What's the least you can do to feel sane?

Last spring, my friend's daughter got head lice.  Naturally, my friend called me for reassurance. Though my friend and I have had many discussions about head lice, her perspective on head lice changed when it actually made an appearance in her own house.

She said, "I know that the research says that doing cleaning won't help. But I want to clean.  I want to vacuum everything, including the children. I want to do laundry.  It would make me feel better."

I like a clean home as much as the next person, but I know the cleaning marathons that are triggered by the discovery of head lice.  All other activity (including sleep) is discontinued in and out of the home.  What's worse is that people actually cut back on the time they spend in lice combing because they are too exhausted from their newly adopted morning-to-night rituals (get kids up, strip beds, throw bedding in wash, vacuum mattresses, vacuum room, throw pajamas in wash, throw pillows in the dryer...all before the morning coffee.) Though NONE of this helps, I understand that it is our natural survival instincts that get us moving in a crisis.  Being busy makes us feel better.  Knowing the panic that ensues in a home that just discovers these uninvited guests, I asked my friend a question:

"What is the LEAST you can do to still feel sane?"

My friend already knew that she needed to put the time and effort into a thorough wet combing of her daughter's head every couple of days over the next 2 weeks and that this would already give her plenty of work to do.  But in her mind, she wanted to do more.  In answer to my question, she said, "The pillows.  I think my rational mind would let me give up most of the cleaning, but I know I couldn't rest if I didn't change my daughter's pillow case every day." 

"Ok, as long as you know that this activity will have no effect on your daughter's head lice, right?"

"I know."

So my friend resisted the demon of excessive cleaning and even stopped changing the pillowcase after a couple of days.  She used no chemical treatments and simply used a proper metal lice comb on her daughter's wet, conditioned hair.  Though she combed over a 2 week period, no lice or eggs were seen after the 3rd combing. When I congratulated her on the success of her efforts, she admitted that she had doubted that the solution could be so simple.  (Simple but not easy; even though things get easier and faster as you go, keeping up with the combing is still a pain in the arse.) I asked her why she stopped washing her pillowcases every day.  She said that as she did more combings, her confidence in her own abilities to detect and remove the bugs and eggs grew every day.  She was pleased that I had steered her away from doing more and being less effective.

If you have just discovered head lice in your home, get informed before you do or spend anything. If you are reading this blog for the first time, check out the other posts.  Learn about wet combing. Read the research links.  Think with your head based on the most current knowledge and try not to give into cleaning urges.  But if you just can't resist, then choose your battles wisely.  Ask yourself the question, "What is the least I can do to feel sane?" Not the least you can do in the combing/picking department - nothing will relieve you of this necessary task - but what is the least you can do in the home. Less time cleaning means more time combing. Get a good comb, do the combing, and trust the process.