For Christmas this year, A. gave me a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier at Home,” the follow up to her wildly successful “The Happiness Project.” Gretchen Rubin was a lawyer, and at one point clerked with Sandra Day O’Connor. These days she writes about happiness, and has the spammiest of blogs I’ve ever unsubscribed from.
I am aware of the shortcomings of these books. This is classic white privilege stuff – Rubin is financially secure, well-connected, and hasn’t had to face the numerous obstacles that stand between most people and happiness (poverty being the big one). But there is just something about these books. Maybe it’s her writing, or her ability to acknowledge her own shortcomings, but I enjoy the read, and I really enjoy the guidance, however superficial it may seem.
“Happier at Home” is all about teasing out the happiness in your own space, an idea I find enticing. Maybe it’s because I spent a few years abroad, where my focus was really on building up a social network for my family and not my physical space. Maybe it’s because I’ve moved so many times over my adult life that I’ve never really felt I had a physical home, per se, preferring instead to view home as wherever the people I love are. Maybe it’s because for the last year and a half, I’ve basically never been home except to sleep and stuff food into children. Hmm.
Like Rubin, lately I find myself feeling homesick. I desperately miss the house I grew up in on Vancouver Island. It was sold years ago, after my parents separated. I haven’t set foot inside the place since 2001. But I can smell it and feel it. I remember the big window in the living room, which looked out over the front yard and the beach. I remember the kitchen, with the blue and brown flowered backsplash. I remember the wrap around deck, the giant back yard. I remember smoking and reading YM magazine in the rafters of the garage. I remember always feeling happy when I set foot inside that house.
I feel happy in my house today, don’t get me wrong. I love hearing the sound of my kids playing, love hearing Andrew in the kitchen, love the lighting in my bathroom. We are outgrowing our space, but it’s cozy in a good way. Yet, I could be happier. Sometimes I feel like the four of us are just floating through this house without really engaging with it. Some of that comes from knowing we’re always on the move, but some of it, I think, comes from the fact that we all four live busy, slightly disconnected lives. I want to tie us together better, and connect us to our home, even if it’s a temporary space.
To that end, for my new years resolution this year I resolve to follow Rubin’s “Happier at Home” book. Rubin takes 9 months to complete her project, but considering my life, I bet it takes me the whole of 2018 to get there. Given the terrible success rate of new years resolutions, I’ll try to remain accountable by updating the blog once a month.
My first challenge: Possessions. Here, Rubin isn’t suggesting I get rid of everything. Rather, she suggests that I make spaces in my house to highlight the possessions and experiences that are important to me and my family, then go shelf by shelf to remove those items that are not especially meaningful and serve no function. So here we go!