Jen Lancaster lived an entire year emulating her idol, Martha Stewart. Some domestic projects worked like textbook cases. Others “went horribly awry.”
But all-in-all, as Martha would say, it was a good thing.
The author, who documented her experiences in her latest book, “The Tao of Martha,” came up with the idea after finishing a year where “a thousand little things that went wrong” and deciding some organization and exacting guidelines were in order.
“I wanted to go into 2012 with a plan and I thought about a happiness project, something very Oprah, but Oprah is more about all about your thoughts and feelings,” Lancaster told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday. “I thought, a vision board isn’t going to help me. I need drill sergeant, and who better than Martha Stewart?”
The yearlong effort left her with a very organized kitchen, where the food in her refrigerator is organized by shelves and all her dried goods are labeled. For instance, all of Lancaster’s flours are separated into appropriately marked jars — cake, all purpose, Bisquick, self rising.
She also started making homemade gifts for friends, although that project was a little more complicated than expected.
“I started knitting this year, and the scarves that I was making, between the time and the material, they’re worth about $8000 each,” she joked.
Lancaster also tackled the holidays by throwing events like Easter egg hunts and decorating her home for the first time for Halloween, which she had previously feared.
“I’ve been terrified of Halloween my entire adult life, to the point we used to put garbage bags over the windows so trick-or-treaters couldn’t see in,” she said. “This year, I went all out because I had to, for Martha. The house was decorated, I was in a costume, the pumpkins were glittered.”
Lancaster said her husband, an organized person by nature, loved the project.
“This is the greatest thing that has happened in the 18 years of our relationship,” he told her, mainly because he could finally locate things in the house.
However, she said sometimes her newly discovered domesticity clashed with the way he had previously organized things, like the spice cabinet, which her husband had arranged by country of origin.
“I don’t know if oregano is Mexican or if it’s Italian. I just did it alphabetically,” she said.
While taking on Stewart’s numerous domestic projects can be daunting, nearly all of them can be broken down into easy-to-follow steps, said Lancaster, who was constantly surprised at what she accomplished.
“The big take-away I’ve gotten from her is that you have to try. You can’t fail if you don’t try. There were some things that went horribly awry, but the things that didn’t were shocking. It was shocking to me that there are dishes that I can cook now, so much more inexpensively at home than what I used to buy,” she said. “It was shocking that I could create a scarf for somebody for Christmas and have them actually like it, and not have them say, ‘Wow, this looks amateur.’”
But Lancaster admitted she’s had a hard time sustaining the Tao of Martha after her year was over, particularly in the last five months as she worked on two separate books.
“So when TODAY came to film me, I still had to shove crap into drawers so the house looked good,” she said.
“I remain human.”