All posts by Gretchen Rubin

About Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestsellers, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. Gretchen has emerged as one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject. Though her conclusions are sometimes counter-intuitive—for example, she finds that true simplicity is far from simple to attain, and that used rightly, money can do a lot to buy happiness—her insights resonate with readers of all backgrounds.

Are You Clutter-Blind? Or Do You Know Someone Who Is?

4494987374_36e21d0849_bOne thing that continues to surprise me about the nature of good habits and happiness is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should.

In the context of life of a happy life, something like a crowded coat closet or an overflowing in-box seems trivial—and it is trivial—and yet I find that I get a disproportionate charge of energy and good cheer from clearing clutter.

An orderly environment makes me feel more in control of my life, and if this is an illusion, it’s a helpful illusion.

Many people feel that way, and even people who thrive on a little chaos tend to have a limit, and enjoy orderliness to some degree.

Oblivious to Clutter

However, there’s a group of people who seem oblivious to clutter. They don’t appear to see it at all. Just as some people are color-blind, these folks are clutter-blind.

“Clutter-blind” doesn’t apply to the people who can stand to see dirty dishes scattered around, because they know if they wait, a spouse will collect the dishes — perhaps complaining all the while; see these crucial facts about shared work.

The fact is, very often, people in a couple or in a group have different levels of tolerance for clutter, and the ones with the least tolerance end up doing the most tidying, and the ones with more tolerance end up doing less. Again, this is a problem of shared work. However, in most cases, the messier ones would eventually cave and do some clutter-clearing, too. They want to be in environments that are reasonably orderly (though others might disagree by what is “reasonable”).

But some people don’t seem to register clutter, ever. A friend told me, “My husband never notices anything. As an experiment, when we got back from a trip, I left a suitcase full of his dirty clothes right in front of the front door, so he’d have to step over it to get in the house. I wanted to see how long he’d put up with it.  After a month, I called off the experiment and dealt with the suitcase myself.”

Have you found anything that works?

Continue reading

Are You a Worrier? Three Tips to Worry Less.

8422339152_4403e7cd77_zI worry to some extent, of course, but I don’t think I worry as much as a lot of people.

Many people worry about how much they worry!

Today, the New York Times had an interesting article by Roni Caryn Rabin, “Worried? You’re Not Alone.

In it, Rabin points out several intriguing findings in a Liberty Mutual Insurance research paper, the “Worry Less Report.”

Apparently Millennials worry about money. Single people worry about housing (and money). People worry less as they grow older.

Some people — for instance, like my sister Elizabeth — feel that if they do worry about something, they’ll somehow prevent a bad thing from happening. Rabin points out, very sensibly, “Researchers say this notion is reinforced by the fact that we tend to worry about rare event, like plane crashes, and are reassured when they don’t happen, but we worry less about common events, like car accidents.”

Rabin also distinguishes between “productive worry,” which helps us solve a problem, and worry where you’re just, well, stewing in worry.

According to the report, here are some ways to tackle worrying: Continue reading

“There Is in This World No Function More Important Than That of Being Charming.”

1346726316_a91f3a31b9_m“There is in this world no function more important than that of being charming. The forest glade would be incomplete without the humming-bird. To shed joy around, to radiate happiness, to cast light upon dark days, to be the golden thread of our destiny, and the very spirit of grace and harmony, is not this to render a service?”

— Victor Hugo, Toilers of the Sea

A thoughtful reader sent me this quotation. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines, from G. K. Chesterton, which I quote several times in The Happiness Project“It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

Though I must say, it seems to be slightly overstating the case to say that there’s no function more important than being charming. I think I can think of a couple of functions that are more important.

Agree, disagree?

Continue reading

5 Quick, Easy Habits That Have Actually Strengthened My Relationships.

love-urban-300x197When people think about changing their habits, they often think of the diet-and-exercise family of habits.

Also, as much as I personally love habits, I know that many people associate habit-change with having to make a lot of effort.

But habits don’t have to take a lot of time or energy to form, and they can help us with any aspect of our lives. I have to admit, even now, after spending years thinking about habits, I’m astonished by how much a truly tiny habit can boost happiness.

For instance, here are some examples of a few quick, easy habits that I’ve adopted to strengthen my relationships. They’re all practically effortless, they all make me happier.

These kinds of habits are particularly helpful to me, because the truth is, I can get lost in my own head, and become so focused on crossing something off my to-do list that I neglect to make time to connect with the people who are most important to me. In the tumult of everyday life, I find it all too easy to overlook what really matters.

So I’ve made these habits: Continue reading

7 Tips for Helping Someone Else to Change a Habit.

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In my book Better Than Before, I write about the many strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. There’s a big menu of choices, which is great, because it means that we all have a variety from which to pull. Some strategies work for some people, but not others. Some strategies are available to us at certain times, but not other times.

