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Review: Happier at Home

It’s no surprise to anyone at this point, but Gretchen Rubin’s book Happier at Home is another home run!

Although I listen to her podcast and have read several of her books, I somehow missed this one and didn’t realize that she’s actually completed two happiness projects. The first one, about which she wrote The Happiness Project, was followed a few years later by a second, nine-month project which followed the school year.

This second one is the focus of Happier at Home, which covers such topics as possessions, family, marriage, body, and neighbourhood. Written in a very similar style to the first project analysis, Happier at Home examines some of the same questions: whether it’s selfish to pursue happiness, whether money can in fact buy happiness, and to what extent you can influence the happiness of those around you (and vice versa).

I honestly have nothing bad to say about this book. Rubin artfully combines anecdotes with research, so she can say “here’s what worked for me,” while at the same time explaining why that particular behaviour is backed up with research – or, in a couple of cases, how she deliberately defied the research and did what works for her.

Her key premise in both of her happiness projects was to “Be Gretchen,” and she talks throughout Happier at Home about the importance of doing what is true for yourself. She presents the research, but also shares the real-life changes she made or how she was able to incorporate the info into her home.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Go read it! Gretchen Rubin does not disappoint.


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Lightening review: Option B

As you’re looking at how to start next year, may I humbly suggest reading this thoughtful and insightful work by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. The two, each excellent writers of their own bestselling books (I read Sandberg’s Lean In earlier this year and am partway through Grant’s Originals).

Using a careful balance of anecdotes and research, the two draw the reader into the story of Sandberg’s worst day, the day her husband died suddenly, and what she learned from joining ‘the club no one wants to be in.’ They discuss the three Ps (personal, pervasive, and permanence) which cause people to remain in their grief when something terrible has happened.

Although I’ve never lost a spouse, the book examines in some great detail the importance of building resilience as an individual, group, or organization. Written from Sandberg’s perspective since it focuses on her loss, it is both heartrending and humorous. Although the book covers (as the tagline says) “facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy,” it also touches on a host of other topics: raising children throughout grief, issues of single parents, pre-traumatic growth, and equality for women and minorities.

Sandberg admits that when she wrote her first book, she didn’t fully understand the difficulty faced by single parents (particularly women), which I found to be thoughtful and endearing.

The book is clear and well written, but difficult to read: it’s hard to think about the depth of loss the authors are writing about. No one wants to experience that. But I also think reading a book like this, candidly including things such as humour after loss and things she wished she’d discussed with her late husband, can prepare someone to face loss.

I don’t want to face difficult things. But it is helpful, and reassuring, to hear from someone who’s been through very difficult time (and to read the evidence of many others) and come out on the other side.

“I now know that it’s possible not just to bounce back but to grow. Would I trade this growth to have Dave back? Of course. No one would ever choose to grow this way. But it happens – and we do.”

The book goes on to quote Allan Rucker, who was paralyzed: “It’s not a blessing and there is no disguise. But there are things to be gained and things to be lost, and on certain days, I’m not sure that the gains are not as great as, or even greater than, the inevitable losses.”

Wow. When, God forbid, the time comes for me to respond to something terrible, may I have even a fraction of that attitude and perspective.

Go read this book.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: round 2 (time for action)

I read Marie Kondo’s book last year (and wrote about it here), and wasn’t intending to read it again so soon. But I’m currently wanting to clear my space, and really feeling uncertain about where to start, so once again I ordered it from the library and happily picked it up.

A light read, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is both whimsical and practical. Kondo takes possessions seriously, along with the relationship people have with them. I still find some of her views a little “out there,” but again I found a lot of the information and instructions make sense.

Some of the highlights of this reading round include:

  • If you don’t really love something, what is the point of keeping it?
  • Sometimes an item has fulfilled its purpose with you already, and you don’t need to feel bad about it. For example, a gift someone gave you was a thrill and informed you of their caring and affection. If you don’t love the item, its job with you is done and you can get rid of it without any regrets.
  • Even if you get rid of something you later wish you hadn’t, having a tidy home will save you all the trouble and stress of searching for it. You’ll quickly realize you don’t have it and can then find the information or replace the item.
  • Have a purpose for tidying: imagine what you want your life to look like, think about why, and keep that firmly focused in your mind.
  • Tidying up your house can be really fun! And it’s all about examining your inner self.
  • The right time to read books is when you first encounter them. I think this could be applied to other stuff too – the right time to use them is when you first encounter them. Otherwise they’re not just right for you and you should let them go.
  • Allow yourself a personal book hall of fame of your favourite titles.
  • The point isn’t to get rid of everything or to only keep useful items. The point is to love everything you have, and avoid wasting time on anything else.

Last time I read her book, its purpose was information. I considered the principles and ideas she put forth but didn’t do much about it. This time around, I want to use the inspiration from reading the book to actually go through my things and tidy my life up!

Will keep you posted as I go. Step one is clothing, and I’m a little scared because I think it’ll mean I have to go shopping once I’m done.