10 Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Pests in Homes

 As a millennial, I moved dozens of times between the ages of 17 and 30. Given that the share of 25- to 34-year-olds who have lived in their current home for less than two years rose from 33.8% in 1960 to 45.3% in 2017... I think this has become the norm for younger generations, but it also points to a problem that is also largely ignored as an issue concerning homeowners and renters alike: Pests. 

Honestly, pests weren't a huge concern for me until recently, obviously always doing what I can to keep things clean and didn't want them, but I had no idea all of the hidden dangers that having pests inside your home can present. Not only can pests carry disease, but they can contaminate your food and the air you breathe. 

When housing, even crummy housing, becomes unaffordable during a period when extermination and repairs can be costly and take longer than usual to be serviced... I just imagine a lot of band-aids are being applied to pest prevention and extermination for the pure sake that things are so damn expensive right now. However, some pests pose an immediate danger to anyone exposed to even just the disrupted excrement dust floating in the air... Literally, now that we own a home and have lived in it for long enough to have seen some shit, let me tell you, I thought that I was clean before, but I am so organized and clean now that there is literally nowhere a pest could find food available even with the very real presence of twin toddlers running and chucking food scraps all over this place. Regardless of your housing situation, here are my ten very easy lifestyle changes to prevent pests from thriving in a home that you ACTUALLY live in.

Obviously, the best tip to keeping a clean house is to just not make anything dirty happen in it, but some of us actually have to live in our homes.

1. Reuse all those glass jars from pickles, salsas, and bulk pickled goods. 

This becomes particularly useful when you have little kids with a bazillion different types of dry-good snacks. I especially love the big bulk jars of pickles because you can fit bigger snack goods like goldfish or cheerios. If you can afford air-tight glass canisters, then by all means invest in the good stuff, but when you have little ones trying a bunch of random things to figure out what they want to eat at any given moment, you're going to go nuts trying to keep everything in perfectly matching jars. If like me, you try to casually match, then I reuse the Joe T. Garcia's salsa jars because my husband is a raving fan and goes through 2.5 jars of their salsa weekly so I can guarantee a constant supply of matching jars. Glass is going to keep rodents and some bugs out, but mill moths can find their way in some wild places so also be sure to keep your lids on tight!

2. Vacuum every day, someone in your house needs to do it. Here is why:

Rodents and bugs can live off of the tiniest crumbs for an insane amount of time so either keep all eating activities central to the dining area and focus your cleaning solely in that room every day or appropriate enough time to sweep wherever your toddlers took their snacks (this includes couch cushions and under the rugs). It really does not take THAT long, I kind of think of it as "me time" because the kids are terrified of the vacuum so mommy gets to do that while they hug each other waiting for it to be over. They don't cry or anything, but they have this idea that if they leave their toys or any food they wanted to eat, then the vacuum sucks it up and the "trash man" takes it away. LOL, wonder where they got that idea? My kids are CLEAN, they understand that when dirty outside playtime is over, it is important to clean off before dragging it through the house. If you don't have small kids, live alone, and never eat at home then you probably don't need to vacuum every day, but on the days you eat at home, vacuum. You would be surprised by what you find!

3. Take out any food or gross trash nightly, at minimum.

The easiest way to maintain this is by reusing those bazillion plastic grocery bags you've been hoarding. Keep that stash in the kitchen if it isn't there already, every morning take a new one out and this is where you can place any food scraps that you don't / can't compost. At the end of the day, it will be a lovely mess of coffee grounds, chicken bones, diapers, etc. all of which are easy enough to tie up in a smaller bag and toss out before bed each night. 

