I thoroughly enjoyed The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and I am a regular visitor to her blog. So when I read that she had a follow-up to her bestselling book, and that it was all about how to make a happier home, I was eager to get my hands on Happier At Home.
My own home has been a bit neglected of late. There was a time when I read shelter magazines from cover to cover and would then be motivated to make or do or add or subtract some essential thing to the house. Lately, things have stalled. I’m simply overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. There are books in every room, which makes my heart sing (even though I have long since run out of shelf space), but there is also Lego on every blessed floor of the house. I’ve tried and tried to containerize it, but the boys will insist on playing with it, and taking it out of the many containers to which I have tried to encourage them to confine it. Then there are the papers, and the piles of things waiting to be put away, and the drifts of things I’ve piled up to deal with “later.” The pile by my desk is almost taller than I am. I’ve hit that point of saying, “I just can’t face it all!”
This is why one piece of advice from Rubin’s book is particularly welcome: go shelf by shelf. Instead of trying to tackle the entire house-worth of mess, tackle just one shelf. Usually, doing so will give you the push you need to go further. Or not. But at least that shelf (or closet or counter or drawer) got done. A corollary piece of advice is to suffer for 15 minutes a day. In Rubin’s case, the suffering was facing the task of catching up on dealing with family photos. This is something I desperately need to do too, but the real suffering is going through the disks of recovered data from my Horrible Computer Incident and putting my files back in order. God, how I hate the thought of facing that. But she’s given me inspiration, if not joyful anticipation, just by describing coming to the end of her own dreaded and enormous task.
I raced through Happier at Home, but I will confess that some of that haste was a rush just to be done with the book. Rubin has a strong personality, and while I found her voice endearing in the first book, I felt she hadn’t quite pulled it off this time ’round. Or perhaps, as a less eager consumer of shelter magazines, I am also a less eager reader of advice books.
Still, one piece of advice from her last book has stuck with me for years: make the bed every morning. Simple and seemingly obvious as it sounds, making the bed every day really does make me feel more in control of the entire house. I used never to care about the bed, but there is such a simple joy in seeing it made, and such power that comes from that tidiness.
I’m off to plan when to suffer daily for 15 minutes, because I really do need to get the computer in order. But not now.