It started with a jar of salt. This made sense: Decanting salt into a tiny jar would be helpful when I’m cooking. What about my dried chilli flakes? Sure. The porridge oats that spill out of their plastic packaging every time I try to access them? Get them into a sturdy jar. Sesame seeds? Another jar. My entire makeup bag? Why the hell not.
This decanting started in earnest at the end of lockdown. As we re-emerged blinking into society, I woke up to find I was suddenly two years older, now firmly in my mid-twenties and therefore it was time to have a more grown-up home. This had me panic-buying things such as a gravy boat and a pestle and mortar. But mainly, I was buying jars.
Social media is full of people decanting. Whether that is the contents of their bathroom, their kitchen or their dressing tables. The best ones even have a pantry – a whole room dedicated to rows and rows of jars. Like most people of a certain age, I spent lockdown on TikTok and watched hours of people pouring otherwise mundane products into glass containers. In fact, Google Trends shows searches for “jar” spiked in March 2020 in the UK and have barely lost momentum. Somewhere along the line, I decided to join in.
I’m not an anomaly. Type “decanting organisation” into TikTok and countless videos appear. The most popular videos have millions of views. Entire spice racks are decanted from glass jars into new glass jars with uniformed labels. Detergent is poured into tall jars; fabric softener too. The contents of a fridge are washed, taken from their original packaging and neatly placed in clear boxes or cups, stacked on top of each other. The result, we all conclude, is the perfect home.
While I enjoy the feeling of organisation that comes with a neatly controlled cupboard, I am by no means a jar extremist. At the moment, the boutique online jar shop Hampshire Home Trends is selling between 70 to 90 stackable glass houses for hot chocolate every single week. “That is our hero product,” says Amber Bray. “Sales have just kept going.”
Bray, 32, isn’t surprised that the most popular item she sells is a fancy hot chocolate organiser. “People want to feel a certain way when they buy things. I think hot chocolate gives that feeling of comfort, which is why it’s so popular.”
Bray helped her friend Evita set up Hampshire Home Trends in lockdown. Her own pantry is neatly decanted. “It’s a kind of ASMR thing. It’s quite calming. I’ve got obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and I think when I’m opening a cupboard and it’s full of just lots of different colours and packages and things like that, I often can skim over things and it’s stressful.”
Hampshire Home Trend’s second biggest seller, after the hot chocolate houses, are jars designed specifically for the pantry with labels that can be personalised. “The jars are an aspirational lifestyle,” Bray says. “People want to have the lifestyle they might see on the Kardashians.” In 2021, Khloe Kardashian was one of the first people to pioneer this jar obsession, sharing a video detailing how she organises her Oreo biscuit jar. Her whole LA mansion is sleek and uncluttered. Her pantry is full of aesthetically pleasing jars, filled with banal food items.
But this lifestyle doesn’t come cheap. A three litre glass jar can cost as much as £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, has been saving up to buy her 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 I tend to just do one kitchen shelf at a time. If we have some spare money, I’m like, okay, I’ll go buy the containers.”
Bradbury trained to be a primary school teacher but then fell pregnant just before lockdown. Now with a young son, it’s difficult to keep up with this hyper-organised way of living. “When I had my son, it was like, oh, the baby’s crying. I’ll just shove everything in the back of the cupboard. It was very difficult to maintain. Now I have got into a routine with it.”
Is this just another way of making women feel bad about their homes not living up to scratch? Most of Lucie Russell’s customers, at Little Home Designs, are women: “Usually the yummy mummy type,” she says. In recent months she has seen a huge rise in demand for glass detergent jars. “Jars for washing up pods and liquid are something new we have brought in this year, and it’s been so popular,” she adds.
Clearly there is demand – Russell’s business started as a lockdown side hustle, but since then she has employed five people to help out. Her own pantry and home is, of course, well decanted. “I find it very calming,” she says.
Others say this helps with 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 lets me remember what I have. And it is a money saver, so you don’t over shop at the supermarket.”
When Hannah, 27, was diagnosed with ADHD aged 26, she read up on ways to make her day-to-day life easier. “Home organisation was one of those things, and it has massively helped me,” she says. Now Hannah organises cotton wool pads into jars; segreates her makeup into trays and keeps her kitchen cupboards organised with jars of veg stock cubes and clear containers for sugar. “Clear jars really help me because if you have ADHD you can lose stuff a lot and that is really stressful,” she says.
Emma Stonham is well-versed in the world of decanting. As a professional organiser, she consults families on how best to organise their homes. She has had her business for several years but since lockdown she has seen a huge rise in people requesting decanting. “That sort of organisation that we see on social media, with the sexy aesthetic Instagram reels, it’s escapism,” says Stonham. “We may dream and aspire to have lovely, decanted jars that look wonderful but for the majority of people, it’s just unrealistic.”
Stonham tries to steer her clients, who are usually busy mothers, away from the jar trend. “It’s just so expensive to have a decanted home. People end up spending hundreds of pounds on boxes just to have them matching,” says Stonham. “I work with normal families rather than people on the luxury end of things. There’s a lot on social media which makes you feel like you should be that sort of luxury person but being organised can look like a lot of things,” says Stonham. “It’s about finding what works for you.”
As people like Russell have made a business from this trend, does she worry that it is a passing fad? “I hope not. In the future, we should be aiming for a more sustainable sort of lifestyle in which we aren’t buying food with packaging and stuff like that. I hope we maintain this.”
“Everyone wants to have this perfect house on Instagram and wants to make everything look absolutely perfect. I think that’s probably here to stay.”
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