BOOK REVIEW: 'My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha': Delightful to Read Guide by Jolie Kerr Tells You How to Clean Everything

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha': Delightful to Read Guide by Jolie Kerr Tells You How to Clean Everything

Could you, as a book reviewer, pass up an opportunity to review Jolie Kerr's "My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha" (Plume trade paperback, an imprint of Penguin USA, 256 pages, index, $15.00)? 

I couldn't and  when I heard Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air interview Kerr, I had to read and review her book. Plume's wonderful publicists obliged and I found the book to be the best and most complete guide to clean living I've encountered. 

Kerr writes in a breezy and hip style that seems to be natural to her, making the book fun to read -- as well as an essential reference work for anyone who wants to be a "Clean Person" like the author. 

I don't aspire to that status, but I want to keep the place as clean and odor-free as I can, given my use of Swisher Sweets Tip Cigarillos and the presence of our wonderful shelter cat Greta. This makes Kerr's many methods for maintenance cleaning and cleaning up unusual messes, like the one in the title (it's on pages 224-225) mandatory reading. 

Boston native Kerr lives in a  tiny  clean apartment in lower Manhattan, so you can expect a wide variety of unusual situations that require her expert advice. How about a boyfriend's "skid marks" on a woman's favorite luxury sheets? Kerr has the answers! Could you ever imagining asking Martha Stewart or Heloise that one? Never!

Kerr is the author of the hit column "Ask a Clean Person" and provides cleaning solutions to every spill or mess you can imagine -- and dozens even my fertile mind couldn't conjure up. 

First off, stock up on baking soda and white vinegar: It's a staple in Jolie Kerr's "Clean Person" life and should be in your's, too. One use among many others for this combination (I buy generic dollar store versions of the two) is keeping drains in your bathroom and kitchen sinks clean and fast flowing. I've tried that one and it works and the mini-volcano effect is fun to watch.

There are dozens of other uses for these two relatively inexpensive staples. Kerr also likes OxiClean. Many other products are mentioned for cleaning various messes and she supplies the names of all of them. The index is very helpful; I'm glad Plume provided this essential feature.

Cleaning the cleaning implements, like toilet brushes (Ugh!) is important and Kerr tells us how to do that. When was the last time you cleaned your microwave or toaster oven? Really cleaned it?  I thought so. My next project is to clean the two microwaves in the kitchen. 

Kerr tells us how to use various kinds of mops, how to wash a car and how to keep the interior of the minivan from smelling like a nursery. How to remove bloodstains and other stains that I hesitate to mention in a family site. But Kerr mentions them all!

Speaking of car detailing, I didn't see anything about cleaning the plastic cladding on cars like my Dodge Caliber, but everybody knows that ArmorAll Original Protectant is what you use for that job and I just did it. I applied it with a ripped open orphan wool stocking, which I will use again after rinsing it out. Shop rags are great, too.

The gray is gone and the cladding is a pristine black now.  ArmorAll --  available in drug stores, dollar stores (a favorite of mine), hardware stores, auto parts stores and just about everywhere -- is also great on plastic dashboards (but don't use it on the steering wheel!)

So don't delay: Get your hands on this book and become a Clean Person. You might want to buy multiple copies and send them in plain brown wrappers to select friends. I think they'll get the message.

About the author

Jolie Kerr is the author of the popular column Ask a Clean Person, which is featured weekly on Deadspin and Jezebel. Her work has also appeared in FortuneBlackBook, the Urban Outfitters blog, Gothamist, The Hairpin, and The Awl. She has been featured as a cleaning expert in the New York Observer, O Magazine, InStyle, New York Magazine, Time Out New York, Health Magazine, and Parents Magazine. Kerr is a Boston native and graduate of Barnard College, now residing in a teeny, tiny, spotless apartment in New York City. Her website:

Comments powered by Disqus