After my computer drowned I found myself spending more time at our local public library. I used to go all the time when I was a kid. Our library was a shortcut across our neighbor's yard when I was in eighth grade, I spent a lot of time checking out books and reading a bunch of trashy romance and questionable horror novels at the time, but every once in a while my dad would insist I read something of higher quality that would edify me and add to my growing base of knowledge and education. For years reading was an escape. I read to get away, to leave the world I inhabited every day behind, and to return refreshed and rejuvenated from my mental break.
I'm not sure when this happened, but somewhere along the line I realized that I could learn things I didn't know from books. That probably sounds like an obvious concept, but it was a new one to me until more recently. When my teachers told me to read a chapter in a textbook I would go home, read the books I wanted to read, and never crack a book that I had been assigned to read. Most of the time I lack a strategy when I go to the library, occasionally I will search for a particular book or hit a section that interests me. A lot of the time I just walk down the aisles and see what there is to see. Regardless of my intentions I inevitably come home with more books than I will read in a given time period.
This last time I found a couple books on allergies that I checked out thinking they would be educational and helpful. Two of my favorites are The Vitamin Cure for Allergies by Damien Downing, and My House Is Killing Me! which was written by Jeffrey C. May. The first book is a short quick read that I enjoyed partially because of the information it contained, but also because the author's presumably lively voice was inside of my head. His philosophy is that nobody really has definitive answers on things like how much water people should be drinking so in essence we are all our own test cases and have to find out what is going to work for us.
Another thing I like about this book is he preaches something I've known in theory for a while and try to get better at practicing in my own life. It's better to be doing many small basic things well than it is to be doing one or two more esoteric things superbly. Inspired by these two books I woke up this morning determined to apply some of these principles. The second book is an exquisitely detailed and horrifying account of what may be living in our residences along with the human inhabitants. If your dreams consist of yearning for photos of dust mites, carpet beetles, and mold spores, let me encourage you to open this book immediately.
From the bedroom to the basement and bathrooms the reader is taken on a quest that involves getting to the root of what may be making an individual or family unwell. Toxic molds, pollens, less threatening mauraders such as moths can provide a habitat for other organisms and insects, I learned that spiders love moisture so if your home has a proliferation it's probably wetter than it should be. Adhesives can out gas, new carpeting, fiberglass screens, it's amazing at what can contribute to what we smell when we walk into a home. This book examines stock household dust and describes it down to microbes that are invisible to the naked eye.
My aunt and I frequently discuss what we call full circle reading and research. In my case it went something like this. First I was interested in decluttering and organizing. Then I got into decorating and bought a bunch of things that I thought might help make my home more attractive and efficient. I bought a book on cleaning, then another one, soon I had a tidy collection sitting on my bookshelf that I rarely dusted. I've always had trouble with allergies, over the years my asthma attacks have abated, but I keep an inhaler around just in case. Food was my next target so I bought a bunch of cookbooks that led me to the food allergy field, from there I found books on inhaled and environmental allergies, that led me back to the importance of a sparsely furnished living space and functional decluttering.
The other night I was saying how I would like to read what people learned from their Iron Noder experiences. Here's a few things I've learned from my full circle reading and research. Leo Baubata runs a Twitter called @zenhabits. He says you need to take everything out and only replace what you love and need. I've tried to organize what I have without doing this and it just doesn't work as well as his method which I believe is also endorsed by professional organizer and declutterer Marie Kondo. The problem is that I have so much STUFF that taking it out is a monumental and seemingly insurmountable task. The good news is that perseverance, determination, professional help, and my own passion for creating a healthier home and lifestyle are driving me to keep going.
There really aren't shortcuts in life. At first glance my three bedroom one and a half bath ranch style home with a full basement and three car garage don't seem like they would be that hard to clean, organize, and maintain, but if you've lived in a residence for as long as I have, and have neglected some very basic routine inspections, and were unaware of some of the things you didn't know needed to be addressed, you have your work cut out for you. I have bags, purses, bins, pots, pans, storage containers, dusty closets with winter clothes, windows that need to be cleaned, and the worst of it is I know something is triggering allergic symptoms, but I can't pinpoint what exactly it is which is why I keep going.
I've learned a lot about myself, my purchasing habits, and why I do some of the things that I do. It's shocking how many chairs I've bought at thrift stores. When I sat down to think about this I realized that I never have a comfortable chair to sit in, I'm perpetually worried that company is going to come over and there won't be adequate seating for this imaginary throng of people beating down my door. i use chairs as accent pieces, another part of it is I love chairs. They're furniture that can round out an empty corner, you can sit on them, put a plant, books, or another collectible on them. I hung a throw quilt someone made for us over the back of a chair to add to the room, chairs at the thrift store are fun and affordable so it was a way for me to indulge and treat myself for small sums of money.
Today I have a collection of chairs in my dining and living room since I'm getting tough with myself. I only have room for a finite number of chairs in this house. I need to be firm in determining what I'm going to keep, and what I will be thanking as I let go. I have some chairs out in the garage, it's hard to say goodbye to old friends, but I know that once I solve this problem I'll be happier and someone else who may really need and want some of my chairs will be thankful to find them at a thrift store for such a reasonable price. One thing I love about myself is that I share things I've learned with others. It may not be of value to everyone, but for those it resonates with I feel great joy at their appreciation.
The library has two books that I'm going to go back and get. One describes how Swedish towns increased their sustainability, this is a key concept in my life as I work toward greater independence from things like fossil fuels and growing more of my own food. I love plants and try to buy them as treats for myself, but I need to graduate to larger plants I can put in corners to improve indoor air quality instead of so many smaller ones that are in danger of becoming clutter. I had the girls go through their clothes, we gave some to a neighbor who is also interested in some larger things like a laundry table that's too high for me. All in all I've made a lot of progress so this is my self congratulatory pat on the back for a job that was as well done as I could manage at the time. Go me!