An urban tale

  • Health
  • Sunday, 06 Apr 2003


IN the Sim residence, dust, dirt and grime have a very short lifespan. These filthy felons are swiftly taken into custody before they can settle comfortably onto any surface. The vacuum cleaner sucks up layers of dust particles, the mop goes on a swabbing spree while wet cloths are rubbed over sticky tabletops.  

Although scenes like the above are repeated in most households during the weekend, the Sims prefer doing their household chores on a daily basis. The wife, 38-year-old Susie Sim, admits that keeping the household spick and span involves “sheer hard work but a clean home is a healthy home.”  

The Sims had been staying in a condominium for 15 months before deciding to move into their current dwelling place, a terrace house, three years ago. Initially, they were hesitant about relocating, having become familiar with the surroundings and the people on the condo’s premises. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the constant noise and air pollution that threatened their quality of life.  

“Although our apartment block faced the highway, we could tolerate the noise level by shutting the windows. Then came the endless din from the construction of a new apartment phase opposite us.” 

The Sims are mindful that a safe, clean and happy home environment are essential factors for their son's wellbeing.

But more than that, every time the wind blows, it brought with it a sea of dust. No amount of cleaning and mopping could stop the “sandstorm” from coming into their house. Worse, her nine-year-old son Thaddeus, then a toddler, would rub his eyes until they became red and swollen.  

“After I took my son to see a doctor, I was told that dust allergens were causing his eyes to itch. Apparently, the toxic fumes and excessive dust pollution combined to aggravate his immune system. I told my husband, ‘we have to leave this place.’” 

Although the Sims have no control over the outside environment, they nevertheless get to settle a score with the elements at home. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of dust collected inside the house. Instead of sweeping the floors, I vacuum them. When you sweep, you’re simply redistributing the dust into the air. Once I’m done with the three rooms, the hall and lounge, dining area and the kitchen, my husband takes over. He’s in charge of mopping the floors,” she chuckles.  

For her home cleaning campaign, two vacuum cleaners, mops and pails are her usual recruits. At the moment, she is using conventional vacuum cleaners which she feels is not economically viable in the long term.  

“I’m thinking of getting one of those water vacuums that trap dust more effectively. I realise that using the old vacuum cleaner is burning a hole in my pocket as I’ve to change the dust bags every week. 

“The best thing about doing house work is that you get to reap the rewards immediately. When the home environment is neat and tidy, family members are more inclined to spend time at home. My son doesn’t take tuition lessons since my husband and I coach him with the schoolwork. To ensure that my home is conducive for studying, spaces are kept clean, bright and well-ventilated. Besides, my husband and I spend a lot of time at home and a well-kept home is essential for the family’s physical and mental well-being,” says the jovial Susie. 

As a parent, she is concerned about vector-borne diseases like dengue and so keeps her garden limited to a few palms. She makes sure stagnant water is quickly emptied from idle containers so they don’t become breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes.  

Apart from the other health hazards of urban living like noise and air pollution, the Sims have to endure murky water woes, a common problem in many households in the suburbs. Suzie recalls with amusement how the water filter cartridge in her garden would turn brown like kopi O within hours of replacement. They have stopped using the cartridge filters since but instead have installed a gas cylinder-like water filtration system in their garden. 

Nevertheless, all work and no play can be quite a drill. So, the Sims try to balance a healthy environment for their son with indoor and outdoor activities as well. 

“Life is full of simple pleasures and many are free. For me, doing house chores whether it’s mopping the floor, cleaning the upholstery or the windows is a form of exercise. I get a sense of satisfaction every time I finish a task that I set my mind to.  

“A healthy environment also extends out of the house. In the evenings, I spend time with my son either playing badminton, football, basketball or riding our bicycles. We are lucky to have community facilities like a multi-purpose hall and a playground which is within walking distance. Now that we have two puppies, there will be more play, exercise and greater quality time!” exclaims the head of the house S.H. Sim, who left his job as a bond dealer at Bank Negara to concentrate full time on managing his investment portfolio from home.  

He also believes that books and TV can go hand in hand to feed the curious and impressionable minds of young children. Books, he says are “treasures of wisdom” capable of widening one’s horizons and enticing imagination.  

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