Online columnist and author Jolie Kerr has carved out a niche dispensing frank cleaning advice to the post-college set.

New York Times,

Cleaning advice from Jolie Kerr covers everything from barf to bongs

  • Article by: PENELOPE GREEN
  • New York Times
  • March 4, 2014 - 3:22 PM

For a generation overwhelmed not just by dust bunnies, but by bong water on the carpet, pee stains on the ceiling and vomit seemingly everywhere, Jolie Kerr, 37, dispenses cleaning advice free of judgment. Writing first on the Hairpin, the Awl’s girlish sister blog, and now on Jezebel and Deadspin, Kerr gently cautions her readers to beware of their handbags, noting that researchers have found that the stuff banging around inside carries more bacteria than most toilet seats. But microbes are not the worst Coach-invader.

Kerr’s thrillingly titled first book, “My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag ... And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha” (Plume, $15), just out, is a collection of her greatest hits, packaged as a whole house/apartment primer, a Mrs. Beeton for the post-college set. In case you’re curious, saddle soap and sneaker deodorant are the cure for what ailed the soiled handbag.


Q: Your author biography notes that you live in a teeny-tiny, spotless apartment in New York City. Tell us about it.

A: It’s on the Lower East Side, less than 400 square feet. Two-ish rooms: It’s called a junior one-bedroom, which means an arch into the bedroom and the closet in the kitchen.


Q: Are you married?

A: I’m a newlywed, four months. We have this joke that I’m under contract to say he never barfed in my handbag.


Q: How did you become a Clean Person?

A: I sort of was always this way. I can remember it really kicking in around adolescence.


Q: Your mother must have applauded.

A: Not necessarily. My parents were both lawyers, so things like homemaking were not emphasized.


Q: Some of the situations you tackle I just can’t share with our readers. Do you think up the questions, or are they all from readers?

A: Yes. In a million years, I could never make up these questions. So, the barfing did happen. I have stayed in touch with that girl. She is still with her boyfriend and he feels terrible about the bag.


Q: Your readers seem mostly bedeviled by vomit, pee, sweat and mold. Am I missing anything?

A: Hair. Hair is everywhere. Last week, a guy wrote me that he’d just moved in with his girlfriend and she has this long beautiful hair, but it was everywhere. I love that one in particular, because it takes gender out of the equation. It’s not just women who shed. Men’s body hair is everywhere. We’re all gross, and I love it when I can put cleaning on human terms instead of gender terms.


Q: So how do you get rid of hair?

A: The short answer: Get both a handheld vacuum and a full-size one. Put the handheld in the bathroom for regular (every one to three days) cleanups, and use the full-size model weekly.


Q: Do you feel like you were a catalyst in keeping the bag-barfer together with his girlfriend?

A: From what I hear, they have a funny and loving relationship. I would hope everyone would take her attitude. Accidents happen, we get sick and I have no truck with making people feel bad.

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