Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: Outer Order, Inner Calm

August 2020

Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness by Gretchen Rubin


Rubin makes the case for organizing your spare time to improve productivity, but also your state of mind and her signature happiness mindset in Outer Order Inner Calm.  She explores the psychology that is often the culprit as to why we hold onto things and have a hard time letting things go and cleaning up our messes.

  1. Understand Rubin's 5 Phases. Rubin's five phases of the decluttering process are to make choices, create order, know yourself and others, cultivate helpful habits, and add beauty. These serve as guidelines for assessing possessions and sources of clutter and distraction in one's life. She offers tips for how to make determinations, and which things to look out for, like freebies, anything broken, anything inessential which you are hanging onto, etc. 

  2. Find what works for you.  This compact read is broken into small, easy to digest sections which offer lots of advice for methods of decluttering and relaxing. Some tips will assuredly feel more relevant than others, and it is up to the reader to determine which of the many pieces of advice that most resonate with them. Rubin seems to understand closely the relationship that people have with admiring and envying others, and warns against obsessing over other's habits and things you can't control, because lifestyles and preferences may be very different. 

  3. Limit Clutter in Life. In addition to being aware of the clutter objects in one's life, such as the things occupying your office and your closet, Rubin also suggests examining one's habits to relieve stress and free up time. She recommends the "One minute rule," which is accomplishing immediately any task which would take less than a minute, and the "Ten Minute Rule," which means that you should take ten minutes during any task transition period to clean, organize, and declutter before moving on to the next task or space. 

Ultimately, Rubin's book leaves readers understanding that one's approach to decluttering is a very personal journey, one which can be accomplished in myriad ways but implemented in only one uniqiue manner for each specific person. Rather than envying the successes of others, one should start small and determine how best to go about improving their lives and managing their clutter.

Gretchen Craft Rubin (born December 14, 1965) is an American author, blogger and speaker. Rubin is a writer on subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Better Than BeforeHappier at Home, and The Happiness Project. Rubin's books have sold more than two million print and online copies worldwide in over thirty languages.