Get Happier at Home: Practical Tips from Gretchen Rubin

Eric Swanson recently sat down with bestselling author Gretchen Rubin to talk about her book Happier at Home (now available in paperback). He said “it was like talking to a really good friend—someone wise, funny, resolutely practical, and refreshingly honest.”

To feel more at home, at home, one suggestion Rubin offers is to “cultivate a shrine”—to make a place of special dedication to something that you love.

Rubin has created several such places in her apartment, but one she’s particularly fond of is a shrine to children’s literature: an area occupied by a bookcase full of children’s books, her old Cricket magazines, and a Gryffindor banner a friend brought her from the Harry Potter theme park.

“When I pulled all these things together,” she continues, “I realized it wasn’t anything that I hadn’t owned before, but by mindfully arranging them, I energized it. And now that’s one of my favorite parts of my apartment, because here’s all these things that I love.”

Rubin is quick to point out that building strong relationships with other people is critical.

Visions of group therapy sessions begin a danse macabre in my head. But Rubin dispels them with a simple suggestion for enhancing the level of attentiveness and tenderness in relationships.

“We started a family resolution to give warm greetings and farewells whenever someone comes and goes. You feel better when somebody really acknowledges that you’ve come home or that you’re on your way out. You have a moment of connection.”

Appreciation for what we already have is also key.

“People who feel grateful tend to be happier,” Rubin observes. “Yet it’s so easy to take for granted all the things that make us happiest.”

After a fruitless attempt at keeping a gratitude journal (“It drove me crazy”), she found another, more immediate, route.

“In my apartment building there are two doors you have to go through, in or out, so there’s sort of forced pause—which to me is like the real threshold of my home. So whenever I go out or in, I use that transition to create a threshold ritual to remember how happy I am to be coming home or how happy I am to be going out into the world.”

As I ponder this, I feel as though I’m on a threshold, myself.

“To understand yourself,” Rubin tells me, “is to understand your home. And to understand your home is to understand yourself.”

Excerpted from “Feel More Home, at Home: A Conversation with Gretchen Rubin” by Eric Swanson. Get the full article at

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