One of the most important things I have learned is I have to make my home a safe place for me to live in and heal in. I must be willing to defend it and not let offending odors in.
Early on I did not really understand this concept. I know I let things in my home that outgassed and impacted my fragile health. I have learned a lot since then. I started with soaps and personal care products. I purchased fragrance-free soap and paper products. You will find not all “fragrance free” products are truly fragrance free. They are more like “fragrance less.” Sometimes just letting products outgas in another room was enough for me to be able to tolerate it. Sometimes things had to go outside for a while to outgas. And sometimes they go back to the store. Don’t be afraid to get rid of or return an item that makes you sick. And tell them why you are returning it. Even if they stare at you blankly, it can feel good to speak your truth. We should always speak our truth.
I do let people know when they are coming into my house, they must come in without chemical fragrance. I am comfortable enough with myself, and my health, that I must protect my safe space, my sanctuary. Where will I go to heal if I don’t? When I have overnight guests I provide the personal care products. Don’t be afraid to tell others their fragrance is making you ill.
As I have gotten stronger, I do not need to ask most people who come into my space to be fragrance free. But I am prepared to do so if I have to. I have no problem moving to another seat when I’m in a public space if the smells get to be overwhelming.
I purchased organic cotton sheets from a company I trusted. I washed them a number of times before I put them on the bed. I woke up during the night, itching. What was new in my environment? The sheets? No way. They were organic. The husband was asleep. I pulled the sheets off my side of the bed and moved them onto his side. I slept on the mattress cover. The next day I washed the sheets a few more times. That night I was itchy again. Just like the night before, I moved the sheets and went back to sleep. The next day they came off, and I called the company. This company promotes themselves as a go-to place for chemically sensitive people. I was told that they had no control of what happened to products in the warehouse. The sheets could have picked up something there, and that was out of their control. I could not believe what I was hearing. They knew they were selling to people with MCS, and yet they didn’t control what happened in the warehouse. I never ordered from them again. I do not refer to them.
Having air filters in your home is a good option. Needs.com has some good ones to choose from. I do use air filters, but I am still vigilant about the odors that come in. There are plants that will clean indoor air. The products in our homes outgas many chemicals, which is why indoor air can be so poor. You can Google “NASA and plants to clean the air,” and you will find plants to help with your indoor air. If you have mold issues, you may want to hold off on the plants for a while or at least keep them out of your bedroom. Mold can develop in the dirt.
I prefer older furniture because it will have outgassed while someone else owned it. I buy wood and not particleboard. Particleboard has glues and formaldehyde that outgas. I like the metal shelving from the Container Store. Metal doesn’t outgas. The packaging has some smells I don’t care for, so it stayed outside.
I purchased a nontoxic bed a couple of years ago. While at the store I buried my face in the beds to really smell it. I had to know if it would make me sick. If it did, I would not buy it. I am sure I looked odd as I did so. In fact my daughter told me I did. I didn’t care. I needed a safe bed to sleep on. I absolutely love my nontoxic bed. Completely worth the price!
I do diffuse good quality essential oils in my home. For me they help clear the air. I probably could not have used them in my home when I first got sick. I believe they would have been too strong for me. I use them in my car, especially after I have work done on it. (Mechanics, please restrain yourselves when applying aftershave and quit smoking. I smell it when I get my car back.)
And open the windows when you can. The fresh air should do you good, as long as it doesn’t aggravate your allergies and isn’t carrying strong odors from your neighbors.
Your home needs to be your sanctuary. You need to be adamant about what can and cannot come in. You will learn who truly cares for you and who is just paying you lip service. The people who value you will make accommodations for you and your MCS. The ones that don’t you may not need to be hanging out with. Toxic products make us ill, and so do toxic relationships. I have removed some toxic relationships from my life, and it does help. (I have a few more to go…) Surround yourself with positive relationships. It makes life a lot nicer, and your stress levels will drop.
I realize we don’t always have control over our environment. Sometimes we have to decide how much we can tolerate without making ourselves sick. I will share in another blog things I do after “toxic exposures” to help me feel better faster.