Decluttering for people with allergies

A guest post by – Nurchamiel – a regular reader and commenter

A clean, tidy and declutter house is very important for asthmatics and people who suffers from hay fever. Unfortunately, sometimes clutter enters our home and it is time to clean it up. I would like to give some tips about decluttering as an allergy sufferer. To some, the tips may sound a bit extreme, but I have noticed that if I follow these tips, my outbreaks are less severe and less frequent than if I don’t.

  • If you have an extreme sensitivity to dust and dust mites (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) hire a professional or declutter a little at a time to reduce exposure. Get help with your closet because clothing items are notorious for attracting dust and dust mites. Make sure that when you have enlisted professional help that you don’t go into the room, while the dust is being disturbed. Alternatively, there are dust masks available at  local DIY-shops if you would prefer to be involved.
  • Choose a day for decluttering. Cool days, when it freezes or when it has rained are the best. The concentration of pollen in the air is as low as possible.
  • Dust and vacuum before decluttering, to get the dust bunnies before more dust is added so the build up will be minimal. If possible, open the windows and close the air-conditioning off as the air-conditioning moves the dust around.
  • Start with decluttering. Tackle one closet, shelve or other area. As usual, empty the area and immediately dust with a moist cloth, as it will trap the dust rather than spread it around. Dust moisture sensitive items with a dry cloth (Microfibre is best) to prevent damage and return to it’s place if keeping.
  • During decluttering, ask yourself two questions ~ Do I want to pack/unpack you during moving?” also “Am I allergic to you?” If you are allergic to it, don’t keep it, give it away to somebody else (or charity, etc.) who isn’t allergic to it. Clothing and plush toys but also body lotions and perfumes will likely be the kinds of items that cause allergy issues.
  • Also, check your medication to make sure nothing is out of date and that you have what you need on hand before starting your declutter task. Take any out of date items back to the pharmacy, they know how to correctly dispose of them so that they don’t end up in landfill or in the hands of someone they shouldn’t.
  • When you are done, immediately relocate the items that you are decluttering to their new homes (Thrift shop, donation bin, recycling, trash bin etc). If you are not able to do so, put them in a shed or a garage so that the dust still in the clutter (for instance, plush toys) is no longer polluting your living space and can no longer cause you allergic reactions.
  • Once the clutter is removed thoroughly vacuum the area as most of the dust that was disturbed has now settled on the floor. It would probably be wise to vacuum any upholstered furniture, launder  bed coverings and curtaining in the space at this time.

If you notice that after a few minutes of decluttering, that your body can’t take it any longer (allergic reactions), stop immediately and vacuum (yes, I love to vacuum, :P), wait a week, and try it then. If it doesn’t stop, hire a professional declutterer.

If you have a (young) child with allergies, clean up their area yourself, without your child being there. Do the decluttering for them but let the child decide afterwards what he doesn’t want to keep (make sure you have removed most dust from the decluttered items before the child sorts through them). Once the task is complete allow the child to return to the decluttered room for about ten minutes. If the child shows any sign of an allergic reaction, let them sleep somewhere else for the night and vacuum again the day after, when the dust has settled on the floor. Once again it would probably be wise to also launder the bed cover and curtaining at this time.

I hope this might be useful for other people with allergies. These tips might be time consuming, but it works for me.

Today’s Declutter Item

Sometime the generic version of things don’t work as good as the real one. This remote control never did work well so Liam has decided to declutter it.

I am grateful from anything that brings me joy. Below are five things that gave me joy today.

  • The start of a new day – Yesterday really went to hell in a handbasket so it is great to wake up today and start afresh.
  • The speed with which my new computer processes things – Yes I finally submitted to temptation and bought a new computer. Although the transition hasn’t gone as smoothly as it could but I am loving the fact that everything happens so much quicker.
  • Getting another eBay auction item posted on its way.
  • Being told I would be able to have the car tomorrow – This has been a rare event lately as the motorbikes are still at the mechanics. Why motorcycle mechanics take so long to fix anything I don’t know.
  • The smell in the air when rain is on its way – I know it is just dust stirred up but I love it anyway.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Oh do I understand this one. One of my asthma triggers is dust. Ugh! I’m always having to think through how to clean things so that I can keep from getting sick. This is a great post for people with these issues.

    • Hi Deb J,
      The washing machine I have has a refresh cycle the lightly steams the clothes to take wrinkles out and remove odours and is great for killing those pesky dust mites without having to actually wash the item. I love it.

    • I know. I only dust and vacuum once a week (yes, lazy) and I can always tell when I need to do it again: I always sneeze etc. when the time has come. But I’m hoping that when I finished with declutter I will have less problems with the dust, because dusting and vacuuming should be easier.

      • Colleen, I wish our washer had that refresh cycle. I will have to watch for that the next time we have to get a new washer.

        Nurchamiel, the one thing I have the hardest time with is the books and the shelves they are on. I have given away 100’s of books but I still have some and then a bunch of scrapbooks. No matter how many times I dust them they seem to have twice the magnetism of anything else for dust. I can never do it without some sneezing.

  2. Thanks for writing this! My husband is the one with allergies. I always try to declutter when he’s not at home. If his items need delcuttering, I will often dust them first so when he removes the things he doesn’t want anymore, they’re (somewhat) dust free.

