Long before Marie Kondo and her army of organizing consultants, TV viewers were introduced to Hoarders (2009) on A&E, a show that followed the journey of people struggling with various disorders including compulsive hoarding disorder. In each episode the hoarder was paired with a professional organizer and a psychologist to help clean up their physical space and hopefully also help to declutter their mental space.
In 2014, Marie Kondo wrote The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up following the same basic principles. The Japanese cleaning consultant promises that simplifying and organizing your home “will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.” Kondo wrote her second book, Spark Joy in 2016, selling over 7 million copies. In 2019, her Netflix series breathed life back into the organization trend, adding fuel to the fire of this social media phenomenon.
But where does this fascination with “organization content” come from? While no one can truthfully deny the mental benefits of real-life organization like less stress and better sleep, it turns out simply observing the organized spaces that Kondo and others can create might also have the same effect.
First, images of decluttered spaces naturally follow Gestalt’s principles: specifically, symmetry and order. Gestalt’s principles suggest that our brains naturally try to make order out of chaos and turn parts into a whole. Since images of organized spaces already have that part done, it’s less work (or stress) for our brains to perceive the image.
According to University of Minnesota marketing professor Kathleen Vohs, quoted in this CNN article:
"Clutter is very stressful on people's psychology, and there have been a number of studies that have looked at what clutter does to people's minds, and from that we can take the perspective that things that are tightly organized are going to have the opposite effect," says Vohs.
"If people are perhaps stressed out or somewhat exhausted from their normal everyday lives, looking at a hyper-tidy environment, a hyper-organized environment could give that sense of calm or release because it sort of suggests that all you have to do is follow the rules, and everything will be okay."
We like to see images and content that follows these patterns. Whether it brings us a sense of calm or has a unique de-stressing effect, this content has continued to grow on video streaming and social media platforms since Hoarders first aired.
Since 2009, Google trends show that interest in “organization ideas” has grown over 158%. Social media reflects the same trend. There is a seemingly endless amount of home organization pins on Pinterest and there are also now over 1.5 million Instagram posts using the hashtag “#organization,” showcasing systematically ordered closets, laundry rooms, bedrooms and spice cabinets.
Even the likes of Khloe Kardashian and other celebs like Busy Phillips and Mandy Moore have shown off their perfectly lighted and labeled containers of cereal, and snacks curated by organizational powerhouse @TheHomeEdit. And a slew of other businesses, like @choascleared, @alifebetterorganized, @homganize, @theprojectneat continue to satisfy that itch deep in our brains with color-coded shelves and orderly shoes.
Regardless of whether you are a content creator, professional organizer with a knack for social media or simply observing to bring a sense of stability to life in the crazy media ecosystem, it is important to consider that audiences are attracted to organization, and the trend is growing. Design that is clean and simple in images or video will appear soothing and attractive to audiences who are already conditioned to enjoy them.