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Book review

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

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Book review

Want to be happier at home? Rubin's nine-month plan is designed to tranform our homes into a space where we experience increased happiness.

Happier at Home 
by Gretchen Rubin
Doubleday Canada, 2012, 273 pages, $29.95
ISBN: 978-0-385-67082-1

I did not expect to enjoy this new work by Gretchen Rubin. I hadn’t even given her first book, The Happiness Project, the attention it deserved as a blockbuster hit on the Globe and Mail and New York Times best-seller lists. I felt no need to indulge in the study and pursuit of happiness as seen through the eyes of a has-it-all resident of the Big Apple. But the cheerful, somewhat quirky cover of this new book beckoned, and before you could say “home sweet home,” I was in!

Happier at Home chronicles Rubin’s nine-month personal analysis of how habits and behaviours in the home can enhance or decrease our own happiness levels and those of our families. A different theme is explored each month: possessions, marriage, parenthood, interior design, time, body, family, neighbourhood.

Readers will find that by following Rubin’s line of questioning, their own parallel insights are revealed. Her text is peppered with a wide range of literary and scientific quotes, each one a springboard for further examination about what works (and what doesn’t work) in our own homes. The quotes are entertaining, educational, and often surprising. I was exposed to writers I’d not read before (Samuel Johnson, for one) and enjoyed the processes involved in considering the happiness triggers in my own home.

Those who have read Rubin’s The Happiness Project (2009) will know that she is adept at setting strategies and exercises to boost happiness. And while Rubin admits, “The only person I can change is myself,” she experiments with concepts for tweaking parental behaviours to affect the entire family. Should she/we guard children’s free time, or enforce unwanted music lessons? How does she/we struggle to balance work time and home time, and tame the “cubicle in our pockets”? How will she/we manage to tackle a daunting task, successfully avoided for years? And one of my favourites: how can we train ourselves to gracefully “enter into the interests of others”?

The nuggets of happiness Rubin creates for herself are readily adaptable and easy to practise. No matter where we live, the frustrations and challenges of this New York writer will surely resonate. There is something here for everyone to take home. 

Happy at Home

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