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The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

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The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

ratings:
3/5 (1,077 ratings)
Length:
437 pages
7 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 30, 2018
ISBN:
9780062888730
Format:
Book

Description

#1 New York Times Bestseller

“An enlightening, laugh-aloud read. . . . Filled with open, honest glimpses into [Rubin’s] real life, woven together with constant doses of humor.”—Christian Science Monitor

Gretchen Rubin’s year-long experiment to discover how to create true happiness. Drawing on cutting-edge science, classical philosophy, and real-world examples, Rubin delivers an engaging, eminently relatable chronicle of transformation. This special 10th Anniversary edition features a Conversation with Gretchen Rubin, Happiness Project Stories, a guide to creating your own happiness project, a list of dozens of free resources, and more.

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account—now updated with new material by the author—Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

This updated edition includes:

·      An extensive new interview with the author

·      Stories of other people’s life-changing happiness projects

·     A resource guide to the dozens of free resources created for readers

·     The Happiness Project Manifesto

·      An excerpt from Gretchen Rubin’s bestselling book The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles that Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)

 
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 30, 2018
ISBN:
9780062888730
Format:
Book

About the author

I'm the author of the New York Times bestsellers "The Happiness Project," “Happier at Home” and “Better Than Before.” I write about my experiences as I test-drive the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about happiness, habits, and human nature. My next book will hit the shelves in summer 2017: “The Four Tendencies: The Surprising Truth about the Four Hidden Personality Types That Drive Everything We Do.” Find out your Tendency—are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel?—when you take the free quiz at GretchenRubin.com. Subscribe to my award-winning weekly podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” (more than 1 million downloads each month) and hear my sister and I discuss strategies and tips for how to make your daily life happier. I also created an app to help people harness the power of the Four Tendencies. Learn more at BetterApp.us or search the app store for “Better Gretchen Rubin.” My previous books include a bestselling biography of Winston Churchill, "Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill,” and one of John Kennedy, “Forty Ways to Look at JFK.” My first book, “Power Money Fame S..: A User's Guide,” is social criticism in the guise of a user's manual. I wrote “Profane Waste” in collaboration with artist Dana Hoey. I've also written three dreadful novels that are safely locked away in a drawer. Before turning to writing, I had a career in law. A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, I clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. I live in New York City with my husband and two daughters.  


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The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition - Gretchen Rubin

1

January

Boost Energy

Vitality

▪ Go to sleep earlier.

▪ Exercise better.

▪ Toss, restore, organize.

▪ Tackle a nagging task.

▪ Act more energetic.

Like 44 percent of Americans, I make New Year’s resolutions—and usually don’t keep them for long. How many times had I resolved to exercise more, eat better, and keep up with my e-mail in-box? This year, though, I was making my resolutions in the context of my happiness project, and I hoped that would mean that I’d do a better job of keeping them. To launch the new year and my happiness project, I decided to focus on boosting my energy. More vitality, I hoped, would make it easier for me to stick to all my happiness-project resolutions in future months.

In a virtuous circle, research shows, being happy energizes you, and at the same time, having more energy makes it easier for you to engage in activities—like socializing and exercise—that boost happiness. Studies also show that when you feel energetic, your self-esteem rises. Feeling tired, on the other hand, makes everything seem arduous. An activity that you’d ordinarily find fun, like putting up holiday decorations, feels difficult, and a more demanding task, like learning a new software program, feels overwhelming.

I know that when I feel energetic, I find it much easier to behave in ways that make me happy. I take the time to e-mail the grandparents with a report from the pediatrician’s checkup. I don’t scold when Eliza drops her glass of milk on the rug just as we’re leaving for school. I have the perseverance to figure out why my computer screen is frozen. I take the time to put my dishes in the dishwasher.

I decided to tackle both the physical and mental aspects of energy.

For my physical energy: I needed to make sure that I got enough sleep and enough exercise. Although I’d already known that sleep and exercise were important to good health, I’d been surprised to learn that happiness—which can seem like a complex, lofty, and intangible goal—was quite influenced by these straightforward habits. For my mental energy: I needed to tackle my apartment and office, which felt oppressively messy and crowded. Outer order, I hoped, would bring inner peace. What’s more, I needed to clear away metaphorical clutter; I wanted to cross tasks off my to-do list. I added one last resolution that combined the mental and the physical. Studies show that by acting as if you feel more energetic, you can become more energetic. I was skeptical, but it seemed worth a try.

GO TO SLEEP EARLIER.

First: bodily energy.

A glamorous friend with a tendency to make sweeping pronouncements had told me that Sleep is the new sex, and I’d recently been at a dinner party where each person at the table detailed the best nap he or she had ever had, in lascivious detail, while everyone moaned in appreciation.

Millions of people fail to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and one study revealed that along with tight work deadlines, a bad night’s sleep was one of the top two factors that upset people’s daily moods. Another study suggested that getting one extra hour of sleep each night would do more for a person’s daily happiness than getting a $60,000 raise. Nevertheless, the average adult sleeps only 6.9 hours during the week, and 7.9 on the weekend—20 percent less than in 1900. Although people adjust to feeling sleepy, sleep deprivation impairs memory, weakens the immune system, slows metabolism, and might, some studies suggest, foster weight gain.

My new, not-exactly-startling resolution for getting more sleep was to turn off the light. Too often I stayed up to read, answer e-mails, watch TV, pay bills, or whatever, instead of going to bed.

Nevertheless, just a few days into the happiness project, although I practically fell asleep on Eliza’s purple sheets as I was tucking her in, I wavered for a moment when Jamie proposed watching our latest Netflix DVD, The Conversation. I love movies; I wanted to spend time with Jamie; 9:30 P.M. seemed a ridiculously early hour to go to bed; and I knew from experience that if I started watching, I’d perk up. On the other hand, I felt exhausted.

Why does it often seem more tiring to go to bed than to stay up? Inertia, I suppose. Plus there’s the prebed work of taking out my contact lenses, brushing my teeth, and washing my face. But I’d made my resolution, so resolutely I headed to bed. I slept eight solid hours and woke up an hour early, at 5:30 A.M., so in addition to getting a good night’s sleep, I had the chance to do a peaceful block of work while my family was still in bed.

I’m a real know-it-all, so I was pleased when my sister called and complained of insomnia. Elizabeth is five years younger than I am, but usually I’m the one asking her for advice.

I’m not getting any sleep, she said. I’ve already given up caffeine. What else can I do?

