I’ve heard from many feng-shui fans that removing clutter is a surefire way to increase productivity, remove toxins and promote happiness. I used to rolled my eyes at these comments the same way I did when my mother used to tell me to clean my room. Truth be told, though, I’m now a believer. Within the past few months, we sold a home that we lived in for more than 11 years, as well as bought and moved into a new one. We owned a ton of stuff and plenty that accumulated a lot of chemically-ridden dust that you can’t just “green clean.” During the move-out process, filling up the driveway dumpster was cathartic. Each box I threw away felt like I was removing toxins from my life. And I was…both literally and figuratively. Once we moved into the home, we took a few steps to assure it was an extremely healthy environment. I’m now on a mission to create an even more healthy non-toxic home and here is what I’ve done so far.
1. Do Your Research – Premier Inspections
It’s impossible to know the true history of the house, even after an inspection. We elected to hire a premier company to not only thoroughly inspect the home, but to also test for various allergens and mold. Many standard inspections wouldn’t cover this information. However, knowing our family has allergies as well as a storied health history, it just made sense to know the information. Granted, we found out we needed to do a little remediation work. But now it’s done, full basement mold remediation and duct cleaning. We know the house is nearly mold free, which will help dramatically decrease allergy symptoms.
2. Have a Remediation Company on Speed Dial
Our new “Brady Bunch” house was fully carpeted upstairs with old-school pergo flooring popular in the 1980’s. In addition to the dated look, the carpeting and cracked wood was filled with dust mites from years past. That’s why we decided to remove them prior to move-in day. We knew the cost might increase depending on what was underneath, but didn’t expect two small asbestos remediation projects. While the seller’s documentation, stated there was no asbestos, the suspicious material was found above the subfloor. What many don’t know is that most tiles in old houses contain some amount of asbestos. Though it’s easy to just build over it, hoping it doesn’t contain any mysterious substances, I strongly suggest remediating by the professionals if the tile has been compromised even slightly. An asbestos abatement company will make sure that chemicals are being contained, removed and properly discarded so that your home and the community aren’t harmed. Side effects from asbestos conditions (whether it’s tile, mastic or insulation) range in severity and small amounts over a long period of time can be damaging.
3. Slap on a New Coat of Paint
Everyone will say that a new coat of paint can change the look of a new house. However, what’s more important to me is that painting the walls and ceilings cleaned the rooms better than bleaching could. Not all paint is created equally, though. We selected a few low-odor, low-to-no VOC ones. Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint is eco-friendly and Behr paint produces a no-VOC product. Or better yet, try milk paint made of natural agricultural, forestry or marine materials.
4. Balance the Bleach with DIY “Green Cleaning” Measures
Every season, I check out the Environmental Working Group and try new non-toxic house cleaners. However, knowing I was walking into a dingy nightmare, I didn’t want to ignore the potency of bleach to kill grime and germs. So with plastic gloves and face masks, I chose a few places to use bleach. I then used my favorite chemical free products and homemade ones. I also found Sophie Uliano’s Do it Gorgeously book. I used it like a text book to create DIY household cleaners, identify energy (and cost) saving ideas, as well as inspire me to take on small bathroom projects.
We still have weeks of unpacking ahead of us, but at least I feel at ease that my house is clean and void of harmful toxins. Whether you are about to move, renovate or just want to minimize your decor, I have found that cleaning the clutter including excess dust and toxins really has influenced my mind and body. I feel satisfied, calm and happy that this house has turned into a home.
What clutter, literally or figuratively, do you need motivation to remove? What would it take to do it?