Martha Stewart kicks off 2019 with the how-to of how-to books: ‘The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything,’ (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). In it, Stewart shares many of her essential life skills including how to build a fire, make your bed, paint floors, compost and fix your leaky faucet. We know what you’re thinking: Does Martha Stewart really snake her own sink? We asked her:
What is the ‘almost’ in ‘Almost Everything’? What did you leave out and why?
The word ‘almost’ in the title leaves us open to do more and more about organisation for the homemaker. There’s lots and lots of different subject matters covered in this manual, and it has beautiful and useful photography to illustrate the tips. I think it’s a really good start to a whole series on organising one’s home, which is the plan — to release more books like this.
Are you trying to empower people?
Well I’ve always considered myself a teacher. The books that we write, the shows we produce, the magazines we publish and the products we make, they all exist to be useful and practical for the everyday person. So yes, I do think that knowledge and quality products can encourage our customers to take the extra step to reupholster their own chair or fix their own sink and feel educated and empowered in the process.
In the Martha Stewart pyramid of life skills, what are the most important things to know how to do?
One is cleanliness, which will serve you your entire life. The second is organisational skills, which will help keep you sane. The third is having even a small sense of creating beauty around you. This will help not only you personally but also your family.
Besides questions about Snoop Dogg, what is the most common question people ask you?
Who does my hair. I’ve been going to Bergdorf’s for 30 years.
Why is the Martha Way better?
I wouldn’t say that my way is always the best way, but again, I am a believer in arming customers with the knowledge needed to complete a task. That means doing things thoroughly and with care. There isn’t always a shortcut or an easy way, so my intent is to teach people what I’ve learnt over decades of homekeeping, to teach them the way that I’ve learnt, and then they can make their decision as to if it is the right way for them. And I hope it is.
Some of the tips seem so basic — how to iron, how to build a fire, how to set a table. Who is this book for?
I think it’s for everybody, people of all ages and at different stages in their lives. Young people on their way to college or moving into their first home or apartment can read this book and have a good basis in home organisation and just growing up. And for the more experienced person it does help with cutting back, cutting down on chores and actually accomplishing tasks that you may never have thought you’d be accomplishing.
Have you actually done all of these things yourself? It’s hard to imagine Martha Stewart snaking her sink.
They are all certainly within my wheelhouse. I like doing all of these things. Some of them might be tedious and some of them might be something I wouldn’t do on a regular basis, but I have to know how to do everything. I’ve probably practised most of these hints and tips many, many times in my life.
You have often been ahead of trends — the DIY craft explosion among them — do you follow them?
I like to think our team has done a good job of creating new and exciting trends over the years and making them popular and approachable in the mainstream. But we are always paying attention to what is going on around us, of course. I don’t think I am big into following trends, rather understanding customer behaviour and adapting to what it is people want and need to live their lives efficiently and with beautiful, well-made products.
Speaking of trends, you devote several pages to embroidery. Is that the next big DIY trend?
I don’t know if it’s the next big trend, but everyone should have an idea of how to sew a button and simple needle work.
Your tips feel gender-neutral. Is that intentional? Do you want to see men ironing and women with toolboxes?
Definitely. My world is a non-exclusionary world, and, with the types of households that exist now, everyone needs to know how to do everything.
No question these tips make life better. But is it easier? How can we find the time to accomplish these tasks with work, parenting, etc? How do you do it?
Put down your iPhone and make time to do the things you need to complete.