We are friends with professional home organizers, SimplyOrganizedCo, based out of Glenview, Illinois. They service the entire North Shore of Illinois and beyond. We met Irene Lo, owner of SimplyOrganized, at the Winnetka Farmer’s Market one Saturday and boy did she have some stories to share. The local home organization business had to begin thinking strategically about how to handle homes with pests. Decluttering a pest-infested home is not like other jobs, she explained.

cluttered garage home

Decluttering a pest-infested home

Irene’s company handles a lot of different types of organizational jobs. This spring, some of her staff were all working independently in areas throughout a home we had been hired to organize. Each of them encountered droppings in the areas they were working- especially in the basement and garage. They thought it wasn’t a big deal, and that the mice were localized to one or two areas. However, as they continued to declutter the home over the course of a few days, they realized that the homeowners had a full-blown rodent infestation on their hands.

These particular homeowners are snow birds, who were spending more than half of the year in a second home out West. They had also spent most of the pandemic years there as well, leaving their Midwest home unoccupied for an extended period of time. The decluttering project came about as the empty nesters prepared to downsize.

This is where an ordinary decluttering job quickly became a shockingly dangerous situation – both for my team as well as the homeowners.

Health Risks Caused by Rodents

mouse living in couch

During this service, one of Irene’s organizers had a tiny cut on her hand. (We’re talking a very tiny one-centimeter cut). At first, she did not think anything of it, and did not even mention it. The next day she mentioned she did not feel well. Her hand was looking red and a bit swollen. By the end of the job the next day, her whole arm was starting to hurt. The swelling had increased, and she honestly did not know what was going on. She went to immediate care to see a doctor that afternoon after her shift.

When the doctor asked if she happened to be exposed to rodents, the light bulb went on.

The immediate care doctor sent her to the emergency room right away. By this time, her whole arm was beginning to swell and felt firm to the touch. At the hospital, she was admitted and stayed for two nights. She was observed by a hand surgeon for Necrotizing Fasciitis (also known as the flesh-eating disease). This scary diagnosis was caused by a tiny surface level cut (less than a centimeter).

Can having mice in the house make you sick?

house mouse hiding under floorboard

Irene’s team learned that one of the homeowners was also experiencing side effects. Right before the team member went to the hospital, one of the homeowners had taken a sick day off work. He was having respiratory issues, extreme lethargy, and was feeling almost flu-like symptoms. He had come downstairs to chat with Irene as she was working in the garage. We could tell he was so tired and felt so terrible that he had to sit on the garage steps to have the 5-minute conversation.

At the time, they thought it might be COVID. Since the garage door was open, and they were in a very well-ventilated space, and maintained a healthy distance during our conversation, it was all seemingly okay.

After learning more about her team member’s illness and hospitalization, Irene was very worried about this homeowner’s health. She put her worry to good use, and started to research more into the kind of illness that can come about due to mouse infestations.

“I found so many possibilities, I couldn’t believe it! In this case, I thought it could be Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS).”

At this point, they were all so worried about their teammate who had just been admitted to the hospital that Irene felt compelled to at least inform the home owners of this illness. She figured they could make the call themselves, but at least if they were armed with the information, they could make the best call if additional medical attention was needed.

When is it time to call a pest control company for mice?

After the organizer was admitted to the hospital, another organizer filled the team in with a lot of information about the dangers of mouse droppings. The next day they had a team discussion and made the decision they needed to stop decluttering this pest-infested home. Irene recommended Rose as a trusted local company, which many of her organizers already had positive experiences with.

rose pest control technician speaking with homeowner and daughter

“If you have any signs of mice or rats in your home, don’t brush it off. Call a professional as soon as you notice something. We learned a very valuable lesson when dealing with mouse droppings and rodent infestations.”

When working around a large amount of mouse droppings, bacteria particles and viruses can get stirred up. You can breathe them in if you do not wear proper PPE, like a dust mask and gloves. Irene’s staff were not aware of this and had spent days working in very unsanitary and dangerous conditions. She has since changed her company policy due to this situation. As home organizers, they have learned not to take a pest infestation lightly.

If you’re struggling with a mouse infestation, please contact us for immediate assistance.

To learn more about Irene Lo of SimplyOrganizedCo, please visit her website: https://simplyorganizedco.com/

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