna do on the weekend. And you're absolutely. The four tendencies absolutely. Come into play with creating outer order and often explain the kind of conflicts that arise among people when they're trying to deal with outer order together.

Mm-hmm. , um, because they're coming from different 

Zach: places. So I've, I've read your book and I've identified myself as an obliger, but um, also a questioner as well, and. , I think I question first and then I oblige if it makes sense. But I do have a lot of trouble holding myself accountable. Right? I need that [00:21:00] external motivation to get things done.

So for someone who's an obliger, what would you say? Someone. Who's an obliger could do to help clear the clutter, right? How do, how do we get those expectations in place and, and make ourselves do 

Gretchen: it? Well, that's a great place to start because obliger is the biggest tendency for both men and women. So you either are an obliger or you have many obligers in your life.

So anytime we're trying to figure out how. Like, oh, you know, the oblig, they're the big ones. And so, um, and as you say, the, the key thing for Obligers to remember, or if you're dealing with an obliger, is to meet inner expectations. Obligers must have outer accountability. Um, I cannot emphasize this enough, they need outer accountability.

So thinking about things like priorities or self-care or making time for yourself, or motivation, it doesn't work for obligers. What they need is outta accountability. And it's very easy to do with this if you want a clear clutter. So you, you might. At the guest room, so I'll invite somebody to come stay for the weekend.

Now you gotta clean out the guest room. [00:22:00] You could throw a party. You could think about your duty to other people in your household. Other people in this household are gonna find it much easier to stay focused put things away. I wanna model good behavior for them because I want them to learn to, uh, have outer order.

And so I need to do this for them. Um, you can think about your future self. If I come to the end of this year and I have done nothing about this like horrible situation in the basement, I am gonna be so disappointed in myself. I have to do it. You could hire a professional organizer. I mean, a lot of times it's great to hire someone who's a professional accountability partner because they know how to hold you accountable.

And the mere fact that you've paid will help keep you accountable and you know, they can give you expert advice. Or even if you, if you can't pay, pay for a professional organizer, just make a date with a friend. I, I, I am kind of a happiness bully. That's what my sister calls me. and I, I beg my friends to let me come over and help them clean, clean their clutter, cuz I love to do it.

And for a lot of people I realize I'm [00:23:00] useful just by making the date and coming over. I don't even, you know, maybe I hold a garbage bag open, but I don't even really do that much. But they just need me to be there to be like, this is what's happening now. And I can't just wander off and start, flicking through the, the channels on the television side cuz Gretchen's here for us to clear clutter.

And so just having someone present is a good source of accountability. So there's a million ways to have accountability once you realize that that's what you need and that is what an avoider 

Jeremy: needs. Hey, I've got some time this weekend. I don't know if you're busy, but feel free to come on over. I got plenty 

Gretchen: to do.

I love to do it. Love, love, love, love to do it. Yes. It's my favorite thing. Um, 

Jeremy: you mentioned being a, a, a role model and uh, obviously kids play a big part in clutter, at least in my house and I I I'm assuming Z as well. Yeah, mine too. How do we get kids on board with this? 

Gretchen: Well, one thing to do is to realize that you are in this season of stock and it's just a period in your life where there is just stuff everywhere and just, and don't, and, and try to just kind of accept it for what it is and en enjoy the season of life.

I think it's very hard to maintain. The [00:24:00] kind of order that many people prefer when there are little kids in the house or, or, or even, you know, medium sized kids in the house, . Um, but then they will come and they will move out with their clutter, and then you will be even nostalgic for all the Legos that were once on the floor.

so enjoy it while it left. I think for children, a lot of times they need help. Managing things. Like I was talking to a friend of mine and he's like, oh, you know, my daughter, she's got like 70 stuffed animals, but she just plays with the same too, but they're everywhere. I. How do you expect a four year old child to figure out what to do with 70 stuffed animals?