Lots of things, I said, prepared to rattle off the tips that I’d uncovered in my research. Near your bedtime, don’t do any work that requires alert thinking. Keep your bedroom slightly chilly. Do a few prebed stretches. Also—this is important—because light confuses the body’s circadian clock, keep the lights low around bedtime, say, if you go to the bathroom. Also, make sure your room is very dark when the lights are out. Like a hotel room.

Do you really think it can make a difference? she asked.

All the studies say that it does.

I’d tried all these steps myself, and I’d found the last one—keeping our bedroom dark—surprisingly difficult to accomplish.

"What are you doing?" Jamie had asked one night when he caught me rearranging various devices throughout our room.

I’m trying to block the light from all these gizmos, I answered. I read that even a tiny light from a digital alarm clock can disrupt a sleep cycle, and it’s like a mad scientist’s lab in here. Our BlackBerrys, the computer, the cable box—everything blinks or glows bright green.

Huh was all he said, but he did help me move some things on the nightstand to block the light coming from our alarm clock.

These changes did seem to make falling asleep easier. But I often lost sleep for another reason: I’d wake up in the middle of the night—curiously, usually at 3:18 A.M.—and be unable to go back to sleep. For those nights, I developed another set of tricks. I breathed deeply and slowly until I couldn’t stand it anymore. When my mind was racing with a to-do list, I wrote everything down. There’s evidence that too little blood flow to the extremities can keep you awake, so if my feet were cold, I put on wool socks—which, though it made me feel frumpish, did seem to help.

Two of my most useful getting-to-sleep strategies were my own invention. First, I tried to get ready for bed well before bedtime. Sometimes I stayed up late because I was too tired to take out my contacts—plus, putting on my glasses had an effect like putting the cover on the parrot’s cage. Also, if I woke up in the night, I’d tell myself, I have to get up in two minutes. I’d imagine that I’d just hit the snooze alarm and in two minutes, I’d have to march through my morning routine. Often this was an exhausting enough prospect to make me fall asleep.

And sometimes I gave up and took an Ambien.

After a week or so of more sleep, I began to feel a real difference. I felt more energetic and cheerful with my children in the morning. I didn’t feel a painful, never-fulfilled urge to take a nap in the afternoon. Getting out of bed in the morning was no longer torture; it’s so much nicer to wake up naturally instead of being jerked out of sleep by a buzzing alarm.

Nevertheless, despite all the benefits, I still struggled to put myself to bed as soon as I felt sleepy. Those last few hours of the day were precious—when the workday was finished, Jamie was home, my daughters were asleep, and I had some free time. Only the daily reminder on my Resolutions Chart kept me from staying up until midnight most nights.

EXERCISE BETTER.

There’s a staggering amount of evidence to show that exercise is good for you. Among other benefits, people who exercise are healthier, think more clearly, sleep better, and have delayed onset of dementia. Regular exercise boosts energy levels; although some people assume that working out is tiring, in fact, it boosts energy, especially in sedentary people—of whom there are many. A recent study showed that 25 percent of Americans don’t get any exercise at all. Just by exercising twenty minutes a day three days a week for six weeks, persistently tired people boosted their energy.

Even knowing all these benefits, though, you can find it difficult to change from a couch potato into a gym enthusiast. Many years ago, I’d managed to turn myself into a regular exerciser, but it hadn’t been easy. My idea of fun has always been to lie in bed reading. Preferably while eating a snack.

When I was in high school, I wanted to redecorate my bedroom to replace the stylized flowered wallpaper that I thought wasn’t sufficiently sophisticated for a freshman, and I wrote a long proposal laying out my argument to my parents. My father considered the proposal and said, All right, we’ll redecorate your room. But in return, you have to do something four times a week for twenty minutes.

What do I have to do? I asked, suspicious.

You have to take it or leave it. It’s twenty minutes. How bad can it be?

Okay, I’ll take the deal, I decided. What do I have to do?

His answer: Go for a run.

My father, himself a dedicated runner, never told me how far I had to run or how fast; he didn’t even keep track of whether I went for twenty minutes. All he asked was that I put on my running shoes and shut the door behind me. My father’s deal got me to commit to a routine, and once I started running, I found that I didn’t mind exercising, I just didn’t like sports.

My father’s approach might well have backfired. With extrinsic motivation, people act to win external rewards or avoid external punishments; with intrinsic motivation, people act for their own satisfaction. Studies show that if you reward people for doing an activity, they often stop doing it for fun; being paid turns it into work. Parents, for example, are warned not to reward children for reading—they’re teaching kids to read for a reward, not for pleasure. By giving me an extrinsic motivation, my father risked sapping my inclination to exercise on my own. As it happened, in my case, he provided an extrinsic motivation that unleashed my intrinsic motivation.

Ever since that room redecoration, I’ve been exercising regularly. I never push myself hard, but I get myself out the door several times a week. For a long time, however, I’d been thinking that I really should start strength training. Lifting weights increases muscle mass, strengthens bones, firms the core, and—I admit, most important to me—improves shape. People who work out with weights maintain more muscle and gain less fat as they age. A few times over the years, I’d halfheartedly tried lifting weights, but I’d never stuck to it; now, with my resolution to Exercise better, it was time to start.

There’s a Buddhist saying that I’ve found to be uncannily true: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Just a few days after I committed to my resolution to Exercise better, I met a friend for coffee, and she mentioned that she’d started a great weight-training program at a gym in my neighborhood.

I don’t like the idea of working out with a trainer, I objected. I’d feel self-conscious, and it’s expensive. I want to do it on my own.

Try it, my friend urged. I promise, you’ll love it. It’s a superefficient way to exercise. The whole workout takes only twenty minutes. Plus—she paused dramatically—"you don’t sweat. You work out without having to shower afterward."

This was a major selling point. I dislike taking showers. But, I asked doubtfully, how can a good workout take only twenty minutes if you’re not even sweating?

You lift weights at the very outer limit of your strength. You don’t do many repetitions, and you do only one set. Believe me, it works. I love it.

In Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness, he argues that the most effective way to judge whether a particular course of action will make you happy in the future is to ask people who are following that course of action right now if they’re happy and assume that you’ll feel the same way. According to his theory, the fact that my friend raved about this fitness routine was a pretty good indicator that I’d be enthusiastic, too. Also, I reminded myself, one of my Secrets of Adulthood was Most decisions don’t require extensive research.

I made an appointment for the next day, and by the time I left, I was a convert. My trainer was terrific, and the atmosphere in the training room was much nicer than most gyms—no music, no mirrors, no crowds, no waiting. On my way out the door, I charged the maximum twenty-four sessions on my credit card to get the discount, and within a month, I’d convinced Jamie and my mother-in-law, Judy, to start going to the same gym.

