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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.

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GH: When there's so much stuff that needs attention — messy kitchen, messy desk, messy kids — what's the best way for an overwhelmed woman to start clearing clutter?

GR: Start with the thing that's making you crazy. If you really feel like having dishes in the sink bothers you the most, then focus on your kitchen. Think where the biggest boost would come from. The number one resolution that people mention to me as something that's made them happier is — to my surprise — making the bed. Over and over, people who start doing it will say, "Wow!" It's a concrete thing you can do first thing in the morning. Then, when you come back to bed, it's so much more inviting. There's also something about your bed; it's sort of a symbol of yourself and of your marriage, if you're married. Making your bed doesn't seem to be an important thing in a happy life, and yet it can be that tiny foothold into a more orderly life that sometimes people need.

GH: Once you start, you can't believe all those years you spent not tending to it — there's no going back!

GR: Yeah. But it's very manageable. People think, Oh my gosh, cleaning out the garage, it's just beyond my powers, and maybe it is. So start really slow, start really small.

GH: Why do these small changes — like making your bed, or the 10-minute nighttime tidy-up you mention in your book — make such a difference?

GR: I think that the degree to which outer order contributes to inner calm is something that people really feel. Getting control of stuff makes people feel like they have more control over their lives — maybe irrationally, but it's one of these psychological truths. Having a messy coat closet should not be a big deal in a full life, and yet there's something about getting control of that coat closet that's surprisingly satisfying.

Originally published on December 7, 2010

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