I first heard about Gretchen Rubin while reading an article in Good Housekeeping. She was going to be a monthly columnist, and they published an interview with her to kick things off. She talked about the inspiration for her first book, The Happiness Project. It was fairly simple: she decided, one day, that she had a pretty good life, but she wanted to appreciate it more. This was very much an idea I could get behind. So, when I learned that she had written a second book on the topic, I was sold.
Happier at Home lacks the breadth of her first book, preferring instead to focus more deeply on a few main topics. Over the course of one school year (September-May), Rubin takes on a variety of topics designed to create a happier home life. September, for instance, kicks off with a look at possessions, and maximizing their use and enjoyment, while January focuses on how time management contributes to happiness. Along the way, she discusses a few of the principles that she has found make her happiest, like “I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature”. That, I think, encapsulates her approach to happiness best. It is important, essential really, to build a life that works best for you. Just because someone else says to “Try meditation!” or “Get rid of 50% of your stuff!” or “Join a sports team!” doesn’t mean that will work for you. For me, building a happy life means things like accepting my love of and interest in television as a legitimate hobby, or that I prefer moderation to abstinence.
I would mostly recommend Happier at Home to someone who had read Rubin’s first book and enjoyed it, simply because this has the feel of a sequel to it. She references experiences and research from her first book, and while the descriptions are detailed enough to give the general picture, it could nevertheless be insufficiently complete for someone who was reading this book first. All the same, Happier at Home is an engaging, practical look at how one person strove to deliberately build a better, happier life.