Do You Still Consider September to be the Beginning of the New Year?

Even though I haven’t been in school for a long time, for me, September  marks the beginning of a new year.  Orange is the new black, breakfast is the new lunch, Monday is the new Thursday, pork is the other white meat, and September is the other January. (And yes, it’s still September, even though most schools start in August nowadays.)

January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time, but September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to buy myself some new office supplies.

Because of the new year feeling of September, when I wanted to do a a happier-at-home project, I decided to start it in September.

So many of the elements of a happy life come together in the idea of home: marriage and parenthood, in my case, though certainly not in everyone’s case; time; possessions; body; neighborhood; and, perhaps most enigmatically, the idea of now. I wanted to set aside a time to focus on the aspects of my life, to try to be as happy as I could be.

If you’re thinking about doing a happiness project yourself, now is always the best time to start–but if you do like to pick a particularly auspicious time, September is a good one. Think about it! From September to May, in one school year, you could take some steps to boost your happiness.

Blatant self-promotion: if you’d like to read something to get inspired to do a happiness project focused on your experience of home, try…Happier at Home. I love all my books equally, but my sister says Happier at Home is my best book.  One of my specialties as a writer is writing endings, and my best endings are the end to Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, the end of my college application essay, and the end to Happier at Home. I have to say, I love the ending to this book.

“But Gretchen,” you’re thinking, “is there any way for me to learn more about the book?” Well yes there is! You can…

— read a sample chapter on the subject of “time”

— watch the one-minute book trailer, “Ten ways to be happier at home” (Can you guess which suggestion has caused some controversy?)

— request the one-page book club discussion guide

— read the Behind-the-Scenes extra (I had a great time writing this)

Summer is almost over,  and the fall brings fresh beginnings and new possibilities. Now is now.

Do you feel inspired to turn over a new leaf in September? Or is this just me?

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  • Gigi

    It’s not just you – I always feel like the back-to-school time of year is a fresh start too.

  • Carol Tice

    Hi Gretchen — Intriguing post! As I saw someone commenting on the LinkedIn link for this post, for us Jews, September IS the New Year. I’ve always thought of Jan 1 as a chance to review goals set back in September.

    But to look deeper, there’s a reason September marks the New Year for our 5000-yr-old tribe. It coincided with bringing in the final harvest, which makes a natural conclusion to the old year. The fruits of our labors have been gathered. It’s over. We can’t grow more now…we have reaped what we’ve sown. It’s time to reflect and plan how to do it better next year, for a more bountiful harvest in every aspect of our lives.

    It’s when the natural cycle of life begins again, interestingly, with slowing down, reflection and winter dormancy that then enable rebirth and renewal in spring.

    Of course the school year was built around this agrarian cycle as well, allowing us to turn to study because the harvest work was done…so it all ties together. Perhaps we have a deep-rooted genetic pull in September even though most of us don’t farm, that makes us feel it’s a new start at this time of year.

  • Deb

    I remember how strange it felt the first September after I graduated from college, when, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t going back to school.

  • Mary Fischer

    Yes, the Tuesday after Labor Day, New Year’s Day, and also my birthday…all fresh starts.

  • peninith1

    Since I moved South to North Carolina, and worked before my retirement for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, September’s meaning shifted from that chill in the air and the nostalgia for back to school . . . to the height of hurricane season, intense weather watching and occasional deployments to states still further south (AL, TX, FL) to help with disaster recoveries.

    September in North Carolina is still hot, the beach is still beautiful, and the real marker of the season besides the storms is the appearance of cloudless yellow sulfur butterflies dancing in their dozens all around our woods and neighborhoods.

    But I WILL always remember the excitement of a new school year, the trees turning color, the first frosts, and getting out my wool skirts.

  • Natalie

    I have never ever ever considered September the start of the year. When I read this I went ???? then remembered you are American. In Australia the year starts in January, and we go back to school at the beginning of Feb, but I’ve never thought of February as the “other start” of the year.

