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"I hate housework. You make the beds, you wash the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again." — Joan Rivers
For health and safety's sake, it's probably best to get house cleaning on your calendar a little more often than semi-annually. In fact, putting off cleaning tasks and letting clutter pile up can actually have a serious impact on your physical and mental health.
Dust and pet dander are two major triggers for asthma, which McDonnell says is a significant problem among children, especially those in urban areas. She estimates that 30 percent of the children she sees have some degree of asthma or allergies.
"Environmental allergens play a big part in the frequency and severity of asthma attacks," she explains. Mold and mildew are other common triggers, as is dust that's contaminated with droppings from pests like rats, mice and cockroaches.
But if you're buckling down to clean because someone in your house has respiratory issues, you need to pay attention to the cleaning products you use. Many products — especially those that are scented with citrus or pine — contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can aggravate asthma.
When we're surrounded by stuff, we're much more distractible and less able to focus — and that's especially true for kids who are trying to read or do homework.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's statistics are startling: Every year, one in three adults age 65 or older falls. And more than 2.5 million of them are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries.
About half of all falls happen inside the home, where clutter can be a serious hazard.
One not-as-obvious effect of living in a cluttered environment: Your ability to focus on tasks can suffer.
A 2011 study published in The Journal of Neuroscience used MRIs and other tools to map the brain's response to clutter and found that it can limit the brain's processing capacity. When we're surrounded by stuff, we're much more distractible and less able to focus — and that's especially true for kids who are trying to read or do homework.
After you do an initial deep cleaning, keeping up with it will help keep your family healthier. Break cleaning tasks into regularly scheduled chunks: kitchen on Monday, bathrooms on Tuesdays, mopping floors on Wednesdays, and so on.
McDonnell recommends "slow and steady" as opposed to infrequent, stressful major cleanings. "You need to find the approach that you're most likely to stick with."
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