The only disadvantage was that it was expensive. It seems like a lot to spend for a twenty-minute workout, I said to Jamie.

Would you rather get more for your money? he asked. We’re spending more to get a shorter workout. Good point.

In addition to strength training, I wanted to start walking more. The repetitive activity of walking, studies show, triggers the body’s relaxation response and so helps reduce stress; at the same time, even a quick ten-minute walk provides an immediate energy boost and improves mood—in fact, exercise is an effective way to snap out of a funk. Also, I kept reading that, as a minimum of activity for good health, people should aim to take 10,000 steps a day—a number that also reportedly keeps most people from gaining weight.

Living in New York, I felt as if I walked miles every day. But did I? I picked up a $20 pedometer from the running store near my apartment. Once I’d been clipping it onto my belt for a week, I discovered that on days when I did a fair amount of walking—walking Eliza to school and walking to the gym, for example—I hit 10,000 easily. On days when I stayed close to home, I barely cleared 3,000.

It was interesting to have a better sense of my daily habits. Also, the very fact of wearing a pedometer made me walk more. One of my worst qualities is my insatiable need for credit; I always want the gold star, the recognition. One night when I was in high school, I came home late from a party and decided to surprise my mother by cleaning up our messy kitchen. She came downstairs the next morning and said, What wonderful fairy came in the night and did all this work? and looked so pleased. More than twenty years later, I still remember that gold star, and I still want more of them.

This generally negative quality had a benefit in this circumstance; because the pedometer gave me credit for making an extra effort, I was more likely to do it. One morning I’d planned to take the subway to my dentist’s appointment, but as I walked out the door, it occurred to me, Walking to the dentist will take the same amount of time, and I’ll get credit for the steps! Plus, I think I benefited from the Hawthorne effect, in which people being studied improve their performance, simply because of the extra attention they’re getting. In this case, I was the guinea pig of my own experiment.

Walking had an added benefit: it helped me to think. Nietzsche wrote, All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking, and his observation is backed up by science; exercise-induced brain chemicals help people think clearly. In fact, just stepping outside clarifies thinking and boosts energy. Light deprivation is one reason that people feel tired, and even five minutes of daylight stimulates production of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that improve mood. Many times, I’d guiltily leave my desk to take a break, and while I was walking around the block, I’d get some useful insight that had eluded me when I was being virtuously diligent.

TOSS, RESTORE, ORGANIZE.

Household disorder was a constant drain on my energy; the minute I walked through the apartment door, I felt as if I needed to start putting clothes in the hamper and gathering loose toys. I wasn’t alone in my fight against clutter. In a sign that people are finding their possessions truly unmanageable, the number of storage units nationwide practically doubled in one decade. One study suggested that eliminating clutter would cut down the amount of housework in the average home by 40 percent.

To use the first month of my happiness project to tackle clutter seemed a bit small-minded, as if my highest priority in life were to rearrange my sock drawer. But I craved an existence of order and serenity—which, translated into real life, meant a household with coats hung in the closet and spare rolls of paper towels.

I was also weighed down by the invisible, but even more enervating, psychic clutter of loose ends. I had a long list of neglected tasks that made me feel weary and guilty whenever I thought of them. I needed to clear away the detritus in my mind.

I decided to tackle the visible clutter first, and I discovered something surprising: the psychologists and social scientists who do happiness research never mention clutter at all. They never raise it in their descriptions of the factors that contribute to happiness or in their lists of strategies to boost happiness. The philosophers, too, ignore it, although Samuel Johnson, who had an opinion about everything, did remark, No money is better spent that what is laid out for domestic satisfaction.

By contrast, when I turned to popular culture, discussions of clutter clearing abounded. Whatever the happiness scientists might study, ordinary people are convinced that clearing clutter will boost their happiness—and they’re laying out money for domestic satisfaction by buying Real Simple magazine, reading the Unclutterer blog, hiring California Closets, and practicing amateur feng shui. Apparently, other people, like me, believe that their physical surroundings influence their spiritual happiness.

I paced through our apartment to size up the clutter-clearing challenge I faced. Once I started really looking, I was amazed by how much clutter had accumulated without my realizing it. Our apartment was bright and pleasant, but a scum of clutter filmed its surface.

When I surveyed the master bedroom, for example, I was dismayed. The soft green walls and the rose-and-leaf pattern on the bed and curtains made the room calm and inviting, but stacks of papers were piled randomly on the coffee table and on the floor in the corner. Untidy heaps of books covered every available surface. CDs, DVDs, cords, chargers, coins, collar stays, business cards, and instruction booklets were scattered like confetti. Objects that needed to be put away, objects that didn’t have a real place, unidentified lurking objects—they all needed to be placed in their proper homes. Or tossed or given away.

As I contemplated the magnitude of the job before me, I invoked my Tenth Commandment: Do what ought to be done. This commandment distilled into one principle a lot of different strands of advice my mother had given me over the years. The fact is, I tend to feel overwhelmed by large tasks and am often tempted to try to make life easier by cutting corners.

We recently moved, and beforehand, I was panicking at the thought of everything that needed to be done. What moving company should we use? Where could we buy boxes? How would our furniture fit into our new apartment building’s tiny service elevator? I was paralyzed. My mother had her usual matter-of-fact, unruffled attitude, and she reminded me that I should just do what I knew I ought to do. It won’t really be that hard, she said reassuringly when I called her for a pep talk. "Make a list, do a little bit each day, and stay calm." Taking the bar exam, writing thank-you notes, having a baby, getting our carpets cleaned, checking endless footnotes as I was finishing my biography of Winston Churchill . . . my mother made me feel that nothing was insurmountable if I did what I knew ought to be done, little by little.

My evaluation of our apartment revealed that my clutter came in several distinct varieties. First was nostalgic clutter, made up of relics I clung to from my earlier life. I made a mental note that I didn’t need to keep the huge box of materials I used for the Business and Regulation of Television seminar I taught years ago.

Second was self-righteous conservation clutter, made up of things that I’ve kept because they’re useful—even though they’re useless to me. Why was I storing twenty-three glass florist-shop vases?

One kind of clutter I saw in other people’s homes but didn’t suffer from myself was bargain clutter, which results from buying unnecessary things because they’re on sale. I did suffer from related freebie clutter—the clutter of gifts, hand-me-downs, and giveaways that we didn’t use. Recently my mother-in-law mentioned that she was getting rid of one of their table lamps, and she asked if we wanted it.

