In an episode late in the first season of the new series “Get Organized With The Home Edit,” the actress Jordana Brewster tells the show’s hosts, two professional organizers, that she wants them to make her fridge “look like a store, like you do.” When the fridge has been completed, with products facing label-forward in tidy symmetrical lines, Brewster is overwhelmed. “I would almost say,” she declares, “that it looks like an ad.”
The Home Edit, a Nashville-based company run by newly-minted television hosts Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, exists to produce this sense: It’s a self-replicating advertisement for itself. As promulgated on social media — the engine of The Home Edit’s growth, as we are informed in the opening credits — spaces that have undergone Shearer and Teplin’s ministrations are less edited than rewritten. The two organizers put into practice cumbersome and time-consuming systems that gesture at the idea of simplifying one’s life. That our hosts are, in the Brewster episode, practically vibrating with tension over the unique challenge of figuring out where in the fridge the milk should go suggests that the happiness of a perfectly stocked home, and the process of achieving it, both amount to a sort of theater to which some are uniquely well-suited.
To wit: Tussling with the milk cartons and voicing her frustrations, Shearer, the more acidically witty of the two, tells us that “crunch time” makes her “go insular and focused, like a velociraptor, and I start barking orders. It just kind of becomes a chaotic mess.” Shearer gets ratified by her assistant: “Working With Clea and Joanna,” this person tells the camera towards the midpoint of the journey through Brewster’s fridge, “you just don’t know whether you’re going to laugh, or cry, or cry because you’re laughing, or laugh because you’re crying, because you’re so freaked out and upset.” Cool!
The hosts exist in a perpetual state of panic in part because of their passion for organizing and in part because the show creates for them a rigorously formulaic constraint: Each project takes place under a tight timeline, with the homeowner having departed for a brief and closed-ended errand. And they seem to be playing to camera at least sometimes; their show is produced by Reese Witherspoon, whose charming rigor in her movie and TV roles they seem inspired by, never more so than when Witherspoon herself shows up. (Each episode features Shearer and Teplin helping one celebrity and one civilian family.) The pair help design a room for Witherspoon’s red-carpet outfits and movie costumes in the show’s premiere, a fitting use of their enthusiasm for excess and their talent for putting finery on display. This is a room meant to be a shock-and-awe campaign, and it succeeds along those terms; when Shearer and Teplin wax rhapsodic about the pleasures of a well-organized pantry, though, the show feels a bit more stranger and more remote.
As a wellspring of advice for homekeeping, the show is the precise polar opposite of Netflix’s similarly titled “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” Both shows feature at their center presences whose commitment to a manner of homekeeping feels unrelatable in its extremity. But if Kondo’s ethos is all about shedding attachments, The Home Edit’s show emphasizes a sort of fetishistic maximalism, purchasing and displaying new gewgaws at the Container Store in order to display, particularly on social media, all the proud abundance of one’s life. Shearer and Teplin, not natural hosts but deeply compelling characters, use a jargony shorthand. The lazy Susans and new plastic bins to keep all one’s stuff are “product,” while hoarded nonperishable food is “backstock.” They end up creating spaces that look busily, merrily cluttered with the stuff of life. Or, at least, cluttered with cans of tomatoes sitting proudly label-out and books so carefully arranged by spine color that to remove one would defeat the purpose of the tableau.
The show’s lessons extend well beyond impracticality: These organization systems, for all their mesmerizing crispness and satisfying right angles and color coordination, would seem to work only if one places them at the center of one’s life. Putting a pedestal for yogurts at the center of your fridge necessitates continuing to buy yogurt indefinitely, and perhaps keeping extras as “backstock” in a drawer elsewhere. You’re not just a person who eats yogurt sometimes: You have now invested in “product” indicating you are a Yogurt Eater. The national passion for finding identity and community, so absent elsewhere, through stuff has rarely been so crisply illustrated.
Shearer and Teplin’s freewheeling materialism is, perhaps, more relatable now than ever — writing as someone who, like many among my cohort, bought too many bags of Rancho Gordo beans and too many jigsaw puzzles at the start of the COVID era. How nice to be surrounded by all my things, stacked in tidy piles, when control elsewhere seems so elusive! And the show around them seems at times aware of their, for lack of a better term, whole deal. A show that existed solely to put forward The Home Edit lifestyle as aspirational probably wouldn’t include Shearer’s “insular and focused” orders to her assistant, or feature the pair ostentatiously talking about how “our demo” lives nearby as they stroll through multimillion-dollar brownstone Brooklyn.
And yet, the show also includes the aggrandizing detail that the two count among their fans everyone they encounter. That each of the eight celebrities on the show are Home Edit devotees is predictable: Shearer and Teplin, in physical spaces large enough to accommodate their method, can help the stars keep their volumes of stuff carefully curated. (Witherspoon’s personal archive gives way, later, to two different celebrities who keep collections of self-branded merchandise around to give out as gifts to people they meet, a telling detail.) That unfamous people with larger concerns than their normal amounts of personal effects find The Home Edit helpful, too, ultimately comes as no surprise as well. The promise the company makes is to help you achieve a greater state of tidiness by buying new things, and to find within the home’s crevices yet more capacity to store stuff — to turn one’s living space into a machine for keeping things around, like a store or, more aptly in the age of Instagram, like an advertisement. A system to help you shed old attachments that keeps itself going by creating new ones is, in its deliciously smooth lack of complication or self-doubt, perfect for its moment. It makes “Get Organized” into a fascinating work for a time in which, other virtues having fallen away, rootless consumption sits at the center of American life.
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