After I’m not tackling on a regular basis problems within the ‘Life Hacks’ column every week within the Irish Examiner, one among the perks of my job is chatting to some very well-known people, however it was an upcoming Zoom call with a self-professed ‘very middle-class English old bag’ that had my family and friends in a tizzy.
“You’re going to seek advice from Ann Russell?” my boyfriend Greg asked excitedly. “She’s actually a star!”
“I do know her,” my 12-year-old niece Chloe said. “She’s the good lady on TikTok.”
Ann is probably not a household name for those and not using a TikTok account but to her 1.8m followers she is a well-known face and voice guiding them through any and all cleansing 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 dog Holly, who occasionally rushes off to bark at passers-by (“No, it’s not the Amazon man,” she scolds at one point).
It’s, truthfully, a relief to see the much-loved pet relaxing on the sofa, because it is one more indication that while Ann is the queen of cleansing suggestions, she is removed from a neat freak. That has often come across in her relaxed, realistic videos where she offers advice to those that watch her videos on the app, soon earning her the ‘TikTok Auntie’ nickname.
She says her own aim in life is to spend as little time as possible cleansing so she will be able to spend more time doing the things she enjoys.
“I’m naturally barely slapdash and I’ve got higher things to do,” she confesses. “I might slightly read a superb book or play with the dog or do the garden than I might home tasks.
I do know that a whole lot of people feel really bad that they don’t know the best way to do these things.
“No person taught them, they don’t know after which they see these perfect images [on social media] and I just think that’s not right. People should understand that.”
She is keen to supply a judgment-free platform, saying people often feel ashamed in regards to the cleanliness of their homes.
“I try very hard to not be judgmental. I do know that cleansing may give some people an enormous amount of delight and I also know that historically cleansing or the thought of ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ has been used as a follow beat people without power. I’m not terribly keen on happening that route.
“I also know that an awful lot of individuals are confronted with these perfections of individuals organising their laundry tablets and have perfect mirrored furniture. It makes them feel inadequate. It makes them feel small. They usually shouldn’t since it’s not for everybody. It’s not for everyone. Nor should or not it’s. We’re all different. It’s what makes the world very interesting.”
Ann downloaded TikTok a couple of years ago to “stalk a teenage niece” but 1.8m followers later she is on the point of publishing her first book of cleansing suggestions, How To Clean Every thing: A practical, right down to earth guide for anyone who doesn’t know where to begin. And it is strictly that bewildered person out on their very own for the primary time that Ann desires to help, explaining how she found herself in that position at a young age but in a terrible situation.
“Numerous things I did know because I watched my grandmother do them. There have been other things I didn’t know,” she recalls.
“I remember being 17 in my first flat attempting to do the washing up. On the time you had somewhat water heater that was mounted on the wall and heated by gas and ten pence coins. If my husband wanted a shower 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 used to be using cold water. I didn’t understand that I needed to make use of 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.
“No person 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 modified. By no means. Perhaps anyone needs to scrub up: hot water and rubber gloves.”
Ann says despite her high following on the platform, in her mind she is talking one-on-one through the camera to the one that needs her most.
“I figure there’s at all times two of us. There’s me and the one that’s in my phone and that may do me. People ask me questions, I answer them.”
With a background as a cleaner — “just something I fell into”, she adds — Ann has almost 20 years of experience to attract on for many pressing questions, which she says are available waves.
“Someone will ask me the best way to do something, and I’ll answer it, after which inside the following three or 4 weeks, probably 15 people will ask me that very same query. Then it’s going to go away.”
Questions that pop up time and time again, in response to Ann, include: “How do I clean deodorant from under my shirt or t-shirt arms? How do I wash a rug? It is going to vary. I’ve tried to reply them and I put them in playlists.
“It struck me that there may be a lot harm being done by individuals who feel enormous amounts of shame by the incontrovertible fact that they don’t know the best way to do things. They’re overwhelmed by things that they don’t understand. They don’t have the cash.”
The present cost of living crisis we’re experiencing is something that hits home for Ann too, and she or he hopes to assist people to learn to scrub on a budget by going back to basics and ignoring cleansing trends.
“After I wrote the book, this cost of living crisis that we are actually in hadn’t began yet. But for a whole lot of my adult life, I’ve been on the bones of my ass. I haven’t had any money and I felt it very keenly.
You’re aware that you may’t afford things and it makes you’re feeling very small. And if you’re getting things put in front of you that you may’t afford — this concept that you just need this, you wish these items, you wish that to have a functional home — I just think that’s wicked.
Our grandmothers kept a clean house without 101 different sprays.
“It was a pair of old underpants and a jar of washing soda and the home is clean and so they were fantastic. They didn’t feel particularly shameful about it. I just thought perhaps I’ll put that down on paper and perhaps if it helps anyone and stops them feeling like crap, then that shall be good.”
Naturally, our talk of the struggles individuals are facing soon turns to politics. Ann is unashamedly vocal online about her political leaning and opinion, which she says are guided by the hardest experiences of her life.
“I even have at all times been quite political, and quite left-wing circumstantially — my grandmother was frightfully Tory — because the best way my life turned, that was the political position that I used to be going to naturally align to, towards that theory of social justice.
“I do try to be certain that folks understand my biases are there, I’m not going to pretend anything.”
With a family of teachers and her experience as a mother of 4, nevertheless, she says she naturally began answering increasingly more non-cleaning questions on TikTok.
“Passing on information and explaining things is something that I even have at all times done. Individuals are asking me questions and since I’m barely older than them, I attempt to answer them to the most effective of my abilities. Some people don’t like my answers. That’s fantastic, they don’t must.
“I’m very lucky I don’t get many truly nasty trolls. I’ll just answer as best I can and provides the answers that I might give my very own children who’ve grown as much as be a blissful 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 grow to be a greater platform for debates and discussions, and so they centre on how having real names and faces to the fore on TikTok seems to maintain toxic accounts at bay.
“There are enough people on there who say, ‘that is what I seem like, that is my real name and that 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 one thing currently stressing Ann isn’t the opinion of web strangers, however the anxiety of How To Clean Every thing launching next month.
“I confess I’m now having cheese dreams. I even have visions of it being remaindered in WHSmith’s, piles of my book. I’m trying so hard to not give it some thought.
“I’m vaguely hoping that moms who’re sending their children away to uni might think it’s a useful thing to tuck of their case to possibly preserve a few of the enormous deposit they paid on the university. And I do get a whole lot of questions from kids at uni who have gotten this flat and just don’t know the best way to clean it.”
Ann says writing How To Clean Every thing felt “like extracting my very own appendix with a corkscrew” but as soon as she stopped writing she remembered more suggestions and advice she wished she’d included.
“I wrote it and I sent it off to them. They said ‘yep, that may do’ and each single night since then I’ve remembered something I forgot to place in, including while I used to be recording the audiobook. I had a really hard time, I used to be reading my very own words from a screen in front of me and I had such a tough time not going back and adding extra bits in that I just remembered while I used to be reading.”
Well, if anyone has enough advice to fill a sequel it’s Ann (if she will be able to 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 price it,” she says with a smile.
- How To Clean Every thing by Ann Russell is accessible from September 1