Like that's on you. Mm-hmm. , you know? Mm-hmm. like part of it is we need to help them manage it, and it's hard because especially if you have like loving grandparents and aunts and uncles and birthday parties, it can seem like, it's not like you're buying this stuff for them, right? It's just coming in in these huge waves and how do you manage it?

So part of it is, is finding places where you can donate it. It's great if there's a child that you know who can use it or wants it. I've done things like when my daughter went to a summer camp, I called the, we were driving her up there and I called the director and said, we have so many board games and [00:25:00] puzzles.

Would you like them? And then they were thrilled because, you know, what do you do on a rainy afternoon if you're at summer camp? It's like they go into this big barn and. Board games and puzzles, and of course these things like they don't last long, um, under those conditions. So they were absolutely thrilled.

I mean, we had that car jam packed. And it made me so happy to think that they hear lots of kids would be playing with these things instead of them just gathering dust on our shelves. And so, and often children are very, are very ready for this. They understand like, you have a lot of toys, other children don't have many toys.

Why don't we give it? They often get very, they're very interested in. And also children often wanna be old. Like they don't wanna be little, they're, they like, they've outgrown things. So the idea like, well you don't really play with my little ponies anymore. Do you still want them or is that more, more something that you liked when you were little?

A lot of times I'll be like, yeah, I don't like, you know, I don't like those anymore, so maybe you keep one my little pony for momentous sake. But then the rest of them can go. It, it is hard though because you gotta manage the. the [00:26:00] boots, you know, if you've got children in multiple ages, it's like, what do you keep to use as a hand me down?

How do you find it when the child's the right size? It's a whole process. But the more you weed out as you go, the happier you are. I mean, I, I, I don't, I mean, I, I, and I am not perfect at this. There's many times where I've opened up a box of stuff for my younger daughter and I'm like, why did I even keep this?

Like I hauled this around and stored it and bought a plastic box to put it. , and I'm just telling you right now that no one's wearing that thing again. I could have gotten rid of that five years ago. 

Zach: So my daughter is seven and it's, it's interesting trying to go through some of these exercises with her because she is a total rebel.

Mm. It's just my wife and I have, we devise strategies of. You know, here's the option we'd like her to take. So he, we need to figure out two other options that she can rebel against to mm-hmm. to go down that route. I just wanted to comment that it, it, I was smiling the whole time that you were saying that because with my daughter, it's very [00:27:00] difficult to get any of that stuff done because I say, well, you don't play with my little ponies anymore, so let's get rid of these.

And her immediate reaction is, well, yes I do. I'm going to, and now that you say I don't, um, I'm going the other way. Okay. 

Gretchen: Will you set. Right. Yep. Because you said to her, you said like you set up something for her to argue with. Yep. So what I would say, things that you could try is to appeal to her identity.

Is she an orderly child or is she a messy child? She's fairly messy. Is she fairly messy? Does she wanna be orderly or is she orderly in any way? 

Zach: She is orderly in many ways. I think where she really lacks is just putting things back when she's done with them. So over time things just build up 

Gretchen: because, because you could try to tap into an identity of like, she's the responsible one.

Or like not many seven year olds could do what she did. What she can do. Um, you've seen her put her, like when you put your mind to it, I know that you can. Do you want this space? A lot of times for a rebel, it's like, [00:28:00] well, I want this. It's like, oh, but I, I know you always like to do, you know, you like to spread out and have everything out.

I'm surprised that you don't put everything away just to get it outta your way. Cause I know how you like to have room, like to think about, well, why would she want that? Why would that be what she would choose? Right. Because if you're constantly setting up consequences, that feels like control because.

that's what it is. And they don't wanna be controlled. And so like, even like a four year old rebel will see through that very quickly. Uhhuh, , sometimes it can work, but if you set it up that way it, it can get pretty hard to manage, but it, the more you can say this is what you want. Mm-hmm. , or, and don't say don't rescue.

