Could Clutter Cost You Your Home?

posted by Andrea | 10/16/2018

A couple weeks ago, I took the older 3 kids to a local Fire Station open house.

The boys especially were in their glory… and to be honest, even Nora had a really good time (I was initially worried it would be too babyish for her).

The open house boasted several fire engines, a couple ambulances, police squad cars, motorcycles, and SUV’s (the boys call them “S.U.B’s — so cute!), emergency watercraft vehicles (and divers in their scuba uniforms), and even mounted officers on horses! The kids could go inside many of the vehicles and even pretend to drive.

Of course, there were loads of snacks, drinks, grab-bag prizes, and trinkets for the kids to take home (yippie). And they all got to practice spraying a huge fire hose.

All-in-all, it was a fantastic free night of fun! 

For some reason, I had written the time down incorrectly in my planner — so we actually showed up about 20 minutes before the event started (hey, I’d rather be early than late!). As we walked around, waiting for the main events to start, we were able to sneak in a “private” demonstration of a smoke simulator.

The fire department has a mobile a trailer they bring to various schools and events to teach children about what to do in the event of  a fire. Inside, the trailer has a mini kitchen, living room, and bedroom with various fire hazards. The officers talk about proper fire safety, offer some interesting and helpful statistics, and let the kids practice climbing out the bedroom window after blowing in a bunch of fake smoke (it was actually super life-like and pretty scary).

The parents got several pamphlets of information — which I briefly skimmed through that night after the kids went to bed.

One article in particular really stood out to me… Hoarding and Fire: Reducing The Risk.

Although the article focused on hoarding (which is so much different than just a bit of clutter on the counter), many of the points in the article could easily apply to a house that simply has a fair amount of clutter sitting out on a regular basis.

There were many points I had never even considered — and, after reading through the entire pamphlet a few times last week, I decided it was something I wanted to share.

Clutter Increases Fire Risks:

Cooking is unsafe if flammable items are close to the stove or oven.

Portable heaters, candles, and fireplaces are unsafe with too much stuff around them — clutter (fabric, paper, cardboard especially) could touch the heat source and start on fire.

Once a fire starts, cluttered areas will allow it to spread much more quickly than it would in a clear, clutter-free space.

Clutter Inhibits Your Ability to Get Out:

Clutter could block your walkways can cause you to stumble or move more slowly as you try to exit the home.

Clutter could block the doorways and windows you might need to get out.

Tall piles of clutter (stacks of boxes) could fall over when engulfed in flames, creating even more of a fire hazard and completely blocking off escape routes.

Clutter Impacts Responders Ability to Help:

Responders cannot move quickly through a home filled with clutter.

Responders might also be trapped in a home if exits are blocked with clutter.

Excess clutter impedes responders’ search and rescue of people and pets.

The excess weight of all the stuff could cause the structure to collapse, especially once water is added and after the flames have weakened the frame.

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Now, please don’t panic because you have a pile of junk mail on your counter or a few loads of laundry strewn over your bed.

The point of this post is not to traumatize anyone by thinking our homes will be destroyed because of a little clutter — but rather to offer one more reason to continually work at controlling the clutter in our homes.

I realize fire is one of those “what-if” situations we most likely will never have to deal with… but fires happen every single day, and although I don’t live my life in fear of my house burning down, I do feel more comfortable knowing my home is fairly clutter-free in the event any emergency personnel would need access to any of the rooms inside.

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Want to start clearing your clutter?

Here are 50 things you can better organize in under 10 minutes (no excuse not to start small!)

If you’re ready for a bigger project, here’s my challenge to purge one room in your house each week — with diligent effort, your home could be significantly lighter (and less flammable) in just a few months!

Prepare yourself (and your loved ones) for any unexpected “what-if” situations by creating your own Important Document Binder.

If you question whether your home is clutter-free or not, I use this somewhat silly (but effective) litmus test — asking myself if I can find it whatever I need to find the dark or not!

Do you feel that guilt is causing extra clutter in your home and life? If so, read this post for some helpful insight and motivation.

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Again, please do not start panicking that a bit of clutter will cause your home to burst into flames tonight… but at the same time, I think it’s an important message to consider, to think about, to take action on, and to share with our children, friends, family, neighbors, etc.

There are many unfortunate things that could happen to us every day – let’s not allow too much stuff to be the cause of one!

Clear your clutter now to keep your house (and your family safe)!

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8 comments

  1. lyss

    10/16/2018

    Wow, so interesting! I’ve been purging and it feels good! I read marie kondo’s book, which was really motivating.
    On another note, I have heard that homes where lysol is used a lot will burn faster than those that don’t use lysol. Lysol spray is highly flammable, so if you spray it everywhere, it gets on everything, which makes everything more flammable. Another reason to skip the chemicals! : )

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    Jenny Reply:

    From a science standpoint, I don’t think that is possible with the Lysol spray!

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  2. Rhonda

    10/16/2018

    I work in a hospital, and I have heard of (extreme) cases (of hoarding) in which it took rescue personnel almost 4 hours to get a person out of the home because of clutter. This is an extreme example, but it does illustrate that it takes more time than you think to move a person (especially if they can’t walk) out safely.

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — yes, that IS extreme!

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  3. Mary

    10/16/2018

    In our community, every ambulance call includes a fire truck. It seems like an unnecessary expense but the justification is that often the EMTs have trouble getting a stretcher in and out of the house because there isn’t a clear path due to lots of furniture and general clutter. Firemen can focus on moving things out of the way. Something to think about.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — good to know. Thanks for sharing!

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    Jenny Reply:

    I have been in homes where it was shocking that people lived that way, both related to clutter and lack of sanitation. I think that what happens is that it gets a little bit worse at a time, and isn’t addressed promptly so soon it is a horrible situation. Good motivation to keep doing some as often as possible. I used to think I would do it all at once in a big purging/cleaning, but then it’s overwhelming. And a funny story- years ago I was taking a shower in my old apartment building, and the silent fire alarm went to the fire station but I didn’t know. About 6 big firemen in full gear came running in to save me! My house was a mess just before Christmas, and that’s mostly what I was thinking about- oh, and talking to them in a towel…

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — such a funny story (well probably not funny at the time… but now it sure is!)

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