CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
"Real Simple" cohost Brooke Alexander admits she's a "piler" who continues to pick up tips on how to better organizer her living space.
Growing up in Kailua helped prepare Brooke Alexander to host TV's "Real Simple"
LIFE is slow in Kailua, and in talking with Brooke Alexander, it's hard to imagine her as the hard-charging former Fox News television personality.
Now one of three hosts of "Real Simple," the TV version of the popular magazine, she's dressed casually in a white tank top and sitting on the lawn of her family home in Kailua. It's the picture of tranquility, with the canal water lapping in the background, and her voice low and contemplative. She seems to embrace the "Real Simple" philosophy of finding calm in simplifying life.
Premieres at 6 p.m. tomorrow on KHET/PBS
"Growing up in Kailua, I had a ready disposition to a concept like 'Real Simple.' There is a certain easy-going quality you get from growing up in Hawaii. Our day-to-day needs are simple and down to earth."
Yet, that doesn't liberate us from the acquisitive bug.
"We did a survey of women, ages 24 to 54, and their No. 1 priority is simplifying life," Alexander said. "As a society, we're acquiring more. If you look at all the malls, all the big stores, the magazines, electronics designed to be obsolete, they create more of an appetite to acquire, and that makes it necessary to organize more, clear out more.
"I'm surprised by the numbers of people who have trouble organizing, but I'm also comforted by it, to know we're not alone."
IDEALLY, people could learn to make do with less, but Real Simple takes the approach that while no one can change human nature, they can at least learn to deal with the messes they create.
Alexander admits to being a "piler," especially when it comes to paper that might contain the roots of a story or an idea for a project.
In making the transition to her new life, she said, "I actually hired a personal organizer to help me clear out my stuff. I sat on the floor with her and she helped me devise a filing system.
"My problem was I'd hold on to things, thinking I may need to revisit it. The most important thing was that she said it's OK to let go. She said if you were the only person in the world to witness a leaf fall to earth, you've captured its beauty so move on, let it go.
"It's hard because it's human nature to want to share; that validation is so important, but I also want what works better for me and for my family.
"I still make stacks, but I'm better at addressing them in real time, rather than letting it build up. With more stuff, turnover is more important, so when it comes to my son's old toys or clothes, it's move it out. My clothes, move it out. Shoes are still a problem for me."
RATHER THAN follow the loud, hysterical, dramatic gestures of other makeover or how-to shows, "Real Simple," with Alexander, Cydnee Welburn and Rob Keefe, follows the level-headed rhythm of the magazine in its examination of all aspects of life -- food, work, beauty, travel, family, money and entertaining -- to come up with smart solutions to everyday problems.
Brooke Alexander, center, hosts "Real Simple" with Cyndee Welburn and Rob Keefe.
"What struck me about Real Simple before I worked for them was that it's so calming," Alexander said. "The photography is simple. The copy is simple. The tone of the magazine is neutral, not preachy.
"We hear from people who breathe a sigh of relief when they get the magazine in the mail. They feel they can just curl up and relax with it."
Although the television program is not intended to be the walking, talking version of the magazine, it does aim to offer up solutions to a variety of life's complications. At the most complex, it might address personal finance issues. Then there are hands-on, step by step strategies for tackling little nuisances.
"You would think that something like organizing your freezer would be boring and mundane but people really appreciate finding something that works for them. I went back and took a look at my freezer, and my freezer is now amazing."
ALEXANDER grew up wanting nothing more than to play basketball.
"I had done some modeling locally, and my mother, smart woman that she is, said maybe I should try doing that in New York."
She left Hawaii in 1981 at age 18, and a one-way ticket to New York eventually led to a summer in Milan, where she was sent to model and build up her portfolio. Her career kept evolving with television and film roles, including playing Samantha Markham on "As the World Turns," for which she won a Soap Opera Digest Award, to hosting CNN's "Worldbeat," the Style network's "Full Frontal Fashion," and reporting for Fox News Updates.
"In a certain way I still miss basketball and regret that I didn't play college ball. I tell people that it's been 20 years but I'm still NCAA eligible."
Her life will speed up again when she's back in New York, but she said, "I try to keep my life as simple and low-key as possible."
Keeping it real is the aim of "Real Simple" as well.
"A lot of shows promise to turn your life, home, spouse into something fantastic overnight. But we're offering solutions that have the potential to last," Alexander said. "I hope each viewer will be able to take away something that works for them."