37 Tips for Domestic Liberation: Lower Your Standards With Style

vacuum lawn chores cleaning perfectionism

I'm a domestic slacker, and I'm proud of it. Lowering my standards when it comes to modern motherhood and domestic life has been a good practice for me, as has listening to and recognizing my own personal limitations.

When Chronicle Books sent me a copy of the book Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets: Your Ultimate Guide to Domestic Liberation by Lisa Quinn, I knew by the title that this was a book on par with my softer, easier way of living.

Do you practice a Lackadaisical Lifestyle or Not-So-Good Housekeeping? Are you into Slacker Chic decorating and being a Half-Assed Hostess? Do you strive to be one or all of these? Do you need domestic intervention -- either from trying to do it all perfectly or from doing nothing because you can't do it all perfectly?

Well, then read on for Lisa Quinn's 37 tips to domestic liberation.


Lisa Quinn, a successful "Home & Garden Expert" who showcased her talents on HGTV, Oprah, GMA, and in Better Homes & Gardens, was living a lie. While she strived to be perfect picture of domestic bliss at work, she could never quite pull it off in her own home. She could barely get dinner on the table three nights a week. She realized she was not a domestic diva, but an overwhelmed mother of two, and she felt like a complete fraud.

Now a self-proclaimed "recovering Martha-holic," Lisa shares in her book about her decade-long journey from disillusioned domestic diva to "empowered imperfectionist." Her message is not laziness (anybody can do nothing); instead, she suggests employing lower standards with style.

Perfection is so overrated.

37 Good-Enough Things -- Shortcuts for the Recovering Perfectionist

Lackadaisical Lifestyle

  • Do less. This frees you up for enjoying more.
  • Just say no. Take care of the ones you love and shamelessly deny the rest.
  • Meditate. Okay, so who’s got time for meditation, right? You don’t necessarily have to focus on any magical mantras, uncomfortable positions, or overly religious overtones. Meditation can be as simple as daydreaming or closing your eyes and breathing deeply a few times.
  • Keep a few vices. A chocolate bar, a cocktail, an anti-depressant, a joint, or a good cry when you need it.
  • Take a staycation. It can be costly and time-consuming to travel, but that shouldn't mean you can't have some R&R. Turn off the computer and the cell phone, and have some uninterrupted family fun for a long weekend. Visit local museums, or just play in the yard. Don't do any work and don't answer the phone. This is a vacation.
  • Visit True Mom Confessions: This is a website dedicated to anonymous mommy confessions. You won’t feel alone after you visit it.

Not-So-Good Housekeeping

  • Let kids (and husbands) help. Perfectionists want to do everything themselves, right? Break down responsibilities and assign tasks accordingly. Ask your child to perform a series of smaller tasks. Also, kids thrive on positive reinforcement (as do husbands).
  • Throw a "shaming party." We don't see our own clutter after a while. Bring in some friends who will have more objective views. Serve some wine and appetizers. After a glass or two, your friends will no doubt have plenty of opinions on what you should lose. Be ruthless. If you haven't used an item in a year, why do you have it?