Sure, I said automatically, it’s a great lamp. But a few days later, I thought better of it. The lampshade wasn’t right, the color wasn’t right, and we didn’t really have a place to put it.

Actually, I e-mailed her later, we don’t need the lamp. But thanks. I’d narrowly missed some freebie clutter.

I also had a problem with crutch clutter. These things I used but knew I shouldn’t: my horrible green sweatshirt (bought secondhand more than ten years ago), my eight-year-old underwear with holes and frayed edges. This kind of clutter drove my mother crazy. "Why do you want to wear that?" she’d say. She always looked fabulous, while I found it difficult not to wear shapeless yoga pants and ratty white T-shirts day after day.

I felt particularly oppressed by aspirational clutter—things that I owned but only aspired to use: the glue gun I never mastered, mysteriously specific silver serving pieces untouched since our wedding, my beige pumps with superhigh heels. The flip side of aspirational clutter is outgrown clutter. I discovered a big pile of plastic photo boxes piled in a drawer. I used them for years, but even though I like proper picture frames now, I’d held on to the plastic versions.

The kind of clutter that I found most disagreeable was buyer’s remorse clutter, when, rather than admit that I’d made a bad purchase, I hung on to things until somehow I felt they’d been used up by sitting in a closet or on a shelf—the canvas bag that I’d used only once since I bought it two years ago, those impractical white pants.

Having sized up the situation, I went straight to the festering heart of my household clutter: my own closet. I’ve never been very good at folding, so messy, lopsided towers of shirts and sweaters jammed the shelves. Too many items were hung on the clothes rod, so I had to muscle my way into a mass of wool and cotton to pull anything out. Bits of socks and T-shirts hung over the edges of the drawers that I’d forced shut. I’d start my clutter clearing here.

So I could focus properly, I stayed home while Jamie took the girls to visit his parents for the day. The minute the elevator door closed behind them, I began.

I’d read suggestions that I should invest in an extra closet rod or in storage boxes that fit under the bed or in hangers that would hold four pairs of pants on one rod. For me, however, there was only one essential tool of clutter clearing: trash bags. I set aside one bag for throwaways and one for giveaways and dived in.

First, I got rid of items that no one should be wearing anymore. Good-bye, baggy yoga pants. Next I pulled out the items that, realistically, I knew I wouldn’t wear. Good-bye, gray sweater that barely covered my navel. Then the culling got harder. I liked those brown pants, but I couldn’t figure out what shoes to wear with them. I liked that dress, but I never had the right place to wear it. I forced myself to take the time to make each item work, and if I couldn’t, out it went. I started to notice my dodges. When I told myself, I would wear this, I meant that I didn’t, in fact, wear it. I have worn this meant that I’d worn it twice in five years. I could wear this meant that I’d never worn it and never would.

Once I’d finished the closet, I went back through it once again. When I finished, I had four bags full of clothes, and I could see huge patches of the back of my closet. I no longer felt drained; instead, I felt exhilarated. No more being confronted with my mistakes! No more searching in frustration for a particular white button-down shirt!

Having cleared some space, I craved more. I tried any trick I could. Why had I been holding on to thirty extra hangers? I got rid of all but a few extra hangers, which opened up a considerable amount of space. I got rid of some shopping bags I’d kept tucked away for years, for no good reason. I’d planned only on sorting through hanging items, but, energized and inspired, I attacked my sock and T-shirt drawers. Instead of pawing around for items to eliminate, I emptied each drawer completely, and I put back only the items that I actually wore.

I gloated as I surveyed my now-roomy closet. So much space. No more guilt. The next day I craved another hit. We’re going to do something really fun tonight! I said to Jamie in a bright voice as he was checking sports news on TV.

What? he said, immediately suspicious. He kept the remote control prominently in his hand.

We’re going to clear out your closet and drawers!

Oh. Well, okay, he said agreeably. I shouldn’t have been surprised by his reaction; Jamie loves order. He turned off the TV.

But we’re not going to get rid of much, he warned me. I wear most of this stuff pretty regularly.

Okay, sure, I said sweetly. We’ll see about that, I thought.

Going through his closet turned out to be fun. Jamie sat on the bed while I pulled hangers out of his closet, two at a time, and he, much less tortured than I, gave a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down—except once, when he insisted, I’ve never seen that pair of pants before in my life. He got rid of a giant bag of clothes.

Over the next few weeks, as I adjusted to my half-empty closet, I noticed a paradox: although I had far fewer clothes in front of me, I felt as though I had more to wear—because everything in my closet was something that I realistically would wear.

Also, having few clothing choices made me feel happier. Although people believe they like to have lots of choice, in fact, having too many choices can be discouraging. Instead of making people feel more satisfied, a wide range of options can paralyze them. Studies show that when faced with two dozen varieties of jam in a grocery store, for example, or lots of investment options for their pension plan, people often choose arbitrarily or walk away without making any choice at all, rather than labor to make a reasoned choice. I certainly felt happier choosing between two pairs of black pants that I liked rather than among five pairs of black pants, the majority of which were either uncomfortable or unfashionable—and which made me feel guilty for never wearing them, to boot.

Who knew that doing something so mundane could give me such a kick? By this point, I was jonesing for more of the clutter-clearing buzz, so while a pregnant friend opened her presents at a baby shower, I quizzed my fellow guests for new strategies.

Focus on the dump zones, advised one friend. You know, the dining room table, the kitchen counter, the place where everyone dumps their stuff.

Right, I said. Our biggest dump zone is a chair in our bedroom. We never sit in it, we just pile clothes and magazines on it.

Junk attracts more junk. If you clear it off, it’s likely to stay clear. And here’s another thing, she continued. When you buy any kind of device, put the cords, the manual, all that stuff in a labeled Ziploc bag. You avoid having a big tangle of mystery cords, plus when you get rid of the device, you can get rid of the ancillary parts, too.

Try a ‘virtual move,’ another friend added. I just did it myself. Walk around your apartment and ask yourself—if I were moving, would I pack this or get rid of it?

"I never keep anything for sentimental reasons alone, someone else claimed. Only if I’m still using it."

These suggestions were helpful, but that last rule was too draconian for me. I’d never get rid of the Justice Never Rests T-shirt from the aerobics class I took with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when I clerked for her, even though it never did fit, or the doll-sized outfit that our preemie Eliza wore when she came home from the hospital. (At least these items didn’t take up much room. I have a friend who keeps twelve tennis racquets, left over from her days playing college tennis.)

