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Create Outer Order & Inner Calm: 10 Decluttering Takeaways

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Laura Coufal

About Laura

Who I am is a Southern California turned small-town, Midwest Mom. I am wife to Bruce and mom to my three girls. I am also dog mom to Ollie and Gracie, our quirky pups.

Back when I first started my professional organizing journey in 2013, I had what I thought of as a dirty little secret. I have ADHD and although I am organized, and enjoy the process of sorting, and tidying. I knew that there were many others with ADHD who really struggled with staying organized. I had a case of imposter syndrome and mostly kept the fact that I had ADHD to myself. That is until I learned that there are other really successful professional organizers who have also learned to compensate for their ADHD the same way that I have.

I eventually realized that my need for order and simplicity actually stems from having ADHD as a way to compensate for my short attention span. So my gifts and my challenges are all ironically tied together to create who I am,  and I am able to relate to and help others as a result of this coping method that I have developed for myself.

I help women and moms with ADHD, but I also help those who struggle with clutter without having ADHD.  Because simplicity and less clutter are always at the heart of staying organized, there is much overlap when it comes to finding solutions to clutter and disorganization.

I am dedicated to keeping my life as simple as possible and to helping others do the same by teaching them how to declutter their homes, simplify their lives, and manage their busy families better.

I have been helping others stay organized since 2013.

It is my deepest hope that you will find resources here that will bring you closer to living a simpler, more intentional, and more peaceful life. 

always have



in your space…

…but let it be

as simple

as a daisy

in a vase.


Outer Order & Inner Calm, My 10 Favorite Decluttering Takeaways.

The following is a compilation of my favorite decluttering tips collected from reading Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin: 

I am a big fan of the New York Times best-selling author, Gretchen Rubin’s book Outer Order, Inner Calm. It is filled with well-thought-out, and super helpful organizing and decluttering insight. Having recently read her book for the 3rd time, I decided to summarize my favorite takeaways for creating outer order and inner calm in our own lives. 

10 Outer Order, Inner Calm Decluttering Takeaways:

1. “Determine whether you declutter best as a marathoner or a sprinter.” 

Gretchen Rubin explains that “some people are motivated by decluttering a little at a time but continuously making progress each day. They prefer the the slow and steady route, – much like a marathoner. This approach can help you avoid getting overwhelmed, especially if you have a large amount of decluttering to do.

Marathon declutterer’s take on small projects, one at a time, until they reach the finish line. Those with ADHD who struggle with task initiation may benefit from using this method by decluttering in short timed intervals.  By setting a timer to only declutter for 10 minutes, they are able to muster the motivation to make progress.

Others prefer to tackle decluttering projects all at once in an all-out sprint fashion,” says Rubin. Once they get started and have harnessed their momentum, there’s no stopping them until the job is done. 

Both of these methods can be effective. There is no wrong way of tackling your clutter as long as it works for you and you are moving forward. Figure out which one of these methods works best for you and use your preferred style to keep making progress.

Sprinter on a track.

2. “Store things at the store until you need them. This is especially important with slow-moving items.”

I could not agree with this one more. Too many times I have been called to the homes of those who pride themselves on being good at either couponing and/or bargain hunting and end up with stockpiles of everything under the sun.

Unfortunately, excessive stocking up comes with drawbacks including finding storage space for everything. Those who stock up also risk losing control of their inventory resulting in a lack of space and order.

Outer order and inner calm are both compromised once your home’s storage capacity has exceeded its max. If you do any stock stocking up at all, let it be only for a limited amount of nonperishable items and products that you will use up rapidly.  

Leave seldom-used condiments and other products at the store until the bottle you already have is nearly gone. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere like the Pioneer Woman, there is probably a store right down the street. So let the store, store things for you, so that you can maintain calm and order at home.


3. “It’s easier to get annoyed by other people’s clutter than our own.”

This is true and it is also always easier to let go of other people’s things than it is to let go of our own things. Approaching how to deal with your loved one’s clutter should be done with sensitivity and tactfulness.  

Never get rid of a family member’s things without their permission. If you do, they may resent you for it. Instead, put any items in question into a box with their name on it and ask them to decide on these things.


4. “By cultivating helpful habits, you tidy up and create outer order as you go about your day. This helps you keep up, and keeping up is always easier than having to catch up.” 

In the book, Rubin recommends “If it will only take a minute or two to put something away then do it now”. She states that the reason this is so powerful is once you start practicing this, you are also building automatic tidying habits.

These habits end up serving us long-term. Keep in mind that if you are not in the habit of doing this, it will be hard at first, but it’s temporary and well worth the effort. Because once it becomes a habit, it becomes automatic. Before you know it, you’ll be effortlessly tidying as you go.

When we engage in automatic tidying, we are also prepping our space for the next time we use it. We are basically helping out our future selves and this is a good thing. I often speak of the “2-minute rule” when working with clients. “If it takes less than 2 minutes to put something away, then do it now.”


5. “Nothing is a bargain if you don’t really want or need it.” 

This is so true. Go back and read tip number two. Use caution when you shop not to get sucked into marketing gimmicks that coax you into buying things you don’t need. Marketers like to use fear tactics to get consumers to buy their products.

They want you make you think, “If I don’t buy this product now, it may never be this price again and I will regret it.” The one that annoys me the most is “buy one get one free” (or 1/2 off) This is not a bargain if you only needed one in the first place.  

Because so many people struggle with whether or not to buy something, I have created a list of questions to ask yourself before you make purchases. Click HERE to access it.


6. “Cast a clutter-clearing net more than just once because there is something about letting go of our clutter that often loosens our grip on our possessions.”

Rubin is right, I have seen this many times while working with clients. Once we begin flexing our decluttering muscle, it gets stronger. It is not at all uncommon for me to have a client call me up and want to do a second round of decluttering. 

This happens because once they have experienced the joy of less clutter in a room, they want to experience more. They realize that not only do they not miss what they let go of, but they also love their new, clutter-free functional space. Clutter clearing has a big payoff and those who experience it, want more of it.


7. “When we look at our stuff we see a reflection of ourselves and this is why it has the power to make us either feel calm or chaotic.” 

The clutter in our homes and in our minds is often bound together, and one directly affects the other. So when we clear our space, we clear the clutter in our minds as well. 

This cause-and-effect pattern also works in the other direction, if our minds are feeling chaotic, our homes may reflect this by becoming cluttered and chaotic too. Taking ten minutes to tidy our space helps us to feel more in control, so it is well worth the effort.   

Outfit of clothing laid out.

8. “When deciding on clothing, ask yourself this question, If I ran into my ex on the street wearing this would I be happy that I chose this outfit?”  

This one made me smile…I love it! I have frequently used a similar question with clients struggling with a particular item of clothing, “If you had the perfect occasion to wear this tomorrow, would you choose this one or is there something else in your closet that you would want to wear instead?”

It is helpful to think of an actual scenario in which you would need to wear the item in question in order to make an educated decision about it.


9. “Creating outer order gives a disproportionate boost of energy and cheer. There is so much that we can’t control in life, but we can control our stuff.”

Having our environment decluttered and organized helps us to feel more in control. We all know that feeling of finally accomplishing a decluttering task that we have been putting off for months. Taking time to complete these projects, can give us some much-needed mental peace and a sense of control. That is why making progress in this way can be so exhilarating!


10. “Containers can be invaluable, but if you get rid of everything you do not need, use, or love, you may not need to buy a container at all.” 

Once you have sorted through all of your things, and have let go of what you no longer use, you likely will end up with newly emptied containers. So you will need fewer products than you anticipated…and maybe you’ll find that you don’t need any at all! Organizing products purchased prematurely can actually end up adding to the clutter that you already have!  

It is best not to shop before you start a decluttering or organizing project. This is an organizing mistake I see all of the time. For one thing, it is impossible to know exactly how much and what size products you need before you finish sorting and purging.


Need someone to hold you accountable for getting the job done?  For more information on getting virtual help from me, visit my Virtual Organizing page. I can walk you step-by-step through the process and we can address your specific challenges together.

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