While inspirational cleaning videos existed prior to the pandemic, the number of cleaning content vloggers exploded while we were all sitting home during the shelter-at-home mandate. It was a perfect storm– content creators stuck at home cleaning for an also-stuck-at-home audience with not much else to do but follow their lead.
Cleaning videos joined other DIY-style content where creators tackle everyday projects and share it for the common good. And it’s not likely to disappear with the end of the pandemic. Socialmediatoday.com recently reported that home and garden was the fastest-growing TikTok category in 2020 and is expected to remain among the top ten this year.
What’s the attraction to watching other people clean their homes? For one, it’s motivating.
Before Allison Meyer begins her weekly housekeeping chores, she searches the internet for inspiration. She’s not looking for music or a podcast to listen to while she works; she’s searching for cleaning videos to stream on the TV.
“During the pandemic lockdown I was out of work for a few weeks. I spent way too much time scrolling through videos on my phone,” Allison said, “I got hooked watching people organize their kitchen cabinets and became obsessed with organizing everything in my home. Now I like to have them on the TV while I clean. It’s like I have a cleaning buddy.”
Millions of people feel the same way. The hashtag #cleaningtok has over 3 billion views on TikTok, and a Youtube search for “cleaning videos” shows an endless list of videos, some with hundreds of thousands of followers. The trend has proved profitable for vloggers, some of whom make six-figure incomes from their websites and product endorsements.
Jessica Tull is one of those vloggers whose cleaning video hobby turned into a lucrative full-time career. She agrees that her videos inspire people to take care of their own homes.
“It’s motivating. It makes them feel like getting up and cleaning or organizing. They feel that inspiration to just get up and get moving,” Tull recently told Inside Edition.
Fortunately, for Allison and many others, there are plenty of people like Jessica willing to share their passion for cleaning with the world. Some vloggers focus on organizing a room or space, some provide life hacks for keeping your things in order, and some let you follow along with them as they clean their entire house, recorded on time lapse or in real time.
Others find the videos soothing.
We know that the act of cleaning helps people relax. Psychologists say that living in a clean and clutter-free environment lowers cortisol levels, relieves anxiety and depression, and helps people make healthier lifestyle choices. A 2019 Spring Cleaning survey completed by the online recommerce site OfferUp showed that 70% of Americans feel a sense of accomplishment from cleaning their homes, and the majority say cleaning helps them “destress.”
But what about watching others clean? It seems many people get as much relaxation out of watching cleaning videos as they might from a day at a spa. Watching the hypnotic, repetitive motions involved in cleaning, together with seeing a quick transformation from colossal mess to neat and tidy room, is quite soothing. It’s similar to the relief people get from watching pimple popping videos. There is anxiety in seeing a big mess, or a gross pimple, and then relief when the mess, or pimple, is gone.
Teacher Ellie Thompson is one of those who unwinds to cleaning videos.
“My days are pure chaos. I’m teaching a combination of in-classroom and online, and my own kids have two different school schedules, too,” Ellie said, “Most days I survive hour by hour. When I can finally sit down at night, I find cleaning videos very relaxing. There’s just something calming about watching someone else turn chaos into order.”
Psychologists say watching the process can give us the same feelings of control that we get from actually cleaning. Given the tumultuous climate over the past couple of years, with the pandemic, the election, and social and cultural unrest, many Americans are plagued with feelings of helplessness. People who are attracted to these videos may be struggling with control in their lives. Watching vloggers clean gives viewers confidence that “if she can do it, so can I.” This is especially helpful for people dealing with anxiety or depression, for whom the simplest household chores can seem overwhelming.
With the attention the pandemic brought to sanitation, cleaning is on top of many peoples’ priority lists. Keeping our personal space sanitized gives us a sense of control amid the chaos outside. Psychologists say that cleaning or organizing for as little as ten minutes a day can help us feel more in control.
And then there are those who gain a sense of community or emotional support.
Haille Davis, a stay-at-home mom of three whose husband, Tod, is a registered nurse working with COVID-19 patients, said watching cleaning videos helped her feel less alone during the months she barely saw him.
“During the worst of the pandemic, Tod worked very long hours. There were many nights he just stayed at the hospital. I just felt so helpless. I couldn’t do anything to help him, I couldn’t take the kids out or visit my parents and,” she said, “All I could do was keep the house up and try to maintain my sanity. Watching the other women clean helped me feel less alone. It’s like peering into someone else’s house and realizing they live like you do.”
Vlogger Jessica confirms that people are comforted in seeing that other peoples’ homes and lives are not always picture-perfect. “I also capture raw moments of what my life is like with kids when I fall off my routines, which gives my channel a very realistic laid-back vibe,” she said.
People relate to realness. This is why brand experts recommend posting about your failures along with your achievements. We don’t want to see Chrissy Teigen as the perfect mother and wife all the time; we want to see flashes of a real woman, sans makeup and hair, struggling to balance home life and career. This has been especially helpful during the pandemic, when for months, the world outside existed only through our screens. We not only watched people clean their homes; we saw entertainers, newscasters, and sports stars talking to us from their homes, dressed in sweat shirts, family photos behind them and dogs or toddlers underfoot.
So to the “cleanfluencers” out there, keep posting those cleaning videos, and we will keep watching, and maybe even cleaning along with you. Hey, Chrissy, can we watch you clean your bathroom?