My Boyfriend Barfed in my Handbag. . . and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha

by Elizabeth

5M4B disclosure


We’ve all been there. Calling our mums to ask, “How do you get out grass stains?” Or googling “how to get rid of horrid streaky marks all over stainless steel appliances.” The fact of the matter is that most of us aren’t walking around with all that knowledge in our heads, although I am much more of an expert now than I was in my 20s.  I’ve glanced at books by people like Heloise or Martha Stewart but haven’t been very inspired.

Jolie Kerr’s new book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag offers a great resource to anyone in any stage of life. She teaches the basics, everything from bathroom to linens to refrigerator insides to, yes, those pesky stainless steel appliances. (Seriously, why is it so hard? I only have a dishwasher, but it is perpetually streaky) Her style is humourous and conversational, and she clearly explains not just the how but the why. She goes into great detail, recommends products (spoiler: her favs are ammonia and white vinegar), and clearly spells out step-by-step processes.

For me, though, the best parts were the things that you just would never in a million years ask your mother, unless your mother is far younger and hipper than mine (which is possible. Actually it’s probable. Still, some things just might be embarrassing). Everything is addressed, from how to clean aids to intimacy to how to remove certain unmentionable stains on sheets, from pee stains on popcorn walls to bong water in the carpet to explosions amongst the bottles storing home-made beer which result in sticky shards of glass all over the kitchen.

The stories are hilarious in a schadenfreude kind of way, from the drunk groom spilling red wine down his bride’s gown just before the much-photographed first dance to the boyfriend who actually did barf all over and into an expensive leather handbag. Jolie Kerr either knows how to clean it or she’s willing to do the sometimes unsavory research needed to find out. And her advice is given with humor and a lack of judgment that your mother, honestly, might not share. (Because seriously. Don’t get drunk at your wedding before the first dance and spill red wine all over your bride’s gown. That’s not cool. And I’m not even the bride’s mother.)

My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha has many uses. It’s a lovely gift to a young person just starting out on his or her own (I firmly believe, all evidence to the contrary, that men can clean), especially as she goes into basics such as how to mop or how to sort laundry. It’s also a great resource for your own library. I ended up reading the entire book start to finish, although since it’s a reference-type of cleaning book I imagine most people will just look up specific answers they need. I learned things, I laughed and groaned, and I was inspired to try white vinegar on the stainless-steel dishwasher.

Enter to Win

If you’d like to enter to win, follow the instructions below. I’d love to learn your most pressing cleaning question, but you might rightly sense that I probably wouldn’t know the answer.

Email Author    |    Website About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a voracious reader with eclectic tastes who loves being part of the team at 5 Minutes for Books. She's lived in 7 countries and is currently in Oregon, where she spends most of her time with Iraqi refugees. She has 3 teens.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 vickie couturier March 31, 2014 at 6:28 am

cleaning up poop when the dog has a accident or vomits,,nasty


2 danielle March 31, 2014 at 10:11 am

I have a one year old an I am finding out how messing kids really are!


3 Jen V March 31, 2014 at 12:13 pm

My most pressing cleaning question right now is how to get permanent marker out of clothing. I am not happy with my middle daughter right now – she came home from school with permanent marker on a new white shirt. Ugh!


4 Rhonda March 31, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Keeping my cream colored carpets clean.


5 Terri March 31, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Sounds like a book I need! And seriously, how do you clean stainless steel? And why is it so hard??? :(


6 fisher March 31, 2014 at 11:02 pm

My most pressing cleaning questions is how cleaning carpet from the smell of baby pee and poop.


7 anne April 1, 2014 at 10:56 am

How to keep carpets pristine and clean.


8 Elizabeth April 1, 2014 at 4:11 pm

How do I keep a boys’ bathroom from smelling funky all the time? Even when it’s clean! I really need this book…


9 Maryann D. April 2, 2014 at 6:24 pm

How do I get food stains out of carpets?


10 Veronica V April 2, 2014 at 9:03 pm

How to keep my hardwood floors clean and make them shine?


11 joanna garcia April 2, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Cleaning the floor with natural stuff but that really cleans that when you walk on it your feet and sock do not get dirty! would love to use something besides clorox for that!


12 Jeanna April 3, 2014 at 9:19 am

How can I keep my son’s room smelling clean? I clean it, but it just doesn’t smell right!


13 Sherri April 3, 2014 at 9:32 pm

how to keep cat litter from getting tracked all over the house


14 Jackie Koller April 4, 2014 at 9:28 pm

How to get urine smell out of a sofa and carpets.


15 Deborah Wellenstein April 5, 2014 at 11:26 am

How do you get baby poop out of an expensive carpet? How?


16 Mary Beth Elderton April 5, 2014 at 6:53 pm

How to get the smell of boiled eggs out of the fridge after the lid was left off the container. The baking soda–which is the extent of my knowledge– is not working *sigh*


17 Heather J April 5, 2014 at 10:49 pm

I can ask my mom about a lot of things but there are definitely some things I would NEVER ask her … sounds like this book would be a great resource!

Thanks for being a part of this tour. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.


18 mrsshukra April 6, 2014 at 6:37 pm

How can I remove stubborn super old carpet stains?


19 Liz Newsome April 7, 2014 at 5:13 pm

How do you prevent that pink gunk from forming in the bathtub near the grout? Ew.


20 anna April 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

my son learning to stand up when he pee – pee everywhere – so yucky


21 Patricia April 9, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Stains and gunk associated with hard water.


22 joni April 10, 2014 at 1:40 am

What’s the best way to prevent pet odors and stains?


23 Molly Capel April 10, 2014 at 5:43 am

How to get a pee smell out of mattresses.


24 Mariah April 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm

How to make my sons room smell better. Boys just stink.


25 Karen April 10, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Red wine on white carpet and cat urine on wood.


26 Charlene S. April 10, 2014 at 4:38 pm

How to remove grease stains from wallpaper.


27 Daniel M April 10, 2014 at 6:24 pm

keeping carpets clean, they used to be all one color now they’re variegated


28 Benita April 10, 2014 at 6:56 pm

My most pressing is getting the water in the tub to go down smoothly and quickly. Liquid plumber and human plumbers aren’t helping much.


29 Mihaela Day April 10, 2014 at 7:27 pm

My most pressing cleaning question right now is how to get permanent marker off a leather purse


30 Katie Marks April 11, 2014 at 10:03 am

How to get cat urine odor out!


31 Tricha April 11, 2014 at 3:52 pm

How do you get ink out of a shirt


32 Lance Pearson April 11, 2014 at 7:01 pm

I have a 5 year old that I thought would be less messy as she gets older and she’s worse…with markers and crayons


33 Kathy Pease April 11, 2014 at 7:11 pm

My question would be how to get the grungy soap scum out of the tub without having to scrub until my hands cramp up


34 BILL HOFF April 12, 2014 at 12:49 am

ink out of carpe


35 Gianna April 12, 2014 at 12:56 am

How to get oil stains out of clothes when they’ve set in.


36 Gianna April 12, 2014 at 12:58 am
37 MARIA simon April 12, 2014 at 1:30 am

I have bad stains in oven..don’t know how in the world to get that out. thanks and grease stains are bad too :)


38 cassandra April 12, 2014 at 3:33 am

What is the most effective way of eliminating cat urine.


39 Karen Drake April 12, 2014 at 7:06 am

How to keep lime and rust off my shower walls.


40 Janice Crespo April 12, 2014 at 7:25 am

How to get stains out of a toilet bowl


41 Mary Collick April 12, 2014 at 8:12 am

I have three one year old grandkids. My problem is the stains on my furniture.


42 DeeAnn S April 12, 2014 at 9:56 am

I’d love to know how to get black tea stains out of carpet! Thanks.


43 Buddy Garrett April 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

How to get Georgia red mud out of clothes is my most pressing inquiry.


44 sue v April 12, 2014 at 10:36 am

how to get grass stains off pants


45 Samantha June 21, 2014 at 6:28 am

Well first use washing up liquid if that doesn’t work just buy a new pair


46 MARY M. April 12, 2014 at 11:37 am

perspiration or sweat stains are a problem when it is hot and humid outside.


47 heather c April 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Light grout throughout the house. How often do I have to deal with it? It’s ridiculous!


48 Christian Alejandro April 12, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Mine is how to deal with deep stains in carpet without discoloring the carpet itself.


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