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Decluttering with Care

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers some leftover household products as household hazardous waste (HHW). This applies to common household products such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides due to the hazardous ingredients they contain. A substance is considered HHW when it is corrosive or toxic, or when it can catch fire, react, or even explode under certain circumstances. Although we use many of these substances on a regular basis, they require special care when it’s time to dispose of them.

To avoid the potential risks associated with household hazardous wastes, make a point to monitor the use, storage, and disposal of products with potentially hazardous substances. It might seem harmless to dispose of these substances by pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or putting them out with the regular trash, but these methods can permanently damage the environment.

Some quick tips for the safe handling of household hazardous wastes include:

  • Follow instructions for use and storage provided on product labels carefully to prevent accidents at home.
  • Read product labels for disposal directions to reduce the risk of products exploding, igniting, leaking, mixing with other chemicals, or posing other hazards on the way to a disposal facility.
  • Never store hazardous products in food containers; keep them in their original containers and never remove labels. Corroding containers, however, require special handling. Call your local hazardous materials official or fire department for instructions.
  • When leftovers remain, never mix HHW with other products. Incompatible products might react, ignite, or explode, and contaminated HHW might become unrecyclable.
  • Check with your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for more information on HHW management options in your area.
    • If your community doesn’t have a year-round collection system for HHW, see if there are any designated days in your area for collecting HHW at a central location to ensure safe management and disposal.
    • If your community has neither a permanent collection site nor a special collection day, you might be able to drop off certain products at local businesses for recycling or proper disposal. Some local garages, for example, may accept used motor oil for recycling.
  • Remember: even empty containers of HHW can pose hazards because of the residual chemicals that might remain, so handle them with care.
  • Follow these instructions for disposal of consumer e-cigarettes:
Environmental Protection Agency. (2024, February 23). EPA.

The Case for Finally Cleaning Your Desk

The physical environment of our workspace has a significant effect on the way that we work. When our space is a mess, so are we; we lose precious work minutes every time we go searching for a lost paper on a cluttered desk. The same is true for those of us who have succeeded in becoming paperless at work. One international survey showed that information workers lose up to two hours a week fruitlessly searching for lost digital documents.

Research has shown that our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior–affecting our decision-making skills and relationships with others. Cluttered spaces negatively impact stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep. Much of the research around tidiness and clutter is currently focused on the home, but with workplace stress costing American businesses up to $190 billion every year in health care costs alone, we’re beginning to take a closer look at the root causes.

Clutter Affects Your Brain and Your Work

Princeton University Neuroscience Institute used fMRI and other approaches to show that our brains like order, and that constant visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus. They also found that when participants cleared clutter from their work environment, they were better able to focus and process information, and their productivity increased.

A study on the effects of clutter in the home found that individuals who felt overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” in their home or office were more likely to procrastinate. Other research has shown that a cluttered home or work environment could induce negative coping and avoidance.

Sander, L. (2019, March 29). The case for finally cleaning your desk. Harvard Business Review.

– Mental Health Moment –
Try Some Self-Care

Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. This can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.

Here are some self-care tips:

  • Get regular exercise: Just 30 minutes of walking every day can boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated: A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Pay attention to your intake of caffeine and alcohol and how they affect your mood and well-being.
  • Make sleep a priority: Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Try a relaxing activity: Schedule regular times to do activities that bring you joy.
  • Set goals and priorities: Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to appreciate what you have accomplished at the end of the day.
  • Practice gratitude: Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down or replay them in your mind.
  • Focus on positivity: Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • Stay connected: Reach out to friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.

Self-care looks different for everyone, and it is important to find what you need and enjoy. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Caring for your mental health. National Institute of Mental Health.
This is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional. © 2007, 2010, 2013-2024 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.