The Home Edit Stars Dish on How Busy Parents Can Get Organized
I got the dreaded call from daycare last week: My little one had spiked a fever, so I dropped what I was doing and rushed out to pick her up. Once I got my daughter home and comfortable, like any parent of a sick child, I set about getting organized—because believe it or not, that’s half the battle. Who’s going to stay home with them? When can you snag a doctor’s appointment? Do you have enough chest rub and Tylenol in stock? Is your stash of at-home COVID tests running low? Is your humidifier clean? It’s enough to give you a pounding headache—but you can’t lie down in a dark room, because you’ve got a little sickie to care for.
It’s an exercise that Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin of The Home Edit are all too familiar with. The two organization gurus came to fame thanks to their smart, stylish systems for helping people cut the clutter and keep things in order. And as parents themselves, they’ve had to put their own methods to the test—particularly this past year. In addition to juggling their business, season 2 of Netflix’s “Get Organized With The Home Edit” series and a new podcast, Shearer revealed earlier this year that she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and had taken up the battle.
The Bump caught up with the duo to talk about health and how they’ve leaned on each other during these hard times—and how busy parents can get organized, especially as we stare down cold, flu and COVID season. The Home Edit has partnered with Abbott to help people organize their medicine cabinets and get prepared with wellness essentials, such as BinaxNOW COVID tests—so we wanted to know, what’s in their medicine cabinet, what needs to be in ours, and how do we keep it all organized?
The Bump: I wanted to start things off with a huge congratulations on the launch of your Best Friend Energy podcast! And that’s just the latest on a lengthy list of endeavors you’re collaborating on. What’s the best and worst part about working so closely with your best friend on literally all the things?
Clea Shearer: I mean, I think the best thing is that we laugh so much. And laughter is just like, what’s better than that? It’s so healing. It makes the day better, even a really hard day. It’s like, if you can laugh about it, then it’s all worth it.
And as far as the worst things, it’s going to sound so cheesy, but I really don’t think we have a negative about it. I feel like whenever Joanna and I are working together, it always feels good. It never feels hard.
Joanna Teplin: It only feels hard when she’s not available. I mean, again, it does sound really cheesy, and I know it’s unbelievable that it works out like this. …If one of us is down, the other is usually okay. We try not to both go down at the same time. And that way, the one can pick the other one up, because we all have hard days.
TB: Given your close bond and the fact that you’re both parents, it’s like you have a built-in mom friend. How has your relationship impacted the way you each parent? Do you share parenting advice with each other?
CS: Well, I wouldn’t say “advice” necessarily, but we certainly vent a lot about the same things. Our kids are the exact same ages: We have 11-year-olds and eight-year-olds, but mixed genders. So Joanna has an 11-year-old boy and I have an 11-year-old girl, and then vice versa for the younger ones. And it’s really interesting, because our kids are all so different, but we have really similar issues. Our 11-year-olds are, you know, shockingly riddled with anxiety and OCD. And our eight-year-olds are way more confident. Thank goodness for them, so we can focus our attention on the kids that need it. But we do have really similar issues. And we definitely lean on each other a lot, just in talking through it, because it’s hard. …It’s really nice to have someone other than just your spouse to talk to.
TB: Speaking of challenges, Clea, we’ve followed your brave battle with breast cancer, and we are so inspired by the action you’ve taken to launch your breast cancer research fund. Can you tell me a bit about how your friendship has played a support role during this time?
CS: I could not have gotten through this past year without Joanna. I’m almost at the end of my treatment, which I’m so happy to say. But it’s been really hard. I’ve tried to do really proactive things and to stay positive and try to spread as much information as I possibly can, good, bad and ugly, and raise as much money as I can with my research fund. But really, I couldn’t have done any of it without Joanna—especially with her picking up so much of the workload that we have, and picking up things when I just physically couldn’t do it. Sometimes I couldn’t do it because I was physically ill. Sometimes I couldn’t do it because I was physically in chemo. Having a friend beside you, who also happens to double as your business partner, is a real gift. So all the things that I’ve been able to do are certainly in large part because of Jo.
Joanna has risen to new heights during all of this. Last week, she flew to Des Moines, Iowa, for a conference that we were supposed to do together. And I couldn’t do it because I’m in radiation, which is daily. And you know, one of our favorite things to do is travel together. One of our least favorite things to do is travel without each other. The fact that Joanna went and did this—and she really doesn’t love public speaking—on her own /[is amazing]. I know that she had to, like, look herself in the mirror and give herself a pep talk.
JT: I did. I really did. Like, yeah, we can do hard things. It’s a good lesson for our kids, you know? My son was struggling with some stuff, and I said, “You know, we all do hard things, even as grownups,” and I told him this example. I’m like, “When push comes to shove, sometimes you have to do hard things.”
