It is so very easy to get lost in the perfection of The Home Edit's Instagram, but the women behind the rainbow-hued shelves and impeccably organized makeup drawers, Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, aren't just out to make things pretty — they want your home and space to work for you. And as moms, they know exactly what that entails. For this edition of Contain Yourself, where Romper literally peeks into the organized and beautiful spaces of other moms, I nearly hyperventilated at the thought of speaking with Clea and Joanna about their own entryways and mudrooms, how they keep them organized and pretty, and how your space can effectively help you and your family actually get out the door on time every morning. (It sounds like magic, I know. But all of this can happen.)
Back-to-school time is upon us, and for a lot of parents, that means working on a new routine and juggling about 30 different things every morning. While a beautifully organized mudroom might not save you from a kid who refuses to eat their breakfast, or a child crying about their sibling getting the purple cup for chocolate milk, it can keep you from shouting "FIND YOUR SHOES! FIND YOUR BOOK BAG! WHERE IS THAT PERMISSION SLIP? FIND YOUR SOCCER CLEATS FOR PRACTICE!"
Clea and Joanna are both married moms, each with two children, so they know firsthand what it's like to need a space that works for them, rather than the other way around. "It's like an artery that gets clogged," Clea tells me over the phone of her entryway. "There's so much in and out. Shoes on the floor, backpacks, coats, mail. It's definitely, I think, a big issue." And the two of them know about big issues. With their own professional organizing company that boasts clients such as Khloé Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow, a TV show titled Mastering the Mess on Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine channel, a new book — The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals — just released this past March, a partnership with Viva paper towels, and their own line of The Home Edit products at the holy mecca of organization, The Container Store, Clea and Joanna are definitely paving the path for other moms to have the efficient, functional, pretty space their family needs.
Always avoid going back upstairs.
But both of them also know that, for some families, there isn't a designated area in their home already. Whether you have a mudroom, a garage, an entryway, or one little corner to sacrifice for your own mental wellbeing, the two of them have a solution. And once you see their own organized areas, you're going to feel even more inspired. Although, be forewarned, despite the fact that organizing is their actual career, and despite the beautiful spaces, their families still don't always follow directions. "Joanna and I both have the same thing, where it's like we set up two boxes for our family members, and the closest we can get them to place their shoes is like, next to the box," Clea says. "It's fine. We can take it upon ourselves to go that extra mile and help them out with that, but still, even getting the zones right and having everyone in the family respect those zones is already a huge one."
OK, so a magically organized mudroom/entryway/garage/tiny space by the kitchen isn't going to make your children (or partner) actually put their coats away, but at least it gives them an area, right? Turns out, even professional organizers still have to pick up after family members. But here's how to keep things at least somewhat tidy without getting too passive aggressive about it, thanks to The Home Edit.
So it's back-to-school time, and moms are already stressing about how they'll organize their entryway/mudroom. What's the first thing you suggest?
Clea: So basically, any time we ever set up an entryway, whether it's a mudroom or even just a foyer or a little space off the garage, whatever it is, we always try and create drop zones. We really try and set up a system of zones that really help, you know, grab all of that — the piles, basically. If you can avoid having piles by your entry and exit points, it's like the roles move much better.
That could include anything, right? Like, we keep our shoes in our entryway, but it just occurred to me that maybe I should keep a basket of socks in there to keep my kid from running back upstairs.
Joanna: Oh yeah. I can't even tell you the things that we marked in a closet. Pajamas, socks, shoes, toothbrushes. I'm like, does anyone have anything left in their actual closet? Like, why is it all down here? We also wanted a two-story house until we had to have children.
Clea: Always avoid going back upstairs.
So then how do you pick which drop zones to create? Is it a lot of trial and error?
Clea: I would really take stock of what the morning routine is like and what you're always reminding your kids to do. Like, "You didn't brush your teeth, go back upstairs," or "You didn't brush your hair. Go back upstairs." Those kind of things. I mean no one has time for that. So if you really think about what your household needs are in the morning, then do yourself a favor, and set up a station that can accommodate those behaviors. It's not that hard, and it saves so much time.
Joanna: And another drop zone that we have downstairs is a hobby basket. All my son's soccer stuff is in a basket, like the kneepads, and all the shin guards. I don't even know all the different things, but I know that they fit nicely into the basket, and so it's like when they come back and then they go right into the basket, it's one less thing to run upstairs. It's all contained downstairs in the mudroom ready to go.
Clea: You need a spot for shoes. You need a spot for bags, and that includes backpacks. You need a spot for mail, and you know you really want to create those baskets or bins that hold the supplies that your kids or you are going to be using as you come in and out everyday. We even set up toothbrush stations for some families, because they know that their kids are not going to go back upstairs to their bedrooms to brush their teeth. They keep them downstairs, if not in that spot. You can keep a close eye on them.
Joanna: It's really quite a thing. In my space, I have the shoe boxes, and then I have the things that have the grab-and-go items and the outdoor items. I also have boxes for people items that I swap and go on an upper shelf depending on the season. So the summer and winter bins are kind of interchangeable depending on what season I need to focus on more, whether it's the mittens or sunscreen. Those are kind of what we use in most homes.
