It started with a jar of salt. This made sense: Decanting the salt into a small jar would come in handy when I’m cooking. What about my dry chili flakes? Of course. Porridge that spills out of its plastic packaging every time I try to reach for it? Pour them into a strong jar. Sesame seeds? Another jar. My entire makeup bag? Why the hell not.
This decanting began in earnest at the end of the jam. As we blinked back into society, I awoke to find that I was suddenly two years older, now in my mid-twenties, and therefore time for a more grown-up home. This sent me panic buying things like a gravy boat and a pestle and mortar. But mostly, I was buying jars.
Social media is full of people decanting. Be it the contents of their bathroom, kitchen or dressing tables. The best ones even have a pantry—an entire room dedicated to rows and rows of jars. Like most people of a certain age, I spent hours on TikTok watching people pour otherwise mundane products into glass containers. In fact, Google Trends shows searches for “jars” increased in March 2020 in the UK and have barely lost momentum. Somewhere along the line, I decided to join.
I am not an anomaly. Type “decanting organization” into TikTok and countless videos appear. The most popular videos have millions of views. All racks of spices are decanted from glass jars into new glass jars with uniform labels. Detergent is poured into tall jars; also fabric softener. The contents of a refrigerator are washed, removed from their original packaging and placed neatly in clear boxes or glasses, stacked on top of each other. The result, we all conclude, is the perfect home.
While I enjoy the sense of organization that comes with a well-checked closet, I’m by no means a jar extremist. At the moment, online jar shop Hampshire Home Trends is selling between 70 and 90 stackable hot chocolate glass houses each week. “This is our hero product,” says Amber Bray. “Sales just kept going.”
Bray, 32, is not surprised that the most popular item she sells is a decorated hot chocolate organizer. “People want to feel a certain way when they buy things. I think hot chocolate gives you that comforting feeling, which is why it’s so popular.”
Bray helped her friend Evita close Hampshire Home Trends. Her announcement is neatly decanted. “It’s an ASMR kind of thing. It’s quite soothing. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and I think when I’m opening a closet and it’s full of lots of different colors and packages and things like that, I can often go through things and it’s stressful.”
Hampshire Home Trend’s second biggest seller, after hot chocolate houses, are specially designed pantry jars with customizable labels. “Jars are an aspirational lifestyle,” says Bray. “People want to have the lifestyle they see on the Kardashians.” In 2021, Khloe Kardashian was one of the first people to pioneer this jar obsession, sharing a video showing how she organizes her Oreo cookie jar. Her entire LA residence is sleek and clean. Her ad is full of aesthetically pleasing jars filled with banal food.
But this lifestyle is not cheap. A three liter glass jar can cost up to £30. Why? “The market is so saturated,” says Bray. “They are so popular that companies can make them more expensive.”
Sophie Bradbury, 24 and mum to two-year-old Alfie, saved up to buy her own containers. “Most of mine are from B&M, which are only about three to five pounds each, but then when you think about how many you need, it adds up,” she says. “I’ve collected them over time and tend to only do one kitchen shelf at a time. If we have spare cash, I’m like, OK, I’ll go buy the containers.”
Bradbury trained to be a primary school teacher but then became pregnant shortly before the closure. Now with a little boy, it’s hard to keep up with this hyper-organized lifestyle. “When I gave birth to my son, it was like, oh, the baby was crying. I’ll just put everything in the back of the closet. It was very difficult to save. I’ve gotten into a routine with him now.”
Is this just another way to make women feel bad that their homes aren’t living up to scratch? Most of Lucie Russell’s customers, at Little Home Designs, are women: “Usually the yummy mummy kind,” she says. In recent months she has seen a huge increase in demand for glass detergent jars. “The pod wash and juice jars are something new we brought out this year and have been so popular,” she adds.
Clearly there’s demand—Russell’s business started as a side hustle, but she’s since hired five people to help. The ad and her house are, of course, well decanted. “I find it very soothing,” she says.
Others say it helps their mental health. Bradbury has ADHD and she finds that having her household items visible helps her. “My mind is so scattered that having everything laid out like this allows me to remember what I have. And it’s a money saver so you don’t shop at the supermarket.”
When Hannah, 27, was diagnosed with ADHD at 26, she read up on ways to make her everyday life easier. “Organizing the house was one of those things and it’s helped me massively,” she says. Now Hannah organizes cotton wool pillows in jars; she separates her ingredients into trays and keeps her kitchen cupboards organized with jars of vegetable cubes and clean sugar bowls. “The clear jars really help me because if you have ADHD you can miss a lot of things and it’s really stressful,” she says.
Emma Stonham is well known in the decanting world. As a professional organizer, she consults with families on how to best organize their homes. She’s had her business for a few years, but since closing she’s seen a huge increase in people asking for decanting. “The kind of organization we see on social media, with the sexy Instagram wraps, is escapism,” says Stonham. “We can dream and aspire to have beautiful, decanted jars that look great, but for most people, it’s just not realistic.”
Stonham tries to steer her customers, who are usually busy moms, away from the jar trend. “It’s so expensive to have a decanted house. People end up spending hundreds of pounds on boxes just to make them match,” says Stonham. “I work with normal families, not people at the luxury end of things. There’s a lot on social media that makes you feel like you have to be that type. the luxurious person, but being organized can seem like a lot,” says Stonham. “It’s about finding what works for you.”
While the likes of Russell have made a business out of the trend, does she worry it’s a passing fad? “I hope not. In the future, we should aim for a more sustainable lifestyle where we’re not buying packaged foods and things like that. I hope we can maintain that.”
“Everyone wants to have this perfect Instagram home and they want everything to look absolutely perfect. I think it’s probably here to stay.”