TB: What did that pep talk look like for you?
JT: It was like, I need to do this. This is important. This too shall pass, and I’ll be better on the other side. Did I love it? I mean, I missed Clea. She’s exactly right: Our favorite thing to do is travel together, and our least favorite thing to do is not travel together. But I did it. I just care about her health, so whatever needs to get done on the work front that I’m actually able to do, I’m so happy to do it.
The Bump: Amazing. So organization—let’s get into it. What is your number one organization tip for busy parents who are just trying to keep it all together?
JT: Starting small is really, really critical. We always tell people: Even if you only achieve editing your space and never even get to the categorizing and organizing, but you just do a clean edit and make sure all of the items that you have are what you actually like, need and use, that’s major. That is huge. It’s 50 percent of the work. Even if all it means is going through your items, one drawer at a time, nothing overwhelming, and just editing out things that don’t need to be there or that should be re-homed to a different spot or that you have too many duplicates of or things that have seen better days, that’s great. You’ve accomplished a lot.
To be organized is constant maintenance. But when you set up smart systems, it’s less maintenance, but it doesn’t go away. Clea and I are both very organized. But we constantly have messes in our house. We just can easily put them away, because we have good systems in place.
TB: For parents in particular, what’s the real value in having an organized medicine cabinet?
CS: First of all, we love organizing contained spaces, and a medicine cabinet is a perfect place to start with. When Joanna says “start small,” a medicine cabinet is a great, great example. One of the reasons why we partnered with Abbott and why we’re so excited about this partnership is because we’re not just headed into cold, flu and COVID season—we’re in cold, flu and COVID season. Having all of your essentials organized, ready to go and have grab-and-go systems is so, so, so critical. Being able to organize a medicine cabinet with all of your wellness essentials, such as the BinaxNOW COVID test, thermometers, tissues, cough drops, your allergy medications, all of that just ready to go is going to save time, it’s going to save the day. And it’s just a great way to start organizationally because it’s something that you can actually easily see through from A to Z and not get paralyzed in the process.
TB: Having a sick child can throw off the entire family schedule. Any particular organizing tips that are specific to cold, flu and COVID season?
CS: You want to check expiration dates, you want to really edit and group everything and make sure you have proper inventory of everything. You don’t want to all of a sudden have somebody get the flu and not have proper medicine on hand, or all of a sudden start coughing and sniffling and not have a BinaxNOW COVID test on hand. So it’s really important to make sure you have proper inventory of everything. And organizing should really be about a system. So if you can create something that’s efficient, easy, create zones that are simple, grab-and-go, intuitive systems and just always have items that you can just immediately reach in and grab without too much fuss, that’s honestly the way to really achieve a perfectly organized space. And add a label to it.
TB: One challenge that I encountered personally as I was going through my medicine cabinet is that it’s a small space with really shallow shelves. Any particular organizational tips for working with such a tight space?
JT: We love a container. Any sort of container that fits within your space and matches your aesthetic is the way to go. The containment helps you stay organized. We lean into clear containment whenever possible, just because it’s so simple to see what you have and see what you’re running low on and what you need to stock up on. We have a product that we kind of affectionately refer to as a baby bed. It’s really like an insert. They’re the best tool for medicine cabinets. It just keeps everything contained and in their own category, easily labeled.
TB: I love that. Thinking about your own medicine cabinets, are there particular products within your medicine cabinets that you would recommend to any parent?
CS: Obviously no medicine cabinet is complete with that BinaxNOW COVID test. I can speak from my own personal experience, because last week I was stuffy and coughing a little bit and my husband came whipping around the corner with a nasal swab, and I had COVID. If we didn’t have our BinaxNow COVID test on hand, I would just be spreading it around to everyone. I was able to effectively quarantine in our bedroom and the kids and John were upstairs. It was like, okay, thank goodness I have all the essentials I need for this COVID journey: my vitamin C, some cough medicine and tissues. All of those things are so helpful and they’re kind of in their own station.
TB: Taking a step back and considering the past year, what’s something that you would each edit out of 2022? What’s one thing that you would want to make more space for in the coming year?
CS: Well, mine is easy. I would like to edit out cancer. It gets zero stars. I am done with it. It is not fun. And I would like to edit in more quality time, more travel time and just more fun time. I mean, I can’t wait for ‘23! I thought I couldn’t wait for ‘22. And it’s funny because coming out of 2020 we were all like 2021! 2021! That year had its ups and downs, but like I was pumped for ‘22. I was like, ‘22 is my year! So I’m now really excited about ‘23.
JT: That’s a great answer. For me, just minimizing things that don’t bring me happiness wherever I can. That’s what I’m here to edit out. And I’m with Clea—‘23 is our year! Like, we’re back, baby! But for real this time. I was kidding before. Now I really mean it.
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