With a title like “Happier At Home”, how could a professional organizer resist reading this book? Gretchen Rubin gained fame with her memoir The Happiness Project, in which she took on a project to discover how to be happier. In this book, she is focusing on home and family. Each month, she focuses on a different theme (Possessions, Parenthood, Interior Design) and sets resolutions to accomplish her goals.
Gretchen is certainly a fan of Samuel Johnson, who
One of Gretchen’s keys to happiness is having strong ties with other people, which is supported by ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists (p. 15). Some of my clients struggle with having people come over to visit because they are ashamed of their home, of their clutter. Living in disorganization can certainly be isolating. She felt that her possessions “blocked my view and weighed me down” (p.20). Yet “in most cultures, the interaction between people and their things is a central aspect of life”, according to hoarding researchers Gail Steketee and Randy Frost (p. 22).
Gretchen found that the more things that she possessed without using, the more beleaguered she felt. So when she focused on making mini-shrines instead, she noticed “when I consciously permitted myself to save a particular thing, I was able to get rid of more stuff.” We love this technique as professional organizers – curating our treasures, as it were.
One interesting but not surprising fact to me was that “some household places naturally become areas of super-engagement. Research suggests that no matter how big a house, people spend the most time near the kitchen, gathered around the closest flat surface – a kitchen table, an island, a nearby dining room table – or in rooms with televisions or computers.” (p. 31). This is why we often suggest that even though that lovely upstairs corner office that overlooks the backyard seems like it should be the perfect place to pay bills, we so often end up at our kitchen tables with our laptops and work. We want to be in the heartbeat of the home, and this especially applies to kids (how many don’t use their basement playrooms full of toys but rather play in the living room near mom?).
One of my own favorite techniques that she employed around resolutions is that the start of a new school year always gives me an energetic boost, even though my own children are adults. There’s something about the coolness in the air and the inevitable slide toward hibernation that kicks up enough fire to tackle some small goals. Overall the book was a good read, and I enjoyed her specific resolutions and how she carried (or didn’t) them out.
In the end, our inner attitude affects our external surroundings, and she decided that “To feel more at home at home, I must carry my home, my treasure, within me.” It’s true that no matter where we go, there we are!