Let’s face it: you don’t need to be depressed to want more happiness in life. Every stage of life has its own preoccupations, its own pressures. Whether you’re attempting to juggle kids and a job, have to take care of an older parent, or are struggling to start your career, modern life takes us for a non-stop ride.
So I was intrigued to come across Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, a book divided into 12 chapters. In each month of the year (hence the 12 chapters) she explores different ways to incorporate more happiness into everyday life. Note: this is not the writing of someone who left for the Himalayas for six months to contemplate Mount Everest. She made, in the terminology of Agile Project Management, iterative improvements to her life.
This book is definitely worth reading. If you can get past Ms. Rubin’s repeated musings about how incredible her husband is, you’ll enjoy yourself and learn something.
One of her strong suggestions is cleaning out your closets. She did this in January, in the chapter on boosting energy, and became a closet-cleaning evangelist, urging her friends to do the same. So I gave it a whirl.
Ms. Rubin is right. I feel a lot better once I got rid of old clothes and ones I just never wore. I haven’t worn my hiking boots in 10 years. They went. Nostalgic t-shirts went into a box, out of sight. I prioritized high-access closet real estate, using the shelves, drawers, and racks with easiest access to house the items I use the most.
After my closet overhaul, my wife got into the spirit and cleaned out the kids’ playroom (we just watched Toy Story 3, so this was a little traumatic). Just as having less clothes in my closet actually enabled me to wear more clothes (ones I couldn’t easily access or see), the kids had more toys to play with since their cubbies were less cluttered.
So I took three large bags of clothes and toys to a wonderful local organization, Boca Helping Hands, and enjoyed a donation experience unlike any other I’ve had. When I dropped the donations off, in the lobby of the organization, two little girls under seven years old were playing, waiting for their mother to complete a job skills course.
The family was destitute, with very little possessions. The Boca Helping Hands volunteers gave these girls the bag of toys we just cleared out, filled with Barbie dolls, puppets, and pretty pink backpacks. Normally you see your donations piled on a heap somewhere in a Goodwill store, so to see little kids with big, bright happy smiles getting use out of stuff from your house that was collecting dust? Now that makes you happy!