Book Review: Happier at Home

Book Review: Happier at Home

Happier at Home book review

Because I liked Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project so well, I nabbed her sequel when it came out in Costco several years ago, but never read it. Now that I am working on completing all the categories in my Reading Challenge before the end of the year, this book qualified in the category of something “at the bottom of my ‘To be Read Pile'” so I finally gave it a read. While I honored her previous book with five stars, I can only give this one three stars.

I still enjoyed it, as you can see from my lists below, but there were no revelations here. She’s a bit type A for my taste; for example, she plans very carefully to be spontaneous! I do applaud her, however, for striving to “be herself”; this deep authenticity is something my blog readers know I value very much, and it is different for all of us. But maybe in future books she can avoid using the phrase “nevertheless” so much?

She advocates:

  • Just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t mean it is fun for me.
  • It’s enormously helpful, and surprisingly difficult, to grasp the obvious.
  • You need new friends and old friends.
  • A change is as good as a rest.
  • It’s more important to say something than to say the right thing.
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  • Read the manual.
  • Try to be cheerfully accommodating.
  • Under-react to a problem.
  • Enter into the interests of others.
  • Go on weekly adventures.
  • The only person I can change is myself.
  • One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.
  • No one else can make you happy.
  • Resist happiness leeches (grouches, jerks, slackers, etc.)
  • Keep a sense of humor.
  • Act the way I want to feel; behave the way I want to behave
  • Be polite and be fair.
  • Do what ought to be done.
  • Spend out (use stuff up.)
  • Mind my own business.
  • Do it now.
  • Respond to the spirit of a gift (not the gift itself).
  • Love what you have; do what you value.
  • Boredom can be important because that’s when you figure out what you want to do.
  • To get stuff done that you want/need to do but don’t enjoy, agree to suffer for exactly 15 minutes each day.
  • Cultivate an atmosphere of growth.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Jump more.
  • I’m not happy unless I think I’m happy.
  • Less is more.
  • Start early if possible.
  • Don’t let anyone get too hungry.
  • Carry tissues.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • There’s joy in routine, but occasional disruption makes routine all the sweeter.
  • Be a tourist without leaving home.
  • See things with fresh eyes.
  • Learn more.
  • Go off the path.
  • Do good = feel good.
  • Be kind.
  • Do what you want to do. (If I don’t really want something, it won’t make me happy.)
  • Break a large task into smaller tasks.
  • Write down anything I need to remember.
  • Always put your keys in the same place.
  • Now is where your treasure is.

Questions she asks herself to help make choices:

  • What am I waiting for?
  • What would I do if I weren’t scared?
  • What steps would make things easier?
  • What would I do if I had all the time and money in the world?
  • If I were looking back at this decision five years from now, what will I wish I had done?

And I enjoyed these quotes which I think are pertinent:

  • ‘The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life’ William Morris
  • ‘It is impossible to win the great prizes of life without running risks, and the greatest of all prizes are those connected with the home.’ Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Each time of life has its own kind of love.” Leo Tolstoy
  • “If better were within, better would come out.” Simon Patrick
  • “One lives in the naive notion that later there will be more room than in the entire past.” Elias Canetti
  • “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • “It is hard, so terribly hard to please yourself. Far from being the easy thing that it sounds like, it is almost the hardest thing in the world, because we are not always comfortable with that true self that lies deep within us.” Christopher Alexander
  • “The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the dominance of outward conditions.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Other than what I’ve quoted here, I’d recommend sticking with her first book….


I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. ChristineMM 8 years ago

    To get what I have to do done I suffer for a lot more than 15 minutes a day! Maybe that’s what contributes to some of my grouchiness?

    I take issue with more than a few of her recommendations. If I did what she did I would never have accomplished all that I have done and all that I still do every single day.

    A couple of other thoughts: 1) some of us are Dealt a hand that makes life not so fantastic. I have a friend who suffers with chronic pain 24 hours a day, for one quick example. I’m thinking of the hardship that two different families I know have with severely autistic children, well one is an adult now but he is still a dependent and needs parenting every day all day. It’s not right to undermine people for not being more cheerful or more optimistic when they’re dealing with real life issues.

    2) I agree that we need friends that are old and new. However when our friends go through hard times we need to be open and giving unconditional love. Our friends are not here only to serve us, she implies that your friends should only enhance your life with cheer?. If you have real friends you were there for them in the good times and the bad times and you give them leeway even when they’re going through some hard times that might last more than day. Sometimes we serve them. That means being there to listen to them even if the friend tends to complain. If we know that they need an outlet and that list and that listening is helping them then we serve our friend and help them. You don’t have to let your friend’s burdens bring down your day although if you really love them their plight may bring you some Bad feelings due to empathy which we need more than this world.

    If someone is just a toxic jerk I agree cut them out.

    • Author
      Polly Castor 8 years ago

      Like I said, I only gave it three stars. I think she lives in an upper east side bubble with no challenging issues, but still trying to be “happier.” That’s fine, but she never seems required to actually dig deep. In all fairness, in the bit you were referring to, I think she’s talking about distancing oneself from the “toxic jerks” as you put it… She does value being kind and doing the right thing, wants to be accommodating and helpful.

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