Monday, April 4, 2016

(C)leaning and (C)hores

Your sink is coated like the tongue of a drunk. Your toilet smells like Burning Man. You are washing one dish at a time as needed. The milk carton sticks to the refrigerator shelf. The floor is growing its own winter coat. If you own a cat, it hates you.

No, you aren’t a college student. You have a chronic illness. Managing the house is too much. Managing the apartment is impossible. Heck, managing just your bedroom is beyond your ability. Oh, and the idea of a garden will remain a picture in a book.

This is a tough one for me. I spend a ridiculous amount of time worrying about the cleanliness of the house and trying to stay on top of things like laundry, planning dinner, etc, but I never get caught up. I have some guilt over how little I can accomplish. I have a lot of guilt over how much strain this puts on my husband. He’s already working to support us and is tired when he comes home. It feels like a burden to ask him to make dinner, much less any other chore on top of that. It doesn’t leave him much time as a caregiver for things he wants to do or needs to do, like unwinding after a stressful day at work or exercising to stay healthy.

I try to be reasonable. After all, if he were single, he’d have to eat. Right?

When I was first sick, we lived in a larger, multi-story, old house. It was in need of a lot of attention. It was beyond our abilities. The laundry was in the basement. I wasn’t on medicine to help with fatigue yet, and my heart was still in bad shape. We ended up moving out of that house, and leaving it in an awful mess. My mother-in-law came in and cleaned that place before we could sell it. Hear that? That’s my soul dying a little. It was incredibly kind and generous of her, but I still haven’t forgiven myself for the mess I know she saw. If you haven’t experienced this, there’s no way to convey to another person WHY your bathroom looks the way it does. There’s just no way. I fear that she will forever assume that I’m a lazy slob.

"Creatures of ev'ry kind but ours
Well comprehend their natural pow'rs;
While we, whom reason ought to sway,
Mistake our talents ev'ry day."
--Jonathan Swift

I’ve had to lower my standards. There was no other choice, and no one is to blame. The beginning description had a few standards that are too low for my personal comfort. I’ll let you guess which ones. Does it surprise you that it’s not all of them?

I try to get help. We can’t afford a maid service, but we have two young adults living with us, so there’s no reason they can’t do more. This requires me to set boundaries and be firm, consistent, and clear with my expectations. It also requires me to let go of some of that guilt.

That is one of the hazards of an invisible illness. They can’t SEE how I feel. They don’t KNOW what I need. I have to tell them. I have to communicate, and I have to do it without being passive-aggressive or angry.

There are some hacks. I don’t use all of these ideas, but I know they work for many people:

- Break large tasks into small bouts of work. For instance, I wash the glasses first. Then, I take a break. When they are dry, I wash the plates. And so on. Often, this means it takes me all day to do one load of dishes, and more often than not, I don’t finish before the day is over. It's also enough to exhaust me.
- Do not do anything that requires bending over and standing up or working with your arms over your head. Just don't. That will need to be delegated.
- Touch it once. When you fold laundry, sort it by person. Ask that person put it away.
- Be a little less Earth-friendly. (Sorry, Gaia.) Bleach wipes make things much easier.
- Consider a rolling stool to sit on while you work.
- De-clutter and downsize.
- Divide chores with family. One kid cleans the toilet, one kid cleans the sink, and the husband does the tub. That way no one is doing it all, and it still gets done.
- Do freezer meals or batch meals.
- Know your best time of day and USE it. Mornings are my best time. I am able to put dinner in the crockpot, put away clean dishes, and wipe down the counters.
- If it's an option in your area, get groceries delivered.
- Don't overdo. Once you've crossed that line, you've lost the game because now you'll be in bed for a day, which means nothing will get done. You have to learn your own limits and trust that you are at your best when you respect them.
- Wear clothes more before washing them. (Think of it as making up for the bleach wipes.)
- Invite someone over for an exchange. You wash my windows and I’ll order pizza or whatever.
- Keep a bullet journal that is specifically a way to help you stay on top of the mess.
- Sometimes, combining chores can help. I put the clean dishes away while I’m making my coffee. I’m already standing, so why not?
- I’ve discovered that using old tea on windows and mirrors makes them easier to do. There’s no streaking, so it’s less arm movement!
- Keep a laundry basket in the car to make carrying things inside much easier.

What tricks or tips have you found work for you with your chronic illness?


  1. I don't have a cronic illness, but I struggle with fatigue and tasks that seem too overwhelming and I try to clean the kitchen while I fix dinner, because as you said, I am already up.:)

  2. Being consistent with the kids is an issue. We have that in common. Then there is the get it done right, so do it myself thing. When I do clean I want to have it right for the effort. Should I walk on the elliptical while I "walk" through the Commonwealth in Fallout 4?

  3. Reading your blog helps me appreciate what I have. Great tips for everyone, even those without a chronic illness.

  4. Those are some great tips. Thanks for writing about this important issue.

  5. Sometimes the daily grind seems too much...I let things slide- reading your blog is a wake up call...chronic laziness on my part can be addressed.
    I have a corner in the guest room thats full of stuff with nowhere to put it. I have given myself the challenge of moving/storing one item daily - that way I do not have to deal with resistance as well as stuff
    A-Z visit

  6. I like a lot of those tips offered. Especially splitting up chores and Freezer/Batch meals. Definitely communicating in a healthy way what you need and how people in your life can help is a big one.

    I'd imagine your mother-in-law knows what's going on and doesn't think you're lazy.

  7. I don't have a chronic illness, but when I have been sick in the past (or in need of help), accepting help was always the hardest part and never mind asking for it. My friends would have to just start doing stuff for me and then I felt bad. But lately, I have tried to let people help me because I know when I'm helping the people I care about it's because I want to and I always feel better after, so I try to think about how I feel being the person giving the help when I need help, if that makes sense.

    Touch it once is really good advice in general for cleaning! I'm going to have to remember that.

  8. I'm intrigued by the "old tea" idea...Must know more, please =D

    1. Simple! Make a pot of tea. Forget you made the pot of tea (I always do this, anyway). Come back to it in a day or so. Wet one end of a rag. Wipe the glass with the wet rag. Wipe dry. Voila. No scrubbing. No streaks.


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