With remote work on the rise, more and more people are spending time at home. Even if you are still commuting to the office, your home environment directly impacts your physical and mental health.
Coming home to a cluttered, dirty house can cause unnecessary stress. Your living space should be clean, safe, and healthy. Whether you are building a new home or updating your current one, you can do a few things to design a healthy home.
From controlling air quality to choosing non-toxic building materials, there are a number of ways you can make your home environment healthier. Keeping up with simple chores like changing the bedding and cleaning the bathroom goes a long way toward keeping you and your family in good spirits and health.
The importance of air quality
As wildfires become more common and outdoor air quality drops to dangerous levels, improving your indoor air quality is even more important. Short and long-term exposure to indoor air pollution causes a number of health issues, including asthma, respiratory illnesses, and cancer.
Even if the outdoor air quality is good, indoor activities can impact the air quality in your home. Smoking and secondhand smoke are both infamous for the number of health problems and cancers they cause. Common activities like cooking, cleaning, and painting all release pollutants into the air, too. Allergens like dust and mold also impact air quality.
Luckily, you can do a few things to help keep the air in your home clean. Make sure that your kitchen has a vent hood or at least a microwave fan above the stovetop to remove any smoke from cooking oils from the kitchen. Regularly changing air filters in your HVAC system is another simple way to improve air quality in your home.
When possible, use natural cleaning products that don’t release harmful chemicals into the air. Green cleaning products are typically made from plant-based materials, so avoid products you might be allergic to.
If you continue to use chemical products, follow the instructions carefully and avoid mixing them. Just because you see a social media influencer use three different products to clean their shower doesn’t mean it’s safe. For example, using Dawn dish soap and bleach together creates a toxic gas.
In addition to keeping things clean, bring some natural air filters into your home by adding houseplants. Snake plants, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue or sansevieria, are low-maintenance plants that tolerate low-light conditions and clean the air in your home.
Other useful plants include peace lilies, spider plants, pothos, ferns, and rubber trees. Go to your local greenhouse and ask which plants work best for your home. NASA recommends one plant for every 100 square feet to improve the air quality in your home.
Of course, proper ventilation is key. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the EPA has issued updates on improving ventilation to help prevent the spread of the virus. These new standards also help enhance the quality of air in your home. From improving natural ventilation to bringing in outside air to open up your windows, there are a number of simple ways to get some fresh air flowing through your house.
Finally, if you do smoke, avoid smoking indoors. Cigarette smoke clings to fabrics and hangs around in the air. Secondhand smoke can be incredibly dangerous, especially to young children or immunocompromised people. Enjoy your cigarette on your patio to limit the exposure of secondhand smoke in your household.
Using non-toxic building materials and furniture
You may be surprised to learn that your couch has toxic chemicals in it. Many brands coat their furniture with stains and finishes made with harmful chemicals. Covering a piece of furniture in flame retardants might sound like a good idea in case of a house fire, but long-term exposure to these chemicals can negatively affect your health.
The good news is that now is a great time to find non-toxic, eco-friendly alternatives. Look for building materials and furniture created from raw materials that can be renewed, upcycled, or recycled. If your wood table could naturally decompose when left alone outdoors, that is a great non-toxic table.
Furniture with natural fabrics is less likely to contain harmful dyes and finishes. Look for third-party certifications to ensure you bring in a responsibly sourced, healthy piece of furniture for your home.
Look for furniture and building materials that use low-VOC paints and finishes. VOCs are volatile air compounds that get released into the air. VOCs cause a number of serious health issues, from lung damage to neurological problems to cancer. Choosing a non-toxic paint or wood finish for your home can help keep you and your family safe.
Natural and sustainable materials are easier to come by, but you still have to put in some legwork. Buying local, sustainable pieces lowers your carbon footprint and helps keep your home healthy for years.
States like California are creating strict legislation to help consumers avoid toxic building materials and furniture. Furniture tags often have a warning for California buyers, so if you see that warning, consider looking for other options.
Europe also has strict rules banning certain chemicals commonly used in furniture production in the U.S., so keeping up with those bans can help you create a healthy home with natural and sustainable materials.
Investing a bit more money in non-toxic furniture can be daunting up front, but keep in mind that you’ll be able to use this furniture for years because of the high-quality material it’s made from. Cheaper furniture made from materials like modified wood won’t last as long and may harm your health.
Ensuring water quality
Have you ever traveled to a different city and been thrown off by the taste of tap water? Different municipalities have different water processing treatments. Luckily, you can do a few things to keep the water in your home safe and clean.
Drinking contaminated water can lead to several different health problems. Bacterial infections, chemical spills, and more can endanger your water supply. Anyone who has lived under boil water orders knows how difficult life gets when you don’t have easy access to clean water.
Even if your water is relatively clean, the day-to-day quality of water in your home can also impact the health of your skin and hair. Hard water leaves minerals behind that can affect the natural pH balance of your skin. Watering those air-purifying houseplants with hard water might kill them.
Testing your drinking water is as simple as ordering a kit online. You can see how healthy your water really is as a starting point. Adding water purification tablets is a quick fix if you don’t have the right resources to improve your water filtration systems.
One of the easiest things you can do to improve your home’s water quality is to invest in a water filtration system. These filters come in many shapes and sizes, so you can find one to fit your home.
A reverse osmosis filter separates clean drinking water from chemicals and contaminants, sending the clean water to your home and flushing away unwanted particles. If you plan on storing filtered water, make sure to regularly clean and disinfect your storage system so your water remains clean.
A water softener can remove hard minerals from your plumbing system and prevent buildup in your popes. Soft water makes it easier to clean clothes and dishes. It also is better for your skin when taking a bath or shower. Aerators diffuse water that comes out of your faucet, making it healthier to drink.
By adding filters, aerators and keeping up with plumbing maintenance, you can avoid some health issues that come with chlorine or other contaminants in your drinking water.
If there is an issue with your plumbing system, see if you’re covered under your home warranty or insurance to help get your system operating and water clean as soon as possible.
Maintaining a clean and clutter-free environment
A cluttered home negatively impacts your physical and mental health. Piles of belongings can hide dust, mold, and trash. Seeing your stuff scattered everywhere reminds you of all the work you have to do. And getting rid of your belongings can feel overwhelming.
Still, it’s important to have a clean, well-organized home. Your stuff should fit on shelves, in closets, or in drawers. Clutter is connected to procrastination and feeling overwhelmed. Tackling a few problem areas can help you feel better right away.
For example, clearing everything off your dresser’s surface can improve your sleep quality. It also makes it easier to dust the dresser in the future, preventing allergy symptoms or asthma attacks.
When decluttering, start small and work your way through the house. Make piles of things to keep, things to donate, and things to throw away. You can follow the Marie Kondo method and consider which items in your home bring you joy—if something doesn’t, set it aside so it can bring someone else joy.
If you don’t have the time or feel too overwhelmed to declutter on your own, search for a home organization business in your area. Even if you can only hire them to take care of one problem area, they can help you sort through your belongings and figure out a system to prevent issues in the future.
After you’ve decluttered, get organized. Everything should have a place. Then, establish a regular cleaning routine. There are plenty of online resources to help you with a weekly or daily cleaning schedule that will suit your lifestyle. Plus, when you have less stuff, there will be less picking up.
Staying on top of cleaning and maintenance prevents dust, mold, and other allergens from building up in your home. Keeping a neat, organized pantry ensures healthy food and helps with pest control. Scrubbing the shower regularly prevents mold and mildew from forming.
When you can, use natural, non-toxic cleaning products. These products are less likely to release harmful VOCs into the air. Pay attention to the ingredients in these products.
Many non-toxic cleaning supplies feature essential oils, which can be unhealthy for dogs and cats. If you have a pet, ensure they are in a separate, well-ventilated area before you use a lavender tile spray or peppermint ant killer.
Proper storage and organization will help you stay on track with your new cleaning routine. There are several methods and tools available to homeowners these days. From professional home organizers to books, social media accounts, and PDF guides, you can find a way to organize your things to keep your home clean and your mind calm.
Enhancing natural lighting
Natural light is tied to our circadian rhythms and well-being. This is why many people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter when days are shorter, and our access to sunlight is limited. Lack of natural light can lead to depression.
Aside from cutting a hole in the wall and installing a new window, you can bring more natural light into your home in a few ways. Keeping your windows clean and choosing different window treatments can bring ample light into your living space. For instance, light-colored curtains reflect light, while dark curtains absorb it.
Strategically placing mirrors in your home can brighten things up too. This is a great trick for small rooms with single windows. Painting the walls and ceilings white also helps reflect more light into your home.
Reflective surfaces, like glossy photographs and paintings, are subtle ways to bring in more natural light while decorating your home. If you can, consider installing a skylight. Not only will this bring natural light into your home, but it will also make you less dependent on overhead lights.
Artificial lighting can cause headaches, especially if it is too bright. A full-spectrum bulb may be your best option if you have to use artificial lighting. These bulbs mimic natural light by putting out similar wavelengths to sunlight.
Creating a healthy home means considering your entire living space. Improving indoor air and water quality will help make your home healthier. Invest in non-toxic furniture and building materials to protect yourself and your family from harmful VOCs, and bring in as much sunlight as possible to reconnect with nature.
Your home should be a safe, enjoyable space for you and your loved ones. Maintaining a clean, decluttered space will not only improve your physical health—it will also improve your mental health.
Start to transform your home into a healthy haven today—it can be as simple as ordering new air filters.