Why Decluttering Is Important for Inner Calm

Get inspired to make room for more happiness by taking a positive approach to clutter-clearing.

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Pile of books

“Clutter” is a dirty word for many of us, conjuring images of ignored paperwork, overflowing closets and neglected kitchen pantries. But some approaches to clearing out what doesn’t belong can leave us feeling stressed and even judged. What if I like the stack of books on my bedside table?

For me, happiness expert Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make More Room for Happiness, threads the needle on this delicate subject, offering clear, inspiring ideas for how to reduce clutter in our lives—while also encouraging us to think through how we define “clutter” for ourselves.

Rubin, with warmth and humor, connects “outer order,” her term for an organized, peaceful, functional space in which to live, work and rest, with “inner calm,” a sense of well-being and even higher self-esteem. With outer order, she writes, “I feel greater self-possession; I feel more self-assured and capable…. Careful curation means that my space and my possessions reflect my truest identity.”

She offers helpful thought exercises that can help us notice and define our clutter more clearly, from imagining what our homes would look like through the eyes of a stranger, to asking ourselves whether we are storing other people’s memories or our own, to studying whether “temporary” messes like piles of shoes by the door are actually more of a “permanent” situation. 

The book itself is uncluttered, featuring one bite-sized tip on each page; this makes it unintimidating to read and easier to translate into action. In fact, I find myself using the book almost like a devotional, taking in one lesson at a time and looking around my home with fresh eyes. 

First decision—the stack of books on my bedside table can stay just where it is. But that t-shirt shelf in my closet? It just got a whole lot happier…and so did I. 

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