Confession: I buy the magazine Real Simple on a regular basis. It’s the only magazine I read regularly other than Bust and Bitch. It’s not even all that good. Its tagline is “Life Made Easier”, which apparently involves learning things like how to put together 5 outfits with 7 pieces of clothing, how to streamline your morning routine with 12 beauty tips, how to remove dead bugs from light fixtures, and how to prepare 3 weeks’ worth of delicious dinners for a family of four. And of course, what makes life more simple than shopping, shopping, shopping?
Real Simple is designed for the type of readers who like to plan, the type of readers who use nine strategically-placed egg timers to get their 2 kids out the door in the mornings (12 minutes in the bathroom, etc. [Oct. 2009]). It’s basically the same type of advice you get from Martha Stewart, only Martha doesn’t try to cover up the fact that following her advice actually can make your life more difficult.
But I have to admit, Real Simple has gorgeous graphic design and there’s something a bit therapeutic about having everything broken down into simple, easy-to-understand steps.
That said, every once in a while you’ll get some terrible advice (aside from the whole simplify your life through conspicuous consumption theme), so without further ado, here is the worst advice I have received from Real Simple:
- “Carelessly Put Yourself at Risk” (Sept. 2010). This is from a self-help-y article called “5 Mistakes Everyone Should Make”. It actually uses the example of a woman who was a terrible skiier but went on a black diamond run anyway and survived and felt pretty good about that. Ok, fair enough. But I’m pretty sure Search & Rescue would have something to say about that kind of advice. It can be pretty confusing to be a Real Simple reader. On the one hand, it’s okay to take risks that involve potentially freezing to death, but God forbid you forget to send a thank-you note after receiving a gift.
- Mix unused medications with coffee grounds and throw them in the trash (Aug. 2009). Okay, they’re right that you shouldn’t flush them down the toilet, but if you don’t dispose of them properly there’s a risk they could contaminate the soil or water or be ingested by wildlife. The only way you can make sure this doesn’t happen is to follow Health Canada’s advice and take them back to your pharmacy or your municipal waste depot.
- Decorate your unused fireplace with a ball of Christmas lights (pictured right, Apr. 2010). To start, I’d imagine this looks pretty bad when the lights are off. Even on, the only way this works is if you want to role-play Quantum Leap in your living room and pretend the fireplace is a portal into another dimension.
- Get dressed with your eyes closed (Oct. 2010). Real Simple alleges this boosts your brain by making your other senses work harder, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a recipe for arriving at work with a misbuttoned sweater. Same deal with “Shop by heart”, which advises you to leave your list at home. In addition to making it hard to budget, my roomie and I tried this this morning and ended up having to make 3 trips out.
- Have a silent family dinner (Oct. 2010). This is also supposed to boost your brainpower by forcing unique ways of communicating, but I have a hard time imagining anyone in the family other than the Real Simple reader getting too excited. “Come on, kids! It’ll be just like that episode of Buffy where no one can talk!” I can picture the poor mother pleading. Ok, I can’t actually picture that because it’s quite likely the number of Real Simple readers who watch Buffy is close to zero.
So if you’re the type of person who thinks Thanksgiving invitations need to be hand-crafted and delivered three months ahead of time, Real Simple might be the magazine for you. But if you grab a copy next time you’re at the grocery store (hopefully on your 1st and only run), know that it’s not going to actually make your life simpler, and please take their advice with a big grain of salt.