Opening her cleaning supply closet, Brogan Ingram is on autopilot, choosing the products she’ll need for the day. She selects her favourite Scrub Daddy sponge, gloves, brushes and a dozen of her go-to P&G products, placing them carefully into a caddy — which she’ll leave for the homeowner when she’s done. She grabs her PPE gear, including a full white suit, shoe covers, full face respirator and double gloves, and says goodbye to her husband, two dogs and three boys before heading out the door. Brogan is going to her fourth free clean of the week in Halifax.
When Brogan, 30, posted her first video on TikTok during the height of the pandemic, she had no idea it would go viral — or that it would completely change the trajectory of her life. The short video featured the laminated schedule she keeps on her fridge door to help her stay on top of her cleaning. In a matter of days, she received dozens of requests for a downloadable version. And that was just the beginning.
@nottheworstcleaner I’d be lost without my lists ☠️ #cleaningtiktok #fyp #foryoupage #oddlysatisfying #organization #cleaninghacks #organizationhacks #deepclean ♬ Know You Better (feat. Tessa Odden) – Sam Feldt & LVNDSCAPE
The Relationship Between a Clean Home and Mental Health
“I always knew there was a need for this knowledge out there,” she says. “But I didn’t know how great of a need there was.”
Fast forward to today, and Brogan’s videos on how cleaning can impact mental health continues to strike a chord.
Twenty-six videos and three months after posting her first video, Brogan’s TikTok account, Not The Worst Cleaner, gained 155,000 followers. Today, Brogan’s TikTok videos have garnered over 86 million likes.
Paired with her education in psychology, Brogan shares more than cleaning tips and tricks with her 5.6 million TikTok followers. The first time she shared a video on the correlation between one’s mental health and environment, the overwhelming number of responses left Brogan in tears.
“I would get hundreds of emails a week from people begging me for my help, claiming they were living in unlivable situations,” she says. “The photos they would send absolutely broke my heart.”
As her platform quickly grew, Brogan began utilizing her following for good. She started to raise money to hire local cleaners for individuals who need help the most.
@nottheworstcleaner Inspired by @babiesofsteele to spread some love & help to others🌱What do you guys think?!💕 #bekind #mentalhealthmatters #cleantok #payitforward #fyp ♬ original sound – Not the Worst Cleaner
Free Cleanings for Her Community
“Unfortunately, I quickly realized just how hard it was to even find a company that would agree to go in and do these cleanings,” says Brogan. “They are typically toxic, hoarding situations, so your average cleaner could not handle these jobs.”
Since it was too severe for other professional cleaners in her area, she offered free weekend cleaning herself. During her first volunteer cleaning, Brogan and a friend helped a single mother with three children under seven. Together the two spent nine hours cleaning the house to make it a safe and healthy home.
Thirty large garbage bags were removed during the cleaning process.
Once the two were finished, Brogan was given permission by the homeowner to share the amazing before-and-after cleaning transformation on TikTok. Her video quickly went viral. Over 4.4 million viewers were impressed by her act of kindness. However, since Brogan could only offer her volunteer services on weekends, she wanted to find additional ways to help those struggling to maintain clean and safe homes. Using personal and cleaning brand donations, she assembled cleaning baskets to help people get started.
@nottheworstcleaner I hope this inspires you this week to go of your way to be extra kind or to help someone, because you might be the only one that does ❤️ ##cleaningbasket##cleantok##cleaningtiktok ♬ Flowers – Miley Cyrus
Brogan Ingram is Not the Worst Cleaner
As Brogan’s account name suggests, she doesn’t consider herself the worst cleaner. She also doesn’t consider herself the best. Cleaning wasn’t something Brogan particularly enjoyed or even something that came quickly for her.
“As someone with ADHD, [cleaning] is something I used to find extremely difficult,” she says. “In the last decade, I have learned to fall in love with it and have shifted my mindset from resentment towards cleaning to seeing it as a form of self-care.”
Brogan hopes her content can help her 5.3 million followers to do the same by offering free resources and daily motivation via her growing social media channels.
“The best thing you can do is shift your mindset from having to do it all and clean everything at once,” she suggests. “Thinking that you have to do hours and hours of cleaning in one shot can be extremely overwhelming … Go into it with no expectations, don’t overthink it, start in one corner and start small.”
Helping the Local Community
For most homeowners requesting Brogan’s help, cleaning is more than overwhelming — it is immobilizing. It’s not uncommon for Brogan to receive phone calls from social workers asking for her help.
“I do triage cases. Worst-case scenarios come first,” says Brogan about managing thousands of free cleaning requests. “I deal with many single mothers with children living in these situations, elderly folk at fall risks, people facing eviction and severe physical illnesses.”
In support of Brogan offering more free cleans in the last seven months, Brogan’s husband went on a leave of absence to help with their kids. This helped Brogan work through the waiting list of more than 200 cleaning requests in Nova Scotia alone.
“The number of houses I can do in a week varies depending on the severity of cases,” she says. “If it is an extreme case, it will typically take me three to four days to complete. Other times I’m able to finish in one to two days.”
With thousands of requests from across the globe, Brogan doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. She even plans to travel for cases in the upcoming months.
Brogan Ingram on the Power of a Healthy, Clean Home
Since her first free clean almost a year ago, Brogan has developed her mental and physical endurance. Given many cases of toxic, hoarding environments, she struggled with her mental health during the first few weeks. But now, she finds them therapeutic.
“Being able completely to transform these spaces is enough satisfaction on its own, but seeing the look on these folks’ faces when they come home to a clean space is a type of happiness I don’t think many people get to experience,” says Brogan.
And despite what you may think, she still enjoys coming home from cleaning these extreme cases to take care of her own cleaning to-do list. Though Brogan often compares cleaning and life with her boys’ ages two, four and seven, to running a marathon, she is determined to continue showing her kids the power of helping others.
“My oldest is very interested and has so many questions. Whenever I leave for a free cleaning, he always asks me if he can come with me,” she says. “Knowing I have their eyes on me, I do everything I can to teach them how to be kind, empathetic, caring human beings.”
How to Lend Your Support
“It’s a special kind of experience. It only takes a few days of my time to help change someone’s life,” says Brogan. “The more I can spread knowledge and raise awareness towards the correlation between mental health and cleaning, the better.”
You can also call Wellness Together Canada toll-free at 1-866-585-0445.
Photos courtesy of Brogan Ingram and Pexels.