Thursday, April 1, 2010

Confessions of an Anti-Domestic Goddess

I am the first to admit, I am a fan of shortcuts, cheats, faking it, prepackaged and prepared.  Now I have met my cosmic twin, and she is Lisa Quinn.  I’m referring to our philosophies on housekeeping—the less the better, the simpler the better.  Quinn is a writer, TV host and “recovering Martha Stewart junkie” (we part company there as I’ve always thought of Martha as the devil incarnate).  She’s the author of the new book Life’s Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets: Your Ultimate Guide to Domestic Liberation.  

I knew I’d found a kindred spirit when I reviewed the list of chapters in the table of contents: “The Lackadaisical Lifestyle,” “Not-So-Good Housekeeping,” “Slacker Chic,” and “The Half-Assed Hostess.”  Paisan!   One of the basic tenets of our shared philosophy is that you must never buy stuff that has to be ironed or hand-washed (whether it’s clothing or china or linens). Seriously, is this a good use of your time?

She and I have matching brown thumbs--she kills plants, too, though I may exceed her in this regard.  Every time I receive a plant from someone that isn’t made of silk my eyebrows hit the ceiling in alarm--have these people met me?  Some hardier greenery may hold on a few months but most succumb much more quickly.  I’ve conducted funerals for more orchids, ferns, violets, palms and other household plants than most families have for goldfish and hamsters. 

I long ago decided that if I waited to entertain until my home was perfectly clean, perfectly tidy, perfectly anything, I would never have anyone over at all.  So I tidy the necessary surfaces, invite friends for potluck, and throw open the door for a relaxed wonderful evening. 

Quinn’s hilarious rants combine with tips that will make your domestic life easier (like “17 Meals from a Deli Chicken” and “Interior Finishes That Hide Most Dirt”—news you can use!).  One of her most brilliant ideas is to bag the book club. “Who’s got time for a book club?” she argues. Instead just invite your girlfriends over for a magazine club, reading from your favorite “rags.” Perfect, right? You still get the sharing of ideas over a few bottles of wine, but without all that prep time. (And after all, the glass of wine is more than half the equation, isn’t it?) 

I was recently reminded of how, shall we say, progressive, my views of housekeeping truly are when I had to interview a cleaning company.   The owner me for my pet peeves in a cleaning service and I told her how the company doing my home now could never seem to make my bed the way I like it.  I gave her a quick demonstration of the way I do like it. She then demonstrated to me how she would make it with a special fold that would make it look “pretty” when you walked into the room.  I stopped her halfway through—“Listen,” I said. “I live alone.  I don’t care about a pretty fold in the covers; I care about how it feels. No fold, it makes the covers come up too high when I sleep.”  Bemused, she agreed to note my preference.  Later, she tried to talk to me about what cleaning products she’d recommend between their visits every two weeks.  Again, I had to stop her. “I’m going to be brutally honest with you.  There are no between cleanings.”  I can barely keep up with the clutter.  I’ll wipe the kitchen counter if I’ve made a mess, or use a disinfectant wipe once in a while, but that’s about it. 

Thud—that was the sound of my mother keeling over from horror and embarrassment.  She bemoaned to me years back, “Oh, Karen, you’ve really lowered your standards.”  I prefer to think of it as having raised my standards—for self-care, for giving myself a break, for choosing to give other activities and people higher priority than being a “wife” to my house.  And it fits with my strong gravitational pull as I get older and wiser toward comfort over all else.  Plus I am a master at turning what might once been regarded as “lazy” into, instead, and with a certain self-righteousness, “eco-friendly.” 

In my never-ending quest for simplicity I recently performed my most bold act yet—I cancelled my subscription to Real Simple magazine.  Good tips, but still too much pressure!


  1. I am totally with you on this. Life IS too short to fold a lot of things(and too short to sort-MDH has one color and style of sock-grab any two and voila!a match)! When the kids left home, we lost our cleaning elves (we traded car insurance for clean bathrooms). Our solution has been having quarterly parties--and like you, they are fun, casual and perfectly perfect. Great book for a strong hit of "get real-ism" and "I AM normal after all". Thanks!

  2. I count myself among the folks whose spouse asks when he sees me cleaning, "who's coming over?" I've given up trying to match my mother's housekeeping skills -- much to her dismay, but I just don't care anymore. And I consider that a good thing!

  3. Dahling, You have empowered me to hold my head high now to consider myself an adult who chooses not to be housework-bound! Actually, my mother was pretty much the same, but I received plenty of guilt trips because "Gloria has hung all of their laundry on the line and you're still in bed." (This during summer vacation when I was about 12; now, really...Am glad that even in retirement in Paradise in Naples, FL, I can still afford the twice a week cleaning lady.....who I have to spend the night before she for her. Great article.

  4. Karen,

    The dread of filing and lackadaisical cleaning style - we are cut from the same cloth! Love your writing style and happy to read your blog.

  5. Karen, this is the best and truest piece I have ever read! I am exactly like you in my (lack of) housekeeping, and now I don't have to feel so guilty about it--although I probably will anyway, at least when people come over.