While we’re all stuck at home, house makeover shows and DIY tutorials are starting to shine, and it’s not hard to imagine why. We are spending more time than usual inside, alone, with nothing to keep us company other than the things surrounding us, while we scroll through TikTok and Instagram and peep the those that surround other people. Some of that viewing is more intentional (Architectural Digest’s home tour with Dakota Johnson felt like the quirkiest salve as we were just barely settling into our new normal) and some is less so (like when we all learned that Charlie Puth doesn’t always make his bed). But all of it seems to reactivate the earworm Marie Kondo planted deep in our psyches: tidy up, get organized, and lose the things that aren’t sparking joy — and get it done before your next Zoom chat. Or better yet, document your room makeover for that quarantine YouTube channel you’ve been meaning to launch.
With our work meetings, happy hours, and Tinder dates all taking place over FaceTime, more people than usual are joining us inside our homes. So is it time we all take our interiors from drab to fab, or is it better to stay in our proverbial sweatpants in all areas of our lives?
Welcome to Cross / Pop, where MTV News navigates pop culture's biggest questions with logic, reason, and personal preferences. In this week's edition, Social Media Manager Virginia Lowman and Associate Producer Sunni Valentine welcome you inside their New York City apartments to debate whether now’s the time to reorganize our lives.
You are both undergoing some kind of reorganization projects while we’re all social distancing. What is the extent of your project, and what inspired you?
Virginia: I turned an empty space into a home office so I can “leave” work and actually feel like I’m separating work from my personal space, but I’m also reorganizing my apartment as a whole, because now that I’m spending so much time here — and scrolling through @MyDomaine and @SomewhereIWouldLikeToLive on Instagram — I’m realizing there are changes that I can make that would make the apartment feel more intentional and more zen.
Sunni: I’m turning my apartment into a center for inspiration. I’ve created a Pinterest board that reflects my expectations for how I want to reorganize the space. @BLKVintage is one of my favorite places to visit for inspiration. They have a wide collection of heirlooms and collectibles that make my place feel more homey. Also, Package Free is another favorite, they remind me to make changes that positively affect the environment.
There's been a surge in people searching for "room makeover" videos on YouTube. Is YouTube a helpful resource for you? And do you find watching every step of someone else's process to be intimidating or invigorating?
Virginia: I’m more focused on photos, but occasionally, I like to refer to YouTube for series like Refinery29’s “Sweet Digs” or Apartment Therapy’s “Small Spaces.” The search is less focused on “room makeover” and more focused on how millennials decorate their homes as a whole. I don’t need to see every step of the process.
Sunni: YouTube is probably the most helpful resource for me. Watching someone start and finish a project and share it with us all inspires me a ton. I’m not handy at all, so seeing other women complete small tasks — installing lighting fixtures, laying flooring, or painting — makes the content all the more fun to watch. I am obsessed with Shalom Blac’s bathroom makeover. She literally tore the place up and started over. That part was intimidating, but the outcome was worth it!
Why did now feel like the time to start?
Virginia: I think a lot of young New Yorkers get an apartment they feel comfortable in, but they don’t spend very much time in them — that’s just the nature of living in New York. But staying home and practicing social distancing feels like such a reset that I wanted that feeling to permeate my living space, too. With so much chaos outside, I wondered how I could make my home feel like a respite without breaking the bank. I’ve found there are small things that bring me great joy — plants, playing with natural light in my apartment, using negative space and getting rid of excess.
The downside, however, is that you end up with space that will inevitably look cluttered with things you intend to give away but can’t, since we’re sheltering in place. For me, that place is my spare closet, which is becoming increasingly packed with items I intend to give away. I don’t expect to have joy any time I open it — things are getting manic behind those doors! But getting rid of (or, hiding) clothes I haven’t worn, the surplus of beauty products I amassed as a beauty editor, and the 32 mismatched forks my last roommate left behind (yes, 32) feels good.
Sunni: Honestly, this is the most time I’ve spent in my apartment. I’m always on the go and spend more time outside than I do in my apartment. I’m also a borderline hoarder, but I’ve come a long way. At the office, my desk is all set up to get things done. At home, not so much. The clutter was stressful. Since having to work from home, I’ve had a little extra time to get rid of things that no longer compliment my aesthetic or things that are distracting. It has been a bit tough since donation centers aren’t taking items right now, but I can hide them away until things are back to normal. In the meantime, may as well make my atmosphere as work-from-home friendly as possible — with a splash of “oh that’s cute!”
Do you like seeing inside celebrity homes during this time?