So like if she's got a friend coming over, it's like, let it be embarrassing. Mm-hmm. , it's like, oh yeah, I guess it was, I guess it was kind of a bummer cuz you guys didn't have any room to. . That's what happens when you don't put things. Yep. You know, I mean, all the rebels that I know who are adults say that negative consequences are the, are really, really important.

But it can be hard as, it's so hard as a parent to let your child experience [00:29:00] negative consequences. It's really, really, really hard. But it really works because that's not what you want. It's like every time you turn around, somebody runs a new room and picks it up. It's like, that works for you. That's perfectly acceptable.

Jeremy: So we've talked about decluttering and, and the four tendencies, and now kids. Is there a way to identify which of the four tendencies your kids fall into so that you can manipulate them and control them Better ? 

Gretchen: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, sometimes it's very obvious, like it sounds like, I mean, rebels are pretty obvious.

I think. Right, right. I mean, it sounds like your daughter was pretty clear. Yeah, I mean, upholds are pretty obvious. Sometimes questioners are very obvious. I mean sometimes oblig, it, it, like for children it's not always easy to tell because they're not autonomous on the way that adults are. It's often very easy to tell.

My younger daughter is an upholder. I think I'm probably particularly attuned to it cause I'm an uphold. She was an upholder from like the time she was five . And it's funny, like as an upholder, like I really understand how to talk to her in a way that I think people who are not [00:30:00] uphold, like they don't understand her perspective.

And I've heard this from many people who are rebels, like they're like, I don't understand who's, how someone who's not a rebel is the parent of a rebel child. Cuz it's really, really hard cuz the other tendencies to see the world in a different way. It's really challenging. So I think you wanna, and I keep thinking that I should write a test for quiz children, but quiz, but it's very hard because it's like children, you know, they, the difference between a six year old and a 16 year old is so vast.

It would be, it would be very difficult to do. But a lot of times it's the same things. It's like, is it a kid who won't do something unless they understand why? I mean, it's one thing to be like, why is the sky blue? Why is this water cold? I mean, that's like the way little kids ask why. But if it's more like, well, why should I?

Like what is the reason for this? That's a sign of questioner. And a upholder is a child when you're telling yourself, I'm such a great parent, um, cause this, I just say, Hey, do this. And the kid like marches off and does it for the next three years. I never have to remind my child to feed the fish. It's like, okay, I [00:31:00] don't think that's something that you're doing.

I think that's just like, I think that's just what you got and the great handout. There's so much power and so much to admire about all the tendencies, though it makes me sad sometimes when people say like, one's better than another one. Cuz they're all terrific. They, but they all have their downsides too.

And so you have to figure out and as you say, when you can speak someone's language. Um, like, I've learned this with my husband. I can't say to him something like, what's your work address? Because he'll say, what do you wanna know, , he won't, he won't do the simplest thing unless he understands why. So I have to say like, oh, I'm filling out a form.

What's your work address? Oh, that's funny. You know, or like, do I, instead of saying like, what time are we leaving to go to x, y, z place? I have to say, I'm wondering if I have time to go to the gym. What time are we leaving for x, y, z place? Because he'll tell me if he understands why, but he won't do anything if he doesn't understand why.

So here it comes up in clutter clearing. I say to you, we need to clean up the basement this weekend. And a question is like, why this weekend is an arbitrary date. Why should we [00:32:00] clean out the basement at all? We never use it. I don't understand this, isn't I, I mean, I just like literally have no concept like why I would spend one second of my day doing this.

So you have to say, Hey, I don't know if you know, but they're gonna come work on the furnace next week. And so I'm thinking that we should go down and clean up the basement this weekend so they can easily do their work. And so we pay half price because otherwise they're gonna spend all these, all this time just moving our stuff around.

And that's gonna make us mean that we're paying more in the end for the number of hours that it's gonna take them to do the job. It's not arbitrary. I understand why. I understand why I'm doing it Now I understand why this is like gonna save me money. I'm on board with that. Oh, that totally makes sense.

