To the viewers at home, TV host Lisa Quinn looked like she had it all going on. ABC had hired her to be their Martha Stewart-type lifestyle correspondent. “But I had a dirty little secret. I was living a lie,” confesses the former interior designer in a new self-help book for stressed-out moms like her “who want to entertain, and to have the nice house, the clean kids, the decent meal, but don’t want to kill themselves in the process.” Quinn admits, “While I strived to be the perfect picture of domestic bliss at work, I could never quite pull it off in my own home. I could barely get dinner on the table for my family three nights a week. I was an overwhelmed mother of two, and I felt like a complete fraud.”
Her book, Life’s Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets: Your Ultimate Guide to Domestic Liberation, is a compilation of “cheats and compromises.” The title comes from an incident at work when a producer asked Quinn to teach viewers how to fold fitted sheets. “I have never folded a fitted sheet in my whole life,” Quinn told the producer. “She was shocked to hear I couldn’t do it, and I was embarrassed to admit it.”
In her new anti-Martha, shortcut manifesto, Quinn advises women that folding fitted sheets can only result “in a migraine” and sheets looking like “a huge turban.” “Stop stressing about it. Just wad it up the best you can, and shove it in the closet. Most of the wrinkles stretch out when you put the sheet on the bed, anyway.”
Then there’s Quinn’s “Top 10 Things You Have to Clean if Company Is Coming in 30 Minutes,” starting with the No.1 item, the toilet. “At some point, somebody’s going to need to pee. The toilet needs to be spotless if company is coming.” To quick-clean a bathroom, “run a disinfecting wipe over the sink, then hit the seat of the toilet (don’t forget the underside). Check the mirror. Empty the wastebasket. Check for any hair on the floor. Run a wipe over the worst—who’s got time to mop?”
She also recommends a car-cleaning product for the bathroom, called Rain-X. “Original use: helps rainwater slide off car windshields. Wipe it all over your glass shower doors. You’ll never have to squeegee again.” To prevent mould on bathroom grout, use a white candle and rub the wax over the grout, she says.
As for floors, it’s rubbish to think you have to scrub them every time you clean them, she writes. “Vacuum your floors when you vacuum the rugs. This will keep your floors tidier between cleanings.” Dark walnut floors look beautiful but they “show every piece of lint that falls on them.” When deciding on floors, “choose oak or pine; the busier grain will camouflage the dirt.” And for upholstery, buy brown leather. “I will tell you right now that the key to a happy home is brown leather. It’s tough and it hides dirt better than any textile.”
For quick dinners for the kids, Quinn’s come up with “17 Meals Made From a Deli Chicken.” “My standards are very low. I rarely measure anything and I implore you to do the same.” Each recipe involves first tearing the chicken into shreds. Her chicken Parmesan, for instance, has only three other ingredients: jarred pasta sauce, shredded mozzarella and spaghetti.
In a chapter on entertaining, Quinn tells the cautionary tale of how she once threw a theme party for 180 people and broke her toe in a last-minute cleaning frenzy before the guests arrived. Her mantra now is, “Bring it down a notch.” In that regard, “My husband has been a huge inspiration to me,” she tells Maclean’s from her home in southern California. “It’s funny because it’s been this process where I’m trying to live more like a guy, you know, pop a beer, sit down and have some fun. Why does [entertaining] have to be so much work?” Besides, “when a hostess is so wrapped up in the details that she misses out on the conversation, she’s missing the point. Forget the formalities. Be a half-assed hostess,” she writes.
Among her bring-it-down-a-notch tips is “Forget the matchy-matchy. Contrary to popular belief, it is not required to have matching dishes, silverware and placemats for every guest. Those perfect tables with all the forks in the right place are just plain intimidating. Someone breaks a wineglass almost every time we entertain, so we’ve ended up with a motley inventory. I feel that as long as everyone has a glass, it shouldn’t matter if the glasses match. When you think about it, mismatched glasses are easier to tell apart. There’s no need to buy those dumb wine charms.”