TikTok’s ‘Closing Shift at Home’ Makes Me Tired Just Thinking About It

If you’ve ever worked in retail or hospitality, you’ll be familiar with the concept of a “closing shift" — the last shift of the night where you’re tasked with cleaning the floor, wiping down the surfaces and putting everything away. It's generally about making everything look nice and fresh for the morning, when the place reopens for another day.
Well, TikTok has decided to embrace the concept; except, in our homes. The hashtag #closingshiftathome has, at the time of writing, amassed 285,000 views, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s using the time at night before you go to bed to do a walk-through of your house, cleaning, tidying and putting things away. 
In theory, I understand the appeal – waking up to no dishes in the sink is (a bit depressingly) one of the pleasures of adult life. But, as with so much of TikTok, there are layers to this trend that speak to a wider issue.
Let’s put to one side the obvious — this new obsession with pristine homes that has suddenly exploded online. Everything in our lives is photographed, filmed and turned into content, and there’s an accompanying pressure to keep everything looking nice. Houses don’t look lived-in anymore – instead all we see are gleaming interiors. It’s what my house looks like — for about five minutes after we clean, before my two cats tear through everything and my partner and I make things in the kitchen, plop on the couch and, you know, generally exist.
But, outside of this cleanliness obsession, what this trend also speaks to is TikTok’s preoccupation with the optimisation of every inch of our waking lives.
The “closing shift at home” follows in the same vein as the 5-to-9 trend that focused on how people spend their hours after work. With the “5-to-9” hashtag came the idea that we shouldn’t be just coming home after a day of work and collapsing on the couch — and that doing so was somehow “wasting” our afternoons and evenings. 
Similarly, the influx of perfect morning routines playing out across our screens implied that it wasn’t enough to just get up and get ready for work. We needed to journal first, because that’s good for our mental health, and meditate, to calm our systems, and work out, to get the endorphins. (You know what else is good for mental health? An extra bit of sleep.)
Now, before going to bed (and before performing the elaborate skincare routine we’re also told to include), we are led to believe that we should use the time to sweep our house and plump and style our pillows, so we don’t have to wake up to “mess.”

When do we get to sit around and do nothing?

The obsession with time optimisation and trying to achieve the maximum amount of efficiency out of our days has been around for a long time. But it’s been compounded by apps like TikTok and Instagram, where we can openly compare our own lives to the ones we see on screen. And when we do so, we can feel inadequate, as if we’re somehow not living our lives efficiently enough. 
We’re being measured by how much we’re getting done in our days, and it becomes a sort of marker of our worth as a human. There’s a glorification of being busy, and a general side-eye given to simply doing nothing. “What do you mean before you go to bed all you do is brush your teeth and roll yourself under the covers? What do you mean before that, all you did was sit on the couch and watch television?” If we aren’t using every inch of the days we’re given in this life, we’re perceived as squandering them. Meanwhile, we are constantly feeling as if we never have enough time (in 2021, 38% of women in Australia reported feeling “time stressed”).
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with cleaning up your house before you go to bed. Maybe it’s the only time you get to do it. Maybe things were really messy. But there’s a difference between doing the dishes before bed and vacuuming the entire house and removing every bit of clutter from individual surfaces every single night.  
To be honest, the problem isn’t really that we’re cleaning our houses at night rather than relaxing; it’s that we’re doing it to save time the next day, so we can squeeze that extra half an hour out of our next morning, and pat ourselves on the back for being so efficient. Never mind that maybe you don’t even need to do those dishes first thing in the morning either. Maybe they can wait until after work? Only, I forgot, we’re supposed to be going to the gym, meal prepping, and washing our clothes then, right? Well, damn. When do we get to sit around and do nothing then?

We’re jam-packing our days trying to meet the impossible standards set by society for how our lives should look, desperately looking for ways to use our time more efficiently and, in doing so, removing any moments we might have to just simply be.

According to author Jenny Odell, maybe never. “In a situation where every waking moment has become the time in which we make our living, and when we submit even our leisure for numerical evaluation… time becomes an economic resource that we can no longer justify on “nothing”,” she wrote in her book, How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.
It’s a scarily poignant thought. After all, doing “nothing” is boring right? No one wants to see that, and therefore the preoccupation with time also becomes a preoccupation with the creation, and the consumption of content.
When I look through the videos, I also notice that they are, of course, predominantly dominated by women. Sure, there’s the odd couple video, and one video of a man performing the “closing shift at home” (though of course there was the predictable “wow a man that cleans” comment on the video, because that’s about where the bar is at the moment). 
But by and large, this is a trend dominated by women. Is it because women are generally pushed into the role of home-maker? Is it because women feel the pressure to keep their house presentable more than men? Yes, it is probably those things, but it’s also because so often women feel the need to be busy. To feel the need to fill their time with productivity. This is why we’re all burning out (45% of Australian women report experiencing burnout). We’re jam-packing our days trying to meet the impossible standards set by society for how our lives should look, desperately looking for ways to use our time more efficiently and, in doing so, removing any moments we might have to just simply be.
Ironically, as these videos of people doing their dishes before they go to bed play across my screen, I've been actively working to go to bed without doing the dishes. There was a time when I was unable to go to bed knowing that there were dishes in the sink. There was even a time when I did the dishes before I sat down and ate, just to make sure they were already done. 
Now, when I go to bed and there’s a bowl in the sink, I feel proud. I want to be able to embrace a little mess, a little chaos in my life. But more importantly, after working all day, I want my evenings to be relaxing. I don’t want to be trying to be more productive after a day spent already achieving things. 
I deserve a break, and so do you.  
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