How healthy is your home?
A healthy home is a combination of many elements. Organisational expert Michelle Denholm highlights the keys to enhancing your household's functionality and wellbeing.
Without a doubt, a clean home aids good health. Cleaning helps eliminate the germs lurking in the corners of your home. With this season's cooler weather, it's an ideal time to whip out your housework box and give your home a thorough "autumn clean" in preparation for the winter.
Focus on one room at a time, starting at the top. Bring out the duster and get into the corners of the ceiling, sweeping away the cobwebs. If the flies have left their marks on the ceiling, then you may need the help of a ladder and a bucket of warm, soapy water. If the walls are looking a little tired, wipe them down too. As parents all know, little fngerprints will be everywhere, and possibly "artwork" will be too!
Pull out furniture and vacuum behind and under it. Sparkle up your mirrors and wipe the dust away from any plant leaves. If you find mould or mildew in your home, it's a sure sign that urgent action is required. Check out a home ventilation system, or if that isn't in the budget, you can pick up a portable dehumidifier for a few hundred dollars. These are amazing little machines and I often have ours going in the cooler weather. Not only do they take the dampness out of the air, but they warm a room and dry washing overnight!
If you absolutely hate housework, and you can afford it, hire a cleaner. Write a list of all the jobs you want them to do, and check after the cleaner has left that a thorough job was done. If you are doing the housework yourself, then set up a routine. You might do something each day, or do it all in one day. You know your schedule and how you like to operate, so make it work for you.
During my time helping families declutter, it has astounded me that so many have allergies, and yet part of the problem is staring them in the face. They have so much stuff that it's impossible to clean the house properly, so dust collects everywhere, exacerbating their conditions. Their cupboards are filled with every kind of vitamin and medicine imaginable in an attempt to combat a breathing problem, yet they hold on to their dust-gathering "stuff" with a vengeance. My advice is simple - clear out the clutter!
Healthy homes need to breathe. Take advantage of windy days, and days bursting with sunshine, to open the windows and doors and let in some fresh air. Open the curtains every day and get as much sunshine into your home as possible.
If your home is damp, again may I suggest a home ventilation system. I know countless people who have had a unit installed and seen a marked improvement with the likes of children's asthma, breathing problems in elderly people, mould, mildew and overall general health.
Keeping chemicals to a minimum will also help you and your household breathe easier. Choose natural, bio-degradable cleaning products where possible.
A healthy home should be safe - not just physically, but also safe for its occupants to express their dreams and feelings. To confide, to ask for help, to be praised and supported. This type of environment should be provided for our children, partner, and, most importantly, for ourselves. Feeling safe ourselves will help us instill a sense of security in our kids.
Is your section fenced? Do you have an unfenced swimming pool or fish pond? Are your chemicals locked away? Are the cleaning products stored high? Are large, heavy pieces of furniture screwed to the wall so that if a little one decided to climb it then it couldn't fall on them? All these practical measures should be taken into account when thinking about a safe home.
Our home is our refuge. Well, ideally it should be. New Zealanders should be absolutely vigilant about speaking out if they even suspect a child is being abused at home. We have seen far too many horrific cases of child abuse and it's simply not good enough to turn a blind eye. Have the courage to speak out because you may just save a child's life.
Love has such power and can turn around seemingly hopeless situations. But relationships do require effort. I read recently that the people who anger, upset, or challenge us are our greatest teachers. They have the potential to help us grow spiritually and emotionally. I'm not sure about you, but my husband certainly challenges me. I love him to bits, but I can also get very annoyed with him! There are days when I have to remind myself that he is a great teacher, and that I am learning a lot.
Love is showing respect and kindness to another person, caring about their feelings. It's so easy in this busy life of ours to run from one errand to another, without spending any time working on our relationships. The fact of the matter is, we have to make time. It may mean scheduling appointments in your diary (which I have now done) for yourself, your partner, or time to focus on one child. My husband and I have recently started going on "date nights", and I can honestly say that even those few hours together do wonders to help with reconnection. Calling it a date focuses you both, highlighting the willingness on either side to spend quality time with each other.
A healthy home should function like a well-oiled machine. Raising a family and running a household require precision timing and organisation.
Picture a typical school day: The kids are asking what they should wear, they can't find anything that matches or is clean, you're trying to make their breakfast, make their lunch and get yourself ready. The kitchen is a mess with dishes from last night. Your partner is asking you where the cheque book is because the final notice of the power bill arrived and must be paid.
The phone rings, it's a friend needing some support. The dog spills its water bowl and the cats are meowing for their food.
Compare that scenario to this: You and your partner have a relaxing lie-in with a cup of tea because you prepared the children's lunches the night before. You have a clear bench policy each night, which means no dishes to wake up to, and the children - in loving consultation with yourself, chose their clothes last night, so are now independently getting dressed in their bedrooms. Breakfast bowls and cereal were ready for action before you went to bed, and because you diarised when the power bill was due, you paid it on time. Your friend calls, and you tell her you love her, and are there for her - but could you call her back once the kids are dropped off and you are on your way to work. Whilst the children eat breakfast, you get yourself ready. The children feed the cat and the water bowl spill is no drama because you're organised, and it's all calm.
I know that being organised takes preparation, but in the long run, it actually saves you time. A healthy home runs smoothly, as much as it can anyway. Of course we never know what's around the corner or exactly what our day will bring, but if we spend some time today preparing for tomorrow, then it all just flows.
Functioning as a unit is important to family life. Ask for help and assign jobs to your children and partner. None of us are superwoman. We are human, and asking for a help shows love and respect for yourself. Now that's healthy!
Michelle Denholm previously ran her own decluttering and organising business. She has helped many busy families bring order into an otherwise chaotic and cluttered environment.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 5 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW