on happiness

First of all, I am not a big fan of self-help books…not anymore. I read them a lot in college, and I found them helpful and uplifting (at times), but then I would put them away and go back to being my imperfectly unhelp-able self.  At one point, my bookshelves were full of SARK‘s entire collection, a few books from Og Mandino and a few other random titles that spoke to me in the bookstores. I’ve donated most of those books in my “old age” (although, I still have some of the SARK books tucked away). I’ve found that I learn more about myself and the world just by reading classic literature and the news. It’s amazing to a book from the 1920s and realize that people are the same, struggles and successes are the same, love is the same…

With that said, when Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project came out in 2009, I was intrigued. But I waited a long time to buy it (in paperback–I’m frugal) and I’m still reading it…it is packed with information and I find myself highlighting an awful lot, and agreeing an awful lot. Rubin’s follow-up book, Happier at Home comes out today but I’ve been reading it over the past two weeks. I was the lucky winner of the book on Leslie’s lovely blog, Lights and Letters.

Although I haven’t found myself highlighting Happier at Home as much as I am in The Happiness Project, I really found the home focus interesting. Since Naoto & I are trying to finish our home, and make it our own (as opposed to a 1970s relic) it helps to think about our own routines and happiness in addition to pretty design and finished projects. The books is broken down into nine areas Rubin focuses on in her quest for happiness in her home. Some of the areas spoke to me more personally than others–especially Possessions, Time and Now.

A few tidbits I found most interesting:

+ It is estimated that Americans spend an hour a day searching for things, and getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40% of housework (p.44, Possessions)–so true for me (hence the little red toolbox!)

+ “…happiness is not having less; happiness is not having more; happiness is wanting what I have” (p.58, Possessions)–I love this quote…and while I think for us, happiness is having less (we have a lot of stuff), I do love some of my excess (like each and every one of my four sets of dishes!)

+ Rubin doesn’t talk on her phone or check her email while running errands. She quotes Virginia Woolf, “My mind works in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way.” (p.138, Time)–This one will be in the forefront of my mind. I need to cut myself off from my cell phone more often, and I don’t even think I’m quite as bad as most people. When I quit my job, I had to turn in my corporate (and only) cell phone. It was six months before I got a new one…in those six months, I listened to birds and looked at flowers and thought about things on my walks…now I tend to text or check Twitter. It’s such a bad habit, and one that I’m eager to break…and in general, I need to be more idle and unconnected…

+ “Now is now” (p.250, Now)–Now is the time to do the things you want (and need) to do. “We’re not playing tea party; this is real.” Rubin started her original happiness project to appreciate life more. I always have a nagging feeling that I’m not appreciating these days enough–no kids, little responsibility, kind husband, home of our own…and I think that’s why I’ve enjoyed these books so much. The big take home for me is to cross off those nagging tasks so you can enjoy the good stuff. Get rid of the junk so you can enjoy the treasures. Stop saying yes to things that annoy you and start saying yes to things that fulfill you.

Your turn: Do you read self-help books? Have you read The Happiness Project or Happier at Home? Will you?

*Reviewing Happier at Home was not a condition of winning the book, I just found it an interesting read and thought it would be fun to share on the blog.

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2 thoughts on “on happiness

  1. Alex says:

    I read her book I even started implementing my own happiness project. It failed but I think it’s time to pull my lovely book out and try again.

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