I used to like to clean. I loved an organized house and had a marathon cleaning routine every Friday. Cleaning helped keep my anxiety at bay and was also how I got my frustrations out. The standing joke used to be if you came into my home and it was spotless and there were baked goods, I was in a “mood” (or had been).
After my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I still get the same rush when my house is clean and organized. But things have changed. I’ve had to lower the expectations I placed on myself.
Now I need to be proud of the things I can get done on a daily basis and not dwell on the things I can’t. I had to learn to ask for help. I had to learn to be specific in what I needed and appreciate the things others did that I couldn’t.
I also had to adjust my way of thinking. Just because it isn’t done “my way,” it doesn’t make it the wrong way.
So these are my top tips for cleaning when you have fibromyalgia or another chronic condition.
1. Ask for help.
Know your limits and quit before you reach them. Don’t try to do everything. Delegate tasks to family members. Assign weekly and age-appropriate chores. Everyone in your home can do something — even toddlers can put clothes in a hamper or pick up toys.
2. Have a plan.
I keep a master weekly cleaning list, but I don’t assign specific days. A master cleaning list reminds me what needs to get done. I can cross off what’s done, and I just love crossing items off a list. Prioritize items based on need and work on those first. If those are all you can do in a week, be OK with that.
3. Set a timer.
15 minutes is a good time amount of time for me. Do what you can in that amount of time, then take a break. Re-evaluate how you’re feeling after each chore so you don’t overdo it.
4. Store supplies where you need them.
No one wants to walk around carrying cleaning products from room to room. Store cleaning supplies in the bathroom for the bathroom and supplies for the kitchen in the kitchen. Remember to wear gloves if your skin is sensitive to cleaning products.
5. Sit down while you work.
Do as many chores as you can while sitting down. Fold laundry, wipe surfaces and sort and organize papers. A bar stool in the kitchen can be a great help. Use it so you can wash dishes or do other chores while sitting for tasks that you might normally do standing.
6. Judge how you feel.
No one knows what kind of day we might have. If you’re having a bad day, have a “no cleaning” day. Take the time for some self-care, sleep or a Netflix marathon or two! If you’re having a so-so or good day, take a break before you feel you need one. If you wait until you feel it, you will probably feel it even more later.
7. Clean while you cook.
If you clean up as you go, you may only need to wipe down counters and put a rogue glass in the dishwasher. There’s almost nothing worse than a pile of dirty dishes at 6 a.m.!
8. Cleaning the bathroom.
Bathrooms are hard for me. But if I wipe down surfaces daily and clean the toilet a few times a week, I can go longer between deep cleans.
9. Green cleaning.
People with fibromyalgia can have chemical sensitivities. There are tons of recipes for all-natural cleaners on Pinterest. A few simple DIY cleaning tips: A half cup of vinegar with a gallon water can be used to mop hardwood and laminated floors. It cleans well with no harsh chemicals and leaves a nice shine. The vinegar smell will leave as the floors dry.
You can also try using vinegar in the rinse cycle of your washing machine instead of fabric softener. Vinegar helps leave clothes smelling fresh, controls static and even de-funks towels.
If you can handle scents, essential oils have tons of great cleaning properties. Baking soda also makes a good scrub. Use it with vinegar for additional cleaning help.
10. Declutter or simplify your home.
The less you have, the less you need to clean. Do this as a long-term project. Work at it slowly.
Assign homes for things, and then use them to help with fibro fog. It makes tidying much simpler when you already know where to put things. Get the family on board. Have them help weed through things, especially their own stuff. Keep what they love and use and tell them let go of things they have outgrown, don’t like or don’t use or wear. They may be resistant, but if you are also simplifying, they may get on board. Bribes work, too! Donate unused items. I keep a permanent smaller “donate” box in my office. Once it’s full, it goes!
11. Miscellaneous ideas.
There are a ton of things we don’t consider in our “master cleaning list” that need to be dealt with from time to time.
While sitting in the car waiting for someone, clean out your purse, tidy the car or organize the glove compartment car. Keep a basket near the front door to hold things you don’t want to forget. Include things like reusable grocery bags, library books or dry cleaning.
Use your vacuum instead of sweeping hard floors and use the attachments to dust. I use them all the time to help keep allergens from building up.
12. No shoe policy.
Some swear by this while others wouldn’t dream of asking. When it comes to your health, do what is best for you — not the masses. Asking people to remove their shoes when coming into your home will help cut down on the dirt on your floors. This helps to make vacuuming easier. It will also help keep allergens out of your home.
13. Pace yourself.
Avoid repetition. Doing something over and over can put a real strain on our bodies.
This link explains pacing perfectly.
14. Get a lightweight vacuum.
When we needed to replace our Dyson vacuum, we went with another brand that is self-propelled, which can help reduce strain. One vacuum tip: Always walk with your vacuum. Don’t just use your arms.
15. Turn up some music.
Then do what you can and remember tomorrow might be a better day!