It seemed that Gretchen Rubin said everything there was to say about happiness in her 2010 blockbuster, The Happiness Project, in which she spent a year creating and testing theories of happiness. But it turns out there was one facet of happiness left for Rubin to plumb: that within your own four walls.
The wonderfully thought-provoking Happier at Home isn’t about making your home prettier or less cluttered—although Rubin does devote some time to ridding her home of “things that didn’t matter, to make more room for the things that did.” Rather, she spends nine months focusing on what she considers the aspects of home that impact happiness: possessions, marriage, parenthood, interior design (meaning self-renovation, not Home Beautiful), time, body, family, neighborhood and now.
Rubin’s forays into happiness are so riveting because she masterfully blends the science of happiness with her own personal experience and offers tools to embark on your own project. She makes you want to jump into your own happiness project before you even finish the book.
Rubin does sometimes veer into a sort of eccentricity that some readers may find hard to relate to. In her chapter on body, she builds what she dubs a Shrine to Scent: a silver tray bearing a collection of unusual perfumes and air fresheners. Her bigger point is that Proustian memories evoked by the senses can bring happiness. But to me, a Shrine to Scent seems a little silly, just one more thing in my house I’d have to dust.
In the end, the purpose of Happier at Home is exactly that: finding what makes you happier in your home, your neighborhood and your marriage, even if it’s not what would make anyone else happy. And if you’re happier, chances are those around you will be, too.