But if you just say like, why don't you ever do anything I ask you to do? Why is everything an argument? It's like, well, that, that's not gonna make me comply, . And so speak to a quest a lot of times, sequester, it's like, I don't understand why I should make my bed. I just unmake it every night. I'm like, okay, fine.

Don't make it then. I mean, if it's bug, if it just feels, feels like a big waste of time, there's no magic [00:33:00] to making your bed. For some people, it makes them feel happier or calmer. A lot of people feel that way, but if you don't, if it just bugs you, the idea that you'd just be wasting your time, then don't do it.

very questioner. 

Jeremy: So in our closing minutes with you, you have tons and tons of really just practical tips to sort of get started is are there two or three that you could quickly point out and say, here's just, you know, if you're just looking at this giant mountain and going, how do I climb this thing?

Yeah. , what's, what's the first step or two 

Gretchen: that they can do? Log in there. Yeah. Well, the first thing I would say is, A lot of people start by thinking, I need to get organized. Don't get organized. What you need to do is start by elimination, so get rid of everything. You don't use need or love, and you may find that you don't need to organize it at all.

So, Do not head out to the store for sure. Like the people who wanna buy the complicated hangers and the crazy sets of containers. It's like, wait, wait, wait. You may not need that stuff at all. A rule that many, many people find helpful is the one minute rule. You know, anything you can do with in less than a minute, you do it.

A delay that just gets rid of a lot of little [00:34:00] tasks. One thing that works for a lot of people is to store it at the store. Some people have a kind of clutter related to anticipation. Like, I'm gonna buy this birthday gift even though I don't know anybody who's having a birthday, cuz it could come in handy.

Or I'm gonna buy this ice scraper for the windshield cuz seems like one day it could be useful to have a wind scraper, you know, an ice scraper. It's like, well, maybe you should wait and see if the need ever arises. You can just store it at the store and then if you need it, you can go get it. You know, you'll, you'll know if you need that.

Because sometimes people accumulate things and then they have to manage them and find them when they need them, and it's just a bunch of work for things that it's not clear that they even really need. One thing that a lot of people like for close is the X factor. If you ran into your ex on the street wearing that particular item, would you be glad or would you be sad?

And if you're thinking, oh my gosh, I would not wanna be caught wearing that baggy sweatshirt with a big hole in it, if I ran into my ex, it's like, okay, maybe it's time to retire the giant sweatshirt . [00:35:00] 

Jeremy: That's funny. Mm-hmm. the, uh, the store at the store, at the store thing that, that hits home for me too, because a lot of times the advice that I try and give my family and my friends when, when asked is I just try and think.

If the room where that is is a storage unit, how much are you paying? You know, per, yeah, whatever, square feet to store it so that one day you don't have to buy it again. How much are you gonna spend in the next 10 years storing that thing in that room where you could literally go walk in the store and for probably a fraction of the price, just buy it again.

Uh, so that, that's totally, 

Gretchen: well, I'll tell you what, the one lesson from this is that I should immediately invest in self-storage because that is the best business I've ever heard of my life. It's just astronomical how much self-storage in the United States is happening and what people are paying every year.

And most of them never go get it at all. Don't even know what's in there. And, and as you say, the things they could, if they had, they could have saved so much money by not storing it. They could have bought it all new. Yep. For the price that you're saving, that old monopoly set, you could have bought a new [00:36:00] monopoly.

when you actually wanted it, which might never be right. So yeah, that's one thing. If you, I have a friend who has self storage units in four states. Oh my gosh. I feel like bold. I feel like Bort with the soul splitting . I'm like, oh my gosh, I can't, I can't even contemplate having that . Um, and it's just terrible, you know?

Mm-hmm. . And she, it's the classic thing where she inherited all this stuff and like doesn't have room for it, so where's it gonna go? But, so rather than make the hard. In the moment of like, what am I gonna do with my aunt's stuff? It's beautiful, but I don't want it. I don't have room for it. Yeah. She just stored it.

