How to magnify your happiness at home and in life

Jan 23, 2013 at 6:14 p.m. ET

When Gretchen Rubin set out to become happier, she chronicled her adventures in the 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.

Woman lighting candle at home

The concept of “home” resonated with Rubin, and she penned her latest book, Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life. It’s not really just about your physical apartment or house — it’s really about things at the core, or home, of a person. She delves into relationships, kids, body, time, and, yes, her physical space and possessions.

In the book, Rubin lists her own truths, or ways to be happy to the core. While some of them may not work for you, her insights are well worth sharing and worth discovering how they can help you be at home with your happiness.

Identify things that nag you

Rubin is right when she says that you won’t be happy doing everything that you should do in order to be happy. Case in point: That nagging list of things that have to be done but never seem to be done. These are things that eat your joy, so in dealing with them, you can be happier. What things are on your nag list? Start one — then start tackling it.

Introduce scents

This may seem minor, but it can make a big difference in your home. Whether it’s candles, incense, essential oils or sprays, it's fairly inexpensive to introduce fresh scents that will make your space brighter and encourage positive moods.

Don’t wreak havoc on your family

While you may be happier if your kids would just put their laundry in the basket, you can’t change everyone — only yourself. Think of things that you can do. You can solicit the help of family members, but don’t expect them to go on a happiness journey of their own.

Sift through your junk

When your home has the room for extra junk, it can be easy to ignore it. Yet all that “stuff” weighs on you, doesn’t it? Sift through it, small bits at a time, so you can determine what you need, what you value and what you can get rid of.

Identify what matters to you — and do it

For Rubin, a diehard shutterbug who enjoyed being surrounded by images of her family, being able to organize, print and archive her photos was a priority. But it was so hard to make the time to do it! Again, she didn’t enjoy the idea of sitting down to sift through the pictures for 15 minutes a day, but she says she “suffered” through it and wound up keeping up on her photos. Overall, that made her happier.


Visiting Rubin’s website is definitely worth the time. She offers useful tips and quizzes, along with an insightful, humorous blog. Most importantly, she encourages people to define their own happiness and then embark on a journey to attain and savor it.

More tips for happiness

Happy women have happy marriages — and you can, too
Cleanse negativity from your life to find happiness
Happiness secrets for busy moms