Tag Archives: lists

Like Me, Do You Get the Urge to Do Spring Cleaning? Here Are Some Areas I Plan to Tackle.

One of my great realizations about happiness (and a point oddly under-emphasized by positive psychologists) is that for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should. After all, in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet is trivial. And yet over and over, people tell me, and I certainly find this, myself, that creating order gives a huge boost in energy, cheer, and creativity.

So I’m a big believer in the value of clutter-clearing.

Also, I’m a big believer in using outer milestones as a catalyst for action or change. Whether that’s New Year’s day, September (the other new year), my birthday, or a holiday, I think it’s helpful to be reminded that I might want to make changes in my life. (Yes, Questioners, I know you think that January 1 is an arbitrary date. Noted.)

So spring, for me, is a reminder to think about spring clutter-clearing. I’m not inspired to do deep cleaning like window-washing, carpet-cleaning, or anything like that. Spring reminds me to tackle nagging clutter build-ups.

I look for places where I tend to stick things and forget about them. Do you have this problem? For me, I’m looking at these areas: Continue reading

Got the Urge to Do Some Spring-Cleaning? Avoid These 5 Classic Mistakes.

Spring CleaningIt’s spring! (In my part of the world, at least.) And with spring comes the urge to do some spring-cleaning. The warmer weather and the fresh breezes make me want my home to feel orderly, spacious, and clean.

So far, I’ve tackled three kitchen cabinets, a closet, and my pile of white t-shirts. It feels great.

One of the things about happiness that continually surprises me is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, and inner self-command. I write about this connection in Better Than Before, in The Happiness Project, and inHappier at Home. (All New York Times bestsellers, I can’t resist adding).

This connection fascinates me; in the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet or an overflowing in-box is trivial, and yet such things weigh us down more than they should. And clearing clutter is so energizing and cheering!

I’ve learned the hard way, however, to avoid these classic mistakes during spring-cleaning, or clutter-clearing generally:

Continue reading

7 Things I Learned About Myself, from Getting a Dog.

barnabycloseup-300x342As I may have mentioned, my family and I just got a new puppy — a cockapoo named Barnaby. He’s fourteen weeks old, and super sweet and delightful.

However, he is a dog, and even more so, he’s a puppy. I knew that his arrival in our household would mean big changes — and would also teach me a lot about myself.

So far, here’s what I’ve learned: Continue reading

Do You Fall Prey to These 4 Types of Impulse Purchases?

impulse-purchase

When we’re trying to change our buying  habits, one challenge is that marketers are so clever at enticing us into making impulse purchases.

In David Lewis’s book Impulse: Why We Do What We Do Without Knowing Why We Do It, he provides a list of the four main types of impulse buys, developed by industrial economist Hawkins Stern in 1962.

Do you recognize any of these categories in your own purchasing patterns?

1. Pure impulse buying — you make a true novelty purchase, or escape purchase, that’s very different from your typical purchasing pattern

2. Reminder impulse buying — you see an item or remember something that reminds you that you need an item

3. Suggestion impulse buying– you see a product for the first time and imagine a need for it

4. Planned impulse buying — (isn’t this label an oxymoron? oh well) you make a purchase based on price specials, coupons, etc.

Now, I know that some folks out there are my fellow under-buyers, and we have to force ourselves to make impulse purchases of the #2 sort. Even when I know I need something, I hate to buy it!

Interestingly, Lewis notes that people generally don’t consider it a mistake to make impulse purchases. Research suggests that only about 1 in 5 people regret it, and 2 out of 5 say they feel good about it. (If you don’t feel good about it, here are 5 tips to resist impulse shopping.)

If you battle impulse purchasing, what category gives you the most trouble? How do you combat it? Of course, we’re always told to shop with a list–and seeing these four categories makes it clear why that’s helpful in fighting impulsive spending.