Oh, yeah. You know, and now she's paying for it. That's great. For, I don't know how long. I mean, shockingly long. 

Jeremy: That's amazing. Uh, Gretchen Ruben, thank you so much for, for this time. It was a lot of fun to talk to you and, uh, a lot of really great advice. And, uh, the book is available now. 

Gretchen: Yes, it is outer order inner com.

Jeremy: All right, that is Gretchen Rubin, her new book, outer Order Intercom. Get it now. [00:37:00] There's a link on our website to get a copy for yourself. Uh, as you can tell, tons of great advice in there on how to get rid of things. Uh, it's funny though the, the guitar conversation, uh, how ironic it was that that came up in the book and, and how I had just gone.

Just today I was walking by, I don't even remember what it was. I, there was some, some magazine or something that was on the ground and it was some reference to music, and it reminded me that I just gave up that guitar and it's still bugging me. I still can't let go of the fact that I let go of that guitar.

Even though I will never play it, even if it was still in my house, I will never play that thing just because it's hasn't been a priority for 40 years and it's not gonna be one now, but it's just, it's, it's amazing how that, of all the stuff I've gotten rid of that thing still, still bugging 

Zach: me. Yeah.

What's even more ironic is that I actually just got rid of my guitar about. Two months ago I had a cheap electric guitar and I've, I've always wanted to learn how to play, I mean, for [00:38:00] 20 plus years. Mm-hmm. , I've wanted to learn how to play, but I've never, and I've always had something to practice on, but I've never practiced.

And I, I finally gave up the dream and I, I gave it away about two months ago and, It definitely is not bothering, like once I actually decided I'm not going to learn how to play guitar, I'm gonna give this away, it's not taking up space. It was so freeing for me and I, I don't regret that one in any way, shape or form.

But that's one of those items, like she talked about like if I ever get the bug to go, To wanna learn guitar again. I can go buy one. I mean, they're relatively cheap. Mm-hmm. . But yeah. That is kind of funny that she mentioned guitar. You gave yours away. I gave mine away. It's just everyone's giving guitars away.


Jeremy: giving one away on the show. No, we're not. We don't. No, no, no. They're already gone. So yeah, outer Order Intercom is the name of the book. Get your copy now. And she also, she also has her own podcast, happier with [00:39:00] Gretchen Rubin. So check that out. It's a, it's a great show. 

Zach: It was, it was a good conversation with her. Um, I'm super happy that she took the time to talk to us. Yes, . 

Jeremy: I see what you're doing. Sorry, I had to make that, I had to make that play.

I see what you did there. 

 Before we get outta here, we are always talking about trying to be open to your feedback. We have a new way for you to do that. You can call our voicemail line. That number is 2 0 6 6 5 9 7 6 6 7.

You can rewind that or I'll tell you again, 2 0 6 6 5 9 7 6 6 7. If you have questions, you want to share your successes, share your failure. Have feedback, whatever it is, call anytime. Leave a message there. We'll play it on the show. Uh, unless it's terrible , but it won't be call anytime. We would love to hear your feedback through that and to be able to use it on the show would be a lot of fun.

And I believe that's all we've got for you this time. Thanks so much for, uh, all the ratings and reviews on, uh, apple Podcasts and Facebook and Twitter and, and all the interactions that we get there. Uh, we hope you'll follow [00:40:00] us there and help spread the word about our little show so we can help reach more people and possibly help them, uh, find ways to improve their lives as well.

Thanks so much for listening. Uh, Zach, anything to add before we go? 

Zach: No, I don't have anything. I actually have 

Jeremy: to get back to work. Me too. All right, we're outta here. We'll see you in a couple weeks. All right. The fit Thanks. 

Gretchen RubinProfile Photo

Gretchen Rubin

Author and Podcaster

Five-time New York Times bestselling author, podcaster, and speaker, creator of the Four Tendencies framework, exploring happiness and good habits.