Jes Marcy: Clutter’s hazards and heartaches – Times Union

Jessica Marcy

June 24, 2021Updated: June 24, 2021 12p.m.

Jessica Marcy (Photo by Anastazia Marcy)

Dear Jes,

I have always considered myself to be an organized person. A spot for everything and everything in its spot has been my motto. However, when my mother passed away, we had to bring a lot of her stuff into my house, and while it was still well organized, it was too much for my space. Overcome with grief, I was unable to begin to sort through her stuff, and then COVID happened, and I began to stock up on extra essentials, further infringing on my space. I justified the clutter building up because I still felt it was organized, even if it was a lot of stuff.Recently, I noticed a pipe in my basement had been dripping down the wall in an area that had become inaccessible due to the boxes piled in that area. The water damaged several boxes full of photographs and caused mold to grow. I am devastated at the loss of irreplaceable family heirlooms and spending a pretty penny to have the mold remediated. I had let my clutter get to the point of being hazardous without recognizing that was what was happening.I am writing to you not looking for advice but hoping to share my story as a cautionary tale for others. This is not how I had hoped to go through my mother's possessions, but I have no choice. I wish to spare others a similar fate as, I have learned, even organized clutter can result in hidden hazards and heartache.-Devastated in DelmarDear Devastated,

Please allow me to extend my sincere condolences for the loss of your mother. Your story is a powerful reminder of the various hazards clutter creates, and I am grateful for this opportunity to expound on your cautionary tale. Clutter can cause unfavorable conditions for the items you store. More importantly, clutter can cause dangerous physical conditions throughout your house while also impacting your mental wellness.Physical hazardsClutter hazards include tripping risks for items stored on the floor or the possibility that something could fall on somebody from things stacked overhead. In more serious circumstances, stacked boxes and bins form pathways in homes that can make emergency medical response difficult or impossible. These situations may increase the speed with which a house fire spreads while also blocking emergency egress.Rodents and insectsPiles of items on a floor create ideal habitats for rodents and insects, both of which will damage items with their droppings, urine and by chewing through many types of materials. Rodent droppings are also vectors for disease. Please use proper protection when cleaning these areas (face masks and gloves).InfestationsInfestations can quickly get out of hand when clutter is present. Although clutter may have nothing to do with the infestation, pantry moths, bed bugs, fleas and other pest infestations are easier to handle when floors and surfaces are clear and can be vacuumed and sanitized.MoistureMoisture is a big concern, and clutter can both hide problems created by moisture, such as mold and mildew, and create conditions where moisture is trapped. From a health perspective, mold toxicity is of particular concern. It is a condition that can be difficult to diagnose, with symptoms that range from typical allergies (watery eyes and a runny nose) to exclusively psychiatric manifestations, such as depression, anxiety, brain fog and insomnia.Stress and overwhelmThe overwhelm of living with clutter creates a stressful external and internal environment that can impact our health. The daily overwhelm of clutter quickly becomes a chronically stressful situation. Internally, exposure to chronic stress causes inflammation in our body, a precursor to illness. Chronic stress can also lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have also demonstrated clear connections between clutter-induced stress and depression and anxiety.There is no question that clutter can be dangerous to our homes and our health. Devastated, thank you again for sharing your story and giving me a chance to shed light on all the different ways our lives can be impacted by clutter in our homes. The more awareness we can bring to this important topic, the better.

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Jes Marcy: Clutter's hazards and heartaches - Times Union

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