4. Don't eat or bring food of any kind into your bedrooms.

Breakfast in bed, popcorn and a movie, snuggled-up with snacks... leave that for the couch (minding you vacuum it up when you're finished). Bringing food into the bed is an unintended invite for unwanted bedmates to join your slumber party. Yes, I let my kids eat goldish in my bed, I am full-well running the risk that I may wake up in the night to something running across my face. However, some mornings they will watch tv with dry snacks in our bed which is adjacent to the living room and within sight while we watch the Today Show and finish our coffee. I just make sure to vacuum and wash the sheets more frequently.

5. Run your water long enough to clear out the drain pipe from your garbage disposal.

Learned this the hard way so don't be like us, run your water long enough to push all of the food bits out of the pipes in your home. The tube that runs between the garbage disposal and dishwasher is literally just flexible plastic and can be very easy for rodents to chew through. It is gross and you don't want this to happen. Fortunately, I am also relatively handy so I could repair the tube damage, but rodents in the house are a HUGE problem that should be remedied immediately.

According to the experts, we need to run the garbage disposal until the food is gone (about 30 seconds), turn off the disposal, and then run the water for another 10 or 15 seconds to flush out the drain.  

6. Keep "clean" clutter off of the floor, particularly in areas that are near walls or big furniture.

I often find myself moving from one project to the next, eventually coming full circle to complete things, but when that eventual finish comes to fruition will depend on some things. Is that just my ADHD? Lesson from the school of hard knocks, keep those projects away from walls or large furniture, many pests walk the perimeters of a room or hide in clutter. Keep clutter off of the floor, but if that isn't an option then keep the clutter towards the center of the room which will both minimize pests from finding easy refuge, but will also prompt you to handle the clutter it in a timely manner.

7. Wash your trash cans out regularly.

Even our lidded trash cans can be breeding grounds for pests in the kitchen. The kitchen trash cans can get disgusting really quickly so every time you change out the bag, check the interior for gooey gross stuff and wipe it out. The general rule of thumb is to give your cans a good wash every month but to also clean the can of any obvious grossness when you see it or change the bag. If you keep your gross waste to the contents of that small shopping bag of trash each day, then the likelihood of your big trash can getting gross decreases, thus this becomes less of a burden.

8. Keep a clean sink...

This truly will be the death of me, but keeping a perpetually clean sink will prevent a lot of nasty pests from invading your kitchen. From fruit flies to rodents, many pests can find sustenance from the slimy gunk lingering on the contents in and on your sink and drain. Two ways that I make this less of a problem spot for our house is by reusing water cups for probably far too long and finishing plates in their entirety for easy cleaning. The most enjoyable method of cleaning off plates and cookware in a sure-fire way that prevents pests from eating them is for them to be scraped clean by a utensil that transfers those delicious bits of food into your mouth so the pests don't get the chance! Lick your utensils clean too! Say so long to nasty food-gooped scrub brushes and brillo pads, say hello to entering your dishes straight into the dishwasher! Only serve the amount of food you know you will eat and scrape it, lick it, and get it all down your throat before you place it in the sink or dishwasher. Not today pests.

9. Take advantage of any extra freezer or refrigerator space for storing dry goods.

Pests can't thrive in the cold environments of the freezer, I love storing oats, flour, and other dry goods in our freezer wherever we have the space. Keeping dry goods out of the pantry keeps them out of the mouths of pests! Even when I had the tiniest of freezers, I dedicated space to storing flour because mill moths or pantry moths are so obnoxious and can happen to anyone. These moths lay eggs on flour or grains and dry goods that you bring home from the grocery store. Over time they can actually eat through thin plastics and get into bins you would think were air-tight... they can get out of control very quickly, best bet store as much in the freezer as possible, buy fewer dry goods or eat what you have out or in the pantry within a couple of days, at most. 

10. Get everyone in the house on the same page, pests move fast so this takes all hands on deck.

Pretty much the only job pests have is to eat and procreate so they have all the time in the world to invade or investigate the moment we let our guard down. Getting everyone in the house to make these shifts is going to take everyone consciously acknowledging these lifestyle changes are important for the health and safety of everyone within the home.

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