Happier at Home is the follow up to Gretchen Rubin’s huge hit The Happiness Project (2009). It is now five years later and Rubin has realized that although her initial Happiness Project was a success, there is still room for improvement. In The Happiness Project she took a year to revamp her life by making small changes. Every month had a theme such as family or work and she came up with small changes that would improve the quality of that area of her life. In Happier at Home, Rubin focuses more specifically on what would make her home life happier. This reflects, in some ways, a shift in her own world as her children grow up and become more independent. This time instead of dedicating a full year to her task, she takes a school year – a more logical chunk of time for someone with school age children.
Like in her earlier book, the thing that makes Happier at Home such a success is how personable Rubin is. She is not some self-help guru with the answer to everything. She tries different things – sometimes she fails, sometimes she succeeds, but the whole time she remains true to herself. The goals she sets for herself are not always lofty, but do improve the quality of her home life. She creates small shrines around her house to remind her of what is important to her and of family memories. She comes up with a way to prevent her BlackBerry from taking over her life. She spends more dedicated time with each of her children. And she does all of this without being prescriptive. The idea, after all, is not to do what she does, but to find your own way using her as a guide.
As I mentioned above, Rubin is very personable and relate-able. I felt like she could be a friend. We share many similar interests, such as reading,writing and research. This is reflected in the quotations that fill her book. She is well read, and to me that makes reading her book more enticing. She also admits to some dark truths that I share with her: I would often rather be at my computer writing than with my family, and no matter what I am doing I would almost always rather be reading. Scary but true.
The one major difference between Happier at Home and The Happiness Project is that reading The Happiness Project was like a call to action for me. I started my own (failed) Happiness Project and thoroughly checked out happiness-project.com. This time, after having read Happier at Home I have not jumped to action in the same way. That may because all the hard ground work was laid after The Happiness Project or it may reflect that I, like Rubin, am at a different stage in my life. Happier at Home did reignite my awareness of certain things, and there are concrete changes I am going to make but it will not be the grand overhaul that The Happiness Project inspired.
Who would like this book? Like The Happiness Project, this is a self-help book for people who hate self-help. I don’t even like to think of it as self-help but that is probably what it is. Both of Rubin’s books make you think about your life, even if you are not unhappy, and the ways that you could make it happier. More importantly, Rubin is a regular person making simple changes. Nothing earth shattering.