I regularly want to write a book of tips on living well. It would contain some entertaining tidbits, lots of pleasures to be found in small details, and humorous stories about how much my life improved once I stopped drinking sparkling wine only for named occasions and started making occasions to drink it. I swear the book wouldn't be nauseating.
I'm reading one such book at the moment: Alexandra Stoddard's Living a Beautiful Life (1986) which I received as a birthday present. And it is nauseating, when it's not being right on, charming, out-dated or insightful.
Stoddard is a interior decorator who emphasizes arranging one's life around where one actually spends time [e.g. spend effort arranging the kitchen and bathroom comfortably before decorating an unused living room] (right on), treating everyday tasks into sensory stimulating rituals (with suggestions that are sometimes insightful), surrounding oneself with books and flowers (charming, and, in my book, right on), and making sure that one's phone cord is long enough to reach the kitchen sink (outdated). She also suggests one "save old, worn-out white gloves and wear them as silver-polishing mitts" (Whaaa? Not from the universe I inhabit)*.
Living a Beautiful Life reminds me of the futility of my (never-to-be-written) book. Living well in the details is personal. I love making rose petal and violet ice cubes. Stoddard must love the scent of burning orange, based on her repeated suggestion of throwing orange peels into a roaring fire. Both of our ideas have limited applicability. While I think that hanging clothes outside to dry is a pleasant (and money and environment-saving) task, I can see readers bristling, "Like anyone has time for that," the way that I bristled about Stoddards daily "puttering" and "clipping" rituals.
I have a good friend with a lab job. The gloves in her lab are purple. They make her smile when she puts them on, and she puts them on every day.
That's really all that needs to be said in such a book. Find little things that make you smile. Do them regularly. Notice them and smile.
Find your own purple nitrile gloves.
If that doesn't work, use them for polishing the silver.
*Alexandra Stoddard is still working, by the way, and that her web page calls her a "philosopher of contemporary living" doesn't do a lot to reduce "for real?" factor.