Book Review: ‘Outer Order, Inner Calm’ by Gretchen Rubin

By Barbara Danza, Epoch Times
February 20, 2019 Updated: February 20, 2019

The mere title of Gretchen Rubin’s newest book, “Outer Order, Inner Calm” delivers a shot of peace before you even read a page.

Rubin, the author of the popular book “The Happiness Project,” has been thinking about this concept for a long time. In 2014, she deemed it one of her “secrets of adulthood” that outer order contributes to inner calm.

“This is one of the things that has surprised me most about happiness and habits,” she wrote. “For most people, an orderly environment helps them feel more energetic, more creative, and more cheerful. This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for most people.”

Since then, she’s clearly poked and prodded at this concept and how universal of a truth it is. She now offers the manifesto in the fully titled, “Outer Order, Inner Calm, Declutter and Organize to Make Room for Happiness.”

In this small, easy-to-digest read, Rubin, points out her discovery that “outer order contributes to inner calm—more than it should.”

Indeed. It almost seems unreasonable to suggest that one may benefit emotionally from organizing the office or cleaning out a closet; that rearranging the pens on top of your desk could be the ticket to getting a better handle on a looming deadline; or that simply putting away the pile of laundry you’ve been staring at for a week could lead to an overall improvement in happiness.

But we know it’s true, don’t we? Well, if there is still any doubt, Rubin’s book makes a convincing case.


She goes on to advise on how to achieve such a peaceful existence. If you’ve been looking for a quick spark of inspiration to get going on improving your space—both inner and outer—this is the place to start.

In “Outer Order, Inner Calm,” Rubin walks the reader through the five steps for establishing outer order: make choices, create order, know yourself and others, cultivate helpful habits; and add beauty.

Step by Step

In “Make Choices,” Rubin guides us through the tough questions one must ask oneself when, for example, sorting through clothing: “Does it currently fit?” “Do you actually wear it?”

“Create Order” offers an array of practical tips, tricks, and ways of thinking to employ as you roll up your sleeves and put everything in its place.

“Know Yourself and Others” recognizes the importance of temperaments, habits, and preferences. Rubin dives a bit into the psychology behind outer disorder and the common issues of living with other people, seeking a deeper understanding.

“Cultivate Helpful Habits” aims to facilitate maintenance of the newly created outer order and, my favorite section, “Find Beauty” adds the element of delight.

Bite-Sized Advice

One of my favorite aspects of “Outer Order, Inner Calm,” is its format. The book itself is small, at 5 by 7 inches.

Advice and insights are shared succinctly, in bite-sized pieces. White space and simple line drawings round out the presentation, delivering a decidedly calming and uncluttered invitation to dip one’s toe in the water of what would otherwise be a daunting and overwhelming task.   

This is the sort of book you want to keep at hand if outer order (or inner calm) is a goal you’re aiming for. Reading any part of it for five or ten minutes provides a boost of motivation to get up and make progress, and the tips are the kind you’ll want to be reminded of over and over again.

Don’t miss the top 10 tips in the back of the book, a nice final touch.

“Outer Order, Inner Calm” ($16.99) is available for pre-order now and will hit bookstore shelves on March 5.

“Outer Order, Inner Calm” by Gretchen Rubin. (Courtesy of Harmony)
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