TV host and author advocates simpler living, more relaxed approach to chores
Jennifer Wilson-Speedy, Toronto Star
Sure, that seasonal vignette on your mantel looks stellar. And those three hours spent in the linen closet did create an organized oasis for your sheets and towels. But once you’re done with all that fussing, are you actually enjoying your home?
Chances are, you might be happier if you gave yourself permission to embrace not-so-good housekeeping, half-hearted hosting and slacker chic decor, says TV host and HGTV designer Lisa Quinn.
“Women are under a lot of pressure to have it all,” explains Quinn, a mother of two and author of Life’s Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets: Your Ultimate Guide to Domestic Liberation. “We all try to keep up that façade that we’re doing it all. It would be nice if everyone lowered the bar. You cannot get everything done.
”Quinn, who calls herself a “recovering perfectionist”, says she reached the breaking point during her annual Halloween party, when, with 150 guests arriving at any minute, she decided to climb on a counter to wipe a barely-there smudge on a mirror. She tumbled, breaking her big toe – and making the smudge even worse.
At that moment, she says, she thought, “I am as crazy as they get. This is so stupid.” Forced to wear Crocs instead of the cute heels she’d chosen for the occasion, she realized her guests were still having a good time despite the smudge and her hobbled hostessing.
“I think every perfectionist has to hit rock bottom,” she adds, comparing the urge for an expertly maintained and decorated home to a destructive addiction.
Plus, Quinn says she didn’t want her children to grow up thinking that a clean home was more important than fun, or look back on their childhood with memories of how Mom wouldn’t let them use certain things. After all, “it’s their house too.”
That wake-up call led her to reevaluate her priorities, and now she’s encouraging others to consider “maybe having everything perfect and tucked in neatly, maybe it’s like you’re trying too hard.”
While she is encouraging people to take a long, hard look at their priorities, she notes, “I’m not telling people to be slobs.” Instead, she advises homeowners to avoid as much housework as possible.
Domestic liberation is “about living more simply and having a place for everything,” says Quinn. Of course, purging is a key step in this process, as she notes, “the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to clean.”
Eliminating those extra items – and saving all that time spent shifting piles of stuff around your home – is also the first step toward what she calls “slacker chic” style, essentially designing for the way you live.
Being slacker chic also means choosing items that cut back on cleanup time. For example, while you may love the style of a white linen sofa and dark hardwood, it’s probably not sustainable if you have children. Instead, she suggests embracing a more “rustic” look and choosing finishes that help disguise those little spills and rogue Cheerios, such as textiles and flooring with busy patterns and hard-wearing brown leather furnishings.
It’s also time to stop fussing in the bedroom, says Quinn. She suggests sticking to only two sets of white sheets for each bed in your home, as they don’t fade, are interchangeable and easy to clean.
While she has received some criticism for her “good enough” philosophy, Quinn says it’s really about giving “people permission to just relax.”
Lisa Quinn’s 6 tips for limiting housework
1. Try a product like Rain-X, designed to make water bead on your car’s windshield, on your glass shower walls to eliminate the need to squeegee.
2. Tissues with lotion are great for dusting in a pinch.
3. Houses always look cleaner in low light – so only turn on the overheads when you’re looking for something.
4. Rub white candles on bathroom grout to help prevent mould and mildew.
5. Never buy anything you have to wash by hand.
6. When guests are coming, spray nontoxic cleaner in the air by the front door – “You didn’t really clean anything, but it smells like you did. Remember, perception is reality,” she writes.
First published in the Toronto Star on June 16, 2010.