Clutter is no match for Clea Shearer, but she can only compartmentalize so much.
Which is among the reasons she chose to share some of her most vulnerable moments after being diagnosed with breast cancer last year with the 6.7 million Instagram followers who live for The Home Edit's hypnotically fetching scroll of organizational nirvana.
The 41-year-old mother of two completed acute treatment in November and duly celebrated her journey from cancer patient to cancer survivor. But having reached that milestone, she soon realized that all sorts of new challenges lay ahead. And that no one really talks about what happens after a person is declared "cancer-free."
"Not only do people not talk about it," Clea told E! News in an exclusive joint interview with her best friend and business partner Joanna Teplin, "but you constantly get congratulated for having beat cancer—which is a lovely thing to congratulate someone for, but no one realizes that you're in a whole new world of pain."
And true to form for the woman who was up rearranging her get-well bouquets a day after coming home from the hospital when she wasn't even supposed to be walking ("I was so annoying," she cracked), Clea wanted to get her feelings sorted out.
Not that she had tons of time for that, amid running The Home Edit (which was bought by super-fan Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine last year) with Joanna out of their Nashville headquarters, co-hosting their podcast Best Friend Energy, finishing their third book, Stay Organized: The Ultimate Guide to Making Systems Stick, and planning their eight-city Summer of Fun Tour that's kicking off July 7 in Dallas—a dream put on hold from last year in the wake of Clea's diagnosis.
"We had this idea for a long time, we really wanted to be in person," Clea said. Then came the pandemic and "it was like, Oh, my gosh, I'm dying to see people and hug people and have that human connection."
On any given day, "getting people set up for success, in the life that they live, is magical," Joanna said. "I mean, it's an honor for us. And this is on such a massive scale, and with such deserving, incredible people and families...We're just so humbled by the whole experience and this opportunity."
Ironically, the sheer joy built into what they do for a living is part of the reason why Clea is usually inclined to answer with an upbeat "Hanging in there!" or something similarly unreflective of her reality when well-wishers ask how she's doing.
Though awash in love and support, including from her ride-or-die in clutter wrangling—"Joanna is the best," she said simply—she still doesn't feel like her old self (minus her usual zest for organization, which she did not deprioritize last year).
"The second you ring the bell, I expected this catharsis," she said of the moment that marked her final radiation session. "And I wasn't experiencing it."
Months of mixed feelings piled up before she took to Instagram May 25 to let it be known she was still struggling beneath her generally cheery exterior.
"I've been feeling it since January, since I started my endocrine therapy," Clea, who underwent a double mastectomy in April 2022, explained to E! about the motivation behind the post. "There are a whole host of new side effects, new mental gymnastics that you have to do. I actually get my monthly infusions in the same chair that I received chemo."
Her latest ailments included fatigue, nausea, insomnia, mood and metabolism shifts—"I mean, you name it, your whole body changes all over again," she said. "And you're still in the process of healing to begin with."
People "think that you're healthy again, that you're back to normal," she continued. "And I don't think I'll ever be back to normal, to be honest. Nor do I even want to be. This has changed my life in huge ways and this will always be a part of who I am."
Subsequently, Clea wanted speak up "because, number one, I want people to feel like they have a friend in this, if they're going through the same thing—and from the comments on that post, it seems like so many people are. And I also want people to know, who aren't going through it, how to take care of their friends who are experiencing something similar."
While Joanna was quick to declare Clea "superhuman on all fronts," the 44-year-old mom of two acknowledged that she was touched by what her friend was going through every step of the way.
"She's an extension of me," Joanna said. "I mean, it's beyond a friend. I just feel her. I can't be in her body, obviously, but I feel her pain on such a deep level, it's different than just a regular person in your life."
And she understood the point that Clea was trying to make about a new normal.
"I had not even a moment of doubt wondering whether she was going to, quote-unquote, beat this," Joanna said. "But I also knew that this is going to shape who she is going forward. I just wanted to be as supportive of a friend as I could in the best way that I knew how and validate all of her, anything she's going through."
Happily, what Clea was going through on the phone with E! was her admitted obsession with Taylor Swift, whose Eras Tour she was able to catch with her husband and kids in March.
"Really, it's on another level," she gushed. "It's all I talk about, all I care about. Someone needs to lock me up, I am out of control—my daughter, too." (So, needless to say, Taylor's on their list of dream clients, along with Beyoncé, Jennifer Coolidge and Michelle Obama.)
While they're pretty sure that Tay and Bey's spaces may be off-limits to Home Edit eyes, stranger things have happened to the duo who slid into Gwyneth Paltrow's DMs to ask if they could organize her house.
"She replied, 'Oh my god, how lucky am I?'" Clea recalled, still marveling over the moment.
They went on to work on two of the Goop founder's houses, and Clea said the Oscar winner is "one of the most incredible kinds of amazing." Also getting rave reviews of late: Courteney Cox ("just a dream"), Drew Barrymore ("ugh, love") and Jesse Tyler Ferguson ("personally obsessed").
The Modern Family star was a guest on their podcast, Clea shared, and while most celebs show up with an entourage, "Jesse came with a black JanSport backpack" on a Citi Bike.
"I love when people take the energy you give them and they give it back," she added. "That's the best, to me."
She and Joanna will be looking forward to whole roomfuls of that when their show goes on the road, which means in-person conversation, special guests, games, organizing projects and... a lot of checked luggage.
Asked for their surely stellar packing tips, both women admitted that trying to cram everything they might need into a carry-on just isn't their bag, no matter how long or short the trip. (Though of course they use packing cubes.)
But then Clea remembered she didn't check a suitcase for a recent trip to the beach, to which Joanna's response was, "I don't even know you." Moreover, she added, "Tell me the same thing when you don't have clothes somewhere [already], and then we can talk about it."
Clea admitted, "I still did bring three carry-ons."
"Yeah, exactly," Joanna replied.
And that is what they call best friend energy.