When one of my college roommates visited New York, we waxed lyrical over coffee about the glories of clutter clearing.

What in life, I demanded, gives immediate gratification equal to cleaning out a medicine cabinet? Nothing!

No, nothing, she agreed with equal fervor. But she took it even further. You know, I keep an empty shelf.

What do you mean?

I keep one shelf, somewhere in my house, completely empty. I’ll pack every other shelf to the top, but I keep one shelf bare.

I was struck by the poetry of this resolution. An empty shelf! And she had three children. An empty shelf meant possibility; space to expand; a luxurious waste of something useful for the sheer elegance of it. I had to have one. I went home, went straight to my hall closet, and emptied a shelf. It wasn’t a big shelf, but it was empty. Thrilling.

I hunted through the apartment, and no object, no matter how small, escaped my scrutiny. I’d long been annoyed by the maddening accumulation of gimcracks that children attract. Glittery superballs, miniature flashlights, small plastic zoo animals . . . this stuff was everywhere. It was fun to have and the girls wanted to keep it, but it was hard to put it away, because where did it go?

My Eighth Commandment is Identify the problem. I’d realized that often I put up with a problem for years because I never examined the nature of the problem and how it might be solved. It turns out that stating a problem clearly often suggests its solution. For instance, I hated hanging up my coat, so I usually left it slung on the back of a chair.

Identify the problem: Why don’t I ever hang up my coat?

Answer: I don’t like fussing with hangers.

Solution: So use the hook on the inside of the door!

When I asked myself, What’s the problem with all these little toys? I answered, Eliza and Eleanor want to keep this stuff, but we don’t have a place to put it away. Bingo. I immediately saw the solution to my problem. The next day, I stopped by the Container Store and bought five large glass canisters. I combed the apartment to collect toy flotsam and stuffed it in. Clutter cured! I filled all five jars. What I hadn’t anticipated was that the jars looked great on the shelf—colorful, festive, and inviting. My solution was ornamental as well as practical.

A pleasant, unintended consequence of my clutter clearing was that it solved the four-thermometer syndrome: I could never find our thermometer, so I kept buying new ones, and when my clutter clearing flushed them all out, we had four thermometers. (Which I never used, by the way; I felt the back of the girls’ necks to see if they had a fever.) It’s a Secret of Adulthood: if you can’t find something,

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What people think about The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition

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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    I have been enjoying Gretchen Rubin's blog for a while now and wanted to read the book. For some reason (?) it is not available on the Kindle but I got my hands on a copy and enjoyed it. There was nothing surprising in it as it's all covered in the blog but it was nice to read her ideas in the book format. The advice I took away with me is that if you want to feel happier, then stick to your own promises to yourself (or goals) and the progress you make towards these makes you feel satisfied (or happier). But there is many, many other gems as well. Is it necessary to read the book? No, the blog covers it all and the interactivity makes for better reading.
  • (1/5)
    Boring, did like reference to other books tho as follow up reading.
  • (4/5)
    Lots of food for thought and not too preachy.very interesting given that she has all the things to make her happy-money,family,satisfying work - but still makes a lot of sense about how to increase contentment.
  • (3/5)
    Ex-attorney spends a year trying all sorts of things that are deemed to bring happiness. She is a mother of two young girls. There were lots of good suggestions, lots of things I underlined in the book, and a decision to keep this book on myshelf, but I would like to have read something along these lines by someone in their 50s, 60s or 70s. Actually, each of these decades could have its own HAPPINESS PROJECT.
  • (4/5)
    Are you happy enough? This is the question author Gretchen Rubin poses to herself one typical April day as she rides a bus in New York City. She reflects on the fact she lives in her dream city, has a wonderful husband, two healthy daughters and a job she adores. But while there is much in her life to celebrate, Gretchen is bothered by her general lack of appreciation and tendency to focus on the negative. In an attempt to maximize her happiness, Gretchen begins The Happiness Project, a year-long commitment to twelve happiness resolutions she sets for herself. Among her resolutions are to “boost energy,” “lighten up,” and “ pursue a passion.” To carry out her resolutions, Gretchen tries everything from cleaning her closets to launching a blog to starting a collection. She follows age-old wisdom as well as new age fads. Her triumphs and failures are documented in her memoir, The Happiness Project, which provides a detailed account of each month of her project. Inspiring, comical, and completely relatable, Rubin’s book will encourage readers to use the tools she offers to start their own happiness projects.
  • (3/5)
    This book is quite a departure for me, and I'm quite glad that I decided to branch out and try it (was it a library recommendation? I honestly can't remember what made me put it on my wishlist, other than wanting to trial the ebook reading experience!). Chatty and thoughtful without being mind-blowingly insightful, it's nevertheless been a good antidote to a slightly trying time in my working life these last few weeks, and it's enabled me to focus on the positive and remember to put myself in others' places, and just to resolve to be kinder and more thoughtful in general.
  • (4/5)
    I read this book for my book club. It is the memoir of the author's one-year project to increase her happiness. At first, I was skeptical, because this seemed like yet another of those "I did this dumb thing for one year" books, and it came across as gimmicky. But Rubin won me over. She breaks her project down into one theme per month, such as energy, money or marriage, and then sets severals goals for that theme that she tries to accomplish every day of the month. Some days, she doesn't quite make her goals, which she's honest about. But what I really liked is that she emphasizes that the goals will, and should, be different for everyone. Most self-help books proselytize a one-size-fits-all solution without acknowledging that we are all individuals, and no one thing works for everyone.Rubin throws out a lot of quotes, statistics and ideas for increasing one's day-t-day happiness. In accordance with the theme of finding what works for me, I was inspired by some of these ideas and mostly ignored the rest. I was most impressed that Rubin found the time to implement all of these changes (although she does admit that she discarded some if they didn't continue to increase her happiness). She did a whole lot of reading, too, and even write a novel in a month, which I thought was inspiring because she did it just for her own enjoyment, not to try to sell it. I seem to be stuck with the notion that I have to spend my time doing something productive or money-making, which is an impediment to my personal happiness; Rubin backs this notion up with some solid statistics, and it's a lesson that many of us can stand to learn, that not everything we do has to generate income. That insight alone, and the resolution I made to try to do more things for personal enrichment even if they don't seem particularly "useful," made reading this book worthwhile.
  • (3/5)
    The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
    292 pages

    ★★★ ½

    I wasn’t sure how I would like this book, there were a fair amount of poor reviews mostly stemming from people thinking this author was self-absorbent. But as I started to read the book it hit me more and more, why aren’t people allowed to be self-absorbent once in awhile? Where does it say that people can’t focus and improve on themselves? Gretchen Rubin has a good job, a good husband, two wonderful children, and an overall great life but she feels something is missing. She feels like while she has all these great things, she spends so much time worrying and focusing on other things that she isn’t properly happy with those things right in front of her so she vows to change things to put herself, and subsequently others around her, in a happier place.