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  • If you’re a fan of good order, you’ll be so satisfied by a visit to Things Organized Neatly on Tumblr.  Beautiful, beautiful order. One thing that has surprised me about happiness: the extent to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.
  •  I’ve heard from many real-estate agents who are giving Happier at Home to their clients. If you’d like personalized, signed “Tips for Happiness in Your New Home” cards to go with the books, or signed, personalized bookplates, request them here. But you don’t have to be a real-estate agent to ask! Ask one for yourself or for friends. (I can mail to U.S. and Canada only, alas).

Can the Simple Act of Making a List Boost Your Happiness?

seishonagonWhen I was in college, I took a class on the culture of Heian Japan,  and the one and only thing I remember about that subject is The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. This strange, brilliant book has haunted me for years.

Sei Shonagon was a court lady in tenth-century Japan, and in her “pillow book,” she wrote down her impressions about things she liked, disliked, observed, and did.

I love lists of all kinds, and certainly Sei Shonagon did, as well. Her lists are beautifully evocative. One of my favorites is called Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster:

  •  Sparrows feeding their young
  •  To pass a place where babies are playing.
  •  To sleep in a room where some fine incense has been burnt.
  •  To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy.
  •  To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival.
  •  To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.
  •  It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

Other marvelous lists include Things That Arouse a Fond Memory of the Past, Things That Cannot Be Compared, Rare Things, Pleasing Things, Things That Give a Clean Feeling, Things That One Is in a Hurry to See or to Hear, People Who Look Pleased with Themselves, and, another of my very favorites, from the title alone, People Who Have Changed As Much As If They Had Been Reborn.

Making lists of this sort is a terrific exercise to stimulate the imagination, heighten powers of observation, and stoke appreciation of the everyday details of life. Just reading these lists makes me happier.

How about you? Have you ever made a list of observations, in this way?

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Now for a moment of sheer self-promotion: For reasons of my own, which are too tiresome to relate, I’m making a big push for Happier at Home. If you’ve been thinking about buying it, please buy now! If you’d like a little more info before you decide, you can…

Read a sample chapter on “time”

Listen to a sample chapter

Watch the one-minute trailer–see if you can guess what item has proved controversial

Request the book club discussion guide

Get the behind-the-scenes extra

Final note: I love all my books equally, but my sister the sage says that Happier at Home is my best book.

Stock up now! Okay, end of commercial. Thanks for indulging me.

photo by: koalazymonkey

What Gives an Object “Life”?

nautilus-shellIn The Phenomenon of Life, vol. 1: The Nature of Order, Christopher Alexander asks, “Can we find any recurrent geometrical structural features whose presence in things correlates with their degree of life?”

He identifies fifteen features that appear again and again in things which have “life”–whether that thing is a sketch by an Impressionist, a wooden door, a Norwegian storehouse, a Japanese tea bowl, the Golden Gate Bridge. Or natural things, like a giraffe’s coat, palm fronds, a spider’s web, Himalayan foothills, muscle fiber.

The 15 features are:

  1. Levels of scale
  2. Strong centers
  3. Boundaries
  4. Alternating repetition
  5. Positive space
  6. Good shape
  7. Local symmetries
  8. Deep interlock and ambiguity
  9. Contrast
  10. Gradients
  11. Roughness
  12. Echoes
  13. The void
  14. Simplicity and inner calm
  15. Non-separateness.

It’s not always easy to understand, but just looking at all the illustrations is a wonderful exercise. I’m a word person, not a visual person, and this book really did a lot to help me understand how to look at objects.

I love schemes like this, that seek to identify the different elements of very complex wholes. I love taxonomy–and dividing people into different categories–and lists of all sorts.

For instance, just as I love Alexander’s approach, I love this scheme by John Ruskin in The Stones of Venice, about the nature of the Gothic:

“I believe, then, that the characteristic or moral elements of Gothic are the following, placed in the order of their importance:

  1. Savageness
  2. Changefulness
  3. Naturalism.
  4. Grotesqueness.
  5. Rigidity.
  6. Redundance.”

I don’t really know what Ruskin is talking about. But just this set of ideas, put together, makes my mind race.

How about you? Does Alexander’s scheme ring true for you? Do you have similar lists that you love?

