In lockdown, the list of things we saw fit to show off on Instagram grew exponentially. Without holidays, brunches or nights out, social media users brought followers into the home, whether to flaunt a sourdough starter or a dodgy DIY haircut. Stuck in the house, bored quarantiners turned their attention to styling their interiors, with colour-coordinated bookshelves and immaculate tablescapes becoming ubiquitous on Instagram.
A new Netflix series takes home organisation to a whole new level. Get Organised with the Home Edit follows Nashville-based "organisational gurus" Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin as they assist celebrities and civilians in rigorously arranging their living spaces. The Home Edit rose to prominence in 2017 after working on Gwyneth Paltrow's home, and has attracted a roster of A-list clients including Reese Witherspoon, Katy Perry and the Kardashians.
Last year, Shearer and Teplin published a book, The Home Edit Life, which was subtitled "The No-Guilt Guide to Owning What You Want and Organising Everything". This sums up their philosophy - in their own words, "It's okay to own things", though after seeing the show, it may be more accurate to say "it's better to own as much as humanly possible".
Shearer and Teplin's approach comes as a sharp shock to those who diligently Marie Kondo-ed their homes on watching Netflix's last decluttering series. Rather than discarding everything that does not spark joy, The Home Edit encourages you to store all your worldly possessions in clear storage, effectively turning your home into a gallery of "stuff". Their method revolves around four steps: edit, categorise, contain, and maintain.
Editing is the clear-out phase, though you've got three get-out clauses when it comes to each item: do you need it, use it, or love it? If the answer is yes, it can stay. Faced with a client with minor hoarding tendencies - celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe - Shearer and Teplin massage the question, instead asking if pieces can be "relocated" or "archived", after which the offending items are mysteriously disappeared to an unseen storage space.
Categorising involves splitting everything up into groups, which can be as simple as designated kitchen areas for baking, snacks, pet supplies and "wellness". One of their favourite categories is for sentimental items - in one episode, they dedicate a special box to a 16-year-old used pregnancy test, while another memorable moment sees Shearer and Teplin creating an "in memoriam" category by placing a box of pet ashes inside another box, one of their signature plastic containers.
That's essentially what The Home Edit look comes down to: many, many clear plastic containers. Shearer and Teplin's devotion to plastic may strike as out of sync with their stated commitment to sustainable living, but it is the defining element of their aesthetic. It's the kind of look that inspires a knee-jerk reaction, that their 2.7m Instagram followers and celebrity clients adore but that critics find impractical and monotonous.
Take a glance at their social media feed and you'll see the same kinds of images over and over: glowing white open shelves stacked with plastic boxes and containers, the contents of which are organised in "roygbiv" or rainbow colour order. Applied to everything from books to children's toys to vegetables, the roygbiv treatment has become a Home Edit hallmark, along with the open shelving and labels printed in a font based on Shearer's pretty cursive.
The Home Edit look is one that demands space, and the money to provide it, in the form of walk-in wardrobes, pantries and children's closets. It's so easily identifiable as to be repetitive. A couple of episodes into the series, the viewer may feel they've seen it all.
But the clients are consistently delighted. Their outsized reactions - frequent tears, squealing and gasping over plastic bins - are easy to laugh at, though proponents of this method paint it as an extension of mindfulness.
For all the feelings of calm you achieve doing 'Yoga with Adriene' in lockdown, unfurling from your "namaste" to see a disorganised home is likely to shatter your zen. Particularly in a year as turbulent as 2020, a Home Edit can help to foster a sense of order and control, and the team emphasise that they want to create "systems" that help time-poor workers.
In one episode, Shearer and Teplin organise the office of a couple whose young son has a heart condition, and in another they revamp a youth arts centre, though these feel-good stories aren't given the space to breathe, which means The Home Edit lacks the heart of other makeover shows.
Through all the giddy screeching and low-stakes drama - a key point of tension involves a container not fitting in a wardrobe - there is satisfaction to be found in comparing the "before" and "after" footage, as in all interior design shows, though in some episodes it's more a case of "spot the difference" than a legitimate transformation.
Many of the clients, especially celebrities such as Khloe Kardashian or actress Jordana Brewster, are already so organised that hearing them cry out how "desperate" they are for help reinforces the idea that this isn't really about being tidy, it's about being picture-perfect. "It looks like I've walked into a photoshoot," Brewster breathes on seeing her fridge and pantry, gushing about how she doesn't even want to use them. "I'll just stare at it!"
With a tower of cans laid out like museum pieces on plastic display stands, you get the impression that clients want their homes turned into showrooms they can take photos of and dazzle guests with rather than really live in.
The obsession with consumption is hard to shake. The whole concept of The Home Edit is designed around treating your personal space as a shrine for your belongings. "Before I had children, my children were my possessions - my clothes, my bags, my jewellery, my shoes," says Rachel Zoe, explaining why she refers to a clutch as "she". When the organisation is complete, Shearer gleefully tells her, "Think about how many more things you could buy!"
A professedly "cute" moment in a later episode involves Shearer and Teplin organising Khloe Kardashian's garage, when they install a miniature car park for her two-year-old daughter True's collection of eight toy Bentleys and Mercedes-Benzes.
The celebrity segments often end up reading as an almost grotesque celebration of excess, yet even among the civilian home makeovers, there is an urge to display, as Shearer and Teplin repeat their mantra that if you can't see it, you won't know it's there. Ostensibly a useful way of making sure people get the most out of their possessions, in practice it suggests that you have to show them off to remind yourself and everyone around you how much you own.
Which leads to the final stage in The Home Edit process: maintain. Shearer and Teplin insist their systems are sustainable, which is fair enough if you're the kind of client who can not only afford their rate (which reportedly ranges from €155 to €210 an hour) but can also afford cleaning staff to keep the system in order. It's harder to square with regular homeowners, who are unlikely to have the time or the energy to sort their children's Lego back into roygbiv order after every play session.
On the show, Shearer and Teplin argue that if your space looks beautiful, you'll want to keep it that way. Not so with Rachel Zoe, whose home they returned to after previously organising her wardrobe, only to find it once again in disarray. You'd love to see The Home Edit return to the civilian homes six months on and see how well the systems have been maintained. For the time being, at least they got some nice photos out of it.