Real Simple

"Haven't we spent enough time cleaning out our closets?" a friend recently asked while checking out the cover of the October issue of Real Simple. The magazine's lead cover line is "Conquer the Clutter: 46 Real-Life Closet Solutions." My first question is, what would be a un-real-life solution- something that you shouldn't try at home? Something only Martha Stewart would perform on TV?

My friend is right. In the quest to make our lives more real and more simple, we've spent enough time clearing clutter. It's time to do something else. Even though the design of Real Simple is clean, clear--and yes, clutter free--unfortunately, the "life made easier" sentiment behind the magazine's staggering success, is beginning to feel as tired as an old-fashioned cupcake recipe. Kristin van Ogtrop, the magazine's editor, is a veteran of many women's magazines, and is a fabulous editor, but in this month's editorial note she admits that she has a problem. Telling a story about becoming paralyzed when she spotted a lost child on the subway train, she notes, "I find the line between helping and intruding to be so thin, so variable, and so fraught with potential humiliation that a house could burn down in front of me while I pondered the imponderables, doing the Good Samaritan version of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin."

Kristin, your magazine is burning down, and it's time to step in to save it! It's not that the concept for Real Simple is dead; it's just that midway into the '00s, it feels a little too '90s. An article about tracking down old friends on the Internet as a way to reconnect with your past is just plain overdone, as is one about tracing your family tree, and investing in the stock market, which every savvy investor know is just a bad move right now. Even if it is breast cancer awareness month, the headline "Think Pink" is as clichéd as the term "girl power," as is an article about wearing lingerie camisoles under sweaters. And why would the magazine run an article on white strappy sandals in the fall?

The best article in the issue is about the way to get what you want from a customer-service call. Anyone who has the suffered the global economy version of road rage by slamming down the phone on a unhelpful rep based somewhere in India should know what the Real Simple editors tell you. "If you slam down the phone in a rage, the hang-up may go on the record the company keeps about you and your account." Now that's keeping it real, and should have been a cover line. Our closets are clean enough.

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