While I'm not usually the type of person who embarks on a top-to-bottom cleaning extravaganza every spring, this year is going to be different. I've already dared to gaze into the terrifying depths of drawers weighed down with tons of messy paperwork, closets overstuffed with clothing and boxes full of who-knows-what. I've barely made it through one room at home and already I'm realizing: This spring cleaning stuff is hard work.
Moving boxes, lugging around bags of trash and recycling and filling up the car with items slated for the thrift store might be psychologically freeing, but it's also physically taxing. That's why experts from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) are warning people to be careful and smart about their spring cleaning this year.
"We all want a perfectly clean house with the snap of a finger, so we tend to rush through a numerous amount of burdensome tasks in a short period of time, and that's where we put ourselves at risk for injuries," said orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Lana Kang, M.D. "Whether it's a fall caused after making a wrong step on a ladder or straining a back muscle, it's best to pace yourself, complete one task at a time and take regular breaks."
Follow these safety tips from AAOS to make sure you stay safe while dusting and decluttering your home:
Use proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending to avoid back injuries. Separate your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your back upright and bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles. Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up, and don't try to lift heavy objects by yourself. Use a sturdy step stool instead of a counter or furniture – such as a chair or the couch – when dusting high, hard-to-reach areas.
Use the height of caution when working at height. When working on a ladder, leaning too far to one side and reaching too far overhead can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder. Place the ladder on a firm, level surface and never climb a ladder without someone spotting you.
Use care with extension cords. Be sure they are properly grounded. To avoid tripping or falling, do not drape extension cords across spans of crossing walkways.
Cut injury risk when cutting your lawn. Use a lawn mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released. Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and look for others behind you when you do.
PPE is a friend to spring cleaning. Wear protective gear such as proper eyewear, footwear and thick, well-fitted gloves that serve as a layer of protection to minimize cuts, scratches and chafing or injury from dangerous chemicals.
Read product labels for proper use of cleaning chemicals. Store all chemicals in places indicated on the package. They should remain out of reach of both children and pets. Never place chemicals into unmarked containers or containers labeled for a different substance.
Go easy on yourself. Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. Be sure to stretch your arms, back, shoulders, knees and hips before starting your cleaning. Keep a cell phone within reach in case of accident or injury.
I will take note of all these safety tips during my own spring cleaning season – especially that last one about going easy on myself! Happy cleaning, everyone.