“Outer Order, Inner Calm”: a motivational de-cluttering handbook

Smart Living and Behavior

“Never label anything miscellaneous,” advises Gretchen Rubin in her new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm.  If your entire home is one big miscellaneous, this is the book for you.  Outer Order, Inner Calm is a short book of actionable suggestions about de-cluttering combined with the reasons why you should follow them.

I feel like I know Gretchen Rubin because I listen to her weekly podcast, Happier, co-hosted with her sister, Elizabeth Craft.  She is often criticized for being too perfect, too disciplined, and too happy.  She consistently provides tips, techniques, and ideas for people to try, not to copy her, but to improve their lives individually.

I need to make a poster of her nine possible outcomes of creating outer order because I need improvement in all nine areas.  And, really, who doesn’t?

Gretchen Rubin’s 9 Promises of Outer Order

  1. Saves time, money, space, energy, and patience.

  2. Fosters peace within relationships

  3. Creates a feeling of sanctuary

  4. Reduces guilt

  5. Allows me to project a more positive identity to myself and the world

  6. Relieves me of the fear of people’s judgment

  7. Reflects what’s happening in my life now

  8. Creates a sense of possibility

  9. Sharpens my sense of purposefulness

Why is clutter-clearing important?

Organizing your environment is not about being a neurotic person obsessed with tidiness. Time is finite and squandering it with endless searches for lost belongings is ridiculous.  The overused response “Don’t clean up my space – I know where everything is” is a lie.  Clutter is a time-waster and stress-increaser.

James Clear, an expert on habits, says your environment shapes your behavior.  “The key is to be in an environment that supports the results you want to achieve.”

We’ve lost important mail in our many paper piles that ended up costing us.  I sometimes find the same item stored in several places, so we lose space and money by overbuying then having to throw things out.  My son just missed an A in a course after he lost the class participation clicker in his dorm room for two weeks.

What can I learn from this book that I don’t already know?

We all need motivation.  Books, blogs, and podcasts can provide a new perspective and the spark to get started.

Gretchen differs from Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) in her approach to de-cluttering.  She believes that people have different comfort levels with abundance.  Books are a category where the two organizing specialists diverge.  While Marie is known for the question, “does this bring me joy,” Gretchen has many questions to ponder:

  1. Do I need it?

  2. Do I use it?

  3. Do I love it?

  4. Where does it belong?

  5. Who owns this?

One of her philosophies is that you don’t need to overstock basic supplies since you can always go to the store.  I prefer having stockpiles and hate going to the store, so I’ll have to disagree with this one.  Space limitations are the deciding factor for this category.  Toilet paper lasts forever and running out is disastrous.  However, when you are saving every takeout container, and they’re taking over the kitchen, it’s time to change philosophy.

My organizing dream is to have a place for everything.  Gretchen suggests putting a French twist on it by calling it “mise-en-place,” the French term for having all your tools readied, and ingredients measured and cut before you start cooking.

Gretchen supposes that we may hang on to stuff because it’s part of our past identity.  For example, the skis you can’t use anymore or the clothes that are too tight.  Professional organizer/author Peter Walsh ask clients “If this is so important to you, why aren’t you taking better care of it?” when considering what to do with sentimental objects.

De-cluttering and organizing your life are part of smart living.  Whether you tackle it all at once, á la Marie Kondo or work at it every day, creating an environment that reflects who you are and helps you achieve your goals is well worth the effort.

Other ideas from Outer Order, Inner Calm:

  1. Pretend that you’re putting your house on the market – a motivator but you may be tempted to shove everything in closets and drawers to hide things.

  2. Invite guests over – an excellent motivational tactic but, again, hiding things will set you back.

  3. Acquire less – works every time


Gretchen Rubin quotes worthy of making into a sign:

“Don’t put things down; put them away.”

‘It’s easier to keep up, than catch up.”

“Example is more powerful than admonition.”

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Fixed Purpose

Contact:  diane@fixedpurpose.com

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