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Putri Juneita Johari

CHINESE New Year is just around the corner. Many people would be making all sorts of preparations — from personal appearance and wardrobe to sprucing up the house — to celebrate this special time of the year. One of the most important things done would be sprucing the home — renovations, repairs and spring-cleaning.

You’re supposed to throw out broken items, dead plants and clutter that symbolise all the bad “luck” and energy around you. The idea is to make room for better things to come. All this cleaning should be completed before the holiday arrives because the spring-cleaning must stop by the eve of the New Year.

You’re not supposed to do any more spring-cleaning after that. I was told that you’re not supposed to even sweep the floor during the first few days lest you sweep away your good luck.

I love the idea of a clutter-free home. I love it that such traditions encourage you to focus on happiness, vitality and prosperity. No cleaning for the first few days of the New Year seems like a good idea too because you’ll be too tired from the celebrations.

Tagging on to this whole concept of ushering the new and the good, perhaps we should also include considerations for a safer house? Even if you don’t have an ailing loved one who needs constant care living with you, you may want to ensure that you have certain things in your home.


Every home should have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher. This is especially important when there’s cooking done at home and especially when you have guests coming over. Those little tea candles and other seemingly small flames can be dangerous in the wrong circumstances.

If you don’t have a fire extinguisher at home, get one now. In the meantime, keep a small container of flour in the freezer. It doesn’t just put out oily flames but is also good if you should you have oil spatters on your hands, arms or face. Just put a generous handful to cool the afflicted spots.

Recently there was a small fire in my kitchen when one of my children tried to heat up some leftovers in the toaster oven. The caramelised chicken skin caught fire because the temperature was too high. Such a small fire emitted a surprising amount of smoke and soot — enough to cause panic.

We managed to douse the fire with the cold flour from the freezer. Water would have made the fire bigger because it was an oil fire. If that hadn’t been sufficient, we would’ve thrown a wet floor rug on it.


What was scary was the fact that we weren’t in the kitchen when it happened. I smelled something sweet but kind of burnt wafting from the kitchen. Curious, I made my way there. There was no one in the kitchen but there was black smoke emitting from the oven, and whatever was inside was on fire.

When I opened the oven door, the fire became bigger and scared me. I shouted for help. My sons came. I told one of them to open the back door and the other to pull the tray out so that I could dump the cold flour to put out the fire. We managed the situation very quickly. I dread to think what could’ve happened if I weren’t home. My boys admitted they didn’t know what to do. Cleaning up this mishap was something else. That black smoke left a trail of soot not just inside the oven but also on the walls and ceiling – all that from a small flame in the oven.


This brings to mind other things to have in the home. Smoke detectors, for example, not just in your kitchen but also everywhere in the house, especially at stairwells and outside bedrooms.

Remember this: if the smoke alarm rings outside your door, don’t open it. Chances are the flame is right out there and opening your door feeds the flame with the fresh air (oxygen) coming from your room, making it more dangerous.

Keep small flashlights in strategic places around the house instead of candles in case of power outage. They’re much safer. Just remember to change the batteries every now and then.

If there’s power failure and your house feels hot, don’t open the fridge to cool yourself or the room. Your food may spoil faster.

If you have an electric gate, ensure you know how to use the keys to open them manually if there’s a power failure. The last thing you want is to be stuck in your house at this time. Some people have side gates for such instances but you still can’t drive out.

Last but not least, have your car remote near you. This serves to scare off burglars if you don’t have alarms for the house. These are simple things you could do for your house and family to kick off the new year.

Wishing you a happy and safe new year. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang (SCSOA).

She can reached at [email protected].

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