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The 3 Biggest Ways Your Home Is Polluted From Within

The 3 Biggest Ways Your Home Is Polluted From Within

We spend so much time in our homes. They are our little islands of comfort and joy – where the day begins with a hot cup of coffee, and ends with a family dinner and a Netflix movie.

Okay, maybe that last part is a fantasy. But Netflix or not, we try to do everything in our power to make our homes as safe and healthy as possible.

But there are hidden sources of indoor pollution that can slip by even the most conscientious, diligent homeowners. Here are three ways you might be polluting your own home – and how to eliminate them from your life.

1. The Ghost of Smokers Past: Third-Hand Smoke

The Issue: Indoor air quality diminishes quite rapidly if someone is smoking inside the house; this is obvious. But it’s not just second-hand smoke that you need to worry about: it’s third-hand smoke. Never heard of it? Most people haven’t, as it’s a relatively new concept in air science circles. But scientists are quickly realizing just how impactful – and harmful – third-hand smoke can be.

Third-hand smoke is a phenomenon where tobacco smoke settles into your carpets, walls, and furniture and causes adverse reactions long after the smoking stops – we’re talking weeks and months afterward.

Here’s how it works: when someone smokes indoors, the residue lingers inside your home. After a while, the residue combines with other common indoor pollutants and forms a cancer-causing compound called nitrosamine, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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The Risk: Scientists are just now discovering the negative health effects of third-hand smoke. It can put everyone in your household, particularly children – who play and crawl in close quarters with carpets, furniture and other smoke-absorbing fabric – at risk for tobacco-related health problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Exactly how dangerous is third-hand smoke? Unfortunately, it’s such a new concept that researchers are still trying to measure the extent of its health effects. But why chance it?

The Solution: The best solution is entirely preventative: don’t smoke inside your home, and don’t allow others to smoke inside, either. If it’s too late for that, you still have options.

Smoke is notoriously hard to remove from a home. But don’t rip up your carpet just yet. First, attack every surface (walls, ceilings, everything) with a clean cloth, detergent and very warm water. Switch out the cloth a few times to make sure you aren’t just spreading nicotine resin around.

Now, the tough stuff: those curtains you adore? They’ll probably need to be replaced, along with blinds and any other window coverings. And if you want to truly eradicate third-hand smoke from your home, you’re going to have to lay two or three fresh coats of paint on your walls and ceilings.

As a last resort, there are cleaning services that specialize in smoke removal. But it comes at a price that will make you feel light in the head – and the wallet.

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Above all, it’s important to remember a simple rule: cover up is not clean up. A few sprays of Febreze might make the smoky smell go away, but the underlying issues and health threats still exist.

2. Is Your Air Conditioner Poisoning You?

The Issue: When it’s hot outside, what do you usually do? You crank the air, because it turns your home from a smoldering sweat den into a cool, comfortable abode. But be mindful of the biggest negative side effect of running your air conditioner: no, not the electric bill.

Mold, and the health hazards it brings.

The Risk: Air ducts are probably the single most common place for mold to live inside your home, according to Air Quality Specialist Jeffrey May, principal scientist and founder of May Indoor Air Investigations.

Here’s why: Air conditioners and ducts offer a perfect one-two punch of indoor health hazards because most ducts collect just enough condensation and organic matter to create an environment that mold loves. Then, flowing air acts as a perfect vessel for mold spores to disperse throughout your household.

Even when air conditioning units are no longer in use, or stored for the winter, the mold can be a problem, according to May.

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The Solution: May recommends opening up the unit itself and cleaning it out thoroughly. If you do see any mold, a solution of half water, half bleach should do the trick.

But don’t stop there. You should also check the air ducts and thoroughly clean out the dust and anything else that’s built up inside there; for this, you can use the same 50/50 bleach and water solution as before. Mold feeds on organic matter, so it’s imperative that your ducts are dust-free and clean to prevent future mold growth.

While you’re at it, clean the whole house – because mold can grow in other places, as well. Unfortunately, rolling up your sleeves and doing the dirty work is the only option here. Even the best air purifier can’t combat large levels of harmful mold.

“Cleaning your whole home is vitally important,” says May, who recently authored the book My House is Killing Me. “We spend so much time making our homes look beautiful, but we often take too many shortcuts on making our homes mold-free. Taking the time to clean baseboards, under the furniture, and inside cupboards will go a long way in getting rid of dust and mold.”

3. The Closed-Window Conundrum

The Issue: People love to close their windows and seal them tight. Usually, it’s a practical matter: in the winter, we close our windows to keep the heat it. In the dog days of summer, we close them to keep the heat out.

Sealing up our home can help us feel safe; but it’s a false sense of security. Proper ventilation isn’t just recommended – it’s absolutely necessary to make your home as healthy as possible, according to the National Center for Healthy Housing.

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The Risk: Our homes are full of contaminants. The particle boards in your furniture emit small amounts of formaldehyde; so does the insulation in your walls. Did you cook a meal today? Your gas stove is a great source of carbon monoxide. And the PAM you sprayed on the cooking tray…well, you get the idea.

The point is, we surround ourselves with chemicals and particulates every day – and that’s fine, because we are typically exposed to them in such small doses that our bodies know how to handle them.

But when our homes aren’t properly ventilated, these harmful particulates build up; and that’s when the health problems begin.

The Solution: Open the windows! Even 10-15 minutes of outdoor air circulating inside can improve air quality, and make your home much healthier. Additionally, exterior exhaust fans should be installed in your bathrooms and kitchen.

Make sure your appliances – water heater, furnace, stove – are properly vented.

Ventilation is obviously much more challenging in the winter months. But even in sub-freezing temperatures, experts still recommend you open your doors and windows for just a few minutes – with a strong draft, a few minutes is all you need to replace stale air.

Featured photo credit: mschellhase via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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