The Truth about Pest Control and Home Organizing

Perhaps because it’s spring, we’ve recently helped several clients deal with pest problems. Here’s what you should know about pest control, hopefully before you need to know.organizing to keep your home pest free

The Truth about Pest Control and Home Organizing

Almost every home will deal with some kind of pest situation. You aren’t alone, and having a pest problem doesn’t mean you are a bad or dirty person. In the years that I’ve owned homes, we’ve had to deal with all kinds of pests, including mice, ants, carpenter bees, wood boring beetles, camel crickets, moths, and my favorite, bats! Not just a single bat, but an entire attic full. {shiver}

Way back before I was blogging, we had a tarantula hop a ride home in our luggage. When I saw it crawl out from under the bed where we stored luggage, I yelled to my husband, “Get up here, quick! And bring a baseball bat!!!” Ahem, we don’t keep luggage under the bed anymore. 🙂

With organizing clients, we most often see evidence of mice, ants and moths, depending on the season. Moths can be beautiful, like the one we met on the street last week which was as big as my 9-year old’s hand. But they are never beautiful if they are eating your sweaters.

organizing to eliminate moths

If a pest finds your home attractive, there are definitely steps you can take to protect yourself and your property, but keep this in mind:you’ll work on the problem with a trip to the hardware store or an hour or two of cleaning. But they are spending ALL OF THEIR TIME AND ENERGY getting into your stuff. Every. Single. Minute. They are thinking about how to be the king of your hill with every fiber of their being. The deck is kind of stacked against you.

I just want you to know this so you are prepared to do battle with your beasts. Despite what you initially think, it may not take a nuclear bomb to get them out. But once they are in, it’s going to take some time, energy, and smarts to get them out.

Pests like to hide… In your clutter

The absolute best preventative measure you can take to protect your stuff, your home, and your family’s health is to reduce the amount of clutter in and around your home. Specifically, take these steps:

  1. Don’t use the floor for storage. Even if you dust and vacuum regularly, piles are where the critters will congregate. Piles of clothes become nests. Keep everything off the floor of rooms and closets.
  2. Don’t stockpile food. If it’s yummy to you, it’s probably yummy to them. Don’t save more food in your pantry, basement, or garage shelves than you actually use before it expires, because they will find it.
  3. Don’t save carbs, even if they are cute. This includes pasta, cereal and beans that your preschooler glued to paper. This includes Halloween candy. This includes hand baked Christmas ornaments. No, no, no. Sorry, just don’t.
  4. Don’t save birdseed or pet food. God’s creatures will invade garages, basement, and attics to get to it. The same goes for packaged diet food, by the way. We can argue all day about whether that qualifies as food, but the fact remains that the calories can be a draw for pests.
  5. Don’t save candy. Chocolate Easter bunny? Gourmet Belgian souvenir? No way. Believe it or not, ants can smell some of that stuff from outside the walls of your home! If ants do get in, remove the chocolate, and then check out this low-impact ant solution.
  6. Don’t abandon parts of your home. Those rooms that you haven’t set foot in for years are slowly going to seed, literally. I’ll refer you to number 1 above, and recommend that if your basement has become a dumping ground, you may as well think of it as a mouse hotel. Not even plastic bins or “spacebags” will keep your stuff safe from really determined pests.
  7. Don’t keep cardboard boxes. All of those and QVC boxes have been whoknowswhere in this world. They’ve crossed oceans, sat in warehouses, and bumped up against a universe of other goods traveling through our international shipping systems. Think of those boxes as cruise ships for critters. Once you’ve unpacked your goodies, break down boxes and get them out of your house and into recycling. Otherwise it’s like you are putting up a “Vacancy” sign outside your home/pest motel. Do you know what lots of cardboard boxes look like? Clutter. Get rid of them, and you’ll have a much more organized home.
  8. Don’t spray your home with chemicals at the first sign of pests. If you don’t know what you are up against, how do you know when you’ve won? First, clear the clutter and try to determine why the problem exists. Only bring out the chemicals if needed. Choose natural solutions, like cedar blocks for moths, when you can.
  9. Don’t let the problem get worse. Get to the cause, and then fix the underlying problem yourself, or hire someone to do it. For instance, if you see evidence of mice, don’t just put down a trap. Inspect your home for breaches in the foundation or walls. Apply mortar or caulk breaches larger than a 1/4 inch, which is all mice need to get in. By fixing the underlying problem, you’ll prevent further pests, and you might also improve energy efficiency of your home. Yes, this may mean hiring a handyman once or twice, but isn’t that better than constantly battling pests?
  10. Don’t take anything for granted. Without becoming completely paranoid, check your luggage before bringing it back in the house after a trip. I haven’t even mentioned bedbugs, but they are no fun. You can minimize your exposure to them and lots of other adventuring critters if you check your hotel bed, dresser and room before you unpack, immediately put everything from a trip directly into the washer upon your return, and keep your luggage outside your home or vacuum it as soon as you unpack.

Funny story, the week I was writing this, we had another one of those man-eating spiders show up at our house courtesy of an online shipment. Luckily I unpacked this item outside the house, but it was a big one. I decided not to add a picture to this post for my clients who are afraid of spiders. Eew.

An organizing colleague, Lauren Mang, recently let me know that where she lives out west, rats are a huge problem for all types of homes. Apparently rats in her area are as big as dogs and evolved to be immune to some rat poisons. They cause property damage to cars, structures, and the things we store in them. Another colleague, Silvia Balderas, shared this article on the amazing strength and resilience of rats. It’s amazing why they chew and what they can chew through, so pick your storage bins carefully.

Sorry if this post gave you the itchies, but with pests, this pinch of information is definitely worth a pound of cure!