Despite what they'll tell you, The Home Edit's Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are fun. The playful banter fans of their show have come to know and love unfolding right before me is fun (and funny). Even their outfits are fun. Teplin wears a pastel sweater with clouds and a black-and-white puffer jacket draped over her lap, while Shearer, sitting beside her and wearing a rainbow-striped sweater, jokes, "Joanna looks like a crazy person. You look insane." She adds: "Over Zoom, it looks like you're wearing ski pants."
But Teplin insists they're "not fun." "We have a lot of rules," says Shearer, after she and Teplin run me through their stream-of-consciousness list of closet organizing tips that honestly scares me a little. Even though the pandemic has completely wiped away any sense of orderliness my apartment might've had otherwise, Shearer and Teplin's overarching three-step system — edit, categorize, and contain — has worked miracles. I'm hoping their advice gives me (and my closet) one too.
However, not even the duo's seemingly foolproof system had many legs to stand on during the pandemic when everything was, well, up in the air, particularly when it came to editing. Shearer says, "I think we were all like...," before she and Teplin "freeze" in the same position, as if they had rehearsed it. "[People] never had the breathing room, literally in their space, to do a real deep clean and a real spring clean," she says. "The normal rules do not apply. Normally it's like, 'Oh, if you haven't worn something in the last year, time to get rid of it.'" If everyone were to follow that mentality in 2021, as Teplin puts it, "we'd [only] have pajamas and slippers."
Now, though, more than a year into the pandemic, as warmth seeps into what has felt like an impenetrable, isolating winter and as I poke my head out of my fortress of tie-dye loungewear sets, blankets, and impulsively purchased skin care, I'm ready to shed and purge... everything. And I don't think I'm alone in that. This, according to Shearer and Teplin, is a terrible idea.
"All-or-nothing is not good for organizing," says Teplin. "You need to be really, really good at that point if you're going to be all-or-nothing. Otherwise, you'll be nothing." OK, so I'll just start with my closet then. "Don't start with the closet," Shearer says before the thought is finished taking shape in my brain. "You can do a closet purge, if you want, and clean everything out and go through things. Start with something really small, like a drawer, one shelf, a countertop — something that you're still going through the motions of cleaning, editing, categorizing, containing, but you're not biting off this mountain of a project that might put you in a fetal position."
Lest you or I fall victim to even more organizing no-gos after a year of accumulating and cocooning, I asked Shearer and Teplin to walk Elite Daily through their top techniques for tackling the hardest parts of spring cleaning and organizing the clothes and beauty products likely covering every inch of your floor.
Elite Daily: Once you do take on cleaning your closet, where do you even start, especially when you've barely touched it for a year?
Joanna Teplin: We always want to take everything out, which is the editing piece of it. And then, we want to go in and clean it. We love having our Viva Towels Signature Cloth or the Multi-Surface, either one. It depends how deeply you want to wipe down all of your surfaces.
Clea Shearer: Especially if you haven't been wearing things in a year. Imagine the dust bunnies underneath or inside of shoes — that's where the dust really collects. I think a lot of people forget that spring cleaning isn't just about getting rid of things. It's literally cleaning.
JT: It's in the name, right there. You want to make sure you take that step. Once everything's pulled out, and you have clean flat surfaces and shoes, wipe things down. This is the time.
ED: What have you both found to be the most helpful in getting people to get over that "but what if I need this later" mentality?
JT: I always tell people you get the item or you get the space. And that's true if you have a tiny New York apartment or a large house somewhere in a suburb. You run out of space at some point. The truth is [this mentality] helps you make decisions because you think, Do I want this sweater enough to take up this amount of space? Or [do I want] this amount of space for something else? Or to have breathing room? Which of those things is the most important? It really crystallizes it in your mind.
CS: We have what we call the golden rule, which is the 80/20 rule: Your space shouldn't be more than 80% full. You know if you're getting at 100% max capacity, it doesn't feel good. So we want to leave some breathing room. The other thing we would suggest is if you want to own it, you need to figure out how to store it properly. That's the premise of our second book: We all have things in our life, but the way to respect those things is if you want to keep it, you have to take responsibility for making sure it's stored in the right way. That could be archiving it, displaying it, organizing it into a drawer, or a shelf — whatever it may be. If you're just like, "Oh, I might need it later," and you're throwing it somewhere in a big pile, that's not honoring the item. That makes us believe that you don't, in fact, care that much.
JT: One of the reasons we believe in taking every single thing out of where it is currently stored [when you organize] is because it's too passive just to be like, "Yeah, all this is fine." Once you have to take something out and make the decision to put something back, it's an active decision. It forces you to think about it in different way.
ED: On The Home Edit, most of your clients are in huge homes and have more space for organizing. How do you recommend people organize things like tons of beauty products or clothes or more in super-small spaces or even shared spaces like a dorm room?
CS: There are two products that are really, really helpful in any small space, but also kind of fun, truly, in any space. You can put them in huge homes, too: a rolling cart and over-the-door storage.
JT: They're magic tricks. People forget about working vertically. Because even if you have a small place, you still have some wall space.
CS: So even if you don't have inherent storage, even if you have the smallest closet possible, if you add an over-the-door holder, you've invented room that you didn't have. Better yet, if you have a closet with two doors, hang two of them. And a rolling cart is amazing. It's something you can put in the bathroom for extra storage. We use it all the time lately for work-from-home stations. Especially in a shared space — whether it's a roommate, a partner, kids at home school, whatever it is — everyone can have their own items, roll them up to the dining room table, and roll it away. We call it "the commute."
ED: I never remember the vertical space. I'm always like, "Let me get a new piece of furniture." And then I realize every part of my floor is covered in furniture and it's ridiculous.
CS: Furniture's expensive. And [once] it's there, it's there. Over-the-door hangers and a cart are movable. If you, all of a sudden, have people coming over — I mean, people coming over, ha ha — but you know, all of these things can be put away. The door can be closed. The cart can be moved.
JT: Also, a flat surface [like furniture] attracts clutter.
ED: As a fashion and beauty editor, I have a lot of products to deal with because, like so many other people, my home has become my office. What do you recommend for someone with a large amount of beauty products or, generally speaking, someone who's had to make room for work materials at home?
CS: We give everyone a pass when it's for your job. So if you think about what smaller beauty storage looks like, all you have to do is extrapolate it to what the larger version of that small thing is. Generally, that's not going to be in the bath section; it's probably going to be in the office section. You just need to think bigger and be like, OK, what's a bigger version of that drawer? Oh, it's a letter drawer. We like to shop all aisles of the store.
JT: Don't be fooled by the headers over the aisles. You really want to stop to think about what items you're storing and the quantity of the items you're storing.