Nicola Whitfield | Time to get in the zone! How to sort your life and ‘cleanfluence’ people

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Nicola Whitfield (Photo: Jacques Stander)
Nicola Whitfield (Photo: Jacques Stander)

My sister loves doing things around the house. She rearranges furniture all the time, she plots renovations even if they never happen, she builds things in nooks and crannies that would just be nooks and crannies to anyone else.

So when lockdown happened, she was in her element. No chair or table was allowed to rest in one place for more than a day. No child was allowed to sit on a couch for longer than five minutes before the cushions were being switched up. No husband could presume the coffee would be in the same cupboard from one morning to the next.

Switch-up central, that was her house. Forget the banana bread craze and the pineapple beer craze and the home hair-dyeing craze – operation home-organise was the only thing going on there.

Which is why, when she called the other day and said, “Come for tea – I have something to show you,” I knew it would be something house-related. And it was. On steroids.

My sister has become the most devout devotee of the “cleanfluencers”, the new brand of influencers who are cleaning up by well, cleaning up. They’ve taken advantage of us all staying at home and have turned it into an art form. Declutter your home and you’ll get a sense of control over your life is their mantra.

It isn’t new, of course – just ask Marie Kondo – but it’s gained fresh traction in this leave-home-at-your-peril era.

My sister particularly loves the Home Edit show on Netflix, where Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin turn everything into a “zone”, with tips and tricks on how to harmonise your house and your head by never having to hunt for anything again. I didn’t really get it until I saw it for myself. My tour of my sister’s home was truly a revelation. Everything – everything – had been zoned.

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Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, the Home Edit gurus (NETFLIX, INSTAGRAM/@thehomeedit)

There’s the arts and crafts zone (all the kids’ paints, brushes and papers in one container); the coaster zone (all neatly lined up in a container in a drawer); the hardware zone (hammers, nails, drills in one big container); even a loadshedding zone (hurricane lamps, candles, matches in one container). There’s also a charger zone so you don’t have a jumble of cords lying around all over the show.

It’s all about putting things together in one place (preferably in see-through containers) so you know exactly where everything is.

But it doesn’t stop there. Clothes are colour-coded, books are arranged in biggest to smallest – even the Barbie dolls have been arranged in rainbow colours. Sound nuts? It isn’t! It’s fabulous! I wanted it!

So off we went to a place that sells containers. Start small, my sister said, think one room at a time. Kitchen, I thought. Grocery cupboard. All that stuff crammed in on top of itself. Muesli on pasta on Bisto on cup-a-soup. Shocking. Two hours and one small fortune later, I went home to get in the zone.

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Picture of perfection: this pantry is zoned to within an inch of its life (NETFLIX, INSTAGRAM/@thehomeedit)

Oh, the junk I discovered. Four bicarb containers (three past their sell-by date), ancient tabasco sauce, weevilly rice, clumpy sugar . . . Into a black bag it all went. Yes, I did feel guilty about the waste but this would be the last time. The new me would be zoned and therefore know where everything was to avoid buying something “just in case it’s run out”.

Three hours flew by as I chucked and scrubbed and sorted and then put stuff into their brand-new containers. And by the end, it was a thing to behold: containers colour-coded and arranged according to height, spices lined up just so, sauces all together, eggs nestling nicely in a lovely little white basket.

Best of all? It’s just the start. Bedroom cupboards, you’re next, babies. All those black polonecks aren’t going to know what’s hit them.

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