Gretchen Rubin’s #1 New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, gave New Yorkers a prescription for identifying hurdles to happiness and a plan for having more of it.
Now, with her latest project, the author chronicles a year of applying new self-discovery experiments and rituals, in Happier at Home.
The book confines itself to the not-necessarily hallowed halls of Rubin’s New York City apartment—complete with chores undone and handyman projects galore, which gives it a gold-star for relatability.
It’s full of unexpected examples of how engaging with your surroundings makes happiness possible. Or by disconnecting from them, impossible. And Rubin uses her own imperfections as fodder that’s also fun to read.
Think of it as a happiness guide book to your New York apartment—and how to deal with hang-ups like hating your neighbors, managing clutter, and more. Mostly by dealing with yourself.
Here are five pieces of advice that the New York apartment dweller and happiness expert really made us want to try at home. —Jenna Holt and Melisse Gelula
1. Plant your flag in your space with a fragrance. Or two.
After discovering a long-harbored passion (read: addiction) for good smells, Rubin invested in the exotic aromas of Demeter Fragrance.
“Bonfire,” “Salt Air,” and “Memory of Kindness” filled her ordinary New York apartment with extraordinary scents that created happy associations and conjured long-lost memories, Rubin says.
How does her Proustian experience apply to you?
Well, has that meditation candle or bespoke room spray at Barneys been calling your name since January? Maybe it’s time to swipe the credit card and take it home.
There are lots of reasons to be grateful—including for the roof over our heads. But it’s way too easy to forget in a New York apartment when your roommate is a slob, your neighbor’s wailing baby keeps you awake, or your co-op board has just raised the maintenance. Again.
So Rubin says that when you approach your apartment and put the key in the lock, it’s a great time to remind yourself to feel grateful for everything “dear and ordinary,” and take a moment to reflect lovingly on the people in your life.
“I’m not happy unless I think I’m happy,” says Rubin. So she adds that to her threshold mantra: “How happy I am, how grateful I am, to be home.”
Rubin is all for tackling the thing you’re putting off—every day.
We all have those dreaded chores that are haunting our to-do list.
Whether it’s hauling shoes and clothes you never wear to off to Goodwill or getting your work expenses organized and to accounts payable, it’s easier to tackle projects in small bits rather than in one head-on 24-hour meltdown.
And think of it this way, say Rubin: 15 minutes of suffering a day leaves 23 hours and 45 minutes for other things. Including fun.
Yes, it’s a radical proposition. But often making a purchase—even well-meaning organizational ones like chic filing cabinets, matching hangers, or under-the-bed stash-away boxes—makes clutter at home worse, says Rubin.
Unless you “engage with” the things that are filling up your space, these things that you love can start to feel like a burden.
Tackle your clutter, throw it out, or give it away.
The freeing feeling will ricochet through your home and happiness, Rubin promises: “Having order in my closets made me feel as though I had more time in day,” she says. “Outer order creates inner calm.”
Do you have a gorgeous bottle of body wash you’ve never opened?
How about a bottle of artisanal olive oil you hauled back from Italy that you’ve used twice?
Use it up, says Rubin.
Same goes for the white top you’re afraid will get stained if you wear it. Wear everything, as much as you can.
Saving special things instead of enjoying them is a buzz-kill, not the route to happiness.