Have You Ever Been Made Happier by a “Modest Splurge?” Of What? For Me, Magic Markers.

I’m an under-buyer, and for the most part, I dislike shopping, errands, and buying stuff.

In fact, one of my happiness-project resolutions is to “Indulge in a modest splurge.” I remind myself that sometimes, it makes me happy to indulge in a modest splurge — to buy something that I don’t absolutely need, but that makes my day brighter in some way.

I indulged in a modest splurge a few days ago.

I was early for a meeting (I’m always early), so I decided to spend the time wandering around an art store. I love just looking at the things in art stores. This store, sadly, was going out of business, so prices were slashed.

As a result, the shelves were fairly bare, but I happened to notice a giant box of beautiful, high-quality, double-ended magic markers.

These particular markers hold special memories for me, because when I was in college, my roommate had twelve of these markers, and she prized them highly. She never let anyone borrow them, and we could use them only under her supervision. (Very wisely–she knew that we’d lose them, or leave the caps loose.) We had so much fun with those markers.

I looked at the price. For a box of markers, it was still expensive. At the same time, it was an extraordinary bargain. But I didn’t really need the markers–we have lots of good markers already. But this was a really good set of markers. It would make me very happy to use them, and my daughters would also use them. But couldn’t we use the markers we already had? Well-made tools make work a joy; having these terrific markers might boost my creativity. Looking at the markers brought back happy memories. But if we didn’t make good use of the markers, I would feel guilty.  Etc., etc., etc.

I bet the other customers thought I was a very odd person — I stood stock still, gazing at the box, as these questions played out in my head, for several minutes.

At last, I remembered my resolution to “Indulge in a modest splurge.” And I thought, well, I’m going to get them! I love them.

I got them home, my daughters were delighted with the markers, we all tried them out — and my older daughter asked, “Can I take some to school tomorrow?”

First, I said “No way.” I was thinking–I want to keep the set nice, I don’t want to risk losing or spoiling one, I want to “save” them to keep them nice, etc.

Then I remembered #7 of my Twelve Personal Commandments. Spend out. I tend to hold things back, so I have to remind myself to spend out. Use things up! Put them into circulation, put them to work! Better to use the markers all the time, and risk losing them, than to save them on the shelf, and never use them at all. (Plus my daughter is fairly responsible.)

Have you ever made a “modest splurge,” where a purchase made you happier? What did you splurge on?

Podcast 65: Enjoy Your Home’s Special Features, Arianna Huffington Talks About Sleep, and the Pleasure of Children’s Literature.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. I talk to viewers about questions, comments, suggestions. Any episode; don’t worry if you’re not caught up. You can watch the most recent one here or my video with our producer Henry, look here. If you want to join the conversation live, I’m doing them on Tuesdays at 1:00 pm Eastern. Join in! It’s so fun to have a chance to talk to listeners and viewers.

MugObligerHappierUpdate: Elizabeth and I have our new mugs for sale, one for each of the Four Tendencies. Order here. I sent Elizabeth an Obliger mug for her birthday.

Try This at Home: Enjoy your home’s special features. I wrote about this issue in my book Happier at Home.

Interview: We talk to author and entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, who just wrote a terrific book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.

 Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth had two friends who recently had health issues (fortunately, both are fine now), and she regrets that she didn’t do more to support them.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to my three — yes, three — children’s literature reading groups. They make me so happy! I wrote about starting these groups in The Happiness Project. If you’d like to get back into reading children’s literature, here’s a reading list to get you started.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #65

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Want to Read about Happiness or Habits? Check Out These 15 Outstanding Books.

My favorite thing to do, by a long shot, is to read books — and then to try to persuade other people to read the books I love. So I get great joy from my monthly book club, where I recommend three books: one book about happiness, habits, or human nature; one outstanding work of children’s literature; and one eccentric pick.

People often ask me for various lists, so here’s a list of some of my favorite books about happiness, habits, and human nature.

As you’ll see, there’s a big range here. Non-fiction, fiction, essays, journals, serious, light…but in one way or another, these books shed light on some big questions:

  • How do we build a happy life?
  • What do we owe other people?
  • How can we change?
  • What habits will tend to make us happier?
  • How do we learn about ourselves?


Oh, how I love all these books.

15 Books About Happiness, Habits, and Human Nature

1. The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

2.  Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired by Till Roenneberg

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

3. Here Is New York by E. B. White

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4. The Journal of Jules Renard

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5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

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6. Pack of Two: the Intricate Bonds Between People and Dogs by Caroline Knapp

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7. The Diary of Anne Frank

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8. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

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9. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John Cacioppo and William Patrick.

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

10. How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton

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11. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

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12. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes

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13. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

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14. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Fankl

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15. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Buy from WORD ; BN.com; Amazon

Have you read any of these? What books would you add?

A Little Happier: People Do Best What Comes Naturally. Agree?

Do you agree, that people do best what comes naturally?

As I mentioned, I came across this story when I was doing research for my short biography Forty Ways to Look at JFK. What a joy it was to write that book! Kennedy is such an enigmatic figure to me, even now.

It comes from Carl Sferrazza Anthony’s book, As We Remember Her: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the Words of Her Family and Friends.

Thanks to my terrific sponsor: Squarespace. Start building your website and get your free trial today.  Go to Squarespace.com, and enter the offer code “happier” to get 10% off your first purchase.

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Are You Clutter-Blind? Or Do You Know Someone Who Is?

One thing that continues to surprise me about the nature of good habits and happiness is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should.

In the context of life of a happy life, something like a crowded coat closet or an overflowing in-box seems trivial—and it is trivial—and yet I find that I get a disproportionate charge of energy and good cheer from clearing clutter.

An orderly environment makes me feel more in control of my life, and if this is an illusion, it’s a helpful illusion.

Many people feel that way, and even people who thrive on a little chaos tend to have a limit, and enjoy orderliness to some degree.

Oblivious to Clutter

However, there’s a group of people who seem oblivious to clutter. They don’t appear to see it at all. Just as some people are color-blind, these folks are clutter-blind.

“Clutter-blind” doesn’t apply to the people who can stand to see dirty dishes scattered around, because they know if they wait, a spouse will collect the dishes — perhaps complaining all the while; see these crucial facts about shared work.

The fact is, very often, people in a couple or in a group have different levels of tolerance for clutter, and the ones with the least tolerance end up doing the most tidying, and the ones with more tolerance end up doing less. Again, this is a problem of shared work. However, in most cases, the messier ones would eventually cave and do some clutter-clearing, too. They want to be in environments that are reasonably orderly (though others might disagree by what is “reasonable”).

But some people don’t seem to register clutter, ever. A friend told me, “My husband never notices anything. As an experiment, when we got back from a trip, I left a suitcase full of his dirty clothes right in front of the front door, so he’d have to step over it to get in the house. I wanted to see how long he’d put up with it.  After a month, I called off the experiment and dealt with the suitcase myself.”

Have you found anything that works?

If this describes you — I’m curious:

  • Does clutter simply not register, or does it just not bug you?
  • Do you ever feel there’s any value in creating an orderly environment, even if disorder doesn’t particularly bother you — or is it not worth the energy and time?
  • Do you have trouble finding things, or do you know exactly where to find your belongings?
  • Is this a source of conflict with other people, or do they accept this aspect of your nature?


If this describes someone you know :

  • How do you deal with this aspect of their personality?
  • Is it possible to cajole folks like this into being more orderly, because it’s important to you, or is it impossible, because they simply don’t see it?


Over and over, I’ve been asked, “My spouse is clutter-blind. Living in a big mess just doesn’t bother him/her, and nothing I say or do makes this person help me keep things orderly. It makes me crazy, but I don’t think it’s fair that I have to do all the clutter-clearing, just because my spouse doesn’t care. So what do I do?”

What should that person do? Have you found anything that works?

In my limited observation, such folks often just can’t be changed. They’re not thoughtless or rude; they simply can’t address clutter because they don’t see it.