    • Felicity

      As an Australian mum of school aged kids and a former teacher myself, I often don’t feel like the New Year has officially started until school goes back at the end of Jan/start of Feb, because we’re still lazing around on summer holidays!

  • Sian

    Yes, yes, yes!

  • Randee Bulla

    I look at January and each Monday as a beginning or fresh start. I love the thought of having frequent fresh starts vs. just that one, big emotionally loaded date of January 1st. I love doing so many things that being able to start fresh every Monday means I get to change my focus depending on what’s going on at the time (seasons, holidays, friends/family goings on, personal goals, etc.). And for January 1st, I tend to start thinking about what my bigger goals for the year will be and start working on transitioning to working on those goals before the big date so it’s not a big shocker and I tend to succeed because it’s not an abrupt switch.

  • Vicki K

    I always feel energized when cooler temps return after the hot summer and activities go into full swing in September. Yes, it does feel like the Beginning. Also, I completely agree with your sister — really liked THP book but savored every page of HAH!

    • gretchenrubin

      Awww, that’s so nice to hear. Thank you.

  • Kathy

    I definitely think of Sept. as being the start of a new year. For me, it’s also somewhat tied to weather, because I live in Florida, and even though it’s still pretty hot and humid in Sept., the end of that kind of weather is in the foreseeable future! I always get a boost of energy when we start to get cold fronts. I’m practically counting the days now.

  • MsWB

    Couldn’t agree more with this sentiment, not only because it is my birthday month, it is a month that feels ripe for looking forward and getting the most out of the remaining year and looking forward to the new one.

  • Kelly

    I love the renewed feeling of September! Already I have some resolutions in place!

  • September is definitely the start of a year for me…but it helps that it’s my birth month, too =]

  • Yes! September is always a time for fresh starts for me. I re-evaluate my goals for the rest of the year, and I seem to have more energy and focus in September.

  • Tracey Robinson

    I think Sept. feels like a new start because of the change in routine (at least if you are in school or have kids in school). Your day to day life gets shaken up anyway so it seems like a good time to make changes (that are hopefully improvements.)

  • Theresa

    In Iowa school starts mid to late August so to me August feels like a new beginning.

  • Justin

    I enjoyed your post very much, it seems to me, that there are certain times of the year that bring this feeling of renewal and possibilities for the future. The start of every season and usually Spring being the most recognized season for renewal, give people and really, all of life, a new sense of purpose and energy. September is no exception and I hadn’t realized before that this was so true. Thank you for this post! I hope that I will get the chance to read one of your books. I am curious, I see many of the posts are from women, are your publications designed for specifically Women or would a Man get just as much out of your books? I hope none will take this question with any derogatory intent, I am just intrigued in your message of happiness and many times what brings joy to one may not for another.

  • Bj

    September always seems like the start of a new year to me, probably because we are a family who were in the ‘Ed Biz’ – DH was a teacher/educator – and so even though we’re both now retired, it still feels like a new year. I love the fall season, and always get excited about new projects or getting back to some things let go over the summer. (Unfortunately, don’t always follow through on that initial impetus, but it still feels good, whatever I manage!)

  • Stephanie Turner

    Yes! I was a student for a loooong time, then a teacher, and my birthday is in STEPHtember, so it is definitely my fave time of year. 🙂

  • No FALL Lover

    No I don’t consider Sept the new year, probably because I am older and have no children of school age. To me Sept becomes the first in a series of months that usher in the dying of plants and the falling of leaves. It also means less time outside enjoying nature for those of us that prefer warmer weather to cold. It also ushers in less daylight, which is also a problem for people with SAD. Those cooler temps find us cranking up heaters and big heating bills in the northeast. No I rather like Spring to be the beginning of a new year-new growth, more daylight and time outside!

  • Ginger

    Yes! I was just telling my husband this last weekend. I get a fresh renewal of spirit and zest every September. I’m inspired to clean and learn and start projects…