    I kept going back and forth on this book on whether to give it a 3 or 4 star rating and ended up going down the middle of those two. The concept is a good one if not completely original, who doesn’t look for a little bit of extra happiness in their life? I started out really enjoying this book and thought it was a 4 star but somewhere along the line it became somewhat repetitive. Also, I found myself annoyed by her use of other people’s responses to her blog posts – this is her story, not everyone else’s – and I felt like it was more a filler than a necessity for the most part. With that being said, I can see how many of her resolutions can be helpful and while I haven’t really jumped to try any of them yet, it’s something I might try at some point. Other resolutions of hers just didn’t resonate but again, this was her story, not mine (she does point out that everyone’s project would be different and molded to fit that persons needs). The back of the book is filled with some helpful hints to keep to some common goals and I am interested in some of the suggested readings. A quick, cheerful read with a sweet ending.
  • (4/5)
    I've had lots of fun reading this candid, honest, and sometimes humorous account of the year that Gretchen spent trying to be happier. It is set as resolutions made for every month of the year. I have started reading this book earlier this year. Every now and then, i would read a few pages, I liked to let it linger over the year. I've decoded back in September that it would be fun to finish reading it on December, since the last chapter in the book is about December, and I did, and I'm very glad that I did. It's an easy enjoyable read. i am not sure if i'd read her other book 'happier at home' , but it's not out of question. Very nice book, not a heavy self-help book, yet pretty educating. i loved the quotes she used, and how organized it was - she's a very organized serious person, and I like that.
  • (2/5)
    The content of the book was interesting but the writing style is not my cup of tea. This is the third book by Gretchen Rubin I've tried to read. A lot of my friends really enjoyed the book, so you'll have to judge it for yourself.
  • (3/5)
    I "read" the audiobook version which is narrated by the author. I found some helpful tips in this book. Some chapters really didn't apply to my life, but I enjoyed hearing about the author's struggles with her monthly resolutions. A nice feature is that Gretchen Rubin has posted lots of helpful tools online for free to help readers start their own happiness projects.
  • (5/5)
    I hope it's not the best book I'll ever read on happiness, but it does deserve more than 4 stars. I'm putting a bunch from her bibliography on my to-read shelf! I liked especially her quotes from people who commented on her blogs. My copy is from the library but there is so much good advice it'd be worth trying to buy a copy for yourself.
  • (3/5)
    I got some good ideas and some inspiration and that was the point.
  • (2/5)
    From my Cannonball Read V review...

    Meh.

    Since one-word reviews are frowned upon at the Cannonball Read, I’ll elaborate. Like Sophia, who read this book prior (and whose review I should have read first), I had some issues with the depth of this book. I got some useful tips from it, and it was a pretty quick read (I read it in about three days), but I didn’t enjoy it. It was like watching a rerun of one of the filler episodes of Friends – it was fine, and I laughed a bit, but I could have been doing something better with my time. (And also like the characters in friends, the people in this book are affluent, white, and seem fake.)

    That’s probably part of my problem. I don’t particularly like what this author presents of herself. While that doesn’t really matter with other books, it’s kind of a big deal with this style of book. There was an ‘aww shucks’ quality that is not my particular cup of tea. Additionally, this woman started from pretty high up on the happiness scale. Not that any happiness discussion should be limited to those who have been deeply unhappy, and I recognize that there is value in helping people improve their lives regardless of where they started from, but COME ON. This woman is rich. This woman has two healthy, adorable daughters that she clearly loves. Both the kids grandparents were alive as of the writing of the book, and her in-laws (whom she also adores) live around the corner. She makes a living following her passion. And all of that was BEFORE she started the Happiness Project.

    But as I said, that doesn’t necessarily mean what she’s going to say doesn’t have value; it just means a whole hell of a lot of people aren’t going to be able to find much in common with her and so may find it a little hard to think that singing in the morning is really going to change things for them. And Ms. Rubin is clear that this is *her* happiness project, and that everyone’s will be different. But I’d be more inclined to start on my own if the one I’d just read hadn’t been so … weirdly lacking in self-awareness. For example, she talks about wanting to eat better but seems to applaud herself because she’s NOT going on a diet. She’s just … cutting out food groups entirely to lose weight. O-kay. And while she has the healthy view that you can’t change others, you can only change yourself, some of the discussions around trying to give up needing to be praised kind of make her husband look like he’s taking total advantage of her. And since I know about 300 pages worth of her marriage (i.e. next to nothing), I’ve no right to actually judge that relationship. But it was impossible to remove my thoughts on the author from what the author was saying.

