Staying safe while uncluttering

Sometimes the spaces we want to unclutter aren’t the safest of work environments. Please stay safe while uncluttering, and watch out for these potential hazards.

Note: The following information is just a starting point, to get you thinking about your personal safety; please check with medical professionals and other experts for more detailed, specific advice for your particular situation.

Rodent droppings and hantavirus

Certain rodents carry hantavirus, which can be very serious when transmitted to humans through the rodents’ droppings, urine, or saliva. The CDC — Centers for Disease Control — has information on how to clean up after rodents. Of course, you’ll also want to do all you reasonably can to prevent a future infestation, too.

Insect and spider bites

Watch where you put your hands; don’t reach into areas you can’t see. If you’re working in an area likely to have spider problems, the Mayo Clinic suggests wearing gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and boots, and an insect repellant. In The ICD Guide to Challenging Disorganization, organizer Victoria Roberts says: “Bright lights drive spiders out. Just don’t be in their way. Keep Benadryl in your first aid kit.”

Cuts and Puncture Wounds

Anything from a thumbtack to a sewing needle to a rusty nail can cause an injury. Again, watch where you put your hands, consider wearing gloves, wear appropriate shoes, and have a First Aid Kit nearby. And make sure your tetanus vaccination is up-to-date — always a good idea, anyway.


If you find mold, see the CDC’s information on cleaning up mold and preventing it from recurring. The Washington State Department of Health also has good information. Note that some moldy items may need to be discarded.


Even simple dust can cause problems. Dr. Anthony Komaroff of the Harvard Medical School says: “People with respiratory allergies should consider wearing a mask that filters out dust when they clean.” The Mayo Clinic has suggestions on how best to clean dusty areas: “Use a damp or oiled mop or rag rather than dry materials to clean up dust. This prevents dust from becoming airborne and resettling.”

Slips, falls, and strains

Make sure you can safely reach any area where you’re working. Use a sturdy step stool or ladder to reach higher places. Watch for slippery surfaces and wear shoes that provide good traction. Also watch out for common tripping hazards: throw rugs, electrical cords, and pets that can get underfoot.

Paper cuts

Working with lots of papers? According to members of MetaFilter, using finger cots or latex-free finger tips can protect against these cuts, as can archivist’s gloves. Members also recommended using specific hand creams or lotions to keep your hands moisturized, making it less likely that you’ll get paper cuts.

Final Note: If the potential hazards in any cluttered space feel too intimidating to handle on your own, consider hiring help. Try searching for terms such as rodent cleanup services, mold cleanup services, or mold remediation services — or get a referral from a trusted real estate agent or other trusted source.

3 Comments for “Staying safe while uncluttering”

  1. posted by egirlrocks on

    Jeri, this is perfect timing to read your post. I’ve been clearing stuff from the garage and discovered mice. I set traps and caught two. I removed three nests, disinfected with the bleach solution. This has worked well so far. Next step: steel wool to block their entrances. Thanks for the post. It confirms that I’ve been doing all the right things!

  2. posted by Julie Bestry on

    I unexpectedly got pricked with a thumbtack last week while organizing a teenage client’s bathroom. (Owie!) All of these, from the scary mold and hantavirus to the quotidian paper cuts, can be a literal or figurative pain. Thanks for guiding us to the safest strategies! (Oh, and rodents? Ick.)

  3. posted by Julie @ The30MinuteHouseClean on

    Jeri, great tips! I can tell you that I wish I had read this a long time ago when I began decluttering my house. I encountered some pretty angry spiders who didn’t like me disrupting their homes 🙂 I gave you a shout out on my blog and directed people here. Thanks again for posting this!

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