A Plague of Mold

[This essay has been brewing for over a month. This morning it erupted into vocal ministry. Now it has been preserved as a blogpost.]

Lay up not for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought saying, What shall we eat? or , What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. [Matthew 6:19-34]

In the last month, we’ve had an outbreak of mold in our apartment. In all the closets, behind the furniture, anywhere there wasn’t enough air circulation, this grey-green fuzzy mold is growing. Including under the children’s beds. We had to completely empty out their room and wash all their toys, clothes, furniture, walls, carpet….

I keep telling myself, “God did not send us a plague of mold just to tell me that we have too many possessions.” For one thing I really don’t believe God works that way. But the fact is, I already knew that. I know that I hoard too much stuff. I have not lived up to the Light that has been given me. I have heard the word of God and not obeyed.

I have placed my trust in strong walls and tight windows and yet mold and rust have come to corrupt our possessions from the inside.

I have cared too much for things that might be useful someday, instead of trusting that what I need tomorrow will come tomorrow.

Yet even mold is not enough to make me do what know I ought to do. I still have to ask God to help me, for strength and patience and to overcome the ickiness and anxiety of it all. I don’t feel so much like the stupid carpenter who built his house on the beach. I’m more like the ones who had eyes but would not see, who had ears but would not hear. What I need is to be more like the man who said, “Lord, I believe! Help thou my unbelief.” And then, I need to act, to follow God’s commandments.

It’s not that I believe that if I pray correctly or hard enough, that God will take the mold away. Have you heard the old saying, “Trust in God but tie up your camels”? Well, at our house this week, it’s “trust in God and buy a dehumidifier.” But neither is that enough to do what really needs to be done.

I think the real problem, for me personally, and our whole community, is not an excess of people saying, “Lord, Lord” to make themselves look good but not meaning it. It’s a lack of willingness to admit we need help; to say “God, I can’t do this by myself.” “Lord, help me.”

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.”

And if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get rid of what you need to.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


my first thoughts are along the "tie your camel" line.

Are you using Borax solution to clean? It is the most effective antifungal, non-volatile compound I know.

Some people use bleach, but I think that is a bad idea. Bleach has limited usefulness against fungi and I don't think it is worth the health risks.

Along spiritual lines, many of us are still shedding American traditions and culture that enable and encourage hoarding. How about we pray for each other as we let the Lord release us from our prisons of TMS (too much stuff)? Just think of how wonderful it will feel to be free.



12/30/2007 10:02 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Raye, thanks for the suggestion. I found the University of Missouri extension website had excellent mold and mildew control and prevention advice. We've been using TSP on the furniture, half alcohol/half water on the leather and fabric covered things, a disinfecting carpet cleaner, and lots of dishwasher and laundry detergent in those machines. No bleach so far. But borax would be a good middling compound, for upkeep work, which I assume we will still have.

One of the things I recognize is that I am a granddaughter of the Depression - of people who had land but no money, and so they kept anything they came across, for someday. But I live in a small apartment in a world running over with stuff. I don't have to keep it all, I have to move it along to other people who might be able to use it now.

Let's keep praying for each other. Yes. Lord, help us all!

12/31/2007 12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leviticus 14:45(KJV) And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the morter of the house; and he shall carry [them] forth out of the city into an unclean place.

This was sound advice back during the days of "begatting" In some instances it still is, where materials like drywall are badly water-damaged and inundated with mold. We do have a few things that are available to us now though that might help :)

1) Take a deep breath (outside where its not overly moldy) laugh, and relax :) Mold may be a health hazard, but so is stress. It would be ironic to worry yourself to death before the mold can you do you in :)

2) Mold needs moisture and water to grow. Generally either saturation from water intrusion or 70% relative humidity. Let's figure out where the moisture is coming from so every bit of cleaning you do put's a bit closer to a healthier home.

Did you have a leak? Pipe, ceiling/roof, foundation seepage, where is the water coming from?

Is your home centrally heated or cooled? Do you have condesation spots?

3. Can you give a little more information about the construction of the home, and where the mold is growing? In general where in the US are you located and what is the climated there?

4. How financially constrained are you? If its really bad or above a certain threshold, you probably should hire someone to help you. A few fans or dehumidifies might be decent stop-gap measures to get you ahead of the mold in the interim.

5. Im glad to you see you are reading! That's part of the plan to transforming useless worry to informed concern! In addition to the website you mentioned the EPA also maintains some information and guides at their website @ http://www.epa.gov/mold/.

I'll check back here for updates, feel free to send me questions @ edwin_boyette@yahoo.com.


12/31/2007 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re-read your blog and caught the San Franscisco part, so based on where you guys are located I assume you have plenty of ambient humidity.

Also read the quaker excerpt, I'm not overly familar with quaker doctrine does it discourage the uses of technology? I'd assume not since I'm reading this on a blog--but I notice you also have low-tech in your blog description.


