Saturday, September 29, 2012

Just Finished: Happier at Home

I read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project a few years ago after a particularly stressful year of school when I was feeling like there was no chance of finding a real grown up job. I saw the book on the shelf at the store and thought, "Hey, that could be a happy book to read. (Duh, it had "happiness" right in the title) I'll give it a shot." What I got didn't necessarily tell me how to be happier but it was definitely an entertaining research project presented in a way that made me think about how I could apply the ideas to my own life. When I was given the chance to review Rubin's latest book, Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life, I jumped at the chance. It turns out I loved it just as much as The Happiness Project.

Here's the (incredibly long) synopsis:
In the spirit of her blockbuster #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin embarks on a new project to make home a happier place.
One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness. Homesick—why? She was standing right in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realized, with love for home itself. “Of all the elements of a happy life,” she thought, “my home is the most important.” In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home. And what did she want from her home? A place that calmed her, and energized her. A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks. Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already.
So, starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.
In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.
Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well.
With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire readers to find more happiness in their own lives. 
I'm not one to usually read lifestyle/self help/memoirs but there's something about the way Rubin writes about her research that I love. Her happiness projects are so personal (obviously, as everyone's project would be so individualized) but I still loved reading about them. She's, essentially, a regular person doing regular work and family related things but she's allowing us to see how she uses herself as a guinea pig when it comes to happiness research. I was constantly learning things from her research and thinking about how I would apply what she was doing to my own life.

I was particularly interested in her first month - Possessions. I have a lot of stuff. I admit it. I sometimes think that I don't really have a lot of things but then I move (and I've done that quite a few times in the last several years) and realize that I have a lot of silly little knick knacks. Sometimes I feel like I should get rid of a bunch of it and stop buying things but then I realize, I like these things. I don't have little china cats covering every inch of my house (I think my boyfriend would leave me if I did). I have the odd item that (usually) has some sort of meaning. The little shelf of giraffe figurines? I have those because I am tall like a giraffe and the goofy looking animals make me smile. The white ceramic owl that's really a vase but is sitting next to my Percy Jackson books? I bought that purely because I thought it was cool looking. And I don't think there should be anything wrong with that. Buy what you like but once you find yourself being suffocated by stuff...well, then you've got a bit of a problem. I think it's all about balance and I think that's what Rubin was getting at with this chapter as well.

I've often thought about doing my own happiness project but I'm guilty of thinking that it would be too much work. What kind of things would I focus on? I can't just copy her project as I am in a completely different place in my life. I'd like to do it. Really, I would. I think it would be interesting to gain some more insight on my life and figure out how to be happier. But, for now, I'm still keeping it in the "something to try" file. I'll keep you updated if I decide to give it a try :)

I would definitely recommend Happier at Home. I think Gretchen Rubin has a great knack for sharing information while also writing an interesting and compelling research book. You don't necessarily have to read The Happiness Project first but I suggest reading it at some point in time. Even if this kind of book isn't your usual reading material I encourage you to give it a try. You might learn a tip or trick that just might make life a lot...well...happier.

Thank you to Random House Canada for the copy to review in exchange for an honest review.

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