    Here’s my take-away: if you respond well to checklists, you’ve got an interest in somewhat saccharin writing, and you are looking for a dozen or so useful nuggets, sure. Add this to your list. Otherwise … no need. Shoot, you can even email me and I’ll send you the items I thought were the most useful if you’d really rather not bother.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed the book and would give it 3 out of 5 stars. I like the way the information was presented and Rubin included some lovely quotes sprinkled throughout the chapters. I thought she was funny, and I was able to relate to her in a lot of ways since we are both Type A personalities. However, there *were* a few times that I thought she was kind of whiny or bitchy, but you can't really expect for someone to be likable 100% of the time.The book is separated into a chapter for each month and each month she focuses on a different topic. In the month's main topic, she sets a few goals/things to work on. The subjects she covers are:Jan: Boost EnergyFeb: Improve MarriageMar: Work Harder at JobApr: Be a Better MomMay: Spend Time on Play/HobbiesJun: Be a Better FriendJul: Use Money to Improve HappinessAug: Focus on SpiritualitySep: Pursue a Passion (She chose books)Oct: Mindfulness/Enjoy the NowNov: Good Attitude/MannersDec: She aimed for perfection in all of the previous month's topicsI particularly enjoyed reading the improving marriage, spending time on play, and spirituality sections. I felt like there was some good information/viewpoints to absorb from those chapters. I especially liked that her spirituality section was from more of an agnostic point of view focusing primarily on gratitude, so I felt that it could be beneficial to believers and non-believers alike.However, I feel that her sections on work and money are not full of a lot of particularly good information for the large majority of people. Rubin leads an exceptionally blessed life in that she has plenty of money and that she works from home. Not that I begrudge her this, but I just feel that not a lot of people can relate. In the money section, she says that you should indulge in a modest splurge on something. She proceeds to "modestly splurge" on a LOT of things over the course of the book. Buying a brand new fancy book collection just for the hell of it is not an option for a lot of people. As for the work section, she mainly discusses how she starts a blog. Not helpful to most people. She also includes a weird letter she emailed to someone who gave her book a bad review. I feel like it would have been keeping more to her own goals to have accepted the bad criticism and moved on, rather than feeling the need to defend herself to some random reviewer she didn't know personally.Anyway, as a whole, the book was enjoyable. It was a quick read and I would recommend it. Although at times, Rubin comes across as slightly disingenuous, she is very relatable, funny, and intelligent, and I would definitely read more from her. I would also read this book again, because overall, I found it to be encouraging and a good motivator to focus on your goals.
  • (2/5)
    I'm so "done" with happiness. I think I'll seek out some books about finding curmudgeonliness next. No, seriously, I'm afraid I won't be able to give this book a fair review, because I don't exactly remember what led me to obtain and read it, and I'm not really that interested in happiness anymore... I'm kind of there, not meaning I'm happy all the time, but I kinda know everything there is to know about my own happiness, now, after half a century. So the book - it's fine. It's one woman's one-year project. (Yet another "My Year of...") At least she wasn't surreptitiously trying to come to terms with the death of a parent or anything like that. She tries so many things, you're bound to come across a couple of good ideas to apply to your own life. God, I felt bad for her husband, though. Is this what married-with-children life is like? The abyss was one scene where her two little girls were fighting, and she discovers her husband upstairs taking a nap. She wakes him up and says, "This is your problem! You need to fix this!" Kill me now, I can imagine him thinking. She sprinkles in scenes like this where she is decidedly NOT happy, which always starts to feel like a nice, humanizing, relatable touch - but then they always end with a sappy, happy ending. You're missing the point of showing us your less-than-perfect side, Gretchen. But hey! This is supposed to be a HAPPY book... why all of this, who woke who from a nap, and who failed to live down to my imperfect expectations.. I'm sorry, though, I'm failing to come up with one excellent life lesson that I can apply to my life going forward, except to really and truly this time STOP with the happiness books.
  • (4/5)
    I'm a loyal listener to the Happier podcast, so I figured it's time to read the book.I liked some of her revelations, her commandments, and her Splendid Realizations. They are all enlightening. Definitely fills in some details of what they talk about in the podcast.One thing that caught me. The four stages of happiness offsets the five stages of grief? Okay...Sometimes, listening to someone else's struggles does help another. But If you're not in the frame of mind to take the advice given, even through anecdotes, then the book won't be a help. I've found this many times when trying to gather information from books that I just wasn't ready for. This book I wanted to learn from and that's why I could enjoy it.This proved informative to me, even if all I take away are her Splendid Truths, her commandments, and a deeper commitment to her podcast. It also encouraged me to buy the book, rather than keep it as a borrow from the library.
  • (5/5)
    An inspiring, down-to-earth novel about a woman trying to boost her happiness in a year through a series of resolutions.

    Gretchen Rubin's project is easy to read, humorous, and filled with warmth. She is positive about her successful resolutions, wryly rueful about the failures, and doesn't shy away from her faults, but accepts them. I'll admit, as she herself notes, I was skeptical when I read about her life. She's a published author married to a loving husband with two beautiful girls. She mentions that money is not an issue for her. She has never suffered debilitating illness or personal tragedy that she revealed. And she thinks she isn't happy? This could have so easily come across as a shallow, vain attempt at depth, or a cheap gimmick to score a book deal, but Rubin's style is so honest that it's difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy reading about her year.

    More importantly, however, this book isn't just a memoir of an interesting project, it's a guide. She includes quotes from her research into the nature of happiness, stresses that everyone's own journey will be different, and provides ample resources for people striving to find their own happiness. It's a toolkit as much as a novel.

    Although my own situation makes it impossible to start a true happiness project at this point in time, I did find it inspiring - for one thing, here is a woman who shares my enthusiasm for decluttering!