12/31/2007 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fortunately, mold is not too much of a problem here in Vegas. Unfortunately, the "stuff" problem is a problem here. Every so often, the "too small fairy" comes to take clothes, toys and other "stuff" our family has outgrown. We also recently watched thestoryofstuff.com with the kids, which explains, in a kid-friendly way, why too much stuff is a problem.

1/01/2008 3:22 PM  
Blogger Will T said...

My prayers are with you. I know how excited you were about your new home. How awful that this problem should show up in it. I know that some new construction, in a desire to make the building as energy-efficient as possible, end up making the living areas almost totally air tight. This encourages mold because there is no ventilation and no place for the humidity to go. If that is the case, then the mold would happen, even if the rooms were empty.

Sometimes our zeal to cure one problem causes another. Moderation in all things includes in our enthusiasms. That is a particularly hard discipline. :^)

Anyway, blessings to you as you clean. May you have a clean and happy and healthy New Year.


1/01/2008 3:25 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thank you everyone for your well wishes. Sorry to take a few days to answer here, but I had to dismantle my office in order to clean the carpet. It's almost back together now, but time for email and blogging is still limited.

Just to be clear, I think our problem is more related to dampness retained by the super energy efficient windows and the fact that we stopped opening the windows everyday when it got colder. We were at about 70% humidity inside before we got the dehumidifier! Now we're running about 50%, which should be fine for houseplants, people and the furniture.

Edwin, thanks for your comments. On the day when we had the worst discoveries of the mold, we pulled everything out of the boys room, and then we went for a walk on the beach, where it was fresh and clean and beautiful. I agree that the stress is as bad as the mold itself.

I think we've identified the problem - we'll see if the situation improves once we finish the remediation. I don't think we're in such a bad state that we need professional help. I think we caught most of it in time.

Quakers are not generally opposed to technology, but most of us do try to keep it as simple as possible. For some, that means no computers. For us, that means no television. For others, it means clean typefaces on their web designs.

Anon,(JPC, is that you?) this has been an excellent opportunity to cut down on our stock of clothes, toys, books, and old artwork. More culling will come over the next month or so, but we're making progress. There has to be room for the air to circulate between things in order for the ventilation theory to work!

Will, you hit the nail on the head. Fortunately, we have been able to take time over the holidays to deal with this. Now I have to get everything put back together before we have a six year old's birthday party here on Saturday and any more stuff comes in.

May you all have a clean and healthy and happy New Year!

1/03/2008 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dehumidifier is a good choice. As long as you keep the realtively humidity below 50% mold germination should be minimized.

Make sure you clean the dehumidifier periodically, empty it out completely and wipe it down with some diluted bleach.

If anyone in the house is particularly allergy prone you may want to rent (or borrow) a HEPA-filtered vacuum and give the house a good once over. The HEPA filter should help collect most of the spores or bits (hyphal fragments, chitin, etc) left over.

Happy New Years!


P.S. Thanks for sharing about Quakers :)

1/04/2008 12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found some excellent research conductted by the EPA that confirms Raye's statement about Borax :) Not only does it have some good fungicidal properties, but it may be fungistatic (limit regrowth) for 6-months or more!

How's it going by the way, any mold growth reappearing?


1/14/2008 2:07 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Edwin, thank you for your continued concern and research. I assume that the research is an ordinary part of your work, but thanks for sharing it with me.

So far, so good. I finished cleaning out the last closet last week. We've been opening the windows anytime the sun comes out. There has been no re-appearance of mold where it has been cleaned. The dehumidifier is still taking a couple of gallons of water out of our air every 24 hours, but it's keeping the humidity level at about 50%, despite torrential rains last week.

I'm a little worried about our electric bill this month, but I'm less worried about our general health. At one point, I did have itchy bumps all down the back of my body, which I first thought were some kind of insect bites. Like we didn't have enough to deal with? But now I think they were hives, in reaction to the mold and the stress of dealing with it all. The doctor prescribed a stronger anti-histamine, and I'm pretty much healed now.

I did have to start watering the plants more often and the children have started asking for a glass of water more often, but I'd rather apply water strategically where needed than continue to live in greenhouse conditions.

And our home is so much better to live in. We did get rid of another station wagon load of stuff to the Goodwill and an equal amount of stuff to the garbage and recycling bins. Our closets have room for air circulation and for more things to go in as needed. I found some things I had been looking for. My "office" is no longer also the depository for all the stuff we didn't quite know what to do with when we moved in six months ago.

I'm practicing what I preach more: if I have too much stuff to take care of, I have too much stuff. (See the comments here.) We think we're going to live here for a long time, no more need to hang on to stuff that might be useful in our next home. If it doesn't fit where we are, it has to go away, preferably to someone else who could use it right now. But I don't have to figure out who that is, that's why we have Goodwill Industries.

And I feel lighter. More free. Less stuck. More able to accept God's blessings and to act to bestow those blessings on others. Hallelujah.

1/14/2008 11:38 AM  

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