book reviews happiness

Book review: Happier at Home

I adored Gretchen Rubin’s first book, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. So I was super-excited when her sequel recently came out, Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life.

While The Happiness Project focused more on improving Gretchen’s own personal happiness (learning what her own personal truths were and what she needed to do to realize them), Happier at Home focuses more on…well, home. Topics like family, marriage, and the physical space that is your house.

What I liked

I loved the chapter on “Possessions” that focused on making home a happier place by paying attention to things like clutter and aesthetics. Like I’ve discussed here before, I think that physically making your surroundings nicer can boost your happiness a ton. The action of cleaning and organizing can be seen as an act of love, for your home and for your family. And when your living space feels cozier and more like “you,” it makes you feel calmer and more content…which is exactly what a “home” is supposed to do.

Being a huge fan of mindfulness, I also loved her chapter on “Body,” or really experiencing the world around you. I’ve always said (or maybe I’ve always agreed with it since reading it from Gretchen, heehee) that scents are one of the things we rarely take the time to notice in our busy world. I loved how she actually went to a fancy perfume factory to explore all sorts of unique scents, from “fresh cut grass” to “clean windows.” It really makes you stop and think about the everyday scents around you, and how they can affect your mood. (Who hasn’t smelled the first freshly cut grass of the season and thought back to things like summer vacation? Who doesn’t feel homey and warm when they smell clean linen?)

I also loved her rule to “jump” (literally) at least once a day…everything from skipping down the hall while waiting to pick up her kids at school to hopping down the last step on a staircase. It’s so silly, but also fun…and apparently it works to boost your mood! I love that small, silly things like that (so easy to do) can make your day a little more cheerful. Plus we’re so serious all of the time, I just loved Gretchen’s willingness to look a little foolish just to make her kids (and herself) laugh.

I also liked that some of the things Gretchen grouped under her “home” experiments were things I might not necessarily have associated with home, like “suffering for 15 minutes a day” to get those nagging chores done that sit around your house and drag down your spirits, or “being a tourist in your own neighborhood” to really see your surroundings with new eyes.

Like with her first book, Gretchen definitely provided me with plenty of experiments I want to try in my own life!

What I didn’t like (as much)

There was nothing I really disliked. Even the sections I couldn’t relate to, I found interesting and learned something from.

Not having kids, I couldn’t relate to some of the chapters that focused more on parenthood and family topics. I think creating holiday traditions is a great idea, and can’t wait to do it for my own kids some day, but it’s kind of hard to do when it’s just the two of you. (I’m sure The Hubby would be amused (or confused!) if I dyed our St. Patrick’s Day breakfast green, but I don’t think it would get the same bang for my efforts as it would from kids.) And while I love it that Gretchen decided not to over-schedule her kids’ lives with activities, but give them some free time to just be kids, it’s not anything I can apply right now (although I definitely will be when it’s my turn to be a parent).

All in all, though, I love how human Gretchen always is. She gets frustrated, she gets short-tempered, she is totally petrified of driving (we all have that one thing we’re terrified of). Reading about her personal experiments (and struggles) in making her home and her family life happier gave me plenty of ideas of ways I can make my own home a happier place and my own little “family” (of Hubby and dogs) a happier family.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who liked The Happiness Project, as well as to anyone who wants to make their home and their family a more relaxing, welcoming place.

(And couldn’t we all use more of that?)

Have you read Happier at Home? What did you think about it?





  • I’m glad to read your review. I’ve got this book on hold at the library after reading and loving The Happiness Project. I hope that I enjoy it as much as you do! And I for one will be trying to institute more holiday traditions for just me and the boy. 🙂

    • If you liked the first one, you’ll love this one too. Gretchen is so thoughtful and dedicated to making her life better…Everyone can get learn something from her experiments.

      Good luck with your new traditions! I can’t wait to start some of my own when I have a family.

  • Em,
    Like you, I have few uses for the chidren-centered topics in these books. But the one thing we should take from them is the value of creating rituals.
    Especially around the holidays Jamie and I have created many rituals over the years. When we lived in Southern California we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain every Christmas Eve. The park is open and empty. We’d ride every single roller coaster, some of them twice, and be done in less than 3 hours.

    Then we’d stay the night at the Hyatt and enjoyed the fabulous Christmas Eve buffet.

    This type of ritual stops when the kids come, but can be looked back upon when infant duty (doody?) finally arrives.

    Are you and hubby and BD and LD creating any rituals?

    • You know, we’re not really creating any rituals for just ourselves…but you’ve made me realize that I should work on that! Our little family is still a family, and sometimes holidays can feel a little lonely all by ourselves. I mean, we go to Christmas dinner at our families’, but Christmas morning is kind of quiet when you don’t have a bunch of kids running down the steps for their presents. I love your Six Flags idea. We should do something equally cool to commemorate and enjoy the time we have right now, just the two of us.

      Oh, and I LOVE the “BD” and “LD” references! It took me a second to realize who you were talking about, and then I thought “Oh my gosh, my first reader-created inside reference!” Totally made my day! 🙂

      p.s. The Hubby would like me to let you know that he got a good laugh out of your “doody” reference. 😛

  • Hooray for Gretchen Rubin! I love how her writing always offers a new way to look at your life and your surroundings. I am a both a brand-new newlywed and home owner, so like you, I think some chapters would be more applicable to my life than others, but I expect they would be interesting nevertheless.

    One of the things I like about GR is that she picks small actions that can have a big impact. It’s so easy to get caught up in work, household tasks, and all of the things that have to get done, that it can be easy to neglect fun and silliness, but there is always time for jumping, hugs, and laughter. 🙂

    • Congratulations on both the wedding and the home!

      You’re right…Gretchen focuses on easy, everyday things that are totally do-able, which I love. I’m not looking for a grand life revelation. I just want to know how to be happier day to day! And I loved how much positivity was in this book…the jumping, hugs, loving hellos and goodbyes whenever her family members left the house. It’s really amazing how much the whole tone of your day (and other people’s days!) can change if you just take the time to focus on a few small, positive changes.

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