Get organized with the rainbow tyranny of The Home Edit
A prism of their own making.
In the first episode of the new season of Netflix Get organized with the Home Edit, Clea Shearer, one of the founders and faces of the company, sends her children to report from the pantry while she makes a shopping list. They need “yellow snacks,” they call, and they’re “low purple!” When the kids tell her they want ‘more green’, she knows what that means – veggie straws and sour cream and onion potato crisps, both delivered in bags clover colored. As you’d expect from a professional organizer of Clea’s caliber, her pantry is sorted by basket and color-coded; his children think of the hue, not the brand. Everything is laid out like a rainbow, the business card of his flourishing business.
“The Rainbow,” Clea said in season one, as she sat with her partner Joanna Teplin in front of a wall of ROYGBIV-made books, “really represents what our company stands for. It’s a smart and functional system. It’s neat, and it’s really beautiful to look at. Their Instagram feed is a bastion of rainbow fun – with vegetables ranging from scarlet peppers to plum eggplants arranged in the refrigerator drawers and under-the-sink shopping carts that start with Fantastik Orange and go through Jet-Dry Finish Indigo.On their Walmart product launch day in early March, the Home Edit not only designed an in-store nook with rainbow stripes -sky from floor to ceiling, but he also dressed the team working there accordingly.Tea canisters, maxi pads, Legos, tubs of cold and flu supplies: nothing escapes the full-spectrum treatment.
Season two kicks everything Home Editing up a notch, which is fitting now that Reese Witherspoon’s jolly giant of a media company, Hello Sunshine, has acquired them. Rainbows are now shooting from every corner. Clea in particular almost always wears one — on sweaters, long sleeves, on her watch strap — a prismatic infantryman for her company schtick. (Clea and Joanna’s “uniforms” are perfectly suited to their audience: shiny tops that exude friendliness, stretchy jeans that predict the laborious nature of their jobs, $500 Golden Goose sneakers for that rich yet laid-back feel. ) In one episode, the Edit House hires a muralist to decorate the wall of a client’s huge playroom: the result has big Lucky Charms vibes that would delight Dorothy Gale. The company’s new home/office features a “rainbow room” with horizontal bands of color wrapping around the walls and shelves displaying a mishmash of assorted items, from marigold pillows to lavender toy trucks to chartreuse piñatas. (It’s unclear what the room is for, except to be revealed.) There they are, beribboned on the screen, these perky avatars of regimented abundance. Rainbows! So joyful, so damn optimistic, so abundant.
The organization industry presents its work as an arduous but rewarding activity of the leisure class to collect their possessions which multiply into neat categories. Cheap domestic labor once meant that the rich had staff to take care of their shit and the poor didn’t have enough shit to worry about it not sparking joy. After World War II, cultural innovations such as marriage and birth records brought more and more things home; goods were cheap, weather was plentiful, and plastics were absolutely everywhere. Backlash against second-wave feminism in the 1990s turned guardians of domestic order like Martha Stewart into queens of classification. The organizing boom has exploded to the point that the most common items left curbside in my neighborhood are the plastic Container Store bins which have themselves become the clutter. We went full ouroboros.
Not that reading rainbow yet.
Get organized with the Home Edit is just the latest manifestation of our national obsession with unboxing, and they preach “democratization.” For their show, the hosts curate the massive rooms of super-privileged celebrities and the tiny rooms of everyday people — they’re equal-opportunity shit-sorters. (Their off-camera services, on the other hand, start at $595 for a virtual do-it-yourself consultation, after which you haul, purge, and “rainbow” on your own.) In both cases, the central notion is the even: take the stress of locating an object and turn it into a visit to the magnificent museum of your bric-a-brac.
At Tidying up with Marie Kondo, the end product is the same house with fewer things. The KonMari Method advises (in great detail) the most practical ways to contain your goodies for optimal maintenance; for example, she advises you to put clothes in drawers without stacking them so you don’t have to dig. And the aesthetic result is satisfying: rolls of tight underwear lined up like little cotton soldiers and skirts arranged from light to dark. But the ultimate goal is to ritually free yourself from the burden of carrying too much and smothering yourself in junk. Get organized asks clients to purge, or “modify”, as they call it, but doesn’t require it. Some customers this season, like a sweet but recalcitrant 8-year-old LOL doll collector, are clinging to the latest pink plastic shoe. A couple with a laundry-office-pantry/closet space the size of a small garden shed insists so much on keeping a collection of nutcrackers at hip height that organizers have to buy them a proper shed. garden. But the Home Edit does not bother me. The show’s tactic is to turn your house into a store of things you already own.
It’s present in their language, like the expression “Shop your closet”. In one episode, Joanna describes the open lockers and shelves as “perfectly marketed” because the stubs are spaced and sorted and the purses lined up like soldiers, just like they are in a store. The idea is to resell your own things to you by restoring them to new, to transform the stress of clutter into the pleasure of abundance. The baskets and bins the team markets (which, it should be noted, look exactly like every other basket and bin born from an organization guru; I own them) are still referred to as “the product” because the Home Edit knows they’re selling by hand on the TV screen. you already have too much, so here are some other things to buy to hold it, and some other things to buy to hold the first set of things you bought.
If the viewer sees in Marie Kondo the pursuit of a refined Japanese aesthetic, Get organized represents the tenacious way Americans cling on and celebrate their excesses – we want to keep our stuff and make it look pretty too, damn it. (What we really need is a third option, an intervention-style TV show that keeps people at the Target checkout line.) There’s endless content for a show about shitty Americans; behind each garage door is a little-used and scattered wasteland. And the Home Edit is now more than happy to sell you even more.
And here between the rainbow. Some items lend themselves to beautiful organization – fluffy woolen blankets, shimmering face creams. Others – canned beans, spare toothbrushes, gym clothes – may look neat when grouped and sorted, but never attractive. The rainbow tricks the eye. Three hundred crayons placed upright in a Lazy Susan may look tidy, but when arranged from scarlet to purple, they are a display in themselves. Every room is cheerful when its mess is correlated in the color spectrum. Construction paper, Gatorade bottles, bathroom cleaners – they all have the ability to look pretty. “The organization has been in the cleaning world rather than the design world,” Clea explains in one episode, and the Home Edit wants to change that. Other organization gurus advise you to hide things – under the bed, behind a door, in a closet. Get organized said to do things in the look. It’s a formula anyone with fully functioning rods and cones can follow. Rainbow sorting is so basic that my daughter’s Montessori school uses it to organize work in her classroom. 3-year-olds know that the green marker coexists with other green markers and that yellow and blue go on either side.
But there’s more to it than just re-sorting what’s there. The House Edit‘The Instagram feed dives into the fantasy world, where refrigerators are stocked with color-coded fresh produce, but entirely devoid of the normal detritus of takeout containers and nearly empty, spilled ketchups. (Nothing seems to piss off Home Edit commenters more than an unrealistic refrigerator.) Season two’s playroom project features half a dozen plastic bins each featuring a different colored pom pom. An overhead image captures a drawer with 16 perfectly fitting dividers: Six of them each hold a crayon color, as if a reasonable human (let alone a child!) owns and manages 24 reds, 24 oranges, 24 yellows, 24 green, 24 blue and 24 purple Crayolas, each perfectly sharp and never used. This is not an ambitious house; it’s a photo shoot.
I remember that feeling in the full-page photos of bouncing stacked sweaters in vintage J.Crew catalogs. The colors ranged from “geranium” to clover to wine, sometimes with 20 or 30 options; the dream was not to own a piece of their pettable cashmere but all of them. Home Edit’s aesthetic pushes that same desire to collect and organize everything from baby wipes to Lysol cans into a cheerful little array. You can sort all your junk into a spectrum and love it too.