There’s something to be said about creating order from chaos. There’s that thrill you get from the result of spring cleaning; the relief you get from cleaning out your closet and donating old clothes you no longer wear; and a feeling of accomplishment from having more space in your home to breathe and to grow.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of living with messy people, clutter is chaos, which causes stress. Cleanliness, on the other hand, provides a sense of harmony and balance and makes your home a true sanctuary.
Facing the Clutter
In 2020, when we all got quarantined in our homes during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was living in a new house, and I still hadn’t found a place for all my collectibles and creative projects. It was stressful to wake up and try to work from home every day in a space where I couldn’t find the things I was looking for.
Opening my pantry meant wading through bins of random oddities – old roller skates, unused plant pots, cleaning supplies, candles, pet accessories, snacks, and a handful of Campbell’s soup cans.
My kitchen island became the land of excess gift bags, batteries and lightbulbs, and my junk drawers were swarming with everything from nails and screws to old receipts and mismatched pens, most of which had dried out and didn’t write anymore.
As an actual writer by trade, having started my career as a music journalist, I’ve also acquired many magazines, books, CDs, DVDs, and even cassettes and VHS tapes over the years. And being from the old-school mindset of someone who enjoys retro things, I tend to keep everything that has perceived value to me, especially anything music-related, pop culture collectibles, and sentimental items like family photo albums that add to the stack of things I don’t know where to store.
So, if your house is like mine, you may feel desperate to want to clean your space and clear your mind – especially now!
What the F**k is Home Edit Rainbow Order, and Sparking Joy?
In 2020, when Nashville, Tenn. natives Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin released their second book, “The Home Edit Life: The No-Guilt Guide to Owning What You Want and Organizing Everything,” and launched their Netflix series, “Get Organized with The Home Edit” (season 2 is out now!), I was in line at Target buying the book on day one. It was one of the only stores left that was still open during quarantine.
My cleaning and organizing tendencies run deep and tend to show up when my life feels unmanageable or out of control. For most of us, the pandemic changed the way we lived our lives and affected much more than just people’s physical health. It affected our mental health too.
I knew that quarantine would break me if I didn’t get into some new projects to keep myself creative, inspired, and busy. So cleaning and organizing my home seemed like a good plan.
Luckily, Netflix had also released the series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” a year earlier in 2019, and I also bought Kondo’s two-book “Tidying Up: The Book Collection” at Target as well. (Season 2, “Sparking Joy” is out now.)
Armed with my new Netflix series and home organizing guides, I went to work. This was going to be trial by fire, learning why belongings should “spark joy” and figuring out what “systems” each room of my house needed. It would literally become OCD Heaven (or Hell?).
How I Got Started Organizing (Containment is Everything)…
When The Home Edit released their second book, “The Home Edit Life,” the shelves of every store with a home organizing section were already empty. People were ordering loads of clear acrylic bins, baskets, and handwritten labels from online stores like The Container Store (where The Home Edit also launched their own product line) and from places like Target, Walmart, At Home, Big Lots, Bed Bath & Beyond, and TJ Maxx Homegoods, which were all still open for in-person shopping at the time.
I was fortunate to have started my search for these items about a week before the book release, so I was able to find many basics to get started. I overbought bins, baskets, and other organizational tools, because I hadn’t measured my space correctly and didn’t know what I needed.
I couldn’t find the right labels in store, so I ordered some Talented Kitchen brand labels from Amazon that worked just as well. But I quickly realized that some of my splurging was overkill and returned a bunch of items. A cashier at the At Home store laughed and asked if I was an interior designer or a home stager. “Nope. I just can’t make up my mind on what I need,” I said.
By the time I had acquired all I needed, though, I felt like a seasoned pro on the inventory of local home stores. The next step was to follow the instructions set forth by Marie Kondo and The Home Edit.
The Home Edit Steps
1. Edit: Get rid of excess.
2. Categorization: Organize similar items in groups together by form and function.
3. Containment: Place groups of like items in smaller containers for easy access and storage. Clear acrylic bins and baskets with appropriate labels work well.
4. Management: Use these “systems” of contained, labeled, and grouped items to help you and your family replenish items when they run low and to know where to put things away properly. Maintain cleanup every week.
Marie Kondo Method Checklist
1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
3. The new rules of tidying up state that you should go by category, not location, in the home. Start with clothing, then books and papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and lastly, sentimental items.
4. Ask yourself if the item sparks joy. Don’t keep things that don’t fit or are broken, unless you actually repair them. Get rid of things that cause stress or that you associate with bad memories.
5. If it doesn’t spark joy, then sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose and let it go. Discard it, recycle it, or donate it.
The Blended Method
I tried both methods, but what works best is a kind of blended approach.
First, get rid of excess by only keeping things you use all the time that have form and function, and keep the things you love the most that bring you joy. You don’t need duplicates of everything, so that’s an easy way to clear some space. Be sure to thank the items you discard as outlined in the new rules of tidying up, outlined by Kondo.
Once you have taken inventory of the things you own, group like items. Start by category or room. It’s your choice. Closets, kitchen pantries and drawers, and bathroom linen closets and medicine cabinets are all good places to start.
Closet Organization Tips
After getting rid of the clothes that no longer fit you or serve you, also consider upgrading your hangers. Opt for non-slip slim hangers instead of bulky plastic ones. Next, contain items you have grouped. Sort everything by type, color, and function.
You can save extra space by using the folding techniques outlined in the Marie Kondo method checklist. (It really works!) And group clothing by color and style, if possible. The Home Edit rainbow order pattern works best – ROYGBIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Put shoes and seasonal items together. Place accessories like hats and scarfs on wall-safe Command hooks or more stylish hooks. Use clear tiered makeup drawers to store small items like jewelry. Opt for cube bookshelves in white or black and fabric bins to hide or display handbags, extra t-shirts, and other items.
Kitchen Organization Tips
For the pantry, use clear bins and baskets to organize and conceal items such as paper goods or extra cans and boxes of food. Try to put healthy snacks, vitamins, and spices you use every day at eye level, so you grab those first. You can take things out of their cardboard boxes and place them in the Home Edit rainbow order in airtight glass jars for more curb appeal. A container that swivels is helpful for hard-to-reach items. Hide sugary or salty snack options in baskets.
For cans, use a 3-tier stand, so you can easily see the items. For cereal, nuts, rice, beans, or other loose food items, use airight flip-top containers. For tea bags and sweetener packets, use a 6 or 8-square divider made for that purpose (or use a clear cosmetic organizer tray).
In the fridge, empty fruits and veggies into special fridge-specific clear containers, and store eggs in clear egg cartons. There’s no need for ugly cardboard containers!
Organize condiments into their Home Edit rainbow order on the fridge door. Use special produce crisper containers to help keep fruits and veggies fresh. Use beverage can holders to save space in your fridge for sodas and seltzers.
In the freezer, try freezer bins or trays to sort items by breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts.
For junk drawers, sort everything by type and category. For example, put all batteries together and all extra light bulbs together to create a “utility” section (an example of what The Home Edit calls a “system”.) Sort all pens and markers that still work by color and place in drawers using small dividers.
Bathroom Organization Tips
For beauty products, organize them by color, type, and function, and place them in pretty clear or mirrored glam-inspired multi-tiered drawer organizers.
For the medicine cabinet or linen closet, sort items into categories like beauty (and then into specific categories), pharmacy, cleaning supplies, towels, etc. Use small containers to manage these items. Shallow vanity trays are perfect to use as drawer dividers.
Then use labels to label all bins and baskets throughout your home. That way, everyone in the household knows what goes where. This helps with maintaining a clean and orderly space.
After using the blended Marie Kondo/Home Edit methods, my home is tidier than ever, and it doesn’t take much time to keep it clean. (My biggest culprits now are dust bunnies and a little bit of hoarding!) The trick I’ve learned is to revisit these home organizing methods at least once a year to keep things fresh.
Since 2020, I’ve accumulated two more years worth of “stuff.” Time to see what sparks joy again! … Closet, I’m coming for you (again)! …
Now that you know the basics about the new rules of tidying up, how to keep what sparks joy, and how to organize things using the rainbow method, what room will you organize first?