Tag Archives: house

A Happy Memory: the “Stripey House” of Kansas City.

Gosh, I don’t remember much of my life. I constantly work on keeping mementos and photographs, because it seems like other people are so much better at remembering the past than I am. And I love to remember the past.

And it’s funny what I remember — the weirdest, most random moments and thoughts.

Some memories stick in my mind from sheer repetition, and for some reason, while I was walking home from the subway today, I was hit by the memory of the beloved “Stripey House.”

In Kansas City, there’s a mall called Ward Parkway where we often use to go, and on the way home, we’d pass the “Stripey House.” We didn’t know anything about it — who lived there, why they’d decided to paint their house in pastel stripes like a pack of FruitStripe Gum.

And we loved it — my sister Elizabeth and I always looked for it, and called out “Stripey House!” as we passed by.

Remembering that funny house brought back happy memories, of all those car trips to the mall with my sister and mother (not my father; my father avoids the mall whenever possible).

I was just back at Ward Parkway at Christmastime, but alas, the Stripey House is not longer stripey.

When I was very young, I vowed that when I grew up, I would paint my house purple. Living in an apartment building has excused me from that vow so far — but one day, I hope that I’ll keep it — or maybe I’ll take it up a notch, and go for stripes.

Especially now that I’m obsessed with color, I’m enchanted by the idea of painting a house a really striking shade(s).

Do you have a funny memory like that, from childhood? Something that you always looked for, with delight?

A Few Questions Aimed at Real Esate Brokers.

Sorry, this post is of limited interest.

First question: are a real estate broker, a real estate agent, and a realtor the same thing (for practical purposes)? I realize that I’m not exactly sure.

Second question: if you’re a member of that profession, would you be interested in a sticker to put on Happier at Home?

Since Happier at Home was published, I’ve had many requests from real estate brokers (etc.) who want copies of the personalized Tips for Happiness in Your New Home card to give to their clients, paired with copies of the book. (If you’d like to request some of those cards for yourself, or for friends, email me here to request them. Alas, I can mail to U.S. and Canada only. Mailing costs!)

I’m wondering, then, if such folks would find it useful to have a sticker that said something like, “With best wishes for much happiness in your new home, from your real estate broker ______” Or “Courtesy of your realtor _____” where a person could add his or her name. Or maybe it would better not to have a space for a hand-written name.

Third and fourth questions: Would you be interested in getting stickers like that? If so, what should the stickers say?

There’s no bad time to think about how to be happier at home, but I do think we give it special consideration when we’ve just moved. The new surroundings make us more aware of our choices–and how we might do things differently, in order to boost our happiness.

Let me know what you think.

13 Tips for Being Happy in Your New Home.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.

This Wednesday: Thirteen tips for being happy in your new home.

I’ve heard that a lot of people are giving Happier at Home as a gift to someone with a new home–recent grad, new roommate, newlywed, newly divorced, empty nester, downsizer, upsizer, new baby, new city. At times of transition like these, we give special thought to what we want from “home.” So, to make such a gift a little more special, I’m creating a card about “Tips for being happy in your new home” that I can sign and mail to anyone who wants it.

Here’s what I’ve written. What should I add?

Remember to take advantage of the features that you drew you to your home. Take time to light a fire in the fireplace, have coffee on the patio, take a bath in the beautiful tub.

Make your bed.

Be a tourist without leaving home. A tourist reads and studies, a tourist shows up, a tourist looks at things with fresh eyes.

Someplace, keep an empty shelf; someplace, keep a junk drawer.

Enjoy the good smells of home. Take a moment to appreciate the fragrance of a grapefruit or freshly laundered towels.

If something’s important to you, make a space for it in your home. Build a shrine to music, to arts and crafts, to family.

Moving to a new home is a rare opportunity to build good habits and break bad habits. Start going for a walk every morning, or quit smoking, as part of your new routine.

Always put your wallet and keys away in the same place.

Except for holiday decorations, seasonal items, and hand-me-downs that will be used in the next few years, be very wary of “storing” things. If you plan to store it away in an inaccessible place, why are you keeping it?

Every room should include something purple.

Shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, ask yourself: Do we need this thing? Do we love this thing? Do we use this thing? If not, consider tossing, recycling, or donating it.

No one regrets replacing a burned-out light-bulb.

Give a warm greeting or farewell every time someone comes or goes from your home.

What have I left out? What would you add?

Note about the photo: this is a Christmas ornament in the shape of a miniature Fisher-Price “Play Family” house–just like the one that my sister and I played with throughout our childhoods, and that my daughters play with when we visit Kansas City. I took the photo for Happier at Home; this ornament is one of my mementos from the project of writing the book.

7 Ways To Be Happier at Home.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.

This Wednesday: 7 ways to be happier at home.

In my new one-minute video book trailer, I list “Ten ways to be happier at home.” Some of those suggestions are serious, and some are goofy (to my surprise, my suggestion regarding purple has turned out to be fairly controversial).  Here’s another list of ways to be happier at home–or, at least, they’ve made me happier at home.

One of these items is important enough to be listed in both places. Can you guess which one?

1.  Get enough sleep.

2. Embrace good smells. No cost, no calories, no energy, no time–a quick hit of pleasure.

3. Cultivate a shrine.

4. Accept yourself, and expect more from yourself.

5. Give warm greetings and farewells. I was surprised by how much this resolution changed the atmosphere of my home.

6. Abandon your self-control. Well, this one really works for for my fellow abstainers, not moderators.

7. Remember the Sixth Splendid Truth: The only person you can change is yourself.

What else would you add to the list?

The photo above is included in Happier at Home. As a confirmed under-buyer, I almost never make impulse purchases, but last fall when I saw this Christmas ornament, a tiny model of the “Play Family” Fisher-Price house that my sister and I played with for years, and that my daughters play with now, I had to have it. I love miniatures, and it seemed like the perfect memento to keep in my office, as a reminder of the time I spent writing this book. Plus, the doorbell actually rings! Who could resist?


The book give-away continues. If you’d like to win a free copy of Happier at Home, I’m giving away one book each day until publication. Enter your name and email in the sign-up form here, and every day, a name will be picked at random. U.S.Canada, and U.K. only–sorry about that restriction on the give-away.

If you’re wondering about the book, you can learn more about it here or…

–-read a sample chapter on the subject of “time” here

watch the new one-minute book trailer on “Ten ways to be happier at home”

pre-order the book here (buy early and often!)

Fighting Clutter? Go Shelf By Shelf.

“Order is Heaven’s first law,” wrote Alexander Pope, and one thing that has surprised me about happiness is the significance of clutter to happiness. In the context of a happy life, a roomy coat closet or a neat kitchen counter seems trivial — but somehow, it can have a disproportionate effect.

For most people, and certainly for me, outer order contributes to inner calm. When I’m surrounded by a mess, I felt restless and unsettled, and I’m always surprised by the disproportionate energy and cheer released by clutter clearing — plus, I’m able to find my keys.

Fighting clutter is a never-ending battle, and I’m always looking for strategies to stop its insidious progress. I recently resolved to “Go shelf by shelf,” then drawer by drawer, then closet by closet, through our apartment.

I weighed two approaches to this resolution: to go systematically shelf by shelf through my apartment, starting at one end, ending at the other, taking a few hours each time, or to go shelf by shelf in a more scattershot way, taking advantage of loose bits of time.

My instinct to be methodical is very strong, but in the end, I decided to follow the second path. I didn’t want this to be a one-time exercise, helpful for a brief time, until the clutter crept back in (as it always does). Instead, I want to train myself to use this approach for the rest of my life: now, every time I face a shelf, I evaluate the things I see there, and make sure they’re in the right place (on the proper shelf, or in the trash, or in the give-away pile).

So far, this resolution is working pretty well. Whenever I have a few minutes of idle time — when I’m waiting for my daughter to put on her nightgown, or I have ten minutes before I leave the apartment — I evaluate whatever small area I happen to encounter. Ok, time to throw out the grapes that have gone wrinkly. Admit it, there’s no reason to keep that mateless sock. That camera cord belongs in the camera-cord basket (yes, I do have a basket dedicated to camera cords).

Like the one-minute rule and the evening tidy-up, the shelf-by-shelf resolution has two advantages: it doesn’t take much time, and results start to show very fast. I’ve been trying to cultivate the shelf-by-shelf habit for just a few months, but I can see a drop in clutter and a rise in orderliness. Also, helpfully, this exercise has given me a much better sense of where to find the things I already possess, which cuts down on annoying searches.

William Morris admonished, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Going shelf-by-shelf is helping me get rid of stuff that doesn’t meet that standard. (If you’re struggling with clutter, check out the 11 myths of de-cluttering.)

How about you? Have you figured out strategies to help keep clutter under control? Do you find that clutter affects your happiness — or not?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

* My friend Susan Cain, Quiet: the Blog fame, sent me this fascinating link — to a “marital rating scale” for husbands and wives from the 1930’s.

* I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, please consider pre-ordering The Happiness Project! Pre-orders give a huge boost to a book, so if you’re inclined to buy it for yourself or as a gift, I’d so appreciate your pre-order! As a thank-you, if you do pre-order, I’ll send you a copy of my Happiness Paradoxes. Just email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com, with a note, “I pre-ordered.”