How to Get Rid of Things That Suck Your Time & Happiness, According to Gretchen Rubin

woman overwhelmed with clutterWe humans are such busy creatures. While we've evolved past gathering berries and roots to survive, we still have that tendency to frantically collect -- and now, it's not just things to eat, but things to do and things to HAVE. But maybe it's time we politely remind ourselves that we don't NEED everything we think we do.


Ours is a world of excess (does your cat REALLY need a kit to help it learn to s*** in a toilet?), and we're all guilty of wanting more than we have and doing more than we want. But there is a cost of doing so.

When we invest in rituals that mean little to us and surround ourselves with obligations we feel "eh" about, it's easy to forget what's truly important to us.

The Stir spoke with Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits -- to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life, to share some tips on how to ID the things in our lives we can say good-bye to -- and will be happier for it.

Here, the questions we should all be asking ourselves:

1. "Does this make me happy?"

When was the last time you stopped texting, driving, and checking updates about Kim K.'s new baby to sit quietly and reflect upon your life. (Uh, never?) "Many people don't stop to think, 'What makes me happy?'" says Rubin. "But no one else can tell you. You have to figure it out for yourself. You'd think, 'What could be simpler?' But it is a challenge."

2. "Does this interest me? Do I love it?"

Oh, so your neighbor's house is covered with holiday lights, AND they're building a life-sized reindeer to put on their roof? You now have two choices: Hurry up to do something comparable or respect what they're doing and do your own thing. (Hint: Answer 2 is the preferable one.)

"You should always choose to do something out of love," says Rubin. (In other words, not because you're green with envy or worried about being judged.) "You need to be true to your own interests and values."

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3. "What fits best with my life?"

Need an example? How about this: Rubin no longer sends out holiday cards. Instead, she sends cards to loved ones for Valentine's Day. "Same idea and spirit, but a heck of a lot easier," she explains. When you get overloaded with stuff to do, take a closer look at your priorities. The bottom of your "to do" list can wait longer than you think.

4. "Is this fun for me?"

At this time of year especially, we feel the weight of the shoulds upon us. "I should make all my pies homemade." "I should play touch football with the rest of the family this weekend." "I should --" Oh, forget it, you get the picture. Not to mention the internal pressure that little "should" word puts on you.

But here's a secret. "Just because something is fun for someone else, doesn't mean it's fun for you," says Rubin. If that's the case, give it up and do something differently.

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A few examples she notes: "Don't feel like making a home-cooked meal for everyone this Christmas? Maybe you start a new tradition by eating out at a diner. Not into putting up and decorating a live Christmas tree? Maybe you just put a wreath on your front door this year."

If you're going to spend time and energy on anything, at least make darn sure it's something that will make your life happier.


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