The Mrs Hinch effect: Psychotherapist explains how cleaning and tidying can help with anxiety

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Mrs Hinch, AKA Sophie Hinchliffe, has skyrocketed to fame over the past few years.

The ex hairdresser is a social media sensation, posting cleaning hacks and tidying tips on Instagram to her 3.9 million followers.

The sceptics may cast Sophie as a shrewd businesswoman, one who saw a gap in the market and filled it with 'Minkeh' cloths and neatly folded items. However, the reality is much different.

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Sophie suffered from anxiety and cleaning was her coping mechanism.

She has been open about how housework helps to quash her panic attacks. "I was never cleaning because I was panicking about my house not looking perfect, I just found that by cleaning I could calm myself down if I felt a panic attack coming on," she said.

This, in part, is the reason she has a legion of loyal followers.

They feel an affinity with her openness and honesty, as well as the benefit of her tidying hacks.

Back in 2019 she published the book ‘Hinch Yourself Happy’, a guide that claims to show readers: “how to create not only a cleaner house, but a calmer you.”

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But what is it about cleaning that can help people to relax or tackle their anxiety?

We asked psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member Katerina Georgiou for her thoughts on the topic.

“I would say that it can be quite a mindful activity; it is focusing your attention on the task at hand,” she said.

“Anxiety often comes out of contemplating the unknown, so the familiarity of cleaning creates grounding in the immediate here and now.

"We use our hands when cleaning. We often also get down on our hands and feet.

"There is something primal about that and it engages our senses rather than our ruminations.

“When all these things are combined altogether we can see why cleaning can help us emotionally and why it's popular.”

She also believes it can help people to compartmentalise their lives: “Seeing that things are possible and doable by somebody that isn't too dissimilar from us can make life feel achievable.

"If everybody is doing something it can create a sense of solidarity rather than feeling like everyone else is doing something else or better or cooler.

“Cleaning makes space, creates nice smells, clears the decks and puts things in order. Because cleaning always needs doing it can always feature on your to do list.

"There will always be a feeling of completion in that and a safety in the routine.”

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However, Katerina was keen to explain that it is important not to treat cleaning and tidying as a ‘catch-all’ method for treating anxiety, just because it may help Mrs Hinch and some of her fans.

"Where somebody’s mental health is at to start with would determine whether something would be helpful.

"For example there are some people that are quite shackled by the need to keep clean and tidy, or who experience anxiety if there is some kind of chaos in their life or if things are not clean it can create anxiety for them in that way.

"It [following Mrs Hinch's advice] is going to be aiding them to maintain that kind of mindset that they need to keep clean and tidy. It might reinforce some sense in them, it is not enabling them to relax and be free."

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