A beginner’s guide to the ‘what and why’ of the new age trend of Cleanfluencing
4 minutes read
When was the last time you “tidied-up” your home and threw out things that did not “spark joy”? Fret not if cleaning is not your strong suit. Cleanfluencers are here to save the day!
Cleanfluencing is the latest vogue in the line of new-age social media trends where neatly dressed up women entertain millions by turning domestic chores into a glamorous pursuit. Everything from how to organize your cupboard to how to make your kettle shine, a wide range of DIY hacks to homemade soap recipes, they have tutorials for all kinds of household tasks. They are the epitome of domestic perfection. The messiahs of homely wellbeing. The ultimate domiciliary goddesses. But we often forget that Cleanfluencers may be scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets, but it’s all still behind a filter. Aside from the obvious fact that they can make your homes sparkle, these social media stars have the potential to deeply influence the domestic market across the globe. The possible damage will be maximum in third-world countries, including India, where domestic workers are caught up in the informal sector.
The popularity of these influencers is rising at a quick pace. Marie Kondo’s Netflix special ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’, became a worldwide phenomenon earlier in 2019. There’s a whole water-cooler-discourse based around one Instagram account in particular, @MrsHinchHome, who has 3.4 million followers and counting. Other leading Cleanfluencers include the “Queen of Clean” Lynsey Crombie, who has 192,000 followers and published her book, How to Clean Your House in 2019; Gemma Bray, “The Organised Mum”, who has 188,000 followers and a book titled Clean Mama. Then there’s Becky Rapinchuk, with her 556,000 Instagram devotees, and Canadian-born Melissa Maker, who has over 1.5 million YouTube subscribers.
Before Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” method came hygge (the Danish celebration of cosiness), ‘death cleaning’ (a Swedish method of decluttering designed to relieve relatives of burdens in the case of death), and kaizen (the Japanese philosophy of ‘continuous improvement’). These micro trends led us here. It’s a fascinating trend. It’s also a slightly disconcerting one. After all, there are no male cleaning influencers to be found and Mrs Hinch has admitted that 90% of her followers are women. Virginia Nicholson, historian and author of Perfect Wives In Ideal Homes stated, “I think the trend for cleaning influencers is symptomatic of macro trends happening around the world right now. If we look at austerity, the Brexit crisis, climate change, the Trump phenomenon – there is a huge amount of uncertainty in society, which is similar to the post-war period of the fifties when housework and housewives were similarly glamorized.”
By romanticizing and making housework look fancy, are Cleanfluencers setting unrealistic standards for women and simultaneously jeopardizing the livelihood of domestic helps? It’s 2020 and the most influential people on the internet are women who clean, meaning Instagram has probably become the acceptable face of the unpaid labour of women.
Sarah Ayoub, a social commentator and academic at the University of Notre Dame says, “It becomes problematic when we reduce cleaning to be the measure of how well women perform their femininity, and sometimes, in an effort to be relatable to their followers, some of the Cleanfluencers use language that insinuates such tasks are solely a woman’s domain, or something that only women are capable of doing properly.”
Many also believe that this niche of influencers use common tactics to promote cleaning brands, building a community around a shared interest. The Cleanfluencers, however, refute the notion that the rise of clean gurus compounds old-fashioned female stereotypes about women’s roles.
Lynsey “Queen of Clean” says, “The reason I do this is showing people how you can fit in your work, and your family life, your cooking and your cleaning, in a positive fun way. I’m not expecting you to stand with a mop all day. This isn’t the 1950s, these days it’s a team effort. I’ve always worked full time and I’ve managed to run a really clean home. My husband does his bit.”
There are plenty of content consumers who believe Cleanfluencing isn’t a step-back for women. Some even refer to it as therapeutic and practical. She also said, “Cleaning is actually a form of therapy, and my pages help people daily who are struggling with their mental health, which is amazing.” In fact, according to a recent study by University of California cleaning has been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health. Melissa Maker, the founder of cleanmyspace.com and a fellow Cleanfluencer adds, “I rarely get accusations that my work is reinforcing gender stereotypes because all of my content is gender-neutral and more than 20% of my audience is male. It’s not effeminate to learn how to clean, it’s just a life skill – and an important one at that.” Will Higham, a behavioural futurist says, “Firstly, young people today are the most educated they’ve ever been but lack many basic ‘adulting’ skills, which they’re very aware of. So they go to the place they learn everything today: their smartphone, specifically YouTube, podcasts and Instagram. There is a shift away from celebrity influencers to advice influencers who can genuinely teach us something. They feel more authentic. Cleaning is a basic life skill and people – men too, I believe – are eager to learn it.”
In a nutshell, the impact of Cleanfluencing is debatable. What we do need to understand is how they can potentially affect domestic workers in India. As yet, their impact has been insubstantial primarily because their current audience predominantly comprises millennials and not traditional families. Consequently, the domestic work industry hasn’t swayed much so far. The future of this industry, however, may (or may not) witness certain unfavourable changes owing to this phenomenon that is, if this phenomenon lasts long enough. Only time will tell.
Author’s Note: This article does not account for the impact of the lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic on Cleanfluencing
- Instagram/ twitter:
- The Guardian: Meet the cleanfluencers the online gurus
- Economic and Political Weekly: Liberalisation and the Woman Worker, 2020
- NDWM, Domestic Workers
- UN: Rights for Domestic Workers
- Preyansi Mani, School of Dignity