Icky Stuff

Gross things invade our stuff when we’re not looking. From creepy crawlies, to dust and mold, our possessions are not as protected as we imagine. The seldom touched tend to suffer the most. Areas that easily succumb to flooding are a close second. Being organized and clean are not one and the same, but a basic level of cleanliness and attention to potential insects, rodents, and mildew is necessary in any home. This affects both your health and the items you believe you’re preserving.

Let’s start with poo. Mouse and rat feces may contain viruses (such Hantivirus), diseases, and harmful bacteria. This is serious. No more storing items in cardboard boxes in attics, basements, and garages where these infestations are more likely to occur and you are less likely to notice them. If you think you couldn’t possibly have this problem because you’re quite clean, I’m here to tell you that even clean households are subject to these infestations. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a real phenomenon.

Bugs, both dead and alive, are commonly found when I help clients organize. Clients know I’ve found them based on the shriek emanating from my direction. Some of these findings are everyday stuff not to worry about, but infestations of insects like termites can be terribly destructive. Bugs also have (very small) feces. Cockroach feces, for example, can be inhaled along with dust and cause allergic reactions or asthma, or even spread Salmonella. Gross.

Mold and mildew are types of fungus. Allergic reactions like cough, itchy eyes, and rashes are the most likely health affects. Mold and mildew grow in damp environments: where you haven’t noticed a leak because of items obscuring the area, items not properly dried out after a flood, or items exposed to the elements in a garage. While the mold or mildew grown on items can sometimes be removed, this is a time consuming and tedious process. Is this how you’d like to spend your time? If not, best to do all you can to avoid it’s growth entirely or risk having to dispose of items.

And, lastly, we have dust. As it turns out, the best way to avoid dusting, is to minimize dusting surfaces. The more objects on a surface, the more surface area to dust. Best not to allow hard to reach or commonly unused spaces collect dust either. Dust causes allergies, asthma, and dermatitis. Plus, dust mites!

Are you seeing the bigger picture here? There is a cost to everything. Each thing you own. To the point in may affect your health, certainly your time, and you may have to throw out the items you’ve been tucking away anyway. Many people delay going through items, or keep stuff because they have the space and it “doesn’t hurt.” There is a sense that if we already has something and can keep it, that there are no consequences. The icky stuff I’ve described are examples of the potential consequences, some of which can be avoided by how items are stored, but not entirely. They also exemplify the ways we have spaces we don’t use and boxes we don’t open for so long that these problems have the invisible time to manifest.

You’ll have to confront these issues at some point. Better do it now when there are fewer health risks and you are healthy enough to do it on your own. Writing about this stuff- and seeing it in otherwise clean homes- makes me squeamish, but I hope I scared you a bit too. This is a call to action, not a task that can linger on your list. Get up now and investigate your problem areas. For any more involved next steps, come up with a plan and execute swiftly.