Instagram cleaning: compulsive or comforting?

Madeleine Pownall writes.

Cleaning. A household chore. A bore. A drag. Surely nothing or nobody could make the act of painstakingly spraying and spritzing or bleaching and blitzing, entertaining? Cue Mrs Hinch (aka @mrshinchhome), Instagram’s newest celebrity, a woman who shares her life with her husband, her dog Henry, and 1.4million social media followers. Her mission? To show how cleaning and washing can be enjoyable.  

Before casting a psychological eye over Mrs Hinch and her messages, I should first come clean (pardon the pun) – I am a devout fan of hers. Whatever she sprays, I spray. I mimic her cushion plumping exactly. I have, admittedly, scoured the aisles of discount home stores for the exact brand of dishwasher soap that she promises will provide the best results. There is something inherently soothing, for me, in watching endlessly looping Instagram videos of surfaces being scrubbed and baths being bleached. For the most part, I have enjoyed the new Instagram cleaning fad with very little consideration of the psychological mechanisms at play.

However, ‘cleaning and washing compulsions’, as we well know, are associated with psychological disorders, typically Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Mrs Hinch scrubs her sink every night. She mops her floors every other night. She has assigned her cleaning products human names. There is something intrinsically obsessive and compulsive about this behaviour, even though it may not necessarily be harmful.

There is clearly a tricky divide here. For some, this new fad encourages self-care. It makes a household chore feel a little more doable, perhaps even a little more fun. However, I fear that for others, Mrs Hinch endlessly enthusing about her floral-scented dishwasher tablets may have the power to exacerbate compulsive symptoms.

I’m interested in what psychologists may have to say about this new craze. Is the Instagram cleaning fad, in which people upload endless videos of themselves scrubbing, polishing, and bleaching their kitchens, psychologically problematic? Is it indicative of an increasingly obsessive, self-surveillant society? Or rather, is it just good clean fun?

Madeleine Pownall

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