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The Short Version: Sometimes, the simple act of cooking dinner or making a craft with that special someone can bring you closer together. Mary Beth Sharkey created The How-To Home to help people embrace those little moments that can add up to a rich, fulfilling life. The site shares recipes, crafts, and other ideas to spark creativity and bring more smiles into homes. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in life, and Mary Beth provides a way to balance that stress with activities that can produce joy.
As the practically perfect Mary Poppins once said, “Sometimes, a little thing can be quite important.”
Mary Beth Sharkey, founder of The How-To Home, wholeheartedly agrees with that sentiment. That’s why her website showcases activities that, while simple, can make life more fun and satisfying.
From easy-to-prepare recipes to crafts that can be completed in less than a day, Mary Beth’s ideas are designed to bring smiles to the faces of her followers.
“For most people, life is not perfect, and it’s not everything it appears to be on the outside,” she told us. “I really want to encourage people, because encouragement is such a necessity in life. The little things matter, and that’s true with everything.”
Mary Beth said, for example, that while a couple may consider making a craft or dinner together a small feat, it can actually create a foundation for bigger things in life that truly matter. She’s just giving them a head start.
In addition to discussing recipes and crafts, Mary Beth shares tips for cleaning and organizing — two keys to maintaining a warm, welcoming, and love-filled home, she said.
The site itself is also well-organized, so it’s easy to find an activity for a particular holiday, event, or meal. Mary Beth draws inspiration from her own life as well as that of readers.
“Time is so valuable, and I like things that are tangible and achievable. On the internet, you can get involved in everything that your life isn’t,” she said. “I wanted to share things about what your life can be. I want people to know that they’re more than enough and more than adequate.”
Mary Beth said she started The How-To Home because she was living a lifestyle that included no time for creativity or fun. As a single mom who worked all the time, she was exhausted and struggled to find joy.
“I was working 60 to 80 hours a week at two to three jobs at a time. I found that so much of my creativity was lost. It was gone, and I had no idea how to get it back,” she said.
She started the blog to help herself smile — and to share smiles with others.
“I started it to find my groove and my creative self again, even though I was still working a lot,” Mary Beth said. “I wanted to share things that weren’t overwhelming, things they could do if they felt their lives were missing an inner desire to create.”
Plus, she figured she wasn’t the only person who didn’t have a mother to call and ask how to use an ingredient in a recipe or how to organize a room in her home. Mary Beth lost her mother when she was a young mom herself, but she said she remembers and appreciates everything her mother did to maintain a happy home.
“When you’re younger, you don’t realize all that your mom did. My mom worked for IBM, but she stopped when she was preparing to have me. I didn’t realize what she had given up and all the hard work that went into keeping such a nice home,” Mary Beth said. “Now, when I think ‘What do I do?’ I think about what I saw her doing.”
She also spent a lot of time figuring out how to overcome her own loneliness and life’s challenges. Mary Beth said she decided to focus her energy on not just making magic in her own home but also encouraging others.
“I remember having an aha moment the first time I saw Martha Stewart. It sparked a love of cooking in me,” she said. “Then I went to magazines, books, and the web. I’m always looking for more inspiration.”
Couples can try out plenty of projects from The How-To Home to spend time together, Mary Beth said. She even has an entire section devoted to ideas for Valentine’s Day — among other holidays.
Mary Beth encourages couples to connect through cooking. Her current favorite recipes are Chicken Teriyaki and Chocolate Lava Cake. Most of her recipes are designed to easily be adjusted, so couples can make two servings instead of four. However, she said, larger recipes often make for a pretty delicious lunch the next day.
“You can each bring something to the table, so to speak, as in your different tastes. For example, if someone likes spicy and you don’t, you can come to a middle ground. That’s a great way to learn to compromise,” Mary Beth said. “When you cook together, it’s just fun. You’re both in the kitchen, and you can have a deep conversation while you’re doing it.”
Beyond experimenting with recipes and crafts, Mary Beth said there’s something valuable about spending time with another person without the television being on.
“Crafts and projects, many of which I’ve done myself, are simple and meant to take just an hour or two. It’s a cute way to add that romance to your house for the day,” she said.
Mary Beth said she likes to focus on doing the little things in life that lead to deeper connections and lasting happiness, and that mission is reaffirmed each time she gets to know how she affects the lives of her readers.
“They’re often shocked when I respond, but I love to get their emails,” she said. “They ask for advice and ideas, and it’s a nice way to build a relationship. It means a lot to me, and it makes a difference on the site.”
Most people visit The How-To Home looking for projects and recipes that aren’t overwhelming and can be done in a few hours. Looking toward the future, Mary Beth is planning to create more mini-manuals on homemaking to teach people that it doesn’t take a backbreaking amount of effort to build a loving home.
“I want to help encourage and guide people,” she said. “When you’re going through something difficult, you often don’t realize that everything you learn can be used to encourage someone else. It can make a difference in other people’s lives.”