Tag Archives: order

Secret of Adulthood: Someplace, Keep an Empty Shelf.

Further Secrets of Adulthood: Someplace, keep an empty shelf.

Now, what’s so great about an empty shelf? An empty shelf shows that I have room to expand — I’m not crowded in by my stuff, I have order and space. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, a subject that I explore at some length in Happier at Home and also in Better Than Before. (If you want to know when Better Than Before goes on sale, sign up here.)

Some people say, “Gretchen, do you really have an empty shelf?” I really do (though I have to protect it against my husband, who never sees an empty shelf without wanting to stick something on it). If you want to see it, watch here at minute 6:41.

The opposite of a profound truth is also true, however, so someplace, I also keep a junk drawer.

How about you? Do you have an empty shelf, a junk drawer, or both?

Former Navy SEAL and I Agree on an Important Habit. Not What You Might Expect.

Whenever I talk to people about their happiness projects, I ask, “What have you tried? What works for you?”

People tell me a million things they’ve done, but to my astonishment, the one resolution that comes up the most often — and this isn’t the most significant thing you could do to boost your happiness, but it does seem to be the thing that people most often try, and that does work — is to make your bed.

“Make the bed” is one of the most popular happiness-project resolutions, and in fact, the habit of bed-making is correlated with a sense of greater well-being and higher productivity.

I write a lot about this issue of “making your bed” in The Happiness Project and in Happier at Home — and it also comes up in my forthcoming book about habit-formation — so I got a big kick out of seeing that when Naval Adm. William McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, gave the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin a few days ago, he specifically mentioned the resolution to…make your bed.

Here’s the video, here’s what he says:

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

I wholeheartedly agree.

I also think that for many people — like me — an unmade bed is a broken window, which is why “Make the bed” is one of the most popular happiness-project resolutions, and in fact, the habit of bed-making is correlated with a sense of greater well-being and higher productivity.

 

(Now, some people say that, to the contrary, they revel in not making their beds. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is The opposite of a profound truth is also true, and for some people, a useful resolution might be “Don’t make your bed.” One person wrote to me, “My mother was so rigid about keeping the house tidy when I was a child that now I get a huge satisfaction from not making my bed, not hanging up my coat, etc. It makes me feel free.” Some people thrive on a little chaos. Everyone’s happiness project is different.)

What about you? Does making your bed – or not making your bed – contribute in a small way to your happiness? Or have you found other manageable resolutions that have brought more happiness than you would’ve expected?

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Secret of Adulthood: Outer Order Contributes to Inner Calm.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

 

This is one of the things that has surprised me most about happiness and habits. For most people, an orderly environment helps them feel more energetic, more creative, and more cheerful. This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for most people.

In my forthcoming book about how we make and break habits, I explore the Strategy of Foundation. I argue that habits in four key areas — sleep, move, eat and drink right, and unclutter — strengthen our self-command, and therefore help us to keep our good habits. (To hear when my habits book goes on sale, sign up here.)

Of course, a major challenge with Foundation habits is that, ironically, they’re often the very habits that we’re trying to adopt. Outer order contributes to inner calm, true, but having inner calm makes it much easier to create outer order.

Do you find that working on the area of “unclutter” helps you? Does outer order contribute to your inner calm?

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“There Is a Charm, Even for Homely Things, in Perfect Maintenance.”

“There is a charm, even for homely things, in perfect maintenance.”

— Louis Auchincloss, The House of Five Talents

Agree, disagree?

I feel this very strongly myself, and I write about it quite a lot in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Well-made, suitable tools make work a joy; keeping things in their proper places makes a place seem more inviting; old, strong objects serving their purpose feel almost alive.

When I was home in Kansas City recently, I used a particular small pan that my parents have had as long as I can remember. It made me so happy to see it! It was the perfect size and weight for certain kinds of jobs, and was as serviceable as it had ever been, after decades of constant use.

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“Old Rubbish! Old Letters, Old Clothes, Old Objects that One Does Not Want to Throw Away.”

“Oh! Old rubbish! Old  letters, old clothes, old objects that one does not want to throw away. How well nature has understood that, every year, she must change her leaves, her flowers, her fruit and her vegetables, and make manure out of the mementos of her year!”

–Jules Renard, Journal

Do you feel that getting rid of “old rubbish” helps to make you feel more energetic, more creative, more vital? As I study habits and happiness, I find myself doing a crazy amount of thinking about clutter.

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