    • Hi Willow,
      I suffer from dust mite allergy to I have always found I suffer less in my own home than when I am visiting other peoples homes. Probably because I am such a near freak. Oddly enough it has never consciously occurred to me until Nurchamiel offered to write this post that if you just minimalise the items that are the worst offenders like excess clothing, plush toys and curtains then there is less chance of a problem. I have eliminated all those things anyway so I am on top of the situation.

      • Colleen, can you tell us a bit about your windows – do you have blinds instead of curtains, or do you have some other kind of window treatment, or do you go with bare windows?

        I like the look of some windows without anything on them, but ours are not among them. However, in some places I have valances only, instead of valances plus curtains. Our window blinds are mostly the roll type, so very few slats to clean. I’m interested in what other people do, though.

        • Hi Jo,
          I have Venetian blinds in the front of the house and verticle blinds in the back. I have no curtains at all. When I lived in America I had all Venetian blinds. When we moved in they weren’t very clean so I got a quote to have them cleaned professionally and it was so inexpensive that I would never have considered cleaning them myself. I did dust them every week though and found I didn’t need to get them cleaned again in the seven years I lived there. I dust the Venetian blinds here with my microfibre clothes when I feel they need it but the vertical blinds (made of a vinyl material made to look like cloth) never seem to attract dust. Maybe they are treated with something to repel the dust I don’t know but in 3 and a half years they have never looked like they need cleaning. I like the clean lines of not having curtaining and the blinds give us the privacy we require.

        • A horizontal plastic blind is the easiest to dust. Note the plastic, because I find that cotton and paper (papyrus) (and, actually, every other material that comes from nature) actually attracts dust. If plastic isn’t a option, I would rather go for curtains, because those can be washed easily.

          Furthermore, when I was little, a nurse would visit from time to time to check if my room was “dustproof”, not to much toys (so I wasn’t particulary fond of her), everthing behind glass or in a closet when not in use, and special covers for matresses. That can help a lot too.

          • The only “curtains” we have are some white filmy sheers at the living room windows. These are easy to take down and wash yet make the room look so much better. Other than that we have only blinds.

            I have tried to get my Mom to go with no carpet because it really holds the dirt and dust. But she HATES any other flooring for the living room and her bedroom. I just stay away when the vacuuming is done.

            • I do love my washing machine. You can choose wash loads with a steam option as well which is great for washing sheets and towels.

              We have a large rug on the living room floor and carpet in the bedrooms but the rest of the house tiled. I love it. I do vacuum all the floors though carpet and tiles because it is the most effective way to left the dust.

              Do you use the vacuum cleaner with a small brush head to dust your books? That my help to keep the dust from flying around when you do dust.

          • Hi Nurchamiel,
            with all that monitoring when you were young it is a wonder you didn’t turn out to be a neat freak. How did you get to a point where you started to collect clutter? Maybe that would make a good subject for another quest post. “How I succumbed to the dark side of clutter.” 😆

          • @Colleen: Lol, great idea!

  3. I might be missing this when it’s right in front of me, but what day are you on in this project?

    • Hi Megan,
      once I reached the 365day mark on the 31st of Dec last year I stopped counting days because the challenge of 365lessthings was complete. However I had lots of readers who enjoyed my blog so I kept on blogging. I only blog 6 days a week and only post a decluttered item 5 days a week so roughly I would be up to item 405ish. I hope that answers your question.

  4. I tried painter’s masks, but they didn’t work well. Ordering this mask from has made all the difference in the world for me. Besides, when I wear it, all I have is my breath, and thus I use it to meditate each time during the cleaning process.

    I never vacuum without it (and without ear protection).

    • Hi Jude,
      I used a similar thing when I was cleaning the oven last week. I also have a dyson vacuum cleaner and it does a pretty good job of filtering out the dust. I don’t useually get the sneezes when I am vacuuming since I got it.

    • Thank you, that is a good tip!

  5. Nurchamiel, great post! I have already had to do many of these things but never considered vacuuming before AND after declutter projects. Excellent suggestion.

  6. Nuchamiel, thank you for this helpful post. I have several friends with allergies that could benefit from your advice. One thing I’d like to comment on that I’ve seen mentioned in more than one post in the last couple of weeks. You say to check your medication and to bring any out-of-date items to your pharmacy for proper disposal. I work in a pharmacy; we do not have any special way of disposing of medications. In fact we usually do not accept expired medications. Instead we recommend mixing them with some old coffee grounds or used cat litter and placed in a plastic bag before throwing them out so no one is tempted to tamper with them. It is very important not to dispose of medications in any water source like the sink or toilet. Neither should prescriptions be disposed in their original containers to avoid illegal use. Hope this is helpful.

    • In my country – pharmacies are obliged to dispose them correctly if anyone offers out-of-date medications (or used and even new, unopend medication, for that matter). I guess I’m lucky. I know about the sink or other water sources, because I study biochemistry. 🙂

    • Hi Di,
      that is interesting because I have always disposed of mine down the toilet. I must have received that advice from somewhere so the next time I am at the pharmacy I will ask their advice on this and let you know what they say.