In Better Than Before, I focus mostly on what we can do, ourselves, to change our habits. But it’s very obvious that each of us can have a lot of influence on other people’s habits.  And often we really, really, really want to help someone else to change a key habit.

So, if you want to help someone else to change an important habit (and I’ve certainly tried to do this myself, many times, in my loving habits-bully way), here are a few top strategies to try: Continue reading

Don’t Fall for the Common Habits Myth that Stops People from Making Successful Change.

2559017400_7c7b63f206_zPeople often ask me, “Why do we struggle so hard to change our habits–why do we so often fail?

There are a few reasons, but there’s one big one — a popular myth about habits that leads people astray. It makes them accuse themselves of being lazy, self-indulgent, and lacking in will-power. It causes them to fail.

What is this myth? It’s the myth that there’s a magic, one-size-fits-all solution for habit change.

You’re read the headline: “The habits that successful people follow each morning!” “Follow these 3 secret habits of millionaires! “The one habit you must follow if you want to get ahead!” “The five habits of all highly creative people!”

But here’s what I’ve discovered. And you know this, too — because it’s perfectly obvious from looking at the world around us. Continue reading

Always Late? 9 Tips for Overcoming Chronic Lateness.

13912557367_9cacc5c8d1_zIf you’re chronically tardy, how do you start showing up on time?

Many people have the habit of constantly running late — and they drive themselves, and other people, crazy.

Now, I have the opposite problem — I’m pathologically early, and often arrive places too soon. This is annoying, as well, but in a different way. As I write this, I’m realizing that I assume that chronic earliness is very rare. But maybe it’s not. Are you chronically early?

In any event, more people seem bothered by chronic lateness. Feeling as though you’re always running twenty minutes behind schedule is an unhappy feeling. Having to rush, forgetting things in your haste, dealing with annoyed people when you arrive…it’s no fun.

If you find yourself chronically late, what steps can you take to be more prompt? That depends on why you’re late. As my Eighth Commandment holds, the first step is to Identify the problem – then you can see more easily what you need to change.

There are many reasons you might be late, but some are particularly common. Are you late because… Continue reading

Lonely? 5 Habits to Consider to Combat Loneliness.

3267049486_bce4b38cba_bOne major challenge within happiness is loneliness.  The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a terrible, common, and important obstacle to consider.

Of course, being alone and being lonely aren’t the same. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s Wall Street Journal piece, Alone or Lonely, the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years. About 40% of Americans report being lonely; in the 1980s, it was 20%. (One reason: more people live alone: 27% in 2012; 17% in 1970).

Loneliness is a serious issue, Sometimes people ask me, “If you had to pick just one thing, what would be the one secret to a happy life?” If I had to pick one thing, I’d say: strong bonds with other people.  The wisdom of the ages and the current scientific studies agree on this point. When we don’t have that, we feel lonely.

I wrote a book about habits, Better Than Before, and I continue to be obsessed with the subject. Whenever I think about a happiness challenge, I ask myself, “How could habits help address this problem?”

Here are some habits to consider: Continue reading

Want to Make 2016 a Happier Year? Here’s How I Did It, Month by Month.

HappinessProjectonBookstoreShelfIf you’re looking for ways to make 2016 a happier, healthier, more productive year, may I self-promotingly suggest my book, The Happiness Project?

The first day of the new year always feels so fresh and full of promise to me — but at the same time, it’s very discouraging to look back over the year that’s just ended, and realize that I’d never accomplished an important, happiness-boosting change that I’d hoped to make.

This feeling is one of the major reasons that I undertook my happiness project.

I remember so clearly the moment when I had the idea to do it. I was on the 79th Street cross-town bus, and I looked out the window and thought, “What do I want from life anyway? I want to be happy.” I realized, though, that I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether I was happy, or how I could be happier. “I should have a happiness project!” I decided. Continue reading

3 Bad Habits That I Use With My Puppy.

BarnabyPantinginPark-300x225As I’ve mentioned, we got a new puppy — he’s an adorable five-month-old black cockapoo named Barnaby. 

He’s sleeping at my feet right now. He has a special dark corner under my desk where he likes to hang out.

It took me a lot of hard thinking to decide whether or not to get a dog — you can listen to me talk about it with my sister here — and I’m so happy we did get a dog.

Beforehand, though, I was adamant that we would spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that he had very, very good doggy manners. Better for him, better for us.

But I must confess, as much as I love habits, and as much as I’ve studied how to form habits — after all, I wrote a whole book, Better Than Before, about the twenty-one strategies we can use to master our habits — I’ve fallen into three bad puppy habits.  (I say “I” but these apply to my whole family, actually.) Continue reading

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