Are you in full Marie Kondo mode now that it’s January? I’m not lying when I say that EVERY year, I get rid of a multitude of things that have made it into our house over the last year. I do have to say, however, each year I get a little bit better and have to purge fewer items.
As I’ve gotten older, I have realized how much I HATE being a manager of THINGS. I went through a phase a few years ago where I literally spent every other month in our unfinished basement moving junk from one spot to another in attempts to organize it. Luckily I realized the real problem was I had too much to begin with. That’s when I began working towards the goal to declutter my home.
I’m now trying to teach my kids this as well (easier said than done). It really struck me this last year as I felt like I was constantly asking my older daughter to clean her room. The problem wasn’t that she couldn’t keep it clean. The problem was that at seven years old she was becoming a “stuff manager” and had too much of it in her room. There wasn’t even a place where everything could go in order to make it clean.
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I knew this was a teaching opportunity and that we could really do our kids a major favor by making sure that they knew STUFF was not the answer to happiness and that in contrast, life was actually much easier and more enjoyable when there were fewer things in their possession. While my younger daughter really has no attachment to many of the things in her room, my older kiddo has a very strong bond with the things she creates and what she is given.
Our whole family is definitely getting better with learning to enjoy experiences and being together rather than the things around us, but we are certainly a work in progress. It got me to thinking about how I could prioritize decluttering from a health perspective. This week I’m excited to share with you the effects of clutter on the home environment as well as a prioritized list of what to get rid of and why. Let’s get started decluttering your home.
HOW CLUTTER AFFECTS THE HOME ENVIRONMENT
Our home’s indoor air quality is affected by MANY different materials and products. We can control the quality of our air at home by limiting certain products and toxins within our house. It takes a little bit of knowing what to look for and research in order to keep toxins out of the house, but it’s totally doable.
Decluttering your home is a great time to start getting rid of toxic products and materials, as you’re already in the mindset to pair down and say goodbye to things you’re no longer using. If nothing else, when you declutter your home, it allows you to enjoy your home more and get rid of the bogged down feeling that comes when you’re surrounded by stuff and clutter.
Let’s look at some of the toxins that are in our home products and materials and why it can be a positive change to remove them from our homes. Any way we can remove a toxin from our daily life, is a way we can lighten the load on our immune systems and bodies.
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): VOCs are often in paint, but can also be in other solvents and products. They off gas into the home and oftentimes stay in the air for long periods of time. A common VOC is formaldehyde, which has been labeled a known carcinogen to humans. Formaldehyde is found in plywood, particleboard, glues, drapes, fabrics and certain types of foams.
VOCs are also found in perfume, cleaning products, hobby supplies and personal care products. These materials and products are constantly releasing volatile organic compounds into the air we have in our homes.
Many VOCs can damage the liver, kidney or central nervous system with long term exposure. (Study) So reducing these items that have VOCs in them is highly beneficial to your indoor air.
Choosing to declutter your home can help reduce the number of VOCs as you remove items from your home.
Dust The more you have in your home, the more you have to dust. Furniture, knick-knacks, shelves and other surfaces require constant cleaning and removal of dust. The fewer things you have out on shelves, the less dust collects and the easier it is to clean.
Dust often contains chemicals from cleaners, viruses, bacteria and even pesticides from outside. It’s important to keep dust to a controlled minimum in order to avoid these contaminants from floating around our air and throughout our home.
The fewer items you have cluttering your house, the less dust you’ll have overall. This is why when you declutter your home you ultimately eliminate places dust can settle.
Fragrances: Fragrances are in MANY home products — many you may not have even realized. Obviously, air fresheners, scented candles and room sprays contain fragrances, but even things like sheets, plush toys and other home items have fragrances added to them.
Synthetic fragrances are essentially a grouping of chemicals that are mixed together in order to replicate a scent. They also serve as a way to cover up a foul smell from other chemicals used in the product. Synthetic fragrances are most often linked to disruption in healthy hormone production as well as burdening the liver.
Getting rid of anything that contains synthetic fragrances is going to help lessen the load on your body and allow your body to begin functioning as it should, filtering out toxins and performing at a higher capacity. (After you declutter your home, this article is perfect for learning more about synthetic fragrances).
