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April 16, 2021

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Clean with me: No matter how you do it, tidy surroundings lift your mood

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Spending more time at home means more time cleaning it. People across the nation are turning to the internet for encouragement and tips on everything from scrubbing oven racks to polishing pots. Some enterprising homemakers have capitalized on the current buff-and-shine buzz to create YouTube channels devoted solely to footage of themselves cleaning.

The pandemic has fueled the craze for these “Clean With Me” videos, not only because of the practical need to keep things sanitized, but also because of the happiness-boosting benefits of cleaning and organizing.

“A clean house makes a clean mind,” said Deanna Lugo, executive assistant at National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southwest Washington. “So many people are finding that’s true because we all spend so much time in our houses. It’s a psychological thing, the relationship between chaos externally and chaos internally. A lot of people will come to support groups and they’re like, ‘I cleaned my house this week and I feel so much better.'”

Theresa Seufer, owner of Seufer Cleaning in Vancouver, said she’s noticed a definite uptick in demand for cleaning services over the past year, especially requests to deep-clean kitchens and bathrooms.

“I would say about 75 to 80 percent of people are home more, so they’ve noticed that, ‘Oh my gosh, my house is really dirty,’ ” Seufer said. “People didn’t seem to notice as much before because they were at work or out doing things. Now they’re staying home and working from home, so they’re noticing the things that add up. They’re asking for more help.”

Seufer wasn’t aware of the surge in YouTube cleaning videos, but she said it makes sense. She noted that she’s getting a lot more questions about how to clean things like shower doors. Seufer doesn’t mind sharing tips of the trade with clients who want to clean things themselves. The pandemic has been financially tough on everyone, she said, especially working moms who are also tackling the bulk of household chores.

Motivation

As you’ll see after watching The Secret Slob, Jamie’s Journey or This Crazy Life, the mavens of domestic order at the forefront of the “Clean With Me” craze are women in their 20s and 30s, cleaning sleekly appointed spaces in large suburban homes. They are wives and mothers and, in some cases, single moms. If their clutter and chaos seem familiar, it may be because you’ve seen similar messes in your own family home.

Never fear: The “Clean With Me” stars employ systematic approaches to everything from pantry reorganization to bed-making to laundry. You can take quick tutorials on the FlyLady method, which breaks cleaning down into manageable bits, or learn about cleaning by zones, or download your own cleaning checklists.

Videos of a woman on her hands and knees cheerfully scrubbing baseboards may look like the antithesis of female empowerment, but you’ll find no whiff of resentment on these YouTube channels. Instead, they offer motivation and kinship.

These YouTube stars are cleaning their own homes for their own families in the middle of a pandemic, just like millions of viewers. What’s more, these Queens of Clean are earning a pretty penny doing it. For some of the most popular “Clean With Me” stars like Jessica Tull, making cleaning videos for YouTube is a full-time, lucrative job.

Even if no advertisers are paying you to polish your range hood or wipe out your cutlery drawers, it can be a positive and productive way to cope with the pandemic’s many stresses.

Removing your oven door and scraping goo off the glass panel with a razor blade might not be your idea of self-care, but if it makes you feel better, go for it. Light a candle, listen to a podcast and turn a chore into “me time,” suggested Lugo, who is careful to draw a distinction between obsessive compulsive disorder and the many healthy benefits of cleaning and tidying.

“First of all, it’s exercise, technically. When I’m pushing a vacuum and hauling it up and down steps, I don’t need to go to the gym,” Lugo said, laughing. “Secondly, it’s a type of emotional release, because when you’re cleaning something, whether you realize it or not, you’re thinking through things as you clean. It’s sort of this dual thing where you can get your frustrations out, and that’s therapeutic in itself.”

Lugo said there’s a further mental health benefit in simply completing a job. There’s an emotional release that comes from finishing something we set out to do, she said, whether completing a painting, organizing a sock drawer or scrubbing a bathtub until it sparkles.

Even if you aren’t going to scrub your sink overflow holes with a toothbrush, it might be enough to watch someone else do that, purely for the calming effect of seeing a space transformed from grimy to shiny in 30 time-lapsed minutes.

Mental health

Many “Clean With Me” videos are downright inspirational. Amanda of This Crazy Life posts “relaxing night-time cleaning,” videos, presenting cleaning the kitchen as a soothing evening routine, a time to meditate on things she’s grateful for or how much she loves her family.

Even if deep cleaning your own home seems more oppressive than liberating, such tasks still must be done. According to Seufer, her clients’ need for clean houses overrides whatever fears they may have about having a masked stranger sharing their personal spaces for several hours. In fact, Seufer estimated that she has six or seven clients who use her cleaning services specifically because it improves their mental health.

Seufer is happy to oblige. She wears a mask, gloves and booties, changes clothes and takes her temperature between clients, gets regularly tested for COVID-19 and documents everything in case there’s a problem. Aside from that, she relies on old-fashioned elbow grease rather than internet inspiration to get the job done, so that her clients can spend time doing whatever else makes them happy.

“Without a doubt,” Seufer said, “it’s a mental health boost.”

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