The heartbreak of houseitosis

Most of us are of an age where we “calls ’em like we sees ’em”… and oh boy… have we come up with some descriptions for this winter. In fact, we’ve been miserable with this critter since what was supposed to be Fall. As the “Winter of Many Negative Words” continues into Spring…it’s taking a toll. I see the damage everywhere but mostly I see it in my own home because I don’t feel like going out to walk, visit a friend or shop in pouring rain, snow, hail and high winds.

The critical issue here is “home a lot.” In an atmosphere of high humidity, poor air circulation and a variety of heat sources, most of us are living in a petrie dish. Our eyes water, our noses run. We get sinus headaches and general malaise. Our breathing can become difficult. We have begun to say things like, “12 hours of sleep is good for you, isn’t it?”

My first clue was houseitosis. Like many of you, bad weather makes cooking and eating the ‘main events’ in our lives. We talk about food at home, in the supermarket, with friends and on the computer. Afterward, we relax from cooking while watching food shows on television. The only infusion of different air comes when we shop.

Your nose will alert you to what is fresh and what is not. Or at least it will do its very best. Aging has an effect on senses…taste and smell are part of that. Your nose will lead you to a bakery department inside a huge supermarket but it will be the last to tell you that your own home is toxic. Why?

I found this out last week when I went into town for a doctor visit. As soon as I got out of the car in the parking lot I smelled fresh air (no cow potty on this day) and my coat. The coat smelled like an Italian restaurant with notes of cilantro. It was too late to go home and change and I cursed my very own nose which had told me, we smelled great. We didn’t, but you can’t fire your own nose.

We live in a thirty-plus year-old house. We have a charcoal fan under a microwave oven over our well-used electric range. In a household where potatoes and onions are purchased in 50 pound boxes, you can believe we cook. While doing so, we create a crazy mass of aromas. Some last for several hours and some take several days. Most are gone by the next morning. I’ve always wished Chocolate Chip Cookie would last longer.

This is houseitosis, it’s worse than halitosis (bad breath) because it’s bigger, bolder and can dramatically affect your health…particularly in a winter like this one. During summer, it’s not so much of an issue because we live in a place with clean air. We can open windows (after the trees quit their bloom) but in winter, things change. Fresh air is cold and wet. We retreat to warm spaces filled with dust mites, mold and a host of other issues. Yes, it has always been so…but over time, we’ve added chemicals to this mix that our Grandmothers didn’t have to deal with.

Pause and look at the air fresheners and cleaning aisles next time you are in a market. In truth, these things add to the problem of clean air for some of us.

People who have asthma or breathing issues can attest to how well all those perfumed goodies and caustic cleaners work for them. It’s not that they don’t appreciate scented things, they just can’t breathe and cough at the same time.

You can do what your Grandma did. Put a pot of cinnamon stick, nutmeg and clove to simmer on the stove and “dust” with a damp cloth. Use cleaners which do not have caustic chemicals (VOCs also known as Volatile Organic Compounds.) And, while Grandma beat her frustrations out on bedding, you can wash yours once a week in hot water and get rid of dust mites. Wash windows inside when you can because they attract dust for you! Fill your home with plants who love to clean air.

In the end…you decide. I don’t like houseitosis unless it smells like dessert but I’ve been out-played by onion and garlic so many times that I’ve given up. Writing this for us Geezers has taught me some things. I’ve already turned on both of our ceiling fans…turns out that all types of circulation ROCKS…so do you.

Linda Shaffer and Grover