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Monday, March 22, 2010

Declutter as You Spring Clean - Just in Case

A couple of weeks ago, an 80-year old Detroit woman died in her burning house. A neighbor tried in vain to enter the house, but clutter prevented it. Emergency workers had trouble entering the house as well. The woman was found dead in her kitchen. 

I realize this is an extreme case. And even if we are not hoarders, our clutter can create obstructions to safety. 

NJToday ran the following article on the hazards of clutter from the perspective of emergency personnel.

"Some of us hate the never-ending task of having to tidy and organize the things in our homes and/or offices. But, according to one local property damage restoration expert, letting things pile up could lead to more than just not having a clear space from which to live or work. It can actually cause injuries and emergency hazards.
'Many may not realize that clutter can actually lead to a number of problematic situations, including falls and other bodily injuries, as well as blocking areas that can prevent one from exiting or entering a building in an emergency,' said Sandra White of PuroClean Disaster Masters.

'The inability to leave a building in an emergency quickly because of cluttered hallways and door entries, or the inability to locate important items like a fire extinguisher, is dangerous. As spring cleaning becomes top of mind for those in the community, we want to offer some tips on how they can de-clutter and make their homes and offices safe.'

To prevent injuries and emergency hazards, White suggests the following ways local residents and business professionals can start de-cluttering their homes and offices:

• Start in small increments. When de-cluttering your home or office, it’s best to start with closets or other storage areas first. Once you’ve freed up space in those areas for storage, you can then clear rooms, corners and other open spaces and put leftover items in your now spacious closets. It is better to have items in your closets than in trafficked areas.

• Cut clutter in the kitchen. The kitchen is probably the most common place where fires start. Your kitchen should always be clear of clutter. And, you should make sure you never have flammable objects near the oven and stove area, such as billing statements, grocery lists and other paper items, as well as dish rags, sponges or other flammable kitchen items.

• Trash junk mail. Some of us have an area in our home or office where junk mail and other unnecessary papers seem to pile up. To avoid the collection of unwanted papers, and the potential of a fire hazard, discard of unwanted mail as soon as you get it. Don’t let it pile up. If you receive a lot of bills and bank statements in the mail, consider paying bills and reviewing statements online only.

• Donate, donate, donate. If you find that you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn in six months or longer, it’s best to get rid of them. One way to do that is by donating them. Find a homeless shelter in your neighborhood where you can drop them off. Or, consider having a garage sale to sell clothing and other unwanted items at a low cost.

• Got books? Don’t let them collect dust. Some individuals may find that they purchase many books, but end up reading them only once. Instead of letting them collect dust and use up space, have a book exchange party where you can get rid of them, or donate them to your local library. For future reads, consider borrowing books from friends or simply getting your books at your local library instead of purchasing new ones.

'Our concern is the safety of the members of our community,” White said. “If homes and offices are clear of clutter, individuals can walk around in them safely. And, in emergency situations, they can get out of those places in a quick fashion, while also allowing emergency workers like us to enter the home without having to navigate through clutter. We hope that the tips that we have provided are helpful.'”

More on emergency preparedness:

National Preparedness Month - Evacuation Plan

Organizing Holiday Meals with Safety in Mind

Preventive Organizing - Changing Smoke Alarm Batteries and Other Preventive Measures You Never Knew About