Thursday, March 20, 2014

Books I've read...... Happier At Home

I don't quite know how to explain it, but I haven't felt like "myself" since the end of last summer. There were a lot of challenges in 2013 (some more personal ones that I may share later) but what I do want to share that relates to this post is that we put our house on the market - we've lived here for 11 years. It's our first home. I know that moving is something people do all of the time, but for me it's a pretty big deal. Jon started a job where he commutes 90 miles one way, so that is the reason for our move. Then, news broke where I didn't know if I would have a job and if I did, I didn't know what city it would be in. Six months later, our house hasn't sold, I still don't know where I will be working,  and we don't know where we will end up. Living with those uncertainties for six months can really take it's toll.
When I saw an ad for the book Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, it caught my attention. I mean, of course I am happy in my life! I have a great marriage, wonderfully joyful little boy, 2 faithful dogs, a nice home, a good job, food in my cupboard.... well, you get the drift. When you know how good you have it, you almost feel guilty when you are sad. So I dove into reading this, looking for some simple solutions to make the "everyday" a little more cheery.
I learned that Gretchen wrote a book before this one, called The Happiness Project. I am intrigued to read this one as well. She carried the following rules into the home book, and are good daily reminders:

To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
The days are long, but the years are short. (Oh, this one is soooo true!)
I'm not happy unless I think I'm happy.
Just because something makes me happy doesn't mean it makes other people happy, and vice versa.
I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature.
The only person I can change is myself.
I can't "make" someone happy, and no one else can "make" me happy.
Now is now.
One of the things I have struggled with the most with this move is "possessions". It has been really hard for me to live in my home and pretend it is not really mine. Meaning, whenever you try to sell a house you have to neutralize everything - tone down decor, take down personal pictures, put away personal objects. Okay, beyond that, it's been really hard on the flip side to find a house we like so far. As much of a pain in the ass it is sometimes to live in an old house you just CAN NOT find the same kind of quality in newer homes. I found myself with a laundry list of what our new house has to have (besides things like real wood floors and trim): fireplace, walk in closet, studio space, dual sink master bath. And you know what? I feel like a spoiled brat. I mean, shouldn't I just be happy to have a roof over my head?
Luckily, Gretchen wrote an entire chapter on possessions and it made me feel better and that is what I want to share here. Every page of the book had valuable information, but this section is what I wanted to focus this post on. Here are some of the excerpts I took in my journal:
Within the larger subject of happiness, the proper relationship of possessions to happiness is hotly debated. Some research suggests that spending money on an experience brings more happiness than buying a possession, but the line between possessions and experiences isn't always simple to draw. The latest pair of skis is tied to the fun of skiing. A camera is a possession that keeps happy memories vivid. A dog is a possession, an experience, and a relationship.
We often deny the importance of possessions, or feel embarrassed by our enthusiasm for them, but the desire to possess has roots very deep in human nature.
True, money can't buy happiness, but spent wisely, it can buy things that contribute mightily to a happy life.
It (money) can help us pursue activities that bring us happiness whether raising children, planting a garden, or planning a vacation.
Declaring that we'd all be happy with more, or with less, is like saying that every book should be a hundred pages long. Every book has a right length, and people differ in the number of possessions, and the type of possessions, with which they can meaningfully engage. There's no right way; I must decide what's right for me.
For better or worse, buying things (or photographing them, cataloging them, or writing reviews about them) is a way to engage with the world. When we're interested in something, we often express that by researching, shopping, buying and collecting. People who love art go to museums, but when they can afford it, they usually want to buy art too. People who love to cook enjoy buying kitchen tools and exotic ingredients. The latest sports equipment probably isn't much different from what's already in the closet. We crave to buy and possess the things we love, even when it's not necessary.
That last paragraph related to me not only in this new home journey, but also with this blog. This blog in which I talk about shopping and clothes. Clothes that I don't "need". But it's a passion for me. I love connecting with other bloggers who are just as excited about style as I am. So, I came to realize that for me, personally, my home is very important to me. The aesthetics, materials, colors, etc.... all contribute to how I "feel" in my home. And honestly, it's not about anyone else but me - meaning that we hardly ever entertain people so I certainly don't feel the need to "show off" my house in that way.
In looking at possessions in another way, Gretchen gave an example of a friend who had 20 boxes of old "stuff" at his parents house. He didn't really want to deal with it and said he hoped there was a fire or flood so that he wouldn't have to. When she suggested that he just throw them out then, he said he couldn't - that he couldn't just throw it away even if he didn't want it. So what is the difference then between a natural disaster occurring to ease the mind versus just getting rid of it? We can probably all understand the demands of these cardboard boxes. I too have recently gone through this in trying to pare down our "stuff" for the move. Sometimes, I am in the mood to clean and am really motivated to get rid of stuff. Other times, I hang on and want to save with the mentality that I might need that someday. Here are some quotes I took on this:

The press of superfluous possessions made me feel unsettled and harried, and the demands required by acquisition, use, maintenance, storage, and even relinquishment ate up my energy and time.
Simplicity is not always the answer. Many things that boost happiness also add complexity to life. Having children, owning pets, etc.....
Not a simple matter of organization, elimination, or accumulation; but a matter of engagement. When I feel engaged with my possessions, I feel enlivened by them, and when I feel disengaged, I feel burden.
Okay, so this is all some pretty deep stuff that takes some time to work through. So here are some quick things that I learned to work into my daily routine that will help along the way:
clean as you go
take 15 minutes each day (to tackle an unsavory task until it is done)
appearance of order is satisfying
everything has a place
use things up (don't wait for special occasions)
create a shrine for things that are important to you (for me, my studio)
A great quote from the book as well is, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
This was when she was talking about the overwhelming task of organizing her pictures and making photo books. Ohhh, I can so relate to this as a scrapbooker. I have so many pictures to catch up on and so many supplies (possessions) that I often feel paralyzed. I don't know where to start and when I do work on it, I want it to be perfect. I waste time sorting through 100 sheets of paper just "in case" there might be a better choice. So yeah, sometimes perfect isn't as important as just getting. it. done.
So this is probably the longest post I have ever done. And what's a post without pictures? So I wanted to show some recent frames I put together despite having to "hide" them when we show the house. It made me happy to do this, therefore, it was important to do.

 And also, a few finds from a Sunday last September when I was having a particularly low day. I just HAD to get out of the house and be by myself. There was an art fair and historic downtown shopping in a nearby city. The weather was perfect for wandering around. The print below (which is now framed and hung) was by an artist who is a radiology tech and uses the machines during off hours to make gorgeous prints. Peonies are one of my favorite flowers. And I had wanted a globe for quite some time and found the perfect one at one of the antique stores. I remember texting my husband and thanking him for giving me this time. And now, these are not just possessions, but memories. Memories of a bad day turned good - of soul searching and finding peace.

In no way was I compensated for the review of this book. I just wanted to share my thoughts and learnings from it. I know my anxiety about our move will still be here, but hopefully I will look back on it someday with some good memories.


GnomeLover said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I am glad you had that day to turn around. I will have to check out that book. Thank you for the review. And for the update on what is going on. I had been wondering what was going on with the house hunt and the selling. That has to be so stressful. I am sorry you are going through that. I would feel so displaced. I think us women need that stability of being able to nest. I hope you get both of those stress points resolved in a happy ending soon!

Peonies are my favorite, too! That print is amazing! I could stare at it forever. I love all of your family pictures, too. You are a beautiful family.

I will be sending good thoughts your way!


Whimsical Preppy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I think it was very brave of you to open up your thoughts. Some of what you mentioned I have gone through. I could really relate to hunting for a vintage house. I was so picky that I now wish I would have considered a few other houses in my past that we saw on open houses back in the early 2000's. I love the houses built in the 1920's but the house we are in was built in the late 50's. When we first bought it I decided I would add 1920's features, which number one for me included hardwood floors and then real wood mullion windows. This of course took a lot of money, so we did not have enough for a kitchen remodel. Although we have newer appliances, the rest is old 70's. Houses as a whole are just a pain!
I love that table of yours and the globe looks so nice on it. Keep in mind that you could find a newer house and add hardwoods, chandeliers, etc and of course your nice antique furniture. Another encouraging note. A friend of mine bought a funky 70's house in one of the best neighborhoods in town, with the best elementary school a few blocks away and created a cozy beautiful home. She even had a cute craft room put in off the kitchen by cutting into a portion of the garage. Sorry to ramble but this topic is a great one that I'm sure most people can relate to. That book sounds like a good one too.
Thank you for sharing,

missy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I don't know where you are in your decision to move - but be careful here. Newer homes are actually much better quality than older homes - by far. That is if your comparing apples to apples. An older home with higher quality finishes will be more comparable in price to a newer home with lesser quality finishes because the finishes in the older home are nearing the end of their economic life. A brand new home can also cost loads of cash due to the need for all new window treatments, landscaping, etc... It is much easier to take on a $2k monthly mortgage payment than to take on a $1k mortgage payment with $50k+ in repairs and improvements. Especially if your future is uncertain. Good luck in you move. It is a stressful time and anything you can do to reduce the stress is well worth the effort