It's easy to get lost in the world of beautiful Instagram accounts, but beautiful Instagram accounts that also look attainable to the average, non-influencer person? Hello. You know the ones I'm talking about. They feature entire bookshelves organized by color so your living room looks like a rainbow library. The perfectly stacked cookie jar that could pass for a Willy Wonka prop. And the playrooms — oh, the playrooms. Organized with containers for everything, books in rainbow order, art supplies neat and on display — it looks like heaven. It's what The Home Edit's Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin make their living doing: they create beautiful, organized spaces for real people. They're spaces to live in. They're homes that, shockingly enough, people manage to enjoy living in even as their children make giant messes.
"They're not mutually exclusive," Joanna tells me over the phone when I ask her how she responds to someone suggesting an organized playroom is too restrictive for a child's play. "You can do both. You can definitely make a mess, let your kids play — it's just a matter of being able to easily clean it up."
Clea agrees. "I defend this position all the time. People get on me all the time about if you make stuff like a perfect environment for your kids, they're not able to like, play — like free play — and make a mess. That is not true at all. I think that's all about creating systems in your space."
It's their entire brand, their entire aesthetic: a beautiful home that is well-organized, with an actual place for everything. But creating a "home" is the most important part — in both your mind and your organizing capabilities. Clea and Joanna have worked with celebrities like Khloé Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow to get their homes in tip-top shape, they have a show on Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine network called Mastering the Mess, they've released a book — The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals— and today, they release their own line of products with The Container Store.
Basically, they know what they're doing. They've made a living creating beautiful, well thought-out spaces for people — attainable spaces. Rooms that everyone, even the stay-at-home mom who barely has time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, can have in their home. Rooms for the people like me, who see a disaster of a playroom and want to hide under my covers what is the point of it all?
"To be honest, I'm not afraid of a mess," Clea tells me. (Which is really admirable because Clea has two small children.) "Everything has a home. If everything has a home, you can kind of take a deep breath. It takes some energy."
It sounds so simple, right? You know, just put things away. But Clea and Joanna are adamant that if you have a system, that really is all you need to remember when it's time to clean up. And it doesn't have to affect how your family lives — it's just important to have your supplies handy. The two of them rave over Viva Signature Cloth paper towels, and suggest having them in easily accessible places all over your house, like the playroom for paint spills and play-dough crumbles. "I can clean up our entire playroom after an insane play date in 20 minutes." Hello, is this not the kind of life you want to live in your home, too?
If you're ready to stop losing your mind as your kids and your family dare to live in your house, just give The Home Edit's "cleanse, categorize, and contain model" a try. To start, purge and cleanse. It's free. Grab a trash bag, throw things away (start with a drawer, Joanna and Clea say so you don't get overwhelmed), and then wipe out the area so you can get organized. Once you start categorizing — LEGOs in this bin, toy trains in this one, lipsticks in this one — you'll find that you're rejuvenated. "You will feel like a new person, honestly," Clea says.
I know — you're still totally overwhelmed. I was about 30 weeks pregnant when I started nesting hardcore. After picking cute containers for my kids' toys and spending an hour on the floor of the playroom, meticulously sorting items piece by piece — LEGOs here, tiny Hatchimals here, Polly Pockets and their irresistible tiny accessories here — I felt silly. I was convinced there was no way it was going to stay looking this neat and cute, and that my kid was definitely going to dump it all out and not give a rip. Even the sweetly placed toys on the shelf seemed to mock me. Of course the classic Fisher-Price telephone looked cute in the cubby, but didn't I realize it was just going to end up under the dining room table in two seconds? (Don't even get me started on how I felt after I organized the fridge. How was my produce drawer going to look once my husband actually, you know, ate something out of it?)
But all it took was for my 4-year-old daughter to play hard for one day and eureka — I realized that the simplicity of Joanna and Clea's approach works. (I also realized that it's OK for my husband to eat the orange and ruin the rainbow pattern in the produce drawer. You guys, I'm not even a control freak, I swear.) Sure, my kid is still a giant mess-maker. There are toys from one corner of the room to the other, there are unopened snacks on the stairs, there are crayons rolling across the house like tumbleweeds in an old western movie — but they just have to go back in their spots. "It's not that hard. It's just a bin, it's not rocket science. You put it back in the bin, and you clean up the mess," Clea tells me. Bonus? "Cleaning up counts as cardio."
"It's the best feeling," Joanna adds. "What's better than like, a newly edited, clean space? Nothing. Zero things."
"It makes you happy!" Clea practically shouts at me on the phone, and I couldn't shout back "IT REALLY DOES!" fast enough. Once our playroom was organized, it was like a breath of fresh air. I find kid toys aesthetically pleasing anyway, but all of them there, in their color-coded bins, and the bright happy space really did a number on me. I can get organized in a way that I like, in a way that fits into my home and our lifestyle. My kid can dump out every box of LEGOs because there's a bin to put them back in. She can enjoy her playroom and play as hard as she wants, because it's just a matter of sticking things back on the shelf where they go. And when it's all put back together again, my FitBit says I've basically trained for a marathon, and everything is pretty again. Plus, there's no panic about how long this "new clean" will last.
"It does [make you happy] — that's really, truly the key to long term maintenance. If it's satisfying and you're happy and you love it, you'll keep it up," Clea tells me. Joanna agrees, "It's a self thing. It regrows itself. Once you see the benefits of it, you can't imagine why you'd go back any other way."
And hey, those benefits? It's more than just a clean, pretty space. The benefit is a clean, pretty, happy space. Homes are meant to be lived in, and in the case of children and families, lived in hard. Joanna and Clea's system promises you that you can have both — and I do, too.