Learn. Choose. Change.

I pledge to learn the true cost, to people and the planet, of what I eat, wear, drive, use and do every day. I choose to consume justly and to increasingly change my habits.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just Read: The Happiness Project

Back in 2009, when this book came out, I was still the owner of an independent bookstore.  Most of my customers were fairly discriminating readers, and I, myself, could be a little snobby about books.  So, when Gretchen Rubin wrote The Happiness Project, I dismissed it as another self-help book full of fluff.  However, a customer with good taste in reading came in one day raving about this book.  Trusting her instincts, I ordered some copies for the store and read one for myself.  Now, just about every book club on the island has read and discussed this book, and everyone I've talked to has gleaned something from it.

What makes this book stand apart from others like it is Rubin's background.  She has a law degree (from Yale, no less) and has researched and written biographies on political figures like Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy.  Where other books in this category might be light and feel like just a lot of common sense, Rubin has done her homework and provides loads of scientific research for her project.  She also tackles her goals systematically, dividing them up into categories and setting deadlines.  This type of organization and approach appeals to me, as I love to make a list and cross things off.

So, what does this book have to do with this blog?  The focus of the first chapter/month is Boosting Energy.  Rubin concludes from her research that physical clutter was weighing her down and dealing with it daily was sapping her energy.  I like the way she addresses different categories of clutter:  Sentimental, Bargain, Freebie, etc.  She acknowledges the way we tend to value stuff and justify its existence in our lives.  Also, after dealing with her clutter, she is much more conscientious about what she is going to bring into her home.  This is the part that rang true for me.  After making a decision to consume more conscientiously, our family evaluates everything coming into our home (clothing, appliances, gadgets, etc.) whether we will be purchasing it new, second-hand, or getting it for free!  Even our kids will stop and question if they really need something before deciding to purchase it or accept a hand-me-down from a friend.

Rubin also discusses the value she began to place on experiencing things rather than consuming things throughout her experiment.  This is a value we have also tried to instill in our family, often giving experiences (trips to museums, dance performances, skateboard competitions) as gifts, rather than things.  When our kids were younger, we often requested Family Memberships to the local zoo and children's museum as Christmas presents, rather than making lists of items the kids could receive from grandparents.

As it is the New Year (sort of still, right?), this is a great read to get you motivated to make some changes that have probably been nagging you for awhile anyway.  And though you may feel you are getting a late start (the chapters are divided by months), you'll find some chapters are inappropriate or unnecessary to your life anyway.  For example, Rubin devotes a month to her career and many of us are not in a spot where we are thinking about that.  She also spends another month exploring her spirituality, another topic many people already feel they have a pretty solid footing in.  So, in the end, anyone could pick and choose their own areas and set their goals accordingly.  Good Luck!

1 comment:

  1. I read the Happiness Project and just LOVED it ! I underlined a LOT of passages and still reread it once in a while.