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Image / Editorial

Mrs Hinch: Good clean fun or obsessive and anxiety-ridden?


by Louise Bruton
20th Sep 2018
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Sitting in Gatwick Airport, hungover and alone, I had an attack of the senses. As I was tucking into a jerk buttermilk chicken burger in Jamie Oliver’s Diner, TV screens at every turn flashed his toothy grin and silently showed him chopping up onions, throwing them in a sizzling hot pan before adding in… I don’t know… quail eggs, tarragon and a lock of his own hair. On the shelves, his many, many cookbooks were for sale. I wasn’t just eating a burger in an airport restaurant, I was unwillingly subscribing to the Jamie Oliver experience. He is no longer just a TV chef either, he’s a lifestyle purveyor.

“Although she is an absolute delight of a human, to lose your days shining up the faucets in your unused guest bedroom feels like an awful waste of time, energy and Cif.”

Selling a lifestyle seems to be what online influencers and celebrities have morphed into and selling a lifestyle is easier than you think, all you need in an Instagram account and ample time to invest. Mrs. Hinch is the latest Instagram star to cross over from our phones to our tellies. Since appearing on ITV’s This Morning, her follower count has lost the run of itself (we’re currently at 541, 000 followers… and counting) because people are mad to keep up with this woman that just loves to clean.  Sophie Hinchcliffe describes herself as “cleaning mad” and her followers tune in to see her wash hallway and bedroom doors with laundry detergent, clear up every stain with bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, refer to her cloths, sponges, brushes and Cif bottles as her babies and turn a five-minute dusting job into a full cardio workout. The bar at the top of her Instagram stories is dotted like a panicked morse code message, clogged up with sink cleaning hacks and demonstrations that prove you’ve been cleaning the base of a lamp wrong your entire life.

Like any bit of personality has been Vanished away

“Can we not be slobs? If just for a little while? In the privacy of our own homes?”

Although she is an absolute delight of a human, to lose your days shining up the faucets in your unused guest bedroom feels like an awful waste of time, energy and Cif. Her photos show pristine living rooms and bedrooms in grey and white colour schemes but they retain a Victorian horror. Nothing is out of place.  No cushion is unfluffed, no flower display that isn’t dead centre of a perfectly placed – and exquisitely dusted – coffee table, no candle wick at an undesirable length. Her photos rarely veer outside the confines of her own house and the rooms never change. There’s never a corner of an old magazine ruining the layout of the kitchen table or a handbag thrown carelessly on the couch. Everything is just so and it feels clinical, like any bit of personality has been Vanished away. The focus on her hyper-clean ways and her beyond perfect house is another unreasonable – if not completely anxiety-ridden – bar that’s been set by online social media stars. Can we not be slobs? If just for a little while? In the privacy of our own homes?

When most of us take a selfie, we pick the cleanest spot in our bedroom, moving tubes of thrush cream and used tissues out of shot, and retake and retake until everything appears to be perfect but in the case of Mrs. Hinch, there’s no allowance for anything to be less than perfect. We know that we’ve edited one corner of our bedroom for that one photo but every corner of her home is meticulously laid out and that feels rather miserable. Your home should be a sign of life and while I’m in no way suggesting that we live like first year college students that line their bedroom windows with empty beer and vodka bottles and double up their empty pizza boxes as ashtrays, the smudges and the stains can sometimes be the physical mark of a funny story or a good time.

Signs of a well-lived life

“No food in the living room, no shoes beyond the front door and no biscuits unless you eat them over the sink.”

A subtle red wine stain on a carpet (that would not fully lift no matter how much salt or white wine you threw on it) reminds you of a time you and your friends sat on the floor and ate pasta and, evidently, drank too much wine. That spotting on your kitchen wall is where another friend somehow spilled red wine (we have a problem) was annoying at first but it’s a reminder of both a great birthday party and your friend’s clumsiness. We’re not rolling around in our own filth with these little reminders but in the same way that you mark the height of growing kids with pencil beside the back door, they’re signs of a well-lived life.

Mrs. Hinch’s cleaning may seem like a quirky and harmless little hobby but it’s wrapped up in a lifestyle where our best selves must always be presented, one that comes with rules. No food in the living room, no shoes beyond the front door and no biscuits unless you eat them over the sink. This level of perfection is hard to obtain and if it’s presented as something cute, and not at all obsessive, then you can find yourself buying new lamps just so you can clean them properly. Striving for someone else’s lifestyle, be it Jamie Oliver or Mrs. Hinch, is just another way to feel like everything you do is inherently wrong. It makes us feel like we’re not eating healthily, we’re not dressing right, we’re not working out enough, we’re not cooking our food in the best oil and now we’re not cleaning our door knobs properly.

Sure, we can fix little things in our lives along the way but to invest wholly in someone else’s version of perfection, without knowing what their lives are really like outside of their Instagram updates, seems like a mess that some bicarbonate of soda mixed with white vinegar can never clean up. So to live a full life, sometimes you have to let the red wine stain.