Jolie Kerr reads at powerHouse Arena, 37 Main St. in Brooklyn, on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.
Take heart, not-so-clean person. With a delightful mix of self-help and humor, Jolie Kerr is here to help turn your messy life into one of order and beauty (or at the very least, inspire you to make your bed in the morning). In "My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha," Kerr has taken the tricks and advice that have made her column, “Ask a Clean Person," so popular on Deadspin and Jezebel, and compiled them into one handy and, yes, neat book.
We got her to dish the dirt on staying clean.
What is the No. 1 cleaning dilemma for apartment dwellers? Too much stuff/too little space for it. Though to be frank, this happens to homeowners, too. But smaller spaces present storage challenges that can be so difficult for people to overcome. Generally speaking, there needs to be a combination of getting rid of things and finding the right storage solutions for the things you do have.
What is the most overlooked cleaning task for women? For men? I actually don't think there's much of a gender divide there. The questions I get from men and women are more similar than dissimilar. One exception would be bra washing for women — the ladies are really just not washing their bras often enough! For both genders, staying on top of stray hairs is a big one that I think is generally overlooked.
How did you become a clean person? Gosh, this is the $64,000 question! I was sort of always this way, which is a terribly unsatisfying answer. And I started writing my column as mostly a hobby — it was just a fun thing I did, sharing the body of knowledge I'd built up over the years. Since starting the column, I've learned so much more that I'm comfortable calling myself an expert, although there's always something new to learn, and of course new disasters that I couldn't dream up in a million years!
Why is keeping a clean and orderly home important? It can make life easier, for sure. Things like not losing your keys, or realizing too late on an interview day that your lucky blouse has a stain on it — those are benefits of keeping things orderly. But some people thrive on chaos, so getting into why being clean is "important" isn't so much my focus. I always say that if people want my help, I'm available for that, but I'm not interested in dictating to people how to live.
Which is the one cleaning item you can't live without and why? Scrubbing Bubbles, for sure. I mean, there are so many to choose from, but yeah, those Bubbles delight me. I clean my bathroom twice a week — a full clean on Thursdays and a quick clean on Mondays — so having a single product that basically does all my work for me is so marvelous.
What is the first step a not-so-clean person can take to put them on the path of order and cleanliness? Committing to writing what they'd like their home to look and feel like is something I can't recommend enough. It goes back to the thing I talked about with the lost keys, or the stained lucky shirt — identifying where your home makes you feel panicked or bad, and then considering how you'd like to change that is a really powerful step. And then translating that into action, a little bit at a time; so someone who wanted to be cleaner might commit at first to making their bed every day and staying on top of the dishes. Over time they can add in other regular chores that, with time, end up being like second nature (dealing with the mail as it comes in, regularly cleaning the bathroom, investing in a vacuum you'll use, etc.)
When you go to the home of a not-so-clean person, what's the first thing you think? "Thank you so much for having me to your home! Oh yes, I would love a glass of wine, sure!"