Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happier at Home: A Review


As many of my long-time readers know, I have been working on my very own Happiness Project, adapted from Gretchen Rubin’s best-selling book (you can read my review of the book here).  A few months ago, Rubin published her second happiness project book, Happier at Home where she concentrated on a number of projects within her own household.

While this second book didn’t hold the same meaning for me that the first did (probably because I’m not in a place in my life where I need it as much), I did get several great ideas for small projects of my own.  First and foremost, I want to update my Happiness Binder (which I have done and will reveal here soon).  Overall, I enjoyed the book and reading about Ms. Rubin’s projects—there’s always something to be learned from other people’s revelations and outlooks on life.

So here are a few things that are discussed in the book and my take on them:

  • The book starts off with this quote: "The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life." - William Morris, "The Aims of Art."  I find this to be very true.  Many of us rely on the comforts of routine, whether because it makes us feel more in control or simply because it allows us to (more) easily accomplish the everyday tasks.  But those tasks don’t need to be mundane.  They can be fun and enjoyable if we let them be.

  • She talks about how research is really “mesearch” and that the best way to learn about a subject is to write a book about it.  Sadly, I am not going to undertake that kind of project at this point, but I can definitely relate to her point that worrying about and getting agitated by the little annoyances in life, despite how happy you are, is simply not worth the energy.  I find this particularly difficult to overcome—too often I find myself annoyed by the little things I have absolutely no control over.  So why do I let them get to me?

  • Ms. Rubin talks about the importance of possessions, how we often feel embarrassed by our enthusiasm for them.  She says that buying things, photographing them, cataloging them, writing about them is a way to engage with the world.  This was a “eureka” moment for me, and the first thing I thought of was our Philofaxy community.  We all share the same general experiences—we love stationery, planners, pens, and no one but those of us within the community understands our love for these things.  I wouldn’t say that we are ashamed or embarrassed by our love, but I know that I often feel odd for telling people, simply because they don’t understand.  But here, we can talk with each other about it, get feedback and opinions, makes friends, and share a common bond not only for our planner love, but beyond that as well.  And I think that’s the point she’s trying to make here—something that can start off as a simple love for something can turn into something great, something that has more meaning than its original intent.  She states, “We crave to buy and possess the things we love, even when it's not necessary...Many of the most precious possessions are valuable not because of their cost or prestige, but because of the meanings they contain…My possessions had a powerful influence over the atmosphere of my home, and they contributed to, and reflected, my sense of identity.”  I couldn’t agree more.


  • One piece of her project was to create a shrine to something she loves.  I thought this was a great idea, and one I could easily do myself.  And while I might not make a public shrine of my planners, I could certainly think of the space they currently occupy as one.

  • Finally, Ms. Rubin discusses how she always creates work for herself; how she feels she “should” be working.  I have to admit; I also have the pull to constantly be “working,” which doesn’t mean be at work, but constantly working on some self-imposed project or another.  Of course, I do these projects because I enjoy them.  But, as she herself stated, I often feel as though someone is forcing me to get something done, as if the clock is constantly ticking and there isn’t enough time to get it all done.  The reality though is that I’m the only one forcing anything.  This was another “ah-ha” moment for me—as I was studiously typing up notes on everything I had marked in this book (and there were a lot of Post-it flags in that book), I asked myself why.  The answer is that I like to take notes on a book where I think I might be able to take something away.  But the truth is I very rarely look at those notes again.  And while I also wanted to discuss the book here on my blog, I realized that I didn’t need to hash every point that meant something to me.  So I stopped.  I removed all of the remaining flags from the book, decided to ignore the rest of the points I had marked off, and simply enjoy the book as it was.  I didn’t need to take notes on it.  Simply knowing what was inside and relating it to how I might be able to use the information in my own life was enough.

And that is where my notes end.  Will I take notes on a future book?  Probably, especially if I’m trying to learn something specific from it.  But I don’t need to do it just because I feel like I should.  And that is enough for me.

In essence, while this book gave me ideas of my own little household projects I want to work on, the real value for me was learning and accepting the fact that not everything needs to be turned into work, as much as I may enjoy the process, because really, if I turn every little project into work, it will no longer make me happy and I would no longer enjoy it.  And I think that was one of Gretchen Rubin’s points of her entire happiness project.

2 comments:

  1. This is great! I often have the same problem - I take enjoyable tasks, then I impose rules and deadlines, and it ends up making it not fun at all, then I often end up giving up altogether. I want to call it a fear of commitment, but truthfully, it's more the fear of disappointment - either for myself, of others, or of what others might think of me. I think I may give these happiness books a gander to see if I can find some "sit back, relax, and enjoy" methods that work for me. :-)

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    1. Yeah, the things she takes on in order to make her life happier is very interesting. The first book is more in depth, so I would say definitely start with that one. I didn't do all of the things that she did, but it helps to know what her goals are in order to see where she's going with the book. I definitely recommend them!

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