This is amazing to hear because my kid just started swim lessons, and now I'm thinking of how much a pain it is to go upstairs to get her swimsuit every time, and I should just keep it down by the front door.
Joanna: A hundred percent. Yes, doesn't that bother you every time?
Clea: I think that we all get wrapped up in things like, "Well, the swimsuit doesn't belong down there." Don't worry about that. That's not important. You know, it does belong down there if it's in use every day. Maybe it doesn't belong down there not in the summer — put it back up in the bedroom when she's not doing the swim [lessons] — but if it's something, if it's an after-school activity, if it's a camp activity, whatever it is, set up those systems and those zones downstairs so that you can easily just go about your day and not fight the tide every single morning.
I love that saying — not to fight the tide — because I think you're right. Once you have kids, it's like rewiring your brain that it's OK to keep a basket of granola bars by the front door if you know your kid's going to be running late every morning and doesn't eat breakfast.
Clea: Exactly. That's a fun station, that's a grab-and-go morning station or morning routine station. Add a label, make an extra button, have it be different for stuff that comes in and out on the subway line out the door. Even as organizers, we sometimes get caught up in where something belongs and it's like, "Wait a minute, all of the swimsuits and the socks go upstairs. Are we really going to have a sample of that downstairs? Does that make sense?" And it's like, as long as you categorize it and frame it as, "this is the morning station," then yes, grab and go. You have to rearrange the labeling and how you think about it, and then it all makes sense because that's the way your family lives. It doesn't really matter what you want to call a room. It's how it functions, you know?
So for the mom who's ready to tackle this — she knows her drop zones and she knows what she wants the function of the room to be — where does she start? Baskets? Hooks?
Joanna: Yeah, I would start macro, like a basket — a large thing — and then work your way small. But I would also look at the space constraints — everyone has different elements at play. Some people have a proper mudroom, some people have nothing but, like, a bench near a front door. Really think about what your space looks like and where storage could go. If all you do is have a bench by the front door, maybe get one that has three cubbies underneath for baskets. Or it could be for shoes, or it could be for outdoor activities — all sorts of different things to go in those spaces. So it's important to really think of the actual space you have, and not just think of the basket you might want to get. What fits the space? What fits the parameters of the room?
And keep it simple, right? Family needs change, so it sounds like it's important to keep your storage capabilities flexible so you can adapt.
Clea: Right, exactly. You know, pretty manageable and easy. If you start getting too finicky, it just becomes really difficult for kids to learn how to put things away. I mean we always said, every parent wants so badly to get that playroom organized, as you know, and they end up sorting things into such specific categories that kids will never be able to sort like that, and never be able to clean up on their own.
But you guys also have beautiful spaces. Is there a way for the average non-professional organizer of a mom to make it pretty?
Joanna: Absolutely. Using uniformity, like with baskets, and having paper towels to easily clean up so there's not dirt and grime everywhere, I mean those are two easy ways that you wouldn't have to shut the door.
Clea: I think also the more organized something is, the more aesthetically pleasing to look at, the more motivated everyone is to keep it that way. And even kids, as they grow up, I mean sure you're going to have to remind them 1,200 times to do something. But I do think eventually those habits start to form, and there's hope for everyone.
So with your line of products at The Container Store, I have to know: what would your favorite product be in an entryway or mudroom?
Clea: Oh my gosh, a product? All of ours. We were very excited about all of our products. I would say I love the combination of our drawer unit with a divided bin or the multi-purpose bin on top of it. I think it helps really create that double functionality of having a drawer but also an open bin. Some things are perfect in a drawer, like you know, soccer stuff or swim, but there are certain things that need some height. I mean not necessarily, you can always lay it down, but like sunscreen or bug spray or something that stands up. So having the good double duty of the drawer underneath and the open bin on top just really helps fill out the space and accommodate for much more.
Joanna: Yeah, I agree with Clea, but I just can't leave our turn-table out of anything because it's just the best and it's so versatile and flexible and works in any space. So I just can't not say that one. The divided turn-table would be awesome in an entryway. You could put mason jars in the different sections to hold, again, toothbrush and toothpaste, hair bands or hair ponytails, all of that kind of stuff, and fill up the turn-table with it. And one could be for keys. It's such a great piece. It's amazing.
OK, but does your family put everything back? Now that I know what I need to do, how do I keep my family from ruining it?
Clea: I have a coat closet that I share with my husband, and I built a mudroom with a door on it — a full, proper mudroom — and no one really obeys either. I don't know what to do with it. I need my own house to work out, it's fine. But we always say we have to determine when it's a them issue, or when it's an us issue. And it's sometimes an us issue. It's like all we can do. If you can reasonably expect your kids to put the shoes in the mudroom, even if they're not putting them in the exact spot you want or in the bin that is so helpfully labeled, you know it's fine. It's like, that's a me issue. I can go and do that extra step as long as they get it in the right zone. I tried to create as many spaces as possible for my children to put things away.
Joanna: I did switch out of shoe boxes for the kids' shoes. It was one step easier with a bin. They're open bins, and still, they still put them next to the bin. With their names on it for shoes.
Clea: Yeah, it's really. It's...
Joanna: Yeah. At least we can put it back together. They're very organized and easy to clean up. It's just, I wish they would follow the directions better.