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I had a great time seeing my friend Adam Gilbert.  If you’ve ever wanted to make your life healthier–by eating better or exercising better–check out his program on My Body Tutor–“no more excuses.”

Are you interested in launching a group for people doing happiness projects together? These groups have sprung up all over the world, and one of my favorite things on my book tour was to meet some of the groups. Intrigued? Email me, and I’ll send you the “starter kit.” Read more here.

Ten Kitchen Gadgets You SHOULDN’T Live Without

Everyone knows that home cooked meals are the best. Not only do they tend to be healthier for your body, they also often provide quality time with your family. Making your kitchen more user-friendly, therefore, can improve both your physical and emotional well-being, not to mention the money you will save by resisting the temptation to go out. 

For this article, I asked my intelligent, fun, and “foodie” friends what gadgets they absolutely could not live without. Within two hours, I received sixty-two responses! Here are the items most frequently mentioned in those postings.

KitchenAid MixerEasily a dozen people called the KitchenAid mixer their Number One cannot-live-without item. Most reflected the opinion of my friend Liz who wrote: “The KitchenAid mixer the unrivaled god of all kitchen appliances.”

Cheese Knife by Pampered ChefIt may not be glamorous, but my friend Tim swears by it. It slices cleanly and easily and at only $9.75, it is a real bargain.

Pineapple Corer and Slicer. Although I love pineapple, I had given up on buying fresh ones because they are so difficult to prepare. So I was very glad when Tamara mentioned this product, and several other people chimed in to agree that it is a great innovation!

Microplane Zester from Raw EpicurianTarra enthusiastically recommends this grater, and several other people cheered for it as well. She wrote that is an “utter win!”

Egg Slicer.   A number of friends mentioned this inexpensive little gadget and I agree with Charlie that it “makes life so much more simple and easy to deal with!” I personally also use it for slicing mushrooms. 

Salad SpinnerI was surprised by the ground-swell of enthusiasm for this product but now I’m going to buy one! Many people agreed with Pam who says the Salad Spinner has been a useful, time-saving gadget in her kitchen for many years.

Spice Mill by IKEAElizabeth calls this spice mill an important part of her kitchen. Invest in some good spices at IKEA as this grinder fits atop all of them.

Batter Bowls by Pampered ChefTim chimes in again with a heartfelt argument for his beloved batter-bowls, which he swears he cannot live without!

George Foreman GrillsThese have been around for a while, and they have staying-power for good reason. They are easy to use, they reduce fat in your food, and they are easy to clean. Vanessa says she has had one “forever” and still uses it all the time.

WhisksToo many people to name here said that whisks were an indispensible part of a complete kitchen.

 

Seven Ways To Boost Your Mood in Just Five Minutes

It’s easy to fall into a funk. Life is so busy: kids, work, commuting, housework, social commitments. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t ignore your internal alarms. Try one of these easy ways to improve your mood and your outlook on life. You’ll be glad you did (and so will everyone around you!)


Five Minutes of Complete Silence. Lock yourself in the bathroom if you have to or sit in your car with the radio off. Count backwards from 300, which takes about five minutes. Without the din of machines or the cacophony of voices, real and electronic, you will find yourself ready to face the day again.
 
 
 
Get Organized. Sometimes our feelings of discomfort are a result of clutter. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of a task, try tackling it in five minute increments. A good, calming place to begin may be with your CD or DVD collection. Get them in their proper cases and alphabetized, a few at a time.
 

 
Eat a Protein-rich Snack. Sometimes reduced energy and poor moods are the result of low blood sugar. Stop what you are doing for five minutes, eat a handful of trail mix, and just relax. You may be surprised to find how much more peppy you feel!
 
 

Kiss! When was the last time you spent five full minutes just kissing? Kiss your partner (and don’t do anything else) for five minutes. You’ll reconnect and feel much better, guaranteed!
 
 

Shred Stuff! A little harmless aggression can do wonders for your mood. Old bank statements, student loan letters, junk mail…spend five minutes chewing up documents and smile!
 

