Is ‘The Home Edit’ Really That Helpful?

Recently, the show Get Organized with The Home Edit dropped on Netflix. This Netflix original was an instant hit, partly because of the celebrities that the show features, partly because it’s an organizing show (and who can resist that), and partly because The Home Edit was already wildly popular before the show came out. As this team of women that make up The Home Edit company trifle through homes across the country and buy a bunch of products from The Container Store, it begs the question — is this helpful? As important that organization is to alleviating stress and being productive, there should be a purpose and a healthy balance behind a functional organizational system. Is there such a thing as too much organization, and if there is, is this a representation of it? The process and goals behind The Home Edit’s system, I argue, are not helpful nor the best way to organize. 

What Is The Home Edit?

For those of you who are not already familiar with The Home Edit, it is a business comprised of two professional organizers, Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin. Their fan and client base grew completely from their social media presence, as well as their bookblogproduct line and services. The focus of the organization is to “give people the tools to make a system smart, sustainable and also beautiful.”

This show is one season, eight episodes, of Clea and Joanna going to regular people and celebrities’ homes and organizing their pantries, closets, playrooms, leisure lounges, refrigerators and anything else that people need organized. As cool as it is seeing Reese Witherspoon’s wardrobe from Legally Blonde, perhaps their services and shtick are a tad unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive. There are a lot of emotions to unpack but these are just a few things I find wrong with The Home Edit.

  1. 1. The Process

    All of their projects are, essentially, three steps: edit, categorize and contain. They’re simple, straightforward and pretty much what you’re going to find in any organizational help book. However, they don’t adhere to these steps all that often. Take episode one for example; in Reese Witherspoon’s memorabilia closet they don’t edit anything because why would you even throw out a single one of her stunning Oscars looks. And it makes sense why there would not be any editing, but is that the best example of their organizational skills? Another example, in episode two, Clea and Joanna go to Rachel Zoe’s closet (this is the second time they have organized this woman’s closet) to re-organize it. Rather than getting rid of anything, they simply “archive” the things she no longer wears. Instead of encouraging her to edit her wardrobe, such that things are inherently easier to find because there are fewer of them, they just find more space to fit all of her stuff. 

    Categorizing is a basic step of organization, putting things in groups that make sense, so you know where to find it. However, the categorization going on in this show is what I would describe as over-categorized, as in the categories are too specific.  Everything needs to have a category; there is no flexibility or leeway. But some things just don’t need space. Like in episode six, the team is organizing a Brooklyn kitchen and in the cabinet turntables the spices need to have categories and they discuss wither crushed red pepper flakes belong in the cooking category. Like what?! How is that a problem, and how is that important? Yes, I have my spices organized in my kitchen but that is unnecessary and, frankly, ridiculous. 

    Finally, they contain everything. Nothing is loose and nothing does not have a place. I suppose that is nice for organizational purposes, but it seems very rigid to me. So, I can’t just place a pen in a drawer, it has to go in its particular container with all the other pens. All of those rules ruling my life gives me anxiety just thinking about it. 

  2. 2. The aesthetic

    On their website, they state, “Every project receives meticulous attention to detail, carefully considered systems and our signature style aesthetic.” They don’t false advertise because that is exactly what you’re getting if you choose to use their services or follow their method. The Home Edit aesthetic is, essentially, rainbow color categorization, a lot of clear acrylic containers and cursive labels. Firstly, within each category they create, they orient everything in ROYGBIV order. Like, if they separated shirts into short sleeve and long sleeve then within those groups everything would go from red to violet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my entire house too to look like a rainbow. That is not visually appealing to me. I would rather organize things according to how I use them. Granted, this works for some projects, like art supplies or children’s books. Like, when they organize Neal Patrick Harris’ kid’s playroom (seeing his New York brownstone gave me life) Clea and Joanna ordered the children’s books by color because kids are more likely to associate them that way. That makes sense, but when they organize adult books by color, like in the home office project from episode five, that irritates me. As an English major, books — especially if you have a lot of them — are best organized and found if ordered alphabetically by author. Or, you know, just put on the shelf in the best way that works for you. 

    The systems they create are centered around labeling all of the categories, especially if they are in boxes. This makes sense, however, the labels they use are custom and are in Clea’s handwriting. So, their hands are literally all over your space, even if you’re the one doing the organizing (assuming you use their products). An aesthetic is a personal representation of what you find beautiful, and it should not be determined by someone else. By imparting their “signature aesthetic” on all of their clients they are determining for them what is the most beautiful. Well, you know what, I don’t find rainbows and clear acrylic all that beautiful. 

  3. 3. The price

    One of the main parts of their process is buying a ton of products to contain the space they are organizing. All of the product comes from their personal line at The Container Store. As neat as this system is, this is not feasible for the average person to do. For example, the Large Drawer from The Home Edit collection is $29.99. In an average closet project, they go through at least a dozen of these and considering how many sweaters I own I would need a whole lot more if I were to organize my closet with their products. As a college student, that is just not feasible. By using their product exclusively, they are saying that their level of organization is only attainable for those that can afford it, which isn’t me. 

    Even something small, like their labels, are exorbitantly expensive. The packet of 36 labels is not bad, at $9.99, however, if your space does not fit into their predetermined categories, the custom labels are $7.00 each. In an average pantry project, they go through dozens of labels. If this show is targeted at college students, or frankly any person of average income, it’s not doing a great job. Some of their products, although they are unsustainably expensive, are pretty cool  — their purse hangers, genius. But then again, you can’t purchase those on their website. 

  4. 4. There might be such a thing as too much organization 

    When your organizational system causes you to stress, then there might be too much structure to be maintainable. In a study from Martin Lang, a post-doctoral psychology fellow at Harvard University, he linked anxiety with repetitiveness, predictability and ritualistic behavior — like overly meticulous organization systems and maintaining them. Lang said that cleaning gives us a sense of control that our lives lack in times of stress. I fall into this behavior at times and seeing my room clean or all my drawers nice and neat does make me feel better, but perhaps organization isn’t the best response to stress or anxiety. 

    The Home Edit reminds me of this correlation between anxiety and organization. For me, their level of organization and categorization is too much. I don’t need my socks organized by color, and I don’t want to think about putting them back in color order either. Looking at a color-coded filing system is satisfying, but perhaps that’s too much for me to maintain in my own home.

Perhaps, rather than conforming to this one specific system of organization, make your own. Not every person needs their spaces to be to the level that Clea and Joanna like theirs, and I think that is the core of my issue with the show. There is no one way to do something, and this show is telling its viewers that there is, and this is it. Instead of ordering premade labels, make them yourself with some washi tape and a sharpie. Rather than pay a fortune at The Container Store, use old shoe boxes to contain your photos.  Do your space how you like it in a way that works for you.