It doesn’t take rocket science to make the case for happiness, but a law degree from Yale sure doesn’t hurt — at least, it didn’t in the case of Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and a guest columnist for Good Housekeeping magazine. In contrast to other self-help writers, Rubin addresses the ephemeral idea of happiness systematically, arguing that life’s felicities are concrete and often intuitive.
Rubin comes Jan. 17 to Tempe to promote her latest book, “Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life,” just in time to kick-start your new year’s resolutions.
Q: You talk about making home and, subsequently, one’s family happier. There are lots of books on ways to achieve a happy home. What do you bring to the table?
GR: There has been an explosion of interest in happiness. I do a huge amount of research into popular science and ancient culture. I see what’s out there and sift through it (to see) what a person can realistically do as part of an ordinary, everyday routine. I try things that are very concrete and that don’t take a lot of time, energy and money.
Q: You said in your book that “Happier at Home” is narrower and deeper than “The Happiness Project.” What do you hope readers come away with?
GR: If you’re not happy at home, it’s hard to be happy. We have so many things we want from our experience of home. In the chaos of everyday life, people don’t think about “What can I do to make my home homey.” I decided every person in my house would get a warm hello and good-bye when they came and went. Everyone feels much more acknowledged and appreciated. I hope people will get ideas (from the book) that will make their experience of their home that much more satifsying.
Q: You use lots of quotes from classic authors including (Samuel) Johnson, Tolstoy and Dickens. How does good literature impact your happiness?
GR: My favorite thing to do is read. I’m a person of limited interests, and I love quotations. It’s such a joy to include them in the book. It’s a big priority for me...to have time to read. I schedule time to read. It’s easy not to make enough time to read, and if you’re a person who loves to read, it’s deadening (not to).
Q: You mention clutter and your temptation to de-clutter all the time. Why is it important to keep clutter under control?
GR: One of the things that constantly surprises me is that outer order contributes to inner calm. Having the LEGOs in the middle of the floor is trivial, but there’s something about having things off the floor that makes you feel more energetic and in control. It’s kind of an illusion, but a helpful illusion. Because clutter takes constant vigilance, I ask what can you do every day? What are the little things you can do here and there? How can you think of your possessions in a way that allows you to let go of them?
I have a policy that I rarely accept things for free. What am I going to do with a giant hand that has the name of a company on it? You have to steel yourself: ‘I bought this coat, but I don’t wear it, and I’m going to give it away.’ It takes a fair amount of mindful attention to eliminate clutter, but for most people, it’s surprisingly freeing. There’s something about that space.
Q: You started your “Happier at Home” project in September. Do you think it’s beneficial for people to start their own happiness project in January, or is there too much anxiety surrounding the whole new year’s resolution theme?
GR: I’m writing a book about habits (“Before and After,” coming out in 2015), and I’ve thought a lot about starting (habits). It depends. Whenever you’re going to start, start now. Why wait? For some people, it helps to have an auspicious beginning (New Year’s, birthdays, anniversaries). There’s something about these milestones that act as a catalyst.But now is always a good time, so why wait? People always think about what they’re going to do tomorrow. Do it now.
IF YOU GO
What: Gretchen Rubin discusses and signs copies of her latest book, “Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life.”
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17; seating begins at 6 p.m.; if all seats are not filled by 6:45 p.m., seating and standing room will be opened to non-ticket holders
Where: Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe
Cost: Two tickets are included with the purchase of “Happier at Home.”
Information: (480) 730-0205 or ChangingHands.com