I tend to like the whole social experiment genre. I love reading about how people challenge themselves and discuss what they learned. This author realizes she is not appreciating her life as much as she could and therefore goes on a mission to increase her own happiness. She looks at what brings her joy and satisfaction as well as what brings guilt, anger, and remorse. Then she writes a year's worth of resolutions to increase the one and decrease the other.
I like the fact that she is not looking to make major changes in her way of living such as moving or changing careers but she is wanting to "change the lens through which I viewed everything familiar" and "find more happiness in my own kitchen". In other words, she wanted to change her attitude and her outlook rather than her circumstances.
I find it humorous that her method is exactly what mine is whenever I want to make a change in my life: make the decision, go to the library for LOTS of books, and start making charts and lists. Yep, that's so me.
She struggled with whether seeking happiness was a worthy goal, but finally decided to embrace it because happy people are more productive, helpful, friendlier, and healthier. In fact, most of our typical goals and resolutions revolve around an underlying premise of becoming happier.
The first month Gretchen decided to focus on increasing her energy level since that would help with all the other resolutions to come. She focused on getting more sleep which is not really my issue. I probably have the opposite problem. Still, many people would be happier, healthier, and more productive if they got enough sleep.
Next she tackled exercise. It's amazing I didn't give up on the book at this point. I have never found a form of exercise I like and I think the whole endorphin thing is a myth. Either that or my endorphin pump is broken. However, another one of the benefits is supposed to be delayed onset of dementia, so maybe I better get to work.
Then she moved on to a topic dear to my heart - decluttering. For me, piles of unidentified clutter and searching for lost items is very stressful. Maybe it's because I've lived that way for so much of my life, but I seek the outer order that brings inner peace. When I can clear out a closet or counter and find homes for everything it feels so open. I am content and calm. I love it. Maintenance, however, is my nemesis. Those surfaces and shelves just don't stay clear and organized. I guess that gives me another opportunity to seek the next clutter-clearing high, but I want to create systems that help me keep things straightened out not just keep fixing them. One of her personal rules might be helpful here - "Identify the problem". For example, when I cleaned out my walk-in closet, I realized that I dump everything from my pockets on a shelf there each night. Most of it is trash. I decided to put a small trash can in there. Now I can ditch the trash right away and avoid the mess.
For me another part of the problem is bringing too much stuff into the house in the first place. Several years ago a friend gave me some very important advice. She said she only buys something if she knows where she is going to put it. At the time I lived on the Navajo Reservation and if I saw a decoration I liked, I bought it. When I actually started thinking about where I could display these items, I cut my buying significantly. Over the years I have also learned to avoid 'freebies' unless I really wanted them. Still, I buy too many unnecessary things for my children and my book collection is a little excessive.
There were some other clutter ideas in the book that I found helpful. For example, too many choices is overwhelming. This accounts for why so many people are happier when they reduce their clothes. It's much more satisfying to face a closet of items you actually like to wear than a crammed space full of things that don't fit or have no matches or you might wear some day.
Another truth is that 'junk attracts junk'. If a surface already has a pile of random items on it, the natural tendency will be to drop more stuff there. If the space is clear and organized, it is less likely to attract random mess. (Unless you are allergic to open space like some of the members of my family seem to be. Then I use the tactic of putting one or two strategic items to 'claim' the space.)
Two more helpful pieces of advice were "You always find lost things when you clean" which I have found to be true, and "If it takes less than one minute, do it now." I have some trouble with this last one because sometimes a minute really does make a difference. Still, most often, a lot of mess could be avoided by taking care of small tasks right away.
Another way she sought to get rid of things draining her energy was to tackle nagging tasks. These are the things you have been avoiding forever. They just stay on the to-do list and bring you guilt. It's time to tackle those ugly things bit by bit. One of her personal rules is "Do what ought to be done." I try to follow similar advice - Take the next right step. (title of my blog) It's easy to spend my free time watching TV or playing games, but getting some of the junk off my to-do list would make me much happier and actually be meaningful.
One reason this book took me years to finish was because I stopped to apply what I was reading. The author may have changed her sleep schedule, started exercising, and organized her whole apartment in a month, but I think it will take me a little longer. ;p