25 September 2012

Review and giveaway: Gretchen Rubin's "Happier At Home"

At Amazon: Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life
At Amazon: Happier at Home
by Gretchen Rubin

I often wonder at the relative insulation of the blog world. The folks whose blogs I (and everyone else) read are rarely familiar to my neighborhood friends. Two notable exceptions: Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), whose cookbook sends my neighbor into fits of ecstasy, and Gretchen Rubin.

Gretchen's first book about happiness, The Happiness Project, is unanimously loved by a shocking number of my friends, most of whom are barely aware that I have a blog, let alone Gretchen (her blog is also called The Happiness Project).

There's a reason for their enthusiam (and that Happier At Home now joins The Happiness Project as a New York Times bestseller): Gretchen's unique blend of storytelling, memoir, and self-help. This book can be classified as self-help only because, when you follow along with Gretchen as she attempts to inject more happiness into her home life, you feel quietly inspired to do it yourself.

Reading Happier At Home is fun. Gretchen is a masterful storyteller. She's direct without being blunt. She's truthful without being grandiose. She's philosophical without being vague. And she's upfront about her failures and successes without being coy (which, after the popularity of The Happiness Project, would sound odd).

More than that, Happier At Home is an illustration of the unique path we all follow to find happiness. We all have our own joys and Achilles heels. Gretchen shares hers, choosing monthly challenges to address them. She devotes a school year to tasks pertaining to possessions, marriage, parenthood, self-care, time, body, family, community, all the while documenting her successes and failures and weaving in her findings from happiness writing and research across the ages.

Her tasks are delightfully specific to her life, for example, "take driving lessons" and "embrace good smells." Yet she deftly connects them to universal principles with which we can all identify (most of us, at least).

Gretchen comes to some surprising conclusions. One habit often touted as a Happiness Enhancer is to simplify. Gretchen agrees, but discovers she has a tendency to oversimplify, skipping experiences that seem complicated but, on closer inspection, would add richness to her family's life. (I do the same, so I can identify.)

In the end, we feel close to Gretchen, her husband Jamie, and her daughters Eliza and Eleanor. We're accustomed to the intimate glimpse into family life many blogs afford. But it's rare to feel such kinship after reading a book, let alone the inspiration to change one's life. Happier At Home leaves us feeling satisfied, connected, entertained, and ready to approach life with open eyes.

At Amazon: Happier At Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life (Hardcover) by Gretchen Rubin, $16.94

* * *

Win it! I have five copies of Happier At Home to give away! (Exciting! I haven't done a giveaway in a long time.) To enter, answer the following question in the comments of this post.

What's one small change that would make your home life happier?

(Believe it or not, mine would be to get a better handle on household paper management...mail, bills, records and filing. I haven't found a lasting routine that works for me and it causes me some amount of irritation every single day.)

I'll randomly choose five winners Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 2:30pm PST. Good luck!

Thank you to all who entered! I'll be in touch with the winners via email. LOVED reading your comments.

UPDATE: It's only 10am PST on Tuesday, and reading your comments has me nodding my head in solidarity. Such simple changes, on the face of it, but what a big difference those changes could make!

One entry per person, please. Giveaway open to US residents only. Winners will be notified by email.

Your comments

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Let go of picking and cleaning up and read more (with my young kids and also just for me).

Read less. Hard for me to admit, but my reading habit can get in the way of connecting with my family, and with tasks that need to be done. On that note, I DO hope I win this book :)

Creating a routine for planning meals, shopping, and cooking would be a huge help. I hate the anxiety of "what's for dinner/lunch" today.

Getting my kids in the habit of cleaning up after themselves and organizing at home as they do in school.

Now that I have a crock pot, it'd be great if I could get up early enough to put something in it in the morning. I always think about the missed opportunity somewhere around 5 p.m.

More frequent date nights!

Decorate. I too have the tendency to oversimplify, and renting doesn't help motivate me in the decorating area.

An efficient, fast, and inexpensive routine for shopping, preparing, cooking, and planning healthy meals is our dream.

Figuring out a way to keep a semi-tidy house would make me MUCH happier.

I think we would all be happier if I try to not sweat the small stuff so much!

Home life is happier when I go to sleep earlier, which then allows me to wake long before anyone else does. It gives me time to shower and get ready for the day so that I feel prepared when I need to get the little ones ready. Simple, but often I stay up late decompressing when I should be asleep! :)

what would make our home happier? hmm, how about healthy pre-cooked meals waiting for us when we pile in the door!

One small change.... a breakfast island!

Getting photos of our loved ones framed and put up would bring happiness and peace to us when we see them.

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