After I’m not tackling on a regular basis issues in the ‘Life Hacks’ column each week in the Irish Examiner, certainly one of the perks of my job is chatting to some very well-known individuals, however it was an upcoming Zoom name with a self-professed ‘very middle-class English old bag’ that had my family and friends in a tizzy.
“You’re going to talk to Ann Russell?” my boyfriend Greg requested excitedly. “She’s actually a celebrity!”
“I know her,” my 12-year-old niece Chloe mentioned. “She’s the nice lady on TikTok.”
Ann will not be a family identify for these with no TikTok account however to her 1.8m followers she is a well-recognized face and voice guiding them by way of any and all cleaning conundrums.
Once we meet, Ann is strictly as she presents herself on TikTok: no-nonsense, right down to earth and judgment-free. Behind her lounges her canine Holly, who often rushes off to bark at passers-by (“No, it’s not the Amazon man,” she scolds at one level).
It’s, actually, a reduction to see the much-loved pet enjoyable on the couch, as it’s yet one more indication that whereas Ann is the queen of cleaning tips, she is much from a neat freak. That has typically come throughout in her relaxed, real looking movies the place she presents recommendation to these who watch her movies on the app, quickly incomes her the ‘TikTok Auntie’ nickname.
She says her personal intention in life is to spend as little time as doable cleaning so she will spend extra time doing the issues she enjoys.
“I’m naturally slightly slapdash and I’ve got better things to do,” she confesses. “I might slightly learn a very good ebook or play with the canine or do the backyard than I might home tasks.
I do know that lots of people really feel actually dangerous that they don’t understand how to do that stuff.
“Nobody taught them, they don’t know and then they see these perfect images [on social Media] and I just think that’s not right. People should understand that.”
She is keen to provide a judgment-free platform, saying people often feel ashamed about the cleanliness of their homes.
“I try very hard not to be judgmental. I know that cleaning can give some people a huge amount of pleasure and I also know that historically cleaning or the idea of ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ has been used as a stick to beat people without power. I’m not terribly keen on going down that route.
“I also know that an awful lot of people are confronted with these perfections of people organising their laundry tablets and have perfect mirrored furniture. It makes them feel inadequate. It makes them feel small. And they shouldn’t because it’s not for everyone. It’s not for everybody. Nor should it be. We’re all different. It’s what makes the world very interesting.”
Ann downloaded TikTok just a few years in the past to “stalk a teenage niece” however 1.8m followers later she is on the brink of publishing her first ebook of cleaning tips, How To Clear All the things: A sensible, right down to earth information for anybody who doesn’t know the place to begin. And it’s precisely that bewildered individual out on their very own for the first time that Ann needs to Help, explaining how she discovered herself in that place at a younger age however in a horrible scenario.
“A lot of things I did know because I watched my grandmother do them. There were other things I didn’t know,” she remembers.
“I remember being 17 in my first flat trying to do the washing up. At the time you had a little water heater that was mounted on the wall and heated by gas and ten pence coins. If my husband wanted a bath he went downstairs and put 50p in, it was expensive.
“I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get the washing up clean because I was using cold water. I didn’t understand that I needed to use really hot water and washing up liquid to make my washing up clean. It never even entered my head that the temperature of the water would make a difference.
“Nobody told me and I don’t even remember at what point I learned that or worked that out but I do remember finding it really difficult. These glasses were sticky and greasy and I didn’t know what to do. That won’t have changed. Not at all. Maybe somebody needs to wash up: hot water and rubber gloves.”
Ann says regardless of her excessive following on the platform, in her thoughts she is speaking one-on-one by way of the digicam to the individual who wants her most.
“I figure there’s always two of us. There’s me and the person who’s in my phone and that will do me. People ask me questions, I answer them.”
With a background as a cleaner — “just something I fell into”, she provides — Ann has virtually 20 years of expertise to attract on for many urgent questions, which she says are available in waves.
“Somebody will ask me how to do something, and I will answer it, and then within the next three or four weeks, probably 15 people will ask me that same question. Then it will go away.”
Questions that pop up time and time once more, in line with Ann, embrace: “How do I clean deodorant from under my shirt or t-shirt arms? How do I wash a rug? It will vary. I’ve tried to answer them and I put them in playlists.
“It struck me that there is so much harm being done by people who feel enormous amounts of shame by the fact that they don’t know how to do things. They are overwhelmed by things that they don’t understand. They don’t have the Money.”
The present value of residing disaster we’re experiencing is one thing that hits dwelling for Ann too, and she or he hopes to Help individuals to study to scrub on a finances by going again to fundamentals and ignoring cleaning developments.
“After I wrote the ebook, this value of residing disaster that we at the moment are in hadn’t began but. However for lots of my grownup life, I’ve been on the bones of my ass. I haven’t had any Money and I felt it very keenly.
You’re conscious which you can’t afford issues and it makes you are feeling very small. And once you’re getting issues put in entrance of you which you can’t afford — this concept that you simply want this, you want these items, you want that to have a useful dwelling — I simply assume that’s depraved.
Our grandmothers stored a clear home with out 101 totally different sprays.
“It was a pair of old underpants and a jar of washing soda and the house is clean and they were fine. They didn’t feel particularly shameful about it. I just thought maybe I’ll put that down on paper and maybe if it helps somebody and stops them feeling like crap, then that will be good.”
Naturally, our talk of the struggles people are facing soon turns to politics. Ann is unashamedly vocal Online about her political leaning and opinion, which she says are guided by the toughest experiences of her life.
“I have always been quite political, and quite left-wing circumstantially — my grandmother was frightfully Tory — because the way my life turned, that was the political position that I was going to naturally align to, towards that theory of social justice.
“I do try and make sure that people understand my biases are there, I’m not going to pretend anything.”
With a household of academics and her expertise as a mom of 4, nonetheless, she says she naturally began answering increasingly more non-cleaning questions on TikTok.
“Passing on information and explaining things is something that I have always done. People are asking me questions and because I am slightly older than them, I try to answer them to the best of my abilities. Some people don’t like my answers. That’s fine, they don’t have to.
“I’m very lucky I don’t get many truly nasty trolls. I’ll just answer as best I can and give the answers that I would give my own children who have grown up to be a happy bunch of lefties. Turning the world to the left, one child at a time,” she laughs.
After mentioning trolls, Ann shares her theories on how social Media can become a better platform for debates and discussions, and they centre on how having real names and faces to the fore on TikTok seems to keep toxic accounts at bay.
“There are enough people on there who say, ‘this is what I look like, this is my real name and this is my life’. If people don’t hide behind something, they’re not emboldened to be divisive for the sake of it. They wouldn’t do it if their real name and face was there.”
The only thing currently stressing Ann is not the opinion of internet strangers, but the anxiety of How To Clean Everything launching next month.
“I confess I am now having cheese dreams. I have visions of it being remaindered in WHSmith’s, piles of my book. I’m trying so hard not to think about it.
“I am vaguely hoping that mothers who are sending their children away to uni might think it’s a useful thing to tuck in their case to possibly preserve some of the enormous deposit they paid on the university. And I do get a lot of questions from kids at uni who have got this flat and just don’t know how to clean it.”
Ann says writing How To Clean Everything felt “like extracting my own appendix with a corkscrew” but as soon as she stopped writing she remembered more tips and advice she wished she’d included.
“I wrote it and I sent it off to them. They said ‘yep, that will do’ and every single night since then I’ve remembered something I forgot to put in, including while I was recording the audiobook. I had a very hard time, I was reading my own words from a screen in front of me and I had such a hard time not going back and adding extra bits in that I just remembered while I was reading.”
Well, if anyone has enough advice to fill a sequel it’s Ann (if she can stomach a second dose of those cheese dreams). And ultimately, she just hopes to make her readers’ and viewers’ lives simpler and happier, one tip at a time.
“If it helps one person, it’s worth it,” she says with a smile.
- How To Clear All the things by Ann Russell is accessible from September 1