Why Can’t I Stop Watching Strangers Re-fill Their Fridges?

On May 7, Catherine Benson, known online as @_Catben_, uploaded a video to TikTok where she replaced a roll of paper towels, filled a napkin holder with napkins, funneled sesame seeds into a spice container, put a sticker reading ‘sesame seed’ on it, and placed it alongside the other identical containers in a perfectly filled drawer. Moving to the fridge, she placed chocolate milk cartons in a straight line, filled up a clear plastic box with fruit cups, and refilled coffee canisters with Dunkin ground beans. Each activity is slightly sped up, giving it a staccato rhythm, and allowing Benson to fit more of these actions into TikTok’s minute-long format. Benson’s video, a compilation of activities so routine you’d never think to describe them to a dinner guest, has 19.4 million likes.

I’m one of those likes, because I simply can’t look away. Restocking videos like Benson’s amass millions of views—the #restock hashtag has over 1 billion views—and are a mishmash of aspirational and ASMR content. There’s something soothing about the ritual, the percussive sounds, and the way everything has a place—even if you never considered it might need one. (The really good restocking videos make me feel as if I’ve stepped into a sensory deprivation pool.) Another restock-toker, Monica Brady, better known as @midwesternmama29, has 2.8 million followers and a total of 47.7 million likes on her videos. In a May 13th video, which has 68.6 million views, she rotates her stock of her mini pepperonis in a little, airtight box. It’s meditative and a little absurd, housework refracted through the looking glass of social media and rendered as sausage rotation.

These sped up, minute-long videos are uniquely styled for TikTok, but they build off of an old script. Home economics emerged as a field in the U.S. in the 19th century, to prepare women for the task of keeping a home, and since 1908 the Daily Mail has hosted an Ideal Home Exhibition, showcasing the newest innovations in decor and home efficiency. (This video from 1975 shows innovations such as decorative lamps made from paper cups and a bar cart that turns into a bed.) Organization porn has long established a foothold on social media, particularly among Pinterest moms (a demographic that is not known for being on TikTok, though some are).

Restocking, however, is less like a development of the pervasive Marie Kondo minimalist method and more the maximalist approach to organizing popularized by The Home Edit, an organizational company led by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin which has a Netflix series produced by Reese Witherspoon’s company. It’s visually appealing and rigorous: Khloé Kardashian’s color-coded hair extension closet was created by The Home Edit, as was Mandy Moore’s impeccable pantry. But one of The Home Edit’s biggest contributions to the world of organization (and the social media world) is their aggressive use of clear plastic containers. (The waste associated with moving something that already has a container into another, more aesthetically pleasing container, is often criticized.)

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