    Normally, I would have dismissed this book as self-help pop-psychology mumbo-jumbo and never looked twice, but for whatever reason, I picked it up, and found myself pleasantly surprised. She never takes the role of spiritual leader or drill sergeant or anything other than an ordinary woman who wants to be a little bit happier - and that is something that we can all admire and strive for ourselves.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book more than I expected to. The author talks about her attempt, through the course of the year, to find small things she could do to make her life happier, and she explains that other people could do this, to, but the things they would choose might be different things, and different results. I admit that there were several things she did or talked that I don't agree with or I don't think they would work in my life. However, there were many things I did like, and I felt like she presented a good case, through her example, about how we can make goals (she calls them "resolutions") to do small things to gradually increase our own happiness and the happiness of others around us.
  • (4/5)
    Very readable account of one woman's attempt to put so much theory on happiness into practice in one year of her life. Filled with some good tips/ideas/quotes. The author came across as quite a perfectionist, but at the same time, she was fairly candid about her faults. Very in-vogue topic - though different from books like Stumbling on Happiness (which is still one of my favourites) because it's more biography.
  • (4/5)
    I didn't really want to read this book. What could some rich, younger New Yorker woman with a perfect life have to tell me? But I found that I really enjoyed this book and I learnt a lot. I will be re-reading this book every few years.
  • (1/5)
    Honestly, I got bored and didn't finish the book. I guess reading a book that I find slow and dull is not on my personal hapiness project schedule.
  • (4/5)
    Gretchen Rubin’s yearlong journey, The Happiness Project, is a straight forward read, developed from her blog of the same name. Laced with scientific research, .philosophy, and personal analysis Rubin takes us through her own personal “Aha” moments on making life more fun, happy and hopefully stress free. Month by month we follow the author through her month long resolutions such as eating better, which she refers to as “no fake food,” or no nagging comments, which was very tough for her argumentative personality. Overall, readers will gain at least one nugget of useful information that can help better their happiness quotient. Rubin offers straightforward suggestions, along with other readers’ tips, to share specifics of what has been successful toward that elusive journey to true happiness. Check out the Happiness Project website, if you’d like a sneak peek at the author’s happiness toolkit.
  • (5/5)
    This book sat on my "to read" shelf for months patiently waiting until I saw a one minute video sent through Rubin's email newsletter. I immediately went to my shelf, grabbed the book and started reading it. I kept a highlighter attached to the book because there was so much I wanted to remember. It isn't that I feel unhappy or unsatisfied in my life, but I was hoping that this would point me towards some sort of direction. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT would be an excellent book to read anytime, but especially as a way to start off the new year. If you are looking for a book to help you in setting your goals and resolutions for 2013, I suggest starting it soon so January 1st, you can start implementing your plan. Each chapter is broken up by months and focuses then on specific tasks to conquer for that month. By setting goals and then breaking them up into manageable tasks to accomplish each month you are able really get a handle on improving your attitude, your motivation, and your life.Rubin not only focuses on improving your life but those who are around you on a daily basis. That saying "If Mom isn't happy, then no one is happy" is so true. I know from experience, that if I start the day crabby, the whole house is crabby. This book really forces you to dig deep and by making new choices and improving your life, those in your circle (work, home, friends, family) will notice a difference. Some of my favorite passages from the book include:The days are long, but the years are shortEach member of a family picks up and reflects everyone else's emotions - but of course I could change no one actions but my own.One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.Give thanks: for the ordinary and the extraordinary.It takes at least 5 positive marital actions to offset one critical or destructive action. When one couple's interactions are usually loving and kind, it's much easier to disregard the occasional unpleasant exchange.I could have written many other passages, but these were my top 5. Each of them are so simple and yet so profound, at least to me.Rubin ends her book with ways to create your own Happiness Project along with pages of helpful tips for every facet of your life. There is also an excellent discussion guide at the end if you choose to read this with your book club. You can also sign up to receive daily emails from Rubin that include happiness quotes and tips for managing your life. These emails really boost my day.If you are looking for something to get you back in charge of your life, this book is most definitely for you. Rubin has also come out with her next book HAPPIER AT HOME. I have yet to pick this up, but it is on my list.
  • (2/5)
    Most did not like this book....alot! Author was too preachy & not relatable to the general public. Not a recomended read.
  • (3/5)
    Some of the chapters were most intriguing, esp. the January and September. Personally, I think this is unrealistic to try to tackle so much in one year. Many of the girls in book club agreed with this assessment. We also felt that it would be interesting to give it to our daughters and have them read it and then compare our reactions. This book has many good ideas and I would like to tackle a few of them. I just think that overwhelming oneself can also bring unhappiness. We all agreed that everyone's happiness project will be different and the plan has to be tailored for each and every person.
  • (3/5)
    I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunatly, it failed to live up to them. There were some chapters I really liked, for example, the first chapter which was about getting more sleep and being more organized - two things I need to work on. And there were chapters I skimmed through because they bored me, like the chapter on writing a novel (I read and publish books, but have no interest in writing them.) But what I disliked the most about the book was the tone. Rubin wrote as if she were researching a dissertation, not trying to improve her happiness. She questions the success of her hapiness project throughout the book, often asking other people if she "seems happier". If you have to ask, you're probably not......
  • (5/5)
    I loved this book! It is thoughtful, funny, and inspiring. I find myself bringing it up in everyday conversation to friends, coworkers, and family members. I'm glad I own a copy -- I know I'll want to refer to it again and loan it to friends. Last night I started my one-sentence journal, and I suspect I'll be implementing more of Rubin's ideas.
  • (2/5)
    I'm really quite torn as to what I feel about this book. On one hand, I did mostly enjoy it and I took from it some helpful ideas. On the other hand....some of the negative reviews of this book make some very good points.

    1.) I really am growing weary of the "stunt" genre of books. Do something for a year, write a book about it. It was interesting the first few go-rounds, but it's losing its appeal.

    2.) The author really is not particularly likeable. Maybe she's nicer in person, but she casts herself as a bit of a shrew. As I was reading through the marriage chapter (chapter 2, perhaps?), all I could think was, "Good God, I'm glad I'm not married to her." She strikes me as nagging, unpleasant, and intent upon bringing everyone down to make herself feel better. I suppose she gets points for honestly, but not for much else. (And what's with her emailing her husband throughout the day, and then getting snippy because he doesn't respond? Is she his mother? Does he need to check in with her regularly? I found this especially bizarre.)

    3.) She is without a doubt a woman of a certain privilege. I suspect she came from money and she certainly married into it. It's all well and good to tell me to take time for myself, take classes, exercise more, etc... I understand she's right about these things. But as a single, working mother, my life is vastly different from hers. Not everyone has the time, money, and other resources readily available to her. This is not to say that I gleaned nothing from this book, but I just can't imagine that many people would find her very relateable.

    4.) She really doesn't say anything new. I think we all already know most of her "epiphanies": money may not buy happiness, but it certainly makes it easier; regular exercise makes you happier; hobbies, friends, and a social life will make you happier; etc... While her conscious effort to do all these things (in a year, natch) is perhaps unique, not much of the information contained herein is.

    5.) I felt like a fairly big chunk of this book was devoted to quoting comments from her blog. I also feel like these quotes were not separated from her writing very clearly. Perhaps it was a problem unique to the Kindle version, but several times I found myself wondering, "Is this Gretchen or someone else?"

    Over all, I wish I could give the book 2.5 stars. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great. It was ok. I can't say that I regret reading it, but I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it to a friend, either.
  • (4/5)
    “Why should I spoil a peaceful moment with my irritation? Hearing someone complain is tiresome whether you’re in a good mood or a bad one and whether or not the complaining is justified.”Rubin, successfully published non-fiction writer, is enchanted by the topic of happiness and our modern malaise of having neither time nor inclination to improve our happiness. Whether happiness is even a reasonable or worthy pursuit.I absolutely loved Happier at Home, and I really enjoy these “year of…” memoirs. I do love a bit of watching someone else improve their life. Maybe that’s why I love watching West Wing and all the police procedural shows where people solve problems (murders)? Anyway… This is another in the vein of Sleeping Naked is Green, The New York Mormon Singles’… something-or-other (seriously, that book’s title is too long).Rubin writes intelligently and thoughtfully without being boring, about the science of happiness and introducing it into her daily life. She makes lots of attempts, some fail, but discovers lots of tricks and happy accidents along the way. My favourites include Act more energetic, Tackle a nagging task, Spend out (i.e. use up those things you’re saving for one day… what if it never comes?). I was also a big fan of the Secrets of Adulthood – Rubin has a knack for the simple but insightful one-liner, such as “if you can’t find something, clean up” or “what’s fun for other people may not be fun for you – and vice versa”.I think this is a fascinating book and definitely one to take away a few ideas from (I was mocked by my colleagues when I was reading this on a plane from Denver to New York and taking lots of notes!) – and I’m still reading her blog.