January Book Review: Happier at Home

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(image via Happiness Project)

Before Christmas I picked up Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project follow-up Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life. First of all, I bought it at Anthropologie on sale. Second, I know Annie had spoken highly of Rubin’s Happiness Project and had even offered up her copy for me to borrow before reading this one. I also thought not only would this be a good read, but what a great read to share with my fellow nesters.

I was wrong.

However, despite the fact that I am admitting that I disliked a book that was supposed make my home happier, I feel like the overall concept was positive and powerful and feel like I would have benefit more from reading an outline (see below) of this pile of papers than actually reading the book itself. Admittedly, I didn’t even finish the book. I got precisely halfway and stopped. I couldn’t find it in myself to finish when I have so many other GOOD books to read (see Books at a Steal).

The premise: For those that have never heard of The Happiness Project, Rubin goes month by month focussing on general theories of happiness and she tackles them with manageable resolutions. The second book is different in that she focuses on themes that matter for home as you’ll read below. What I’ve done below is outline the various themes (9 months worth) and list the resolutions that Rubin outlines from the book.

Month 1: Possessions

  • Cultivate a shrine
  • Go shelf by shelf
  • Read the manual

Month 2: Marriage

  • Kiss in the morning, kiss at night
  • Give gold stars
  • Make the positive argument
  • Take driving lessons

Month 3: Parenthood

  • Underreact to a problem
  • Enter into the interests of others
  • Go on Wednesday adventures
  • Give warm greetings and farewells

Month 4: Interior Design

  • Resist happiness leeches
  • Dig deep
  • Respond to the spirit of a gift
  • Abandon my self-control

Month 5: Time

  • Control the cubicle in my pocket
  • Guard my children’s free time
  • Suffer for fifteen minutes
  • Go on monthly adventures with Jamie (her husband)

Month 6: Body

  • Embrace good smells
  • Ask for a knock, give a knock
  • Celebrate holiday breakfasts
  • Jump
  • Try acupuncture

Month 7: Family

  • Follow a threshold ritual
  • Have an uncomfortable conversation with my parents
  • Plan a nice little surprise
  • Collaborate with my sister

Month 8: Neighbourhood

  • Be a tourist without leaving home
  • Practice non-random acts of kindness
  • Find my own Calcutta (create a secret place)

Month 9: Now

  • Now is now

I also found this quote to be helpful:

“I knew that with my home, as with everything that touched my happiness, I could build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature. It had been a huge relief to me when – quite recently – I’d finally realized that the style of my apartment (and my clothes and my music) didn’t have to reflect the ‘true’ me. Messages like ‘Your home is a direct representation of your soul!’ and “Every choice shows the world the real you!’ paralyzed me. What did my choice of throw pillows reflect about my character? Was I the kind of person who would paint a room purple? What was my real taste? I had no idea. My anxiety to do things ‘right’ sometimes made me forget what really mattered to me.”

So, why didn’t I like this book? Honestly, great concepts, unlikable author. She told many tales from her account that made her appear superior above others. She would call out individual stories from acquaintances, “Joe thinks ‘abc’ and clearly that is wrong because that is not what I think.” I felt like she was reaching out through the book to tell me, “Crystal, if you can’t run your household like mine it will never be a happy place.” A reader made the following review on Goodreads:

“I hate to say it but the more she writes about her personality, the less likable I find her. WAY less likable. She dislikes errands, talking on the phone, travelling, doing anything adventurous. Although I do appreciate her frankness in squarely addressing her personality weaknesses, she does come across as a bit of a pill. There is a rather self-righteous martyr-like tone to some parts of the book, like when she celebrates minor holidays even though they mean errands and effort (poor her).”

On the flip side, a couple of readers did say that they enjoyed this book, but they also commented that they enjoyed the first book. I would feel safe saying that if you read Rubin’s first Happiness Project and didn’t like it you will more than likely not like this one.

Please comment below with some suggestions for February’s Book Review.

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