July 3, 2011 in Features

‘Hip Girl’ Kate Payne shares the joys of baking and cleaning

Kim Palmer Minneapolis Star Tribune
 

Not all of us have beautiful, perfect homes. And many of us don’t have time to take care of them – or even a clue as to how.

That’s OK. We just need a little nonjudgmental jump-start, says Kate Payne, author of “The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking” (Harper Design, 288 pages, $19.99; www.hipgirlshome.com).

Her mantra is summed up in the book’s introduction: “Why homemaking? Because it’s cool to have a cool house.”

We talked with the Austin, Texas, transplant about the joys of jelly-making, fresh-baked bread and successful stain removal.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: There are many homemaking manuals, but they’re intimidating and judgmental: “You should do it this way. Otherwise it’s gross.” It doesn’t feel reflective of many people’s situation, of living in a crappy rental place you’re not excited about.

I’m trying to coax them gently into the idea. Maybe you’ll like this more if you know more.

Q: You describe yourself as a “half-assed domestic goddess.” Explain.

A: That I kept at it makes me a goddess. I, like everyone else, have so much going on all the time. But I enjoy cleaning my house and making it part of my routine. I don’t feel I’m always excited about it, but I do what needs to be done. It’s good enough.

Q: Did you have a demographic in mind?

A: I’m obviously speaking to people who are first-time householders, moving out on their own for the first time. But the demographic expands because so many people are not learning this stuff.

Q: You write that if you ever learned any homemaking skills as a child, you blocked them out. What turned you off?

A: The social stuff surrounding it. I thought, “I’m going to grow up to be a working woman.” I never thought homemaking should be the focus. It seemed antiquated.

Q: You say your advice is for guys as well as girls, yet you chose a chick-focused title.

A: It’s totally relevant to guys. Guys live alone, live with a woman. Homemaking gets a bad rap, gets pegged as a woman thing. … I don’t think guys will be flocking to it on the shelf, but maybe guys will accidentally pick it up and read it.

Q: Which homemaking skills are you proudest of having mastered?

A: Laundry. I’ve honed my skills in the laundry room. Getting happy-life stains out of linens is empowering. My proudest moment was getting blueberry pie off my brand-new seersucker shorts.

I’m also proud of making sweet preserves, jams and jellies. I made some Concord grape jelly that was the most delicious thing, without pectin. My crowning glory!

Q: You’re very zealous about bread-baking. Why?

A: I’m not a perfectionist, into precise measuring. But after I got over my initial fear of bread and started wrapping it into my life, it’s so gratifying – to offer anyone who comes into your home some homemade bread. It’s changed my life in small but beautiful ways.

Q: Why do you advocate buying cheap dishes and linens at thrift stores?

A: I like the story behind the stuff, the uniqueness. When I use my Charles and Diana plate, I always think of being in Berkeley, at the little stoop sale where I picked it up. I like wondering where a cup has been all these years. Giving things new life and incorporating them into yours is really cool.

Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in your own home?

A: Just before the book-release party, I made a Mason jar into a mini chandelier. It wasn’t that hard – not much different from the theme of the whole book.

Q: If you could impart one kernel of homemaking wisdom, what would it be?

A: Start small. Small things make a big difference. Once you do a few things, your mind frame starts to expand. Thinking about making a happy house is intimidating because there are so many areas. Just start feeling attuned to little areas.

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