2020 was an incredible year for Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin who are best known as the professional organizing duo, The Home Edit. Netflix debuted their show, Get Organized With The Home Edit to much fanfare, and their second book, The Home Edit Life became a number one New York Times bestseller. After their first line for The Container Store in May 2019, they launched two new collections this year, The Home Edit Kitchen & Pantry and Makeup & Vanity.
Now, these powerhouse women are partnering with McCormick to create content for the Flavor Maker app with a custom brownie recipe that features signature rainbow frosting and demonstrating how the app can help take kitchen organization to an entirely new level by keeping a spice inventory. This can help save space in the pantry and prevents food waste, avoiding, for example, ending up with three bottles of nutmeg that go unused.
I spoke with Shearer and Teplin about this partnership, learning some of their best tips for kitchen organization, and even finding out what the messiest rooms in their homes are.
Tell me about your partnership with McCormick.
Shearer: We were so excited because Joanna and I don’t know how to cook. The only thing we know how to do regarding spices is organization. They showed us that organizing meal prep and organizing how to cook is actually a huge part of the cooking process.
In addition to recipes, how can the Flavor Maker app help organize your kitchen?
Shearer: It’s such an amazing way to digitally organize your pantry. You can scan the spices. Not only does it keeps track of your entire inventory—but it also has a fill level that you can adjust. So, you know when to order more. It also shows you which recipes can work [with the spices you currently have]. I get very excited about anything having to do with organization and a new way to organize really gets our juices flowing.
Teplin: The scanning aspect of the Flavor Maker app is so much fun. Both of us were fighting about scanning the spices.
The Home Edit’s systems are incredibly visual. How do digital tools integrate with your methods?
Shearer: Because you can access things from wherever you are, you don’t need to be standing in front of your cabinet or in front of your pantry to see what you need to order, or if you’re looking at a recipe and [asking yourself], ‘wait a minute, do I have cardamom?’
It’s so powerful to have it all at your fingertips and be able to create your grocery list right there, pull your recipes, save your favorites, figure out what you’re going to cook and all the ingredients you need.
You can adjust the fill level so you know you’re running low. I feel like more and more digital technology for organizing is going to become a critical piece of the process. I think it helps so much in the long-term maintenance of what you’ve already organized in person.
The Home Edit has a truly unique approach to organization that is very similar to merchandising. How does that tie into what you do?
Teplin: I love that takeaway because the reason why we started doing styling and merchandising aspects for organizing projects is to make people excited about organizing. It doesn’t mean that the underlying system is any less complicated.
It’s actually a jigsaw puzzle to put together that functional layered system. The styling aspect and making things really beautiful, lining things just so and with color— all those things I think are the reason why organization started to take off. Everything was merchandised, visually appealing, and satisfying to look at. It is more in line with design and interior styling— all of the things that we look at on the Internet.
Why are kitchens so challenging to organize?
Teplin: I think part of it is that it’s a hub for the whole house. If it’s just you, it’s much easier because you have full control. But once you have other people in your household, roommates, or family members, everyone has their paws and all kinds of stuff. And if you don’t have a smart system, people put things in the wrong place, and then the next person can’t find them. So then they might rebuy and now you have a mess of a pantry.
Shearer: The kitchen is definitely the highest use place in the entire home. Maybe with the exception of the entryway and 2020 even took that away. It’s like where are you going?
You’re in the kitchen all the time and it is true even for people who don’t cook. It really is Grand Central where people put things on the counter. Even if you live by yourself, things accumulate and I think if you don’t stay on top of the kitchen, it just becomes a bit of a dumping ground.
What’s the best way to handle the sheer amount of items we must keep in our kitchens?
Shearer: We always like to say every drawer, every cabinet, pantry, whatever it is— make sure that nothing is being shoved, squished or hidden. Even the terribly named “junk drawer” should not actually be full of junk. We like to call it a general drawer or multipurpose drawer. It should be organized and it has your pens, scissors, keys, [etc].
Going back to the inventory perspective, we like to have an absolute audit of every single thing that is in our domain. I want to know where every single thing is. So I think it’s just really important to get off on the right foot with your kitchen and then maintain it.
When it comes to getting your entire kitchen organized, where is the best place to start?
Shearer: You need to take it slow. Start with a drawer— something that you can really see the entire process through, get your motivation, understand all the steps of the process, and then you can start extrapolating out to something larger.
What’s the best way to organize a kitchen cabinet that’s deep and high but not very wide?
Teplin: You need a long basket or a bin. There’s one at The Container Store that we use a lot— the Like It bin. What you want to do is turn that shelf into essentially a drawer because that’s the only way you’re going to ever get to the back of it. You want a long narrow, bin or basket—whatever your preference, whatever fits the space so that you can just pull it out and access everything that is all the way in the back.
We actually did it on the Neil Patrick Harris episode of our Netflix show. She had all these water bottles, and it was like a graveyard back there. So we put in a long, narrow Like It Bin and it functions as a drawer.
How do you recommend maintaining a kitchen organization system?
Shearer: It’s like going to the gym once. You definitely started, but if you don’t maintain, it’s just going to go back to the way it was.
Teplin: I think it’s about committing to the systems that you put in place, and thinking through them ahead of time. We want our photos to serve as inspiration, but we want people to be inspired by photos that would make sense for them.
If you have kids, you wouldn’t want a sea of all glass jars, etc. If you are really busy, do you want to take the time coming home from the grocery store and emptying out all the different pastas, cereals, and whatever into canisters? Or is it going to be easier to just put them in the bin labeled breakfast or dinner? If that’s the case, then maintenance is going to be really easy for you, because you made the smart choice based on your lifestyle needs. And then it is just plug and play. If you think something just looks really good, that’s not enough to make a system last.
Shearer: [You also want to follow the] 80/20 rule, just like doctors suggest for eating. You don’t want to be more than 80 percent full. You want to leave that 20 percent extra room. The same thing for your space, you don’t want to be stuffed to 100 percent. That means there’s no room for adding anything else.
Confession time— what are the messiest areas of your homes?
Shearer: My daughter’s drawers. They’re a disgusting, devastating, disaster.
Teplin: My kids’ drawers too. It’s impossible. They’re terrible.