Write a Thank You Note. Chances are, there is someone you know who is long overdue for a thank you note from you. Or perhaps there is someone in your life you just want to let know how much you appreciate their love or friendship. Take five minutes to let them know you care.
 

Stretch! Okay, you may have to imagine a beautiful blue sky and a green field, but get up and get your blood moving. Many of us spend hours at our desks. Stretch your arms, legs, back and feet. You’ll soon feel like tackling the rest of your day.

Forget The Long Lines And Crazy Parking: Give Your Loved Ones A Gift Online


 
In the age of the internet, gone are your excuses for not remembering someone special with a gift during the holidays. You need not fight crowds at malls or elbow your way into a post office. You can find the perfect item from the comfort of your own home. However, with the myriad choices to comb through, you might get discouraged. Fear not! Here are six great gift ideas, all available while you shop your pajamas and enjoy your morning coffee.

Netflix Gift SubscriptionWho doesn’t love movies? You can give a Netflix subscription for a month, a year, or anywhere in between. One month costs only $9.99 and a full year is $118.88

iTunes Gift CardGot a teenager or college student on your list? You can’t go wrong with an iTunes gift card. Buy them online in increments of $15 – $100 dollars. They come in a variety of styles, the newest features The Beatles!

Amazon.com Gift CardsLet the lucky recipient choose from a wide variety of options: books, audiobooks, music, toys, housewares, clothing, electronics and more! Gift cards start at $10 but go all the way up to $5,000! Plus, Amazon offers instant email notifications, so even if you wait until the very last minute, you can get it all done.
 

Pandora Internet Radio SubscriptionFor just $36 a year, give the gift of high quality audio, commercial-free, internet radio. Pandora is easily customizable for the most enjoyable radio experience they will ever have!

Harry and David Fruit of the Month Club.  Every moth, Harry and David promises to deliver “top quality fruit, brimming with flavor” to your friends or family members. Monthly selections depend on what is in season, but include delicacies such as tropical pineapple, sweet grapefruit, juicy pears, and more. Prices range from $99 to $299 dollars. Standard shipping delivery charges are included in your gift subscription costs.

 
Audible.com Gift SubscriptionAudio books are wonderful for the busy person who loves to read but spends time stuck commuting or doing other things where reading, either in print or on an e-reader, is impractical. Consider giving them an audible.com certificate. Audible.com’s audio books can be downloaded to a variety of audio players and costs only $7.49 a month.

 

Five Perfect Persimmon Recipes for Holiday Gatherings

The persimmon is a sweet, tangy fruit whose name is derived from the Greek word Diospyros which means “fruit of the gods.” Persimmons are a wonderful, out-of-the-ordinary treat.  Just be sure to eat them when soft and ripe, as an under-ripe persimmon will be the most sour thing you have ever tasted! However, your patience will be rewarded and you can delight your friends and family with these exotic recipes.


Persimmon Cheesecake.  Mmmmm…cheesecake! Give this classic favorite a new twist with the addition of tangy persimmon.  “This light and delicious cheesecake is made with fresh persimmons and a walnut crust,” says a contributor to Allrecipes.com.

Curried Persimmon Soup.  Persimmons, ginger, onion, and chicken broth simmer to olfactory perfection in this lovely soup, perfect on a chilly day with good, adventuresome friends!

Pomegranate Persimmon Salad with Warm Goat Cheese.  A beautiful array of bright greens and a rainbow of fruit colors give this lovely salad its visual appeal, but you will be in heaven when you taste the pairings of the creamy, warm goat cheese with the sweet and tangy pomegranate and persimmon fruits. 

Persimmon Cookies.  A delicious frosting of persimmon puree and orange peel give these zesty, slightly spicy cookies their remarkable flavor. Pair them with hot chai tea for a moment of instant delight and relaxation.

Persimmon Bread.  A favorite gift and potluck item is banana bread, but surprise your friends with this tasty switch.  Nutmeg, cinnamon, dates, nuts, and persimmon puree combine to make a beautiful bread that is sure to be savored.

 

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