Meet the Most Organized (and Happiest) Woman We Know
Gretchen Rubin — best-selling author and GH's new happiness expert (her column starts next month) — shares the right mindset and moves to help you declutter.
By Jenny Allen
Some women find happiness by taking off for exotic, far-flung places — think of Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, circling the globe. Gretchen Rubin, on the other hand, found it right at home. Rubin, a New York City lawyer turned writer, didn't want to roam; she had a husband she was crazy about, two young daughters, a lovely home, a close extended family, good friends, and a satisfying career. She had, in short, a grown-up life.
Which she loved — but, she admits, not quite enough. "I never forgot how fortunate I was," she writes in The Happiness Project, the best-selling book that chronicles Rubin's yearlong quest to live more happily (and that NBC plans to adapt into a comedy series starring Sex and the City star Kristin Davis; Rubin will serve as co-executive producer). But "I didn't want to look back, at the end of my life or after some great catastrophe, and think, How happy I used to be then, if only I'd realized it." She thought and read a lot about happiness, but mostly she achieved that delicious state by setting herself specific, tangible tasks for different areas of her life. She tackled her household clutter, got to bed earlier, quit nagging her husband (even conducting an instructive if challenging week of "Extreme Nice"), took the time to enjoy outings and projects with her daughters instead of absently rushing through them, and made it a priority to keep friendships alive with thoughtful gestures. In the daily doing of these tasks, she found her old self (by her account, too often "dissatisfied, fretful, and tough to please") softening, her pleasure in life intensifying.
Good Housekeeping visited Rubin at her spacious but cozy — and very orderly — apartment in New York City. Husband Jamie, a businessman, was at work, and daughters Eleanor, 5, and Eliza, 11, were off at school. Relaxed, warm, and gracious, Rubin smiled and laughed readily and spoke with enthusiasm, even jumping up to fetch a book from her library so she could read a passage aloud. Here, she talks about coming to grips with the clutter that drags all of us down and shares her smart, effective organizing techniques.
Good Housekeeping: It looks pretty tidy around here. Please tell us that you have clutter, too.
Gretchen Rubin: Oh, we have a huge problem with books. I used to be very disciplined about only buying three books ahead of what I was reading, but my husband corrupted me, and now I'm dozens ahead of myself! And, like everybody, I have a problem with clothes. My husband is super-diligent about always hanging up his suits, but I didn't used to hang up my coat. I just came home and threw it on the floor. The reason was, I didn't like to open the closet and get out a hanger. We already had hooks — I just never used them. The solution was right there: Use the hook.