12 Easy Cleaning Tips --

  1. Rain-X. Original use: helps rainwater slide off windshields for better visibility.  Wipe it all over your glass shower doors every month or so. You’ll never have to squeegee again. Pick up a bottle at your local auto store.
  2. Cheap flip-flops. "85 percent of household dirt is carried in on clothing, shoes, or the paws of pets." Use flip flops as House-Shoes for you and your guests. A shoe-free home is a cleaner, healthier, and less vacuumed home.
  3. White candles. Original use: romantic mood lighting. Rub them on your bathroom grout to prevent mold and mildew.
  4. Alka-Seltzer will clean a dirty vase or a ring in the toilet bowl in a pinch. Just drop them in and watch them work.
  5. The omop from Method. It’s an eco-friendly swiffer basically (the mopping pad is washable and biodegradable). I love it for spot mopping, which let’s face it, is the only kind of mopping I really do. 
  6. Aluminum foil prevents nasty spills in your oven. Line the bottom of your oven with a sheet of foil. This will save you the laborious task of scraping all the burnt on gunk afterwards.
  7. Salt cleans silver in minutes. Line a glass casserole dish with aluminum foil. Fill with warm water, baking soda and salt. Place your tarnished silver in the water. Minutes later, you have perfectly clean silver without the rubbing and buffing.
  8. Crayons. Crayons are usually the cause of housekeeping problems, but if you have scratched hardwood floors, the brown ones are godsends. Grab your kids’ crayon box and pick out a color similar to the color of your floor (burnt umber, perhaps?), fill in the scratch, and melt the wax with a hair dryer. Buff with a cloth.
  9. Cleaning bucket. Most of us don’t have storage space to keep cleaning items in every room, so consider buying a bucket. Keep your sponges, rags, and cleaners inside. It’s a mobile cleaning station.
  10. Citrus peel. Next time you’re making margaritas, throw the lemon and lime peels down the garbage disposal (in small pieces). The peels not only make your kitchen smell great, but they also help maintain the integrity of the disposal blades.
  11. Baking soda. Replace all of your abrasive, powdered cleaners with baking soda. It’s inexpensive, safe for the family, and works great on sinks, tile and grout.
  12. White vinegar. It will clean almost anything in a pinch. Mix it with water and keep it in a spray bottle under your sink.

The Half-Ass Hostess

  • Evite. Forget the written invitations.
  • Kid parties. Take it down a notch. Kids just want the cake and the present; they don't really care about much else.
  • Adult parties. True hospitality is about making people feel welcome, not intimidating them with your entertaining prowess. No one really cares about all the minute details; they only remember the good time.
  • Newspaper. A great make-shift tablecloth for casual dinners and cookouts.
  • Large canvas tarps. These are super cheap and look exactly like fancy white tablecloths. They are perfect when you want to dress up a buffet table.
  • Dishwasher-safe glasses and dishware. Never buy anything you have to hand wash.
  • All-white dishes. Why stuff your cupboards full of five different sets of plates? Keep it simple with white plates and platters. Dress them up for special occasions with decorative salad plates and napkins.
  • Paper plates. You eco-nuts can yell at me all you want. Every now and then, it's nice not to have to do dishes.
  • Tea towels for napkins. I like to place a nice tea towel over each dining chair. They are easier to clean and less austere than cloth napkins, and they are more charming than a paper towel.

Slacker Chic

  • Recycle and repurpose. A budget-friendly way to get out of a decorating rut is to simply rearrange and repurpose furnishings and accessories you already own.
  • Baskets with lids -- one in every room. A covered basket is a great place to stash items you can’t find a proper home for -- things you occasionally use, like blankets, photos, kids’ artwork, office supplies, and seasonal decor items.
  • A larger basket for kids’ toys in the living room. Young ones will procrastinate taking toys to their room, but you can make it easier for them by setting up a small basket in the rooms in which they play. Even better, stop buying the latest fad toys for your kids.
  • An old dresser. Forget an expensive closet system. If you have a short dresser, slide it into your closet. You'll find it perfect for little things like socks, T-shirts, ties and scarves, and kids' clothes. Paint it the same color as the closet wall, and suddenly it's a custom closet.
  • Casters and "screw-on legs". Make just about anything a coffee table by attaching wheels or legs. Casters and "screw-on legs" can be found at any hardware store.
  • Specialty papers. Wrapping paper has come a long way, baby. Peruse your local, specialty paper store for inexpensive and easy artwork. Just place the paper in the right frame, with the right mat.
  • Duct tape keeps picture frames even. Do your framed art pieces become crooked over time? This can wreck the look of a gallery wall. Loop a small piece of duct tape and place it behind the frame. It will secure the piece to the wall -- no slipping.
  • Hem tape. Never sew again. Adhesive hem tape is sold in rolls at fabric stores. Iron it on to whatever you are hemming. You can also use hem tape to apply ribbon and decorative trim to curtain panels and to hem your kid's pants.

Is perfectionism getting in the way of your happiness? Do you need to lower your  standards in terms of cleaning or entertaining?


Image via ninja gecko/Flickr

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