Saturday 19 October 2019

Sophie Donaldson: 'There's a tidy profit to be had in chucking out advice on how to clean up'

Decluttering is seen as a good thing, but it won't be long before the charges of dust-shaming begin, says Sophie Donaldson

Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

When it comes to reality TV, the more prosaic the topic, the better. What we want to watch is a home cook fumbling through a dinner party, or a sobbing bride-to-be jimmy on a rota of hideous gowns, or overweight people trying to shed the kilos.

Our appetite for mundanity has reached new depths with the popularity of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo on Netflix. The series follows the diminutive Japanese woman, who found fame with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, as she visits the hodge-podge homes of regular people and instructs them in how to tackle their clutter.

Yes, we are addicted to watching people tidy and it's not just Marie Kondo who lures in vast audiences. A whole new breed of online influencers, or 'cleanfluencers', are garnering massive followings on social media.

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The most notable of these is Sophie Hinchcliffe, known to her followers as Mrs Hinch. The 28-year-old has amassed 1.7m followers on her Instagram page that documents her gleaming home-cleaning methods, known as 'Hinching'.

Marie Kondo may want to watch her back - Hinchcliffe is releasing her first book with Penguin in April titled Hinch Yourself Happy.

We are enthralled with watching other people clean and find the likes of Marie Kondo and Sophie Hinchcliffe earnest and relatable. Despite the fact that Marie Kondo insists you must dispose of any item in your home that does not 'spark joy', she has largely avoided our collective wrath - so far, anyway. But anything that enjoys widespread popularity is going to face stinging ridicule - just ask anyone who bought a courgetti spiraliser.

For the moment, decluttering is as innocent and entertaining as Bake Off was before it became plagued with accusations of favouritism and sabotage. Give it a few months, when the warm glow from seeing those nice retirees Ron and Wendy regain a sense of control after tossing out all the tat, and the backlash is sure to begin. Just as Ella Mills, of the healthy food empire Deliciously Ella, was accused of distorting nutrition with the notion of 'clean eating', Mrs Hinch will probably be accused of dust-shaming people - that is, making the filthy among us feel inferior for our lack of domestic aptitude.

The psychological impact of publicising one's level of cleanliness will be gravely discussed by medical professionals on breakfast shows. People will start taking defiant selfies of their overflowing laundry basket and mouldy bathroom grout. There will be a parody series, called Getting Down and Dirty.

After Marie Kondo has gone into hiding, columnists like me will get more mileage from assessing a mini-phenomenon that saw us worshipping a woman who has dubbed her cleaning product cupboard Narnia. We'll opine that it's surely no coincidence that this preoccupation with getting the place in order happened at the very moment a No-Deal Brexit became probable, and Mueller's Russia investigation was near completion. As the world teetered at the edge, we all got really into dusting.

Or perhaps this short-lived appreciation for folding will be just another display of the fickle tribalism in the social media age. Just as an interest in cooking is no longer enough - you must make food that is Instagrammable, too - soon it will no longer be enough to be normal-person tidy.

You must be a mean, clean freak who is as discerning with brands of bleach as a wine snob is with Bordeaux. You will define yourself by tidiness. Extreme cleanliness will mark you out as different. It will be your USP, until there are so many clean-fluencers the rest of us tire of being told how to tidy.

There's still time, though. I reckon Marie could get another series under her belt before the stirrings of revolt are felt. She capitalised on our interest in cleanliness - no doubt she's making a tidy profit, too.

Sunday Independent

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