Virginia: I’m more curious about landscape and architectural features in celebrity homes than I am about what they have in them, although Drake’s piano hood is pretty incredible, and I fell in love with Kesha’s fireplace. But there are plenty of strangers who I follow on Instagram just because their Architectural Digest feature showed that they have a sunken living room in their home, or I love the amount of natural light their space has (I’m looking at you, @tylerjoe). I’m actually more curious about the homes of everyday people, like those on @ApartmentTherapy, because they’re generally curated by the dweller and not someone who makes homes immaculate for a living. You get a better sense of the person. But I will say that people who don’t feel the need to clean up when video chatting, celebs included, I find… fascinating — and a little rude. It’s kind of like inviting someone over for dinner and serving them on dirty dishes, or asking them to move your laundry out of the way so they can sit on your sofa. At the same time, I think how you live is a reflection of your life, and people handle stress differently. Some people decompress by cleaning up, others choose to adapt and live in it.
Sunni: I like seeing homes in general — I watch HGTV religiously, Green Living, Buy or DIY, Beautification and most recently The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes on Netflix — but it has been a breath of fresh air to see how normal celeb homes look during this time! I love when I’m watching celebs at home in their natural habitats and I notice that we have similar items in our place. I too have a salt lamp on my corner table and a fiddle leaf fig tree near my desk! Tracee Ellis Ross’s videos made me feel more humble. I don't know why I expect all of them to have these luxurious spaces; a lot of them look pretty standard. Not all celebs have a plant-friendly indoor pool area, like Chrissy Teigen. Seeing many of these celeb homes was proof that making your place feel like home is pretty priceless.
Is there a point where home content becomes too much and starts to feel discouraging?
Virginia: Yes and no. There are a lot of things I would love to change that just aren’t cost-effective in a space that I don’t own. There’s a vacant room that I would love to convert into a “den” of sorts. I’d love to get rid of the weird nightstands my landlord has mounted on the walls of the bedroom, install backsplash tile in my kitchen and redo the cabinets, and update the bathroom. But I don’t own the space. Escapism has been big for me. The cost of real estate in New York is depressing, but I balance what I can do now and what I want to do but can’t afford with vision boards. When I see something in a space that I like on Instagram, I save it or screenshot it and add it to the vision board I’ve created on Photoshop. (Screenshots are another thing I need to work on reorganizing, but phone clutter is not a beast I’m ready to handle yet.) If anything, I use what would be disappointment from not having the means to live as extravagantly as I’d like as a source of inspiration, to psych my brain into realizing that these are things I will have in the future. Shay Mitchell’s home is one that I particularly love — exposed beams, warm hues, lots of woods, marble, and Moroccan tile. #Heaven
Sunni: Yes, thinking about how much rent I pay and what I could be investing in is discouraging, but if you can pay rent in New York and still manage to make a few changes to your space, you aren’t doing so bad. That’s the reminder I use for myself. And it turns my space revamp into a fun challenge. Maybe I can’t have an Ernie Barnes oil on canvas right now, but I can support up-and-coming artists with similar aesthetics and use this time to design a mock of what I would like my home to be in the future with some inspiration from home content. Plus, it’s not always about buying new things. A simple rearrangement can have a huge impact. For example, you don’t always have to buy anything. Make the most of your existing pieces. Move things around to other parts of your place where they can help elevate the look. You’d be happy to know that many pieces you already own are so versatile.
Do you see an end in sight for your reorganization projects, or does it seem like once you fix one part of your life, another opportunity pops up?
Virginia: No, I don’t think there’s an end in sight. I’m reorganizing my home, but this is just an extension of an ongoing reorganization/renovation of my life. Personal betterment is constant. As you evolve, so, too, will your needs, how you live, and what brings you joy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the thought of it can be tiresome sometimes. When I’m reorganizing, I make sure that I have at least one “safe room/space” that can serve as a haven from the chaos of clutter, so that when I’m overwhelmed I can go there and decompress.
It’s a case-by-case scenario for everyone. Clutter and disorganization stress me out, so things like making my bed every day or organizing my fridge/freezer by food group so that I never have to hunt for things, are acts of self-care. I don’t think you have to give into the pressure to take on additional projects like reorganizing just because it feels like the world is slowing down. Unless you have a partner or a roommate, in which case, you’ve gotta compromise, fam.
Sunni: I do see an end to this reorganization project because I don’t own my space, so there isn’t much I can do without violating the terms of my lease, which isn’t fun! However, I love DIY anything and improving my lifestyle. Also, my mother is a sustainable interior designer and I'm always on call for a project with her! I’m currently helping a friend become more eco-friendly with home choices. It’s really exciting and feels good to know I’m helping someone who once felt overwhelmed due to all the unnecessary things that have been hoarded, similar to why I started reorganizing. I find reorganizing very therapeutic. Some would say that’s creating a disaster, and if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. I say redecorating is living in your most up-to-date truth.
Your home is your sanctuary now more than ever, and some extra organization can be soothing — that is, if you find organizing to be soothing. But for those with tight spaces or tight budgets, undertaking a massive reorganization project while many donation centers remain closed might leave you stranded with a chaotic pile of knick-knacks in a joyless corner of your home. Sometimes, the best we can do is turn to our vision boards and manifest our aspirations into being.