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My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha Paperback – February 25, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“Wise and funny. . . . The Lorrie Moore short story, or the Tina Fey memoir, of cleaning tutorials.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Thrillingly titled. . . . 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 dispenses cleaning advice free of judgment. . . . A Mrs. Beeton for the postcollege set.”
Penelope Green, The New York Times
“A darned informative book. . . . When you can combine breezy writing with things that are of day-to-day use, that's a win. . . . All of Kerr's advice is fun, but it's true that she is in some ways at her most irresistible when she's handling the kinds of awkward questions that do traditionally go unanswered in your women's magazines and your perky home-maintenance shows.”
—Linda Holmes, NPR
“A Millennials version of "Hints from Heloise," Kerr takes a humorous and non-finger-wagging approach to tackling such problems as how to remove the lingering stinky smell from gym clothes, how to launder your bras and how to deep clean your kitchen. . . .  Crammed with useful information . . . a worthwhile reference guide to keep handy in the house.”
The Times-Picayune
“Charming. . . . A must read.”
—Tyler Coates, Flavorwire
“Light, breezy, nonjudgmental. . . . Kerr writes for readers who know little to nothing about laundry or mopping, getting across the notion that you’ll have to work hard but trying, at least, to make it a little fun.”
—Daniel D’Addario, Salon
“Jolie Kerr’s cleaning advice isn’t like your grandma’s. . . . She gives unprissy solutions for the peskiest issues.”
—Alexandra Owens, Allure
"Providing the Dirtiest Generation with basic rules for dishwashing (clean dishes, drain sink, rinse dishes), cleaning Formica or stainless steel and, most important, ridding clothing of embarrassing stains including, but not limited to, bodily fluids and bong water.”
The New York Daily News
“Refreshingly honest and deeply true…The cleaning guidance in this text will not steer you wrong.”
“Informative cleaning instructions delivered by a Martha for millennials. . . .  All college freshmen should receive a copy of this book.”
—Megan Fishmann, Bust
“A joy to read. . . . Whether you’re genuinely interested in the best way to scour a pot (baking soda, btw) or just looking for a few handy hints to impress your friends with, Kerr’s volume is a fun, entertaining read.”
Elle (Canada)
“With a delightful mix of self-help and humor, Jolie Kerr is here to help turn your messy life into one of order and beauty. . . . One handy and, yes, neat book.”
“A practical and hilarious guide . . . to help with any and all of your bizarre or mundane cleaning inquiries.”
—Samantha Samel, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
"Jolie Kerr really cuts through the grease and grime with her new book. I do what she tells me to do."
—Amy Sedaris
“Jolie Kerr is unique among great, funny writers in that she isn't a repulsive slob.”
—Drew Magary, Author of Someone Could Get Hurt and The Postmortal

“I was a huge filthy pig—and then Jolie happened to me. Now I know just how easy and satisfying proper cleaning can be! I'm not afraid anymore! I used to live like an animal in a cage. I was completely helpless and hapless when it came to pretending to be human. Now I can actually have people in my home, instead of just insects and terrible smells! Jolie Kerr is the painless adult supervision I always needed but was afraid to ask for.”
—Choire Sicha, author of Very Recent History

About the Author

Jolie Kerr is a Boston native and graduate of Barnard College, now residing in a teeny, tiny spotless apartment in Manhattan's Lower East Side.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (February 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142196932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142196939
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Jolie Kerr is the internet's Clean Person. Her cleaning advice column, Ask a Clean Person, is featured on It's a weird job, but she loves it! A Boston native and graduate of Barnard College, Jolie now lives with her husband on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in a teeny tiny spotless apartment.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Katie Bekkering on February 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As an avid reader of the Ask A Clean Person column, I have been waiting for this book with bated breath! Jolie Kerr gets down to the nitty-grits of cleaning and breaks it all down in manageable tasks with hilarious asides. I, for one, will devour every single thing she ever writes. I mean that in a totally clean, non-creepy way.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Diane VINE VOICE on March 27, 2014
Format: Paperback
I don't like cleaning. There, I said it. I'm not one of those people who look forward to spring because it means I can get out the cleaning supplies and go to town.

But I was intrigued by the title of Jolie Kerr's book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha. You gotta admit, that's a catchy title. Kerr's book expands upon her cleaning column "Ask A Clean Person."

The book is filled with practical advice, her most important "Never mix bleach and ammonia", something you know must be very dangerous because she repeats it until she is sure you have it.

I liked the layout of the book; the chapters are divided into rooms- kitchen, bathroom, and specialty cleaning like bridal dresses and how to clean your car. I never thought about all of the mishaps that can occur to a wedding dress, but have no fear, Kerr has your answer (and it frequently involves club soda).

She has fantastic charts for types of flooring, beauty items, and kitchen appliances that are great for quick references. I made a list of her suggested cleaning products and headed to the store to stock up.

I put the book to the test and followed her advice to make my bathroom sparkle. I gave it a thorough scrubbing, following her step by step instructions, including mopping the floor using the handsie kneesie method. It looks amazing, but I don't want anyone to use it. I'd love to velvet rope it off.

There are some funny anecdotes, mostly questions sent in to Kerr (like the title question) and the chapter on cleaning sex toys is unique for sure. I have not seen that topic covered in Ladies' Home Journal or Real Simple magazines.

My husband is thrilled that I read this book because our apartment will be shiny clean, and so he doesn't even mind that I am adding another book to my permanent collection.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Judith on April 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This book is aimed at young people who know virtually nothing about cleaning. The author's humor is a type that likely appeals to younger readers, as well. Some other reviewers liked her humor, while others were so annoyed they couldn't read the book. I wasn't that annoyed, but I didn't find her that funny either. I did hear her in a radio interivew, and liked her. So, get the Kindle sample first to see if you like/dislike the tone. As I said, the cleaning advice is really, really basic. Example: how to clean out your fridge. Take everything out. Wipe it out. Throw out the out of date stuff. Put the rest back. SImple as that. There are some glaring omissions, such as which kind of vacuum to buy, and how to actually vacuum a floor properly. There is nothing about cleaning mirrors, windows, polishing furniture, cleaning problems like mini-blinds, computer and TV screens. On the other hand, even though I didn't actually learn much from this book, it did inspire me to get some cleaning done that I had been putting off. This was an okay book--especially since I borrowed the ebook from the library--but it isn't the cleaning bible that will be your go to book when you have a cleaning question.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Karielle @ Books à la Mode on April 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
Cleaning isn't the most thrilling chore I could think of—in fact, I can say with certainty that no one actually looks forward to the dirtiest job around—but Jolie Kerr's devotion and simply outlined tips really make me want to get my butt off the couch and clean the damn house. It's like when you read food blogs and become motivated to start taking the time to cook and eat healthier; I see someone being really productive with their life which motivates me to at least attempt to reach that level.

The trick is that Kerr actually makes cleaning seem fun; her enthusiasm is contagious and her anecdotes uproariously funny. She's kooky, fanatical, and just becomes your weird best friend who loves cleaning—a hyped-up Martha Stewart, you could say. But unlike Martha, Jolie Kerr isn't a domestic ideal; she's been through real world, real girl problems (like boyfriends barfing in handbags) and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty—literally.

My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag is conveniently sectioned off into eight different cleaning categories:
1. Kitchen
2. Floors, Ceilings, Walls, and Other Immovable Things
3. Bathroom
4. Personal Hygiene Tools and Appliances (brushes, hair dryers, razors, etc.)
5. Wedding Cleaning
6. Laundry
7. Car
8. Things You Really Can't Ask Martha (or Mom, for that Matter)
I love how each chapter is outlined, making the book all the more useful as a reference tool. Just look up your problem area in the index and you'll find the solution Kerr suggests—super easy!

I was pleasantly surprised by how helpful the guide is. There's lots of cleaning advice that I have never come across (or, let's be honest—have never had the opportunity to need) before, things that aren't just common knowledge.
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