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In Defense of Dirt and Grime – Germs Don’t Make You Sick

Confession – I am not a super tidy housekeeper, and my kids and I will likely never be featured in any magazine article titled “Best Dressed” anything. At home, we regularly wear clothes with holes in them – GASP! – and sometimes they have stains. Oh oh! But clothes feel so comfy right before they fall off your back, and new ones never seem to fit quite the way the old ones did.

In Defense of Dirt and Grime - Germs Don't Make You Sick

Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do

I have also been known to repair my favorite garden gloves with duct tape.


Hmmmm….looks like they might need a fresh layer of tape before spring…

I found out in fall that my eldest son had been repairing his favorite shoes the same way. Duct tape does not hold well on the bottom of wet shoes in a rain storm. The silly kid should have used a layer or two inside and out. πŸ˜‰

I use household items until they are truly beyond repair, and mend things as best as I am able. I'm willing pay extra for products that will last, but I also try to take care of even the “cheap” items. A penny saved is a penny earned.

House Cleaning – Only “as needed”

As Grace noted in her comment on my post about cleaning the shower, sometimes my house gets downright grimy.


Above: My messy shower, right before cleaning.

No matter how hard I try to keep my kitchen neat and wash dishes as I cook, I always end up with dirty dishes after a meal, and usually there's some sort of project, or ferments, or experiment or produce (or all of the above) filling up my counter tops.


My mama always preferred to be out in the garden or in the kitchen cooking instead of cleaning. I'm afraid I inherited those tendencies from her. Every so often I do go through and deep clean, but I don't have a regular schedule. If you're looking for tips on how to have a lovely, lady-like home, I highly recommend visiting Homestead Revival. They're much better at that sort of thing.

Good, Clean Dirt

Not only do I not mind my dirt, I revel in it – just a bit. Homes that are super neat make me a little uncomfortable. I don't take the dirt and grime level to “skanky” or “stinky”, but a little dust is not a cause for alarm. When bits start sticking to the bottom of my feet, it's time to vacuum, but I purposely chose flooring that will hide dirt well. (No carpet, because that hides way too much dirt.)

I also believe in the concept of, as my son puts it, “good clean dirt”. I was talking with a friend of mine, and we both noted that small cuts and scrapes exposed to good, clean garden dirt seemed to heal faster than those exposed to household dust or wood shop dust. I haven't been able to find an empirical data on this, but I suspect that some of the naturally occurring antibiotics in the soil that keep plants healthy can also form a symbiotic relationship with your body's healing crew, too. (In case you are not aware, several pharmaceutical antibiotics, such as streptomycin, have been developed from soil antibiotics.)  Please note I am talking about healthy soil from a known area, such as my organic garden. Soil may also harbor pathogens, especially if it's contaminated with feces or chemicals such as industrial herbicides and pesticides, which destroy the naturally occurring ecosystem.

Germs Don't Make You Sick

I think the Germ Theory of disease is largely bunk – it's not the germ, it's the terrain. If your body is healthy and well-nourished, you're not very likely to get sick. Germs are simply opportunists, if you will, taking advantage of conditions which are favorable to their growth, scavenging off tissues that are already damaged. (Now there's a pretty picture…)  If you want to learn more you can research “Biological Terrain Versus the Germ Theory“.

Further, the “germs” and other microbes that are most likely to be found in my home are ones to which we have already been exposed. Better to have a population of relatively friendly and benign microbes than clear them all out and make room for nastier pathogens. Studies are now suggesting that there's a link between overly clean homes and an increase in allergies. Better safe than sorry! πŸ˜‰

Dirt and Grime in My House?
Yep, a little.

So what do you think? How clean does your home need to be? Do you clean on a schedule, or “as needed”? Am I the only one who'll admit to being messy? πŸ™‚  I can live with that, too.

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  1. Oh, I just LOVE this….I’m a little bit of a messy, myself. I’d rather wait till it looks dirty, before I clean it up πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Although, since I moved into my aunt’s house, I’m trying really hard to clean it on a more regular basis. Oh, and thanks for being brave to post the photo of your shower. My bathtub is looking a little grimy , too…and I need to clean it. Oh, and yes, I like fact, I welcome them, and believe that has been part of the reason why I almost never get sick. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather πŸ˜‰

  2. I’m messy as hell. When friends come over unannounced they’ll find my office strewn with herbs, drying or fresh, and piles of dirty laundry lying around upstairs where I put them to organise them but then forget about them. I’m fanatical about a few things though: 1. The floors. I steam clean them every two days, and have a strict no-shoe policy in my house. 2. The kitchen. It’s clean. There are constantly things on the countertops because of fermentation projects and herbal projects but I wipe everything down religiously every night. 3. The bathrooms. I hate going to a bathroom at someone’s house and it being dirty, and so I keep it clean with daily maintenance. πŸ™‚

    1. No shoes in the house, for the most part. Kitchen gets cleaned every night, at least no standing truly dirty stuff, just clutter and projects. Bathroom counter gets wiped down most days, toilets get scrubbed as soon as they start to look a bit icky, shower…messiest spot in the bathroom.

  3. totally relieved (i kinda suspected it) .. that others out there don’t make house cleaning a priority… i just have barely enough time to work full time and run a part time home business… and cook traditionally and all that other good stuff… sometimes (well .. most of the time)… things just don’t get put away and cleaned up… (like they used to when i was single .. and bored).

  4. This post could have easily been describing me and my home! So many things that need to be done, and that I want to do, and so many hours in the day. A spotless house does not make it to the top of the list. I’d rather be in the garden or the barn, and a little dirt won’t hurt!

  5. This is an awesome post! I would not consider cleaning one of our top priorities. We try to keep the clutter to a minimum but there always seems to be stuff everywhere no matter what. We try to do a general straightening up about once a week, but really only do a “deep cleaning” a couple of times a year. I’n definitely not afraid of germs, completely agree with you about germs not being our problem and think all this anti-bacterial crap might just be our downfall. Cheers to having better things to do than to clean all the time!!!

  6. I think my house and yours would get along famously. We picked our kitchen floor tile colour because it wouldn’t show dirt also. πŸ™‚ Good thing to!!!

  7. Glad to know I’m not the only one. πŸ™‚ Cleaning is almost always at the bottom of my priority list. I work full time outside the house and in order to be able to cook real food and make things from scratch, well, something has to give, and it’s usually cleaning. I try to keep things tidy and picked up, but they’re not always *clean*. The only time it really bothers me is when I find out my in-laws are coming over unexpectedly–their house looks like it came out of a magazine!

  8. My husband and I are in the medical field. The human body is made to fight a certain level of germs. The 2 moms I know who are hand sanitizer nuts kids are sick all the the time. I don’t own any hand sanitizer and we are never sick. Correlation? I think so. Angela

  9. I certainly have learned to tolerate more messiness compared to BC (before children) – but I have to admit that I still never feel as relaxed as the few minutes after cleaning before it all falls apart again. Maybe another 15 years and my house can look lovely again!

  10. As you might remember, I wrote a post in October explaining how I am NOT “Susie Homemaker.” And part of that is with cleaning. My house is far from a sty – and I have a thing about it not getting that way since my mom truly never did anything to clean, and that was gross – but it is not super clean. It’s lived in…and comfortable. I do daily tasks like dishes, of course, and keep everything basically straightened up, but I clean otherwise when I notice it needs it…or when company is coming. And my kids are healthy as horses, even with all those “germs” around. :^)

  11. This post made me smile. When my kids were all little it was much messier, and when we homeschooled it was also. Now that they are mostly teenagers it has straightened up some – but it will never be perfect. I have to admit I love it clean but I don’t stress about it. I really believe that antibacterial stuff is horrid. But it is just one of the things that my extended family and friends think is crazy!

  12. I practice what I call “preventive dishwashing.” Before taking a dish from the cupboard, I first scan the countertop to see what dish I can reuse. This saves a ton of time and resources. I figure, even if there’s a little bit of dried on food, dehydration is God’s natural form of food preservation, so I needn’t be scared of it. I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t need to worry about meat contamination, so that helps, of course.

  13. I admit that I hate to clean as well! So many other things I find more enjoyable. For most of the year, half of my kitchen counter is covered in seeds that are in various phases of drying. My husband is a pack rat so there is clutter all over the place. As long as it’s not a health hazard, I’m fine with it. He doesn’t expect me to clean it, but I would like for him to clean it. We also have 3 cats. I scoop twice or 3 times a day, they are well fed, well adjusted, and very much loved. Our house never stinks from lack of cleaning the box. We’re happy, healthy, and well adjusted people. I’d just rather be outside in the garden.

  14. Have you ever heard of the hygiene hypothesis? It’s premise is our aversion to kids getting dirty is a reason we’re seeing more allergy problems and autoimmune diseases than ever before. So let your kids get dirty every once in a while, doctor’s orders. Oh, there’s a study also showing kids with dogs early on have less risk of asthma.

  15. Certainly an “as needed” sort of cleaner, who every so often goes on “cleaning binges” and deep cleans a few things (or rooms) from time to time. I live in a studio (400 square feet) with one adult cat. People who come in do not smell the evidence that I do, indeed, HAVE a cat. (breathes sigh of relief every time someone says that to me!) I know we can all become used to the scents in our own space, so I’m glad when I “pass” as cat-free in spite of having one. I have switched to a litter made from ground corn cobs, which is less unpleasant when kitty wants a cuddle right after a visit to her box. The clay scent bothered me, and the thought of the dust from it being bad for her made me switch early in her life. I do not let my shower get as bad as you show here, but seeing the pink and peach colors creeping in creeps me out. (blushes)

    I’ve often been glad I don’t have kids, afraid of what I consider a bit too much OCD about cleanliness levels. The kids in shopping carts… protecting them from THAT I see as sensible; often stores sell toxic items which may be placed over the surfaces I see kids sucking on at other times. Those carts aren’t cleaned regularly that I’ve seen at my store. So it’s not the =germs= on the carts that bother me so bad, but the toxic things or when the carts get sticky. But I know I’d wig out on them putting dirt in their mouths because I wouldn’t know what pesticides might be in it, or other things dumped into it… So I’m glad to not be infecting children with my OCD behaviors.

    1. Cher – don’t freak out too badly about the pink tones in my shower – it’s not mold. We’ve got iron based bacteria in our water, which are harmless, but the stains show up in a matter of days after cleaning, even with a water softener. If it were mold or something nastier, I’d be more freaked out myself. I do deep clean from time to time as well. πŸ™‚

  16. Thanks so much for this post! I always thought I was just the odd one out. Certain people who would never admit to a dirty shower must also be so caught up in the “a clean house= a good wife/mother/person” lie that they don’t realize the harm they are causing by perpetuating it. I love your blog ( just found it) Thanks for spending less time on the gloss and more on the grit. πŸ™‚

    1. Welcome, Tammy! I have proportionately less gloss than grit available. πŸ˜‰ I think some folks just feel more comfortable when the house is immaculate, just like I feel more comfortable if it’s not too tidy. The “perfect home” market seems to be rather well saturated, so I figure it’s time that someone admits that their house is not quite so perfect.

  17. I enjoyed reading your post because I’ve never met housework I couldn’t put off for something more interesting. When the cat hair dust bunnies start organizing and running drills, I figure it is time to vacuum. I love hardwood for that reason and despise carpet.

    We do try to keep up with the dishes so they don’t get disgusting and we can actually cook. I occasionally take a swipe at a bathroom to keep it from getting completely out of hand. I try to pick up as much as I can. Other than that, I’m more interested in living than cleaning πŸ™‚

  18. πŸ™‚ My mother was Dutch and they have this thing about being spotless. She also was a working mom who just couldn’t do spotless. We learned this little trick: A place for everything and everything in its place. It’s amazing how cleaned up your house looks if it is just picked up. My mom kept the house sorta spotless, just in case anyone came over. No one ever did. My house is not spotless and the kids (and adults, too) who come over have learned to take what they can get. A picked up house does have the advantage of being able to pack more fun into it!

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