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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

Former Real Simple Editor Reflects on Ideas of Order

“Home is a box you keep your life in — people and pets and plants and history and dreams. A biosphere, a sanctuary, your place, your space. … Your private address in a crowded universe. The place you belong.”

So opens the latest issue of Ideas of Order, a magazine I just discovered, that California Closets publishes once a year. Reading it, I felt my knees get wobbly, and not just because I’m still actively mending a broken kneecap. (Do not step over your lazy dog while walking barefoot on a slippery wet floor.) I crushed on this magazine because it marries two of my obsessions—good writing and good living.

Following that introductory essay are also smartly written profiles of stylishly outfitted homes and those who live in and love them. The magazine closes with a three-paragraph essay titled “Love Story,” by Sarah Rutledge, who has a hard rule against dogs in bed. That decree gets toppled by Molly, a doodle, who wriggles her way in, right where she belongs.

After that read, I am pretty much done for the day. However, I do some investigating and get under the cover of this curious magazine.

Editor Carrie Tuhy has worked for 30 years in magazine journalism holding various editing roles for such publications as Real Simple, Life, Money, and InStyle. (At this revelation, I digress and harness her fashion acumen to help me assemble an outfit for a concert I am going to that night.) In developing content for Ideas of Order, Tuhy tapped her stable of top writers, who also write for People and The New Yorker.

“So, the good writing isn’t an accident,” I say.

“Oh no,” she says, “I am very particular.” She’s also particular about living a well-edited life, as the publication conveys. As usual, I had questions.

Marni: Why is a company known for closet design producing a magazine of this caliber that isn’t about closets?

Carrie: Organizing is simply the subtext. The magazine’s narrative drive is not how to do your home right, but rather how to do you right. When California Closets came on the scene nearly 30 years ago, the idea was if you could organize your closet, you were halfway there. Now every room in the house has organizing systems including the garage. We’re helping consumers make space for what matters.

Q. How did your years at Real Simple influence Ideas of Order?

When I took over as editor of Real Simple in 2001, the magazine was just a few months old. I had a vision. At the time, I was a separated mother of two girls, working full time, and I thought, if someone could just help me realize the mundane things, I could make a difference.

I wanted to help women clear the clutter and create a launch pad for their passions, help them live up to their talents, skills and what they believed in. That was the basis anyway. The reality was I wasn’t living the Real Simple life. I was still working crazy hard and raising kids.

But the premise remains. After I left Real Simple, I realized the goal was not to attain some idealized version of an organized life, but to create the life that works for you. Your idea of order is not mine. I have been chasing that ever since.

Q. Since you began editing magazines about organizing, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the field?

A. The level of customization has increased tremendously, and there’s no end. We have also witnessed a boom in the consumerization of organizing. We now have an array of tools at various price points for every space you can think of. We have kitchen organizers, office organizers, and even racks to hold our underwear. (We do?) Real Simple was part of that, so was California Closets as well as the Container Store.

Q. What advances have been made in home-organizing systems and products?

A. We’ve seen many innovations in merchandise: laundry basket with dividers, so you can separate clothes into lights and darks, and don’t have to sort them later; storage containers that divide and protect your Christmas ornaments. And, because organizing and saving space are close cousins, we now see merchandise designed to use less space, such as cups that stack. We continue to see more furniture doing double duty by providing storage, such as ottomans where the top comes off and window seats with drawers. The space-saving Murphy bed has come a long way and is on the rise, especially since Covid.

Q. What do people today typically want in a home organizing system?

A. Flexibility. Because the workplace is changing, and many of us are not going into the office, our wardrobes are changing. They’re simpler. Look what’s happened to our dry-cleaning bills. (Silent cheer!) Tech guys put an end to suits in favor of jeans, sneakers, and hoodies. Culture shapes our wardrobes, and our closets should evolve, too. Oh, and more outlets. Consumers want to plug in everywhere, whether in the closet or at the dining room table.

Q. So, what is the secret to living a beautiful, organized life?

A. Organizing is not the secret. Maintenance is. Living a beautiful life requires an investment every day. As in every area of success, you need consistency, discipline, and commitment. Don’t coast. Stay on top of it. That pretty much works for everything, doesn’t it?

CAPTION: Cover of current issue of Ideas of Order, a magazine published annually by California Closets.

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