Monday, August 27, 2012

Housekeeping in Belize

The ant invasion seems to be wearing down.  This is not really due to my efforts, it has much more to do with the fact that it has been sunny out the last few days and they are returning to their own homes. 
Yesterday one of the priests came to visit, and I apologized for the ant-cleaning mess.  “Oh, “ he said, “they’ve been coming into the rectory too.”  When I asked what they had been doing to combat the ants, he replied, “nothing.”

I have learned that when it comes to cleaning in the tropics, you have to be uptight and relaxed at the same time.  So while I am running around pouring baby powder on each new stream of ants and storing the cat food in the fridge (the only place the ants have yet to breach) I am also admitting to myself that the ants will retreat when they choose.  It’s the way things are in the tropics.

It is an unavoidable fact that life in the tropics includes creatures. .  Geckos, ants, and cockroaches are the big ones, but I have encountered a few scorpions too.  And yes, one part of me is super ashamed to admit the occasional cockroach has been seen in my house.  On the other hand, an occasional cockroach has been seen in my mother-in-law's house, and she is the cleanest person I know.  She goes through gallons of bleach a week and even scrubs the garage floor every Saturday.  My father-in-law knows better then to park his truck there Saturday afternoon. 

Anyways, here are some cleaning tips for the tropics:

1.     Everything molds.  Here is a short list of things that I have found mold on in my house:  clean dry clothes in my dresser, books, my staircase, a wooden crucifix hanging on the wall, leather shoes, paintings.  Tea tree oil, bleach, or sunshine work ok to kill mold, but I prefer to try and prevent it.  This means trying to keep things ventilated, but mostly it means I am super careful about what I bring into the house.  I have some beautiful art work and fancy clothes that stay in the states because I can’t guarantee that they will stay mold free.  Which brings me to my next tip:

2.     Everything should be washable.  No delicate dry clean only silk, no irreplaceable art.  I decorate with things that are washable like cloth, ceramic, or metal, and any photos or prints I want are laminated. All my cushion covers, rugs and curtains can be thrown into the wash.

3.     Clutter is bad.  No food left out (even bread) or dishes waiting in the sink to discourage ants, no dirty clothes piles on the floor to avoid spiders and scorpions.  I try not to encourage dark corners, or at least move things around and vacuum behind them regularly.  I’ve taken a cue from my mother-in-law and put heavy things like the couch and dressers on wheels so they can easily be moved and cleaned behind.

4.     Cardboard is EVIL.  The only cardboard I have in my house is found as book covers, and those are monitored closely.  Why?  Cockroaches. They love cardboard and paper, and can subsist on it alone as a food source.  I am pretty anal about this, which means a lot of repackaging.  For example, if I buy a tube of toothpaste, or a box of Ziploc bags, or a role of plastic wrap, everything is removed from the box and the box is immediately thrown out.  I have found cockroaches in all of those types of boxes in the past, and I have no intention of bringing stowaways from the store into my home.

5.     Plastic containers that seal are good.  Every time I go to the states or someone comes to visit I collect a few more of these.  I have all sizes and pretty much anything that is stored goes into one.  This includes everything from my extra sheets and towels to my shoes to kitchen utensils. 

And you know what?  Even with all these things I still have geckos running up my walls.   That is the point where I just shrug and hope they catch a few mosquitos for lunch.


  1. I just stumbled upon your post looking for a recipe. I've enjoyed reading it as I've just moved back to the states after living in southern Belize for a year. We too had a massive ant problem. I was visiting my Mennonite milkman's family when his wife told me about Terro (or Terra-I can't remember which). It's an ant bait that she picked up at a Mennonite hardware store and it works! One round lasted them 4 months and they were just in the midst of rebaiting. Good luck!

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thanks for the tip! We have a lot of animals, so I usually try to avoid poison (hence the baby powder). But I think if we have such an extensive invasion again I might have to resort to it. Did you find your recipe?


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