Putting your house in order: Good housekeeping can save lives

So, here we all are, the wonderful holiday season is past and we find ourselves a little plumper and a little poorer, but rich in memories.

Instead of getting blue that all the festivity is over, embrace the fresh start that January and a whole new year give us!

In addition to your health goals, January also gives you the opportunity to start fresh on things like budgeting and getting your home in order. Today, we’ll be talking about getting your house in order.

It’s not just peace of mind that an orderly house brings. As Aberdeen fire chief Tom Hubbard and Assistant Chief Rich Malizia said recently, “Good Housekeeping saves lives.”

Firefighters see the insides of homes in all conditions. And, frankly, stacks of this and that around not only can lead to residential fires, but can make escaping them harder and fighting them more difficult and dangerous, they said. Extra clutter can even contribute to falls and other accidents.

During early January when Christmas decorations, stacked gifts, extra coats and hats collide with space heaters, wallboard heaters and wood stoves, we can be courting disaster.

Now’s the time to find or make a place for everything – and sometimes that place might be in the garbage, recycle or charity box.

Perhaps you’re the kind that has matching and labeled storage boxes running through your veins. You’re the one who makes the seasonal transition look like a choreographed dance. Winter things go away into their appointed places and spring and summer items are easily located and smoothly retrieved. Oh, how the rest of us envy you!!

But, if you’re like most Americans, you probably have more “stuff” than storage. Some of which you haven’t used in years. It’s time to get organized!


To accomplish a re-organization may mean creating “a place for everything then putting everything in its place.”

Figuring out a place for everything is the hard part, but worth the effort. You’ve no doubt heard the adage “When in doubt, throw it out,” or “recycle, recycle, recycle.” That’s a good place to start.


When you get to your goal of ordered storage, not only will you have greater peace of mind, you definitely will end up saving time by eliminating needless last-minute searches.

You’ll likely end up saving money, too, if only because you won’t need to buy things you already have – such as more shoelaces, batteries, extension cords, another new 3/4” wrench or another pair of sunglasses or gardening gloves. The list goes on and on.

Tidy, organized storage is great for a variety of reasons, but we don’t want to sound like nagging parents telling you to put things away.

And, we’ll certainly let Martha Stewart and friends give you the insider information on buying matching baskets with burp-seal lids and proper labeling techniques for your color-coded plastic totes.

However, when it comes to storage, there are some things you may need to know for the safety of your belongings, your house and you. That’s much more our area.


One of the first things to do is figure out the best and most logical uses of the storage areas you have.

Are they properly shelved and stocked as well as being the best place to store the items that are already in there? Snow tires in the food pantry are a bad idea.

Keep in mind that you want to have easy access to items you use frequently or anticipate the need for in the immediate seasonal future and to store them as nearly as possible to their intended use. Rotating seasonal storage works, too.

Save the more remote areas, such as lofts or supported attics for long-term storage or seasonal items in rotation.


Most attics and some basements are considered unconditioned spaces, which refers to the lack of heat and airflow as well as a good chance that there’s harmful moisture.

These are good conditions for bad smells, molds and mildews – and maybe your water-skis, but poor choices for storage of cloth or paper items that can be damaged.

By contrast, a basement with a big ole’ furnace and heat ducts is going to provide drier, airier general conditions and be quite suitable for storage of most anything that is properly shelved, but not stacked.

A moist, dank basement isn’t even good for the house and should be properly sealed, insulated and ventilated prior to any use.

Attic-wise and basement foolish though, many a disappointed saver have found what the ravages of a hot summer or cold, moist winter can do to certain family heirlooms – like pictures, videos and furniture – in an unconditioned attic or a flood-prone basement.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.


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