By DANA BRIGANDI
"Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life" by Gretchen Rubin is the follow-up to Rubin's best-selling book, "The Happiness Project," which detailed her year of discovering what makes her - and those around her - happy. This book focuses on how she and her family can be happier at home.
I love, love, love Gretchen Rubin. Sometimes I agree with her so much that I think we could be best friends - if we could just meet!
While unloading the dishwasher one afternoon - a completely monotonous task that most of us do everyday - Rubin felt a wave of homesickness that she didn't quite understand. She realized that her home also contributed to the elements of her happy life, so her new happiness project would focus on home.
Her goal was a place that calmed and energized her while making her feel safe and appreciating the happiness that already was there.
Rather than begin in January, she started in September - the "other" New Year - and dedicated the school year (through May) to make her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort and love.
Each month, she tackled a different theme: Possessions, Marriage, Parenthood, Interior Design, Time, Body, Family, Neighborhood and Now. And as I read each chapter, I quickly realized that much of my life, like hers, is the "same": same husband, same daughters, same home, same daily routine, etc.
I enjoyed how Rubin's suggestions were applicable. Rather than advocating that everyone toss out all their belongings and live a "simple" life, she realizes the value many of our possessions hold. So, a more manageable approach is to "go shelf by shelf" and "cultivate a shrine." I realized that to an extent, I already did some of this. I've tried to pare down my "things" to only those that I treasure or hold some sort of practical usefulness. I only have as many books as will fit on my bookshelf (well, sort of if you don't count the stack by the bed, or in my kids' rooms). And I dedicated one wall in my home to family pictures, so it would be more impactful when I saw them, rather than haphazardly scattered throughout the home (my shrine).
When it came time for "Time," Rubin came up with a brilliant discovery that I immediately began using in my everyday life: Suffer for 15 minutes each day. And by "suffer," she means do that thing you've been putting off because you know once you start it, it will consume you. For me, it's vacuuming - and yes, I can do that in 15 minutes one day a week. Then it's done; I've suffered for my 15 minutes. It also gives a reasonable deadline for going through the house and maybe doing what you've been putting off - cleaning the fans, washing the inside of the fridge, ironing that pile of clothes, etc. - while giving you the satisfaction and relief of knowing the task has finally been completed.
I love making scrapbooks, but they take a lot of time and energy, especially now that I no longer have a dedicated space in my home for crafting. So, I started small: Go through my digital albums and order the prints. 15 minutes. Done. When the photos arrive, I can spend 15 minutes organizing them. And then maybe I'll spend another 15 minutes putting them into smaller photo albums where I can write captions on the side. And then, when the time comes to do the scrapbook, the photos are organized by date and the memories are preserved. Simple, huh? But sometimes it takes someone else telling you a better way to do it. And for me, that person is Rubin.
At the back of the book, Rubin provides suggestions for further "happiness" reading and books she enjoys or inspire her. She also provides a daily "Moment of Happiness" via email, a monthly newsletter and other happiness tips at www.happinessproject.com. She even offers 21-Day Happiness Projects that you can customize. It's a great site and I recommend the daily "Moment of Happiness" email. It is delivered in the morning, before you start the craziness of your work day, and for me, it always brings a smile.