For years, TV shows about home organizing have inspired many to purge their closets, create Pinterest-worthy pantries, and invest in storage bins. It’s exciting to see the organizing industry highlighted on these shows, but what’s on the small screen is much different than what happens when I meet with a client to organize his or her home.
“The Home Edit” on Netflix has gained popularity recently. This show follows organizers Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin as they meet with clients — some celebrity clients and some not — and transform rooms in their homes.
While the show highlights some great information about organization, it also sets some unrealistic expectations about the organizing process. Let’s take a closer look at some of the realities from the show.
Designer Organizing Products are Expensive
Some of the clients on the show spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on organizing products branded by “The Home Edit.” On the show, they don’t take into account any products the client may currently have. Instead, they buy all new, matching containers. This may look great in the end, but you have to be willing to write that check. It is perfectly fine to use containers you already have and/or purchase bins and jars from the Dollar Tree. It all depends on your goals and your budget. The essence of organizing is how it functions, not how it looks. It is great if you can marry these two things, but that does come with a cost that not all people are willing to make.
Also, we do not live near a Container Store. On the show they get LOTS of products and then try them out to see what works. They can then buy more of what works and return the rest. We don’t have that luxury. Container Store products are great, but it has to be ordered. It can be a tedious process of ordering and returning products there. This is where an organizer can help! We can measure and plan so that you are order the exact products that are needed.
Ordering products also means waiting for the shipment. This means that your project will not be done in one day unless you buy what is available locally.
Unfinished Projects are Stored Away
On one episode, the client had a series of unfinished projects. This is a common thing to see when I am working with my clients. The clutter is not just piles of items that don’t have a home. Their clutter is procrastination – half-finished projects that are scattered around the home. For most people, there is something that has kept them from finishing the project. As a certified professional organizer, we address what is keeping them from finishing the project and help them see it to completion. On “The Home Edit,” they simply put all of the client’s unfinished projects in a clear bin and labeled it “projects.” For most of my clients, it is out-of-sight, out-of-mind. If an unfinished project went into a bin, the client is more likely to forget about it and is highly unlikely to get it done! A bin is for storage, not action items.
Different Rooms are used for Organizing
In the show, when they organize a room, they take everything out of that room and use the another room or the yard to sort and purge items. While this isn’t a bad idea, this method would be very overwhelming for many clients. If you’re someone who doesn’t finish things… you could be left with a living room floor covered in wooden spoons and bakeware. If you are going to take everything out of a room, you must be willing/able to see the project through to completion. This is where a professional organizer shines! We will make sure everything that was removed it dealt with and not leave the rest of your house in a cluttered mess.
The show often gives the illusion that organization happens within a lunch break, when it takes more like 8+ hours. Of course, on the show they have a staff and a carpenter standing by. This is a setup that, in itself, would overwhelm many clients.
There’s a ‘Suggested Purge Pile’
At Emend, I work with my clients throughout the organizing process. This is mainly for three reasons: the transference of organizing skills, the decision-making process, and a customizable organizing system.
As a certified organizer, I do not just want the client’s home to look beautiful and organized. I teach them the skills they are lacking to be able to maintain the space. I do not want them to call me back in because the clutter has returned. In fact, I consider my job most successful when I work myself out a job. When a client doesn’t have to call me back because they can maintain the space, I am thrilled!!!
Most of the clients I deal with struggle to make decisions during the edit process. They have a hard time letting go of their belongings. On the show, the organizers create a “suggested purge pile,” which contains anything they don’t want to organize. This purge pile is tossed into another room for the client to sort through once the show stops filming. Can you imagine hiring someone to organize your closet and they made a pile of your favorite outfits for you to sort through by yourself? Part of my role is to work with the client and guide them through those decisions. Many clients are unable to purge items on their own — if they could, they probably wouldn’t need my help.
I customize every system I set up for my clients. I do not set up what would work for me or what I would do in my house. My client’s brains don’t think the way mine does. If it did, they wouldn’t have hired me. I can’t tell you how many times a client hires me after working with another organizer that set up a system with out them. Though it looked beautiful, it didn’t make sense to the client and was therefore unmaintainable.
Everything is Sorted by Color
From board games and Legos to books and clothes, everything is put in rainbow order on the show. It looks beautiful, and it works for social media platforms. But when you need a specific book, are you going to remember what color the spine is? Will your child put their blocks back in rainbow order? I often sort by type of item. For example, putting all long-sleeve shirts together or all card games together. There is something to be said about being able to see all like items together, even if it may not be as picture perfect.
The Organizing System is Stressful
When I step into a client’s space, there is always a goal to make life easier for them. This could mean making space so all of their laundry supplies are next to the washer and dryer or sorting a large collection of sweatshirts. On the show, the goal is more about how the space looks rather than how it functions. In one episode, the organizers put all of the client’s fitness equipment in a stackable bin so it wouldn’t look cluttered. But when it’s time to work out, do you really want to pull down a bin to grab hand-weights?
Or the episode where the Legos were sorted by color into separate bins. You have to know your child to know whether or not this is a maintainable space. I would have been the child to organize my Legos by color (shocker, I know!). But most children I work with would not. It is a victory for them to get all the Legos off the floor and into one container.
Don’t set a system that is not realistically able to be maintained. Organizing should make your life less stressful and not add to the stress. Please don’t get frustrated with your children if they don’t color code Legos!
I enjoy watching this show, but as a self-proclaimed “realistic organizer,” I can easily see the differences between a TV show and real-life. I love working with my clients and getting their spaces to look better than before. But that takes a lot of work — physical and emotional — and time.
Great post! I also feel like there are some clients who don’t realize that it’s “the magic of television” and just expect similar results in a 3-hour session. Not happening!
As a fellow organizer, I thank you for this.
Love your post!
I organized legos by color before I gave a lego themed party for my son. I will never ever did that again!!! It is satisfying for one minute, looks great in a photo but is a completely waste of time. Children don’t need to live in a store.