WHAT TO PART WITH WHEN YOU DECLUTTER YOUR HOME AND WHY
Old Cleaning Products: Cleaning products can contain formaldehyde (for increased shelf life), harsh antibacterials (to kill good and bad bacteria around our home), synthetic fragrances (to mask the smell of other chemicals) and other man made chemicals. Removing whatever you don’t use on a regular basis will help your home by reducing your exposure to these chemicals. Try to pair down your cleaning cabinet to just the essentials in order to keep chemicals to a minimum.
Leftover Paint and Solvents: Paints and solvents will off-gas for their entire life, even when stored in a container. If you don’t need the paint or product anymore, safely dispose of it. You’ll be clearing up space in your home or garage, and you’ll be getting rid of harmful VOCs that can be affecting your indoor air quality.
Unused Linens & Towels: Not only do many linens and towels contain perfluorochemicals (to protect from stains) and formaldehyde (to reduce wrinkling), but they are also homes for dust mites. If you can pair down what you use to JUST the essentials (for our house that means two sets of sheets for each bed and one set of towels for each bathroom), you’ll be eliminating not only those toxins, but a huge source for dust mites (which can cause problems in terms of respiratory health).
Candles: Scented candles are filled with chemicals from synthetic fragrances. These toxins are not only released into the air when you’re burning the candle, but they’re also being released into the air just sitting in your home. I encourage you to ditch the candles this year and try essential oils in a diffuser instead. Trust me when I say you’ll enjoy the scents more and you’ll be doing your indoor air a HUGE favor. It’s also the time to ditch any scented room freshener you use and opt for a healthier solution.
Decor You Don’t Love: If you don’t love it, don’t keep it! I’ve been so guilty of this in the past. I used to keep everything (remember how I mentioned my daughter’s attachment to gifts and creations — she gets that from me, sadly). I couldn’t part with gifts, things I’d made or something I’ve just had for a really long time. It made for a messy hodge podge of clutter that collected a whole lot of dust in my house. Decor often times is a dust magnet, and we know that dust contains chemicals, pesticides and dust mites which affect your health. If you can pair down what you have to JUST what you love, it will be easier to clean and you’ll be creating a healthier environment.
Unused Toys & Stuffed Animals: If you have a child like mine — I’ll be praying for you as you attempt to donate toys and stuffed animals. Stuffed animals are notorious for being the home for dustmites as we can’t wash them as frequently as we probably should. Keeping JUST what your child plays with or absolutely needs is going to reduce the dust, potential formaldehyde and dustmites in their play space. Getting rid of toys no longer played with will also help minimize the amount of plastic and heavy metals in your home as well.
Clothes You Don’t Love: Clothes that don’t get worn can be donated to a shelter or sold. If you’re not wearing it, it’s cluttering up your closet and collecting dust (which we already know can reduce the quality of your indoor air). Some clothes can also contain perfluorochemicals (stain blockers) and formaldehyde (anti-wrinkle), which are off-gassing in your closet as well. If you don’t wear it, simply get rid of it and you’ll be reducing the number of VOCs in your closet and home.
Old Personal & Beauty Products: Beauty products that contain fragrances and a variety of other chemicals should be removed whenever possible. If you have old products you no longer use, this is a great time to get rid of them. Often times the chemicals found in beauty products do not lose their potency as the age, but the toxicity increases over time. Decluttering may be a good time to swap out or even pair down your beauty and product routine. (Make a toxin free daily routine your normal for 2020)
Plastic Kitchen Storage: Storing food in plastic containers is not only a big no-no when it comes to your health, but all those plastic containers are often making your cabinets cluttered. I know for us it wasn’t just food containers, but plastic water bottles that were taking over. The realization that each of us needs a MAXIMUM of two water bottles was like taking a breath of fresh air. Not only was I getting rid of plastic in my house, but I was also able to create a clutter free environment in our kitchen. If you’re in the midst of decluttering, swapping out plastic for a few glass containers is THE way to go. (This post will walk you through cutting out plastic in the kitchen as you declutter your home).
Once you declutter your home, here are more ways to make it a healthier space: