If you want to make cleaning with a chronic illness easier, you need to adopt a strategic cleaning system rather than an intensive one. This requires more planning and research – but a lot less manual labour.
My combination of my CRPS, Fibromyalgia and Raynaud’s Phenomenon means that I’m aching, stiff and swollen before I’ve even started scrubbing.
There are times when I kneel to the floor to pick up something – and as I bend down, I realise I don't have the strength to stand up again. All I can do is sit on the floor and wait for help.
Until I started to take these stationary moments to breathe – they would often lead me to tears with my fists slamming into the ground (which only worsened the pain, of course).
Overall, I just feel exhausted (physically and emotionally) if I need to clean the old-school way. So adjusting my cleaning strategies is just something I need to do to survive and build my new everyday life.
Here are some things that help me clean my house despite my chronic illness – I know they will help you too.
How to Make Cleaning Easier with Chronic Pain
Certain habits ease the amount of cleaning I need to do when I’m tired or sore.
And it sets the foundation of how to do housework for anyone with a chronic illness, or chronic pain.
Here’s what I recommend.
- Talk to someone while you work or listen to music.
It’ll make time go so much faster, and you’ll be done before you know it.
If you need some music inspiration – I have the ultimate 20 Songs That Must Be on Your Chronic Pain Music Playlist.
- Keep wipes and a dustbin in all the main rooms that you use.
It’s much easier to clean up when you have basic cleaning materials around you, and you don’t have to go out of your way.
- Let the detergent sit on a surface before you wipe it up.
A little patience here will save you a lot of scrubbing. It will loosen most grime on its own and take half the time to wipe up.
- If you have a multi-story house, keep a basket at the base of each staircase.
Collecting items and carrying them in one go saves you a lot of time and energy that it would take to make multiple trips.
- Keep the relevant cleaning supplies you need on each floor.
This will stop you from lugging heavy products around – especially up and down the stairs where accidents are more prone to happen.
- Hire help or be resourceful.
Full-time help is an exorbitant cost – but when it comes to big chores (like cleaning the floors properly), it’s worth seeing if you can’t use a cleaning service.
Otherwise, use your kids or family to help you out – you can always strike a bargain and return the favour in your own way.
- Swap your household mop for a steam cleaner.
This alternative is lightweight and doesn't require you to lug around a heavy bucket with water and soap.
It also uses heat and steam to clean the floors – so you don’t need to use harsh chemicals to disinfect your space.
- Stop doing balancing acts and use an assist grabber stick.
There’s nothing worse than reaching on your tiptoes or crouching down on all fours to pick something up.
Grabber sticks are cheap, light and easy to carry around the house. Cleaning up and decluttering becomes a breeze if you have one.
- Use a cleaning trolley instead of a bucket of detergents.
It’s not worth putting added pressure on your body, especially if you have chronic pain – and a cleaning trolley is a fantastic solution.
You can wheel supplies around from room to room and ensure that everything is kept in one place as you go about your errands.
- Change your standard vacuum cleaner for a lightweight vacuum cleaner.
A lightweight vacuum cleaner is easier to move around and pick up – effectively putting less strain on your body.
- Get rid of your duster and use a Dustbuster instead.
If you’re like me – dust is a big allergy trigger. Using a dust buster can help resolve the issue because it’s easy to hold and quick to use.
So you can easily do a 5-minute clean-up every day – just within the space, you’re using.
- Use a dehumidifier and drill brush instead to stop excessive bathroom scrubbing.
Humidity means you need to clean a lot more often, too – a frequent problem in bathrooms.
A dehumidifier comes in handy because it lessens the frequency you need to clean a space and prevents toxic mould from forming.
You can also save yourself a lot of energy by using a drill brush in bathrooms to make your tiles squeaky clean!
- Replace your basic pots and pans with a semi-automated cooker.
Slow and pressure cookers are fantastic kitchen items that make cooking a breeze.
Depending on how useful you find these machines, you can also extend your purchases to a rice cooker and even industrial mixers if you like to bake.
- Use rubber gloves and natural detergents.
Both these items will help protect your hands from harsh chemicals and temperatures.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathroom and kitchen.
This will drastically help prevent any dramatic falls from happening when you’re working on tiles that get wet.
- Keep an adjustable stool with you.
This allows you to sit and clean where it’s feasible. This way, you can sit when doing tasks like folding to conserve your energy ( you can keep this in your cleaning trolley).
How to Avoid a Messy House Because of Your Chronic Illness
Just like keeping your surfaces clean, adopting a “clean as you go” methodology is helpful. Especially if you suffer from overwhelm because of your chronic illness.
Keeping up is more manageable than catching up.
Once again, this is a great way to avoid using big spurts of energy to clean up big messes in one go—something you really can’t afford to lose when you’re chronically ill.
A reviewed study even showed that you're not alone if you feel at peace in a clean home. It helps keep your stress hormones in check and balance your mood.
- Take a minimalist approach to home decor.
The less stuff you have out, the less dust will collect, and the fewer things need to be cleaned and tidied up.
- Keep an everyday shower cleaner in your bathroom.
You can give your shower a good spray after every use, and it’ll lift any scum.
- Don’t wear shoes in the house.
This will help keep your floors cleaner for longer. Try to keep a shoe rack by your entrance where you can swap your ‘outside shoes’ for ‘inside shoes’.
- Clear surfaces as soon as you finish using them
No matter what you put on your surfaces, try to reserve enough energy to finish the activity too. The more consistent you are, the less there will be to clean or dust.
For example, the minute you do the grocery shopping – put the food away. Otherwise, ask a family member to help you if you’re tired. When mail arrives – sort it immediately.
For the ultimate FREE printable shopping list and recipe cheat-sheet, click here: 14 Energy-Saving Cooking Tips When You’re Chronically Ill
- Allocate storage space for all your possessions
When things don’t have a home, they quickly pile up and cause clutter. But if you designate a space for all the items you need, it stops you from hoarding what you don’t need.
It’s one of the best ways to keep your space clean and declutter your mind. Something super important if you suffer from brain fog and easily forget items or misplace them.
- Remember that it’s about doing your best.
If your house is a bit messy now – that’s okay!
We all set certain expectations of ourselves and our homes. But if you have a chronic illness, you need to know where to draw the line.
Save your energy and time moments with your family or friends and anything that feeds your soul. Most cleaning can be halved if you adjust your house rules a little.
- Focus on the way you’d like your home to look and not on what you don’t like.
If you approach cleaning with the mindset that you’re no longer putting your body through pain