Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin [Book Review]

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As a professional organizer, I often like to look through pictures of spaces other organizers have done, take online classes, and read organizational blogs and books. Recently, I came across the book Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin, and requested it from the library. Rubin’s name sounded familiar to me, I realized why after checking the book out. Rubin also authored The Happiness Project, which I purchased several years earlier and eventually donated doing a sweep of the house inspired by Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

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Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin shares how organizing and simplifying can change your whole life.
Outer Order, Inner Calm’s byline is Declutter and Organize to make Room for Happiness. How could I resist?

Rubin starts by giving reasoning for why outer order contributes to inner calm—stating that it’s hard to feel in control of all aspects of your life when you’re surrounded by stuff and chaos. I could not possibly agree more. I have experienced this exact thing, and it’s why I now help clients tackle their clutter.

Rubin then takes her reader through step-by-step directions of evaluating items in their home for their usefulness. She encourages the reader to use their own standards to match their lives and avoids giving rigid, “one size fits all” rules.

Gems from Outer Order, Inner Calm:

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin is full of helpful snippets for getting motivated to organize!
  • Identifying your “why” for decluttering each space in your home can be helpful and motivating.
    • Keep your path clear and your end goal in mind.
  • Each of us must find our own way [to find order].
    • This couldn’t be more true. You could organize 20 pantries, and they all need different systems to function for the family using them.
According to Gretchen Rubin, taking a picture of your space can give you a fresh perspective on your clutter so you can get organized.
  • Take a picture to evaluate clutter.
    • Sometimes clutter is more obvious in a photo than it is in actual life. When you see a space every day, it’s hard to get an honest idea of what it looks like. Plus, it’s super satisfying to see the progress you’ve made in an “after” picture.
  • Get organized, but not too organized.
    • There’s no point in alphabetizing soup cans or putting crayons in rainbow order. While this over organizing makes an impressive picture, it’s a system that’s not practical in the long term.
  • Create a “Bowl of Requirement” where you put your important pocket items when traveling to a new place or staying in a hotel.
    • First, I love the HP reference. Second, it’s a great idea for keeping track of your things when you’re away from home.
According to Gretchen Rubin, storing things at the STORE is a great way to declutter your home.
  • Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
    • Aiming for perfection can paralyze. Getting anything done is better than getting nothing done.
  • Store things at the store.
    • Resist the urge to stock up on items you don’t use often. Items like lightbulbs are the perfect example. They’re fragile, can be tedious to store, and dealing with a burnt-out bulb for a few days until you can get to the store isn’t a big deal.
  • Most importantly, Rubin says to stop the clutter before it starts by changing shopping habits.
    • Go into stores you need to go into with a plan and a list. Grab a basket instead of a cart. Don’t get suckered by the free samples.
  • After decluttering, go back for round 2 or 3 later.
    • Once you’ve lowered your tolerance for chaos, lower it more by going on another purging and organizing spree.
  • Leave a space or two empty. It’s decadent.
  • Form positive habits that positively affect daily life such as making your bed, put things away instead of down, and don’t procrastinate on one-minute jobs.

Final Thoughts on Outer Order, Inner Calm

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin is a quick read and a great motivator if you're getting ready to organize and purge your home.

Overall, I found this book to be a pleasant reminder of why keep my home organized and why I feel it’s important to help others organize. I have seen, firsthand, the benefits of purging and creating order in a space that was once chaos. While this book wasn’t educational (f0r me, as an organizer) it was motivating and encouraging.

All in all, Rubin made some excellent points. Her book served as a reminder to fine-tune my own habits and avoid paralysis because of perfectionism. A quick, light, worthwhile read, for sure. Pick up a copy at your local library and enjoy it!

More Life with Less Mess Book Reviews

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margaretta Magnusson

The More Of Less by Joshua Becker

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