When Stacey Solomon needed a decluttering expert to stand in for Dilly Carter on her BBC series Sort Your Life Out, she called on close pal Mrs Hinch.
Mrs Hinch, real name Sophie Hinchcliffe, appears in series three of the hit show alongside Stacey but had a hairy encounter with a cow which started to eat Mrs Hinch’s hair during filming. “Her hair must have looked like hay,” laughs Stacey. “It had a right little munch.”
The show sees Stacey help families reclaim their homes from mountains of clutter and chaos.
But to transform their habitats in just a week, they must decide what they really need to keep from their homes. After all their belongings are laid out in a huge warehouse, the families donate, recycle or sell half.
For Stacey, who gently probes the reasons at heart of the chaos, it’s more than just a TV show. “We get so invested in families and we care so much,” she admits. “It’s a huge sense of pride when we get to the end of it and everyone has mucked in and gone above and beyond. I’m not just doing this because I want to be on telly, we genuinely love our families and want to make a difference in their lives.”
Asking for help is often the toughest part of changing your life – but agreeing to put your problems on telly is even harder and that’s not lost on Stacey. “For them to be brave enough and open enough to let us into their house and then let the whole British public see, that is such a gift to us,” she says. “We want to honour that as much as we can.”
Many of the homes on the show are drowning in items like out-of-date food, old toys or sentimental keepsakes. However, Stacey has found there is often a heart-rending reason that people have got to the point where they need professional help.
“The biggest reason from my experience is either their mental health, a significant event that’s happened in their lives, or they might be an unconventional personality type,” reveals Stacey. “Once someone gets in a situation where it feels unmanageable, and everything’s very anxiety inducing, there’s nowhere for them to go.”
This is where Stacey comes in with her team to reset the family and give them new ways of coping. Since the show started, it has tapped into a national need. So much so that the BBC has ordered series four, which has already started filming.
Stacey thinks the show’s popularity is due to the fact many viewers can relate.
“People are so quick to go, ‘How could you let it get like that?’ And actually there are so many explanations as to why it gets like that. It makes me quite cross. Don’t throw something through your glass house.”
Even Stacey is not immune to an untidy house herself – especially when she’s filming this show and not spending much time at home. “I come home and I’m like, ‘Whoa, I’ve got to sort my own life out!’” she laughs. “Life is busy. Most people are working two full-time jobs, if not more. And they’ve got children to contend with, as well as other commitments.”
On top of relating to the clutter, Stacey reckons we can all sympathise with the kind of mental health issues that make it hard to find the energy to sort through your sock drawer.
“Even if you’ve got no mental health issues – I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t, myself included – even if you have nothing else to worry about, with both people in the household working and you’ve got children, even that is enough to let it get on top of you,” says Stacey.
Stacey – who has six children between her and husband Joe Swash – admits she’d love to get the Sort Your Life Out team into her house to help her find elegant solutions to the chaos of family life. “I’ve been asking for four series now,” she jokes. “I absolutely would. I can keep on top of the kitchen, the front room, mine and Joe’s bedroom, and the toilets, everywhere else, I need to designate time to. If I’m not home, it’s not getting done!”
One thing Stacey would like to re-home is husband Joe’s beloved barber’s chair. “He does not like to let go at all,” reveals Stacey. “I hoard more but make sure that I’m keeping on top of it whereas Joe will hoard less but it will never go anywhere. It will survive the nuclear holocaust and our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren will end up getting his old
barber chair that he loves.”
Stacey’s even thought about doing a special celebrity episode of Sort Your Life Out for Comic Relief and jokes, “I’ll have to put myself forward!”
Filming on the show and meeting so many people has also taught Stacey an important life lesson that has improved her marriage.
“The best lesson for me is that everyone needs and requires to live differently. For a long time, I couldn't comprehend how anyone wouldn't feel better living the way that I like to be – meticulously organised,” explains Stacey. “I personally love to go to the extreme and that makes me happy but what I've learned over the years is that not everyone is happy in that extreme and it's not necessary for everybody.”
Now, Stacey understands some people including her husband Joe to a more relaxed, flexible approach.
She adds, “He needs to live a certain way for him to be able to function and I have to live a certain way for me to be able to function. And me trying to imply my own way onto him does him no favours and makes his life miserable and vice versa. The biggest lesson I've learned is that it's not for everyone. You've just got to find your own path. Do it your way how you like it and let them do it their way how they like it. And then there's less arguments.”
Sort Your Life Out With Stacey Solomon, Thursday 7 September, 8pm, BBC One
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