If My House is Dusty, Am I a Bad Person?

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

If we are made from dust and shall return to dust, as the Bible tells us, does that give us a pass to live with the stuff during the time in between?

While dust is inevitable, it horrifies some of us, as though its presence on our furniture and floors tells the world something unflattering about us, not only as housekeepers, but as human beings.

And some of us just don’t care.

I remember an interview long ago in The New York Times in which an eccentric artist said she hadn’t dusted her apartment in over 30 years, saying, “after the first two years or so, you really can’t tell the difference.” That kind of empirical research really impresses me.

In the HBO movie “Grey Gardens,” Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s aunt and cousin, Edie Beale, and her daughter, are depicted as living in squalor in a neglected ramshackle house, with garbage strewn throughout and a hoard of cats and raccoons relieving themselves on the floor. When Onassis arrives to help remedy the situation and registers her shock at the condition of the property, Edie dismisses the condition of her living environment by saying simply that her daughter “hasn’t been keeping up with the dusting.”

Is inattention to dust the first degenerative step to chaos in the home? Maybe for some. A recent survey revealed that 83 percent of us are happier in a clean house and the act of cleaning itself gives 57 percent of the population a feeling of satisfaction. Furthermore, it shows that 38 percent of women and 24 percent of men experience real stress living in a messy environment.

It would seem that, especially in times of stress, dusting and cleaning can be therapeutic. Psychologists have found that there is a marked difference in mood before and after cleaning, just as with a therapy session.

Professor Carol Nemeroff, director of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern Maine, said this psychological boost may be derived from biological programming to clean out our nests.

“And because we know that good hygiene leads to good health,” she said, “cleaning may ultimately be related to a basic survival instinct.”

Wow, get out that dust rag.

For those who still don’t feel like dusting, it may be motivating to know that dust is composed largely of our own flaking skin cells. Now that we know what it contains and that it can cause real stress, does this explain the expression “uncomfortable in our own skin?”

Add to our skin cells other flaky stuff such as fabric fibers, dust mite excrement, hair, pet dander, pollen and regular dirt and debri, and you have a pretty nasty brew that can give people with allergies and breathing problems a real hassle.

There are both fancy and simple ways to get rid of dust. The fancy way is with an air purifier of which there are two types: those with fans that pull air through filters and those called electrostatic precipitators in which an electrical charge is applied to the dust drawn into the device and captured on oppositely charged plates. Both are available as either portable units, which offer varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the model, or as whole-house systems. Prices range from $100 for a portable model to over $1,000 for a whole-house system.

But, among the houses I’ve listed or sold, I was aware of only one couple that had a whole-house air purifier system. So, unless people are plagued by allergies, I suspect that most of us dust with old-fashioned elbow grease, using either regular rags or one of those new magic dusters to which particles cling, such as the Swiffer Sweeper or Pledge Grab-It Cloths. Because the latter option can be expensive, a regular rag can be just as effective if dampened before use and cleaned frequently.

I definitely do not recommend a feather duster because it merely spreads the dust around.

It’s funny how the exploratory process can affect you. As I sit at my computer, I’m very aware and uncomfortable in the knowledge that there is a lot of dust trapped between the keys of the keyboard. Are the raccoons soon to follow?

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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