In the second chapter of Happier at Home—the one dedicated to possessions—Gretchen Rubin talks about how she created “shrines” around her home as way to put the things that mattered to her and to her family front and center: personal collections that would make her apartment feel like home.
Gretchen explains that the purpose of a shrine (a term that she admits is “a little grandiose”) isn’t to fill a niche with candles, flowers, and a statue, but to cultivate “an area that enshrined my passions, interests, and values.”
In the book, she describes how she created a Shrine to Family, full of family photos and keepsakes. She turned her entire office into a Shrine to Work, transforming the previously spartan room into a beautiful and inviting place to write.
But my favorite example was her Shrine to Children’s Literature, which she describes in loving detail. I’ve read Happier at Home a half dozen times by now: every time I come to this passage book lust overwhelms me, and I wish I could see this shrine for myself.
It turns out that’s not so hard after all: I emailed Gretchen … and she sent pictures.
Gretchen says: note the Nutshell Library by Sendak and my Gryffindor banner
Gretchen says: note my old Cricket magazines and the miniature scene of a mermaid bringing up treasure
my own shelves: 80% kid lit as of right now
I loved poring over these photos … and while I did it dawned on me that I’ve been cultivating my own shrine to children’s literature without even meaning to. Or without consciously meaning to, because I just told you I’ve read Happier at Home six times, so make of that what you will.
I do know that I’ve never been much of a collector, but just last year I started consciously adding beautiful books to my collection just because they make me happy. It’s been wonderful to see them on the shelf every time I walk through the living room, to catch my kids browsing for something to read, and to arrange and re-arrange just for the fun of it.
Gretchen’s fascinating new book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives hits shelves today. I finally got my hands on an early copy last week, read it in two days, and wanted to immediately start again from the beginning. I highly recommend it if you’ve enjoyed her previous work, although if you’ve never read her books, this would be a great place to start. I’m glad I’m getting this one in hardback, because it will get plenty of use around here.
Thanks so much to Gretchen for letting us see her Shrine to Children’s Literature.
I’d love to hear about your own shrines and collections—especially bookish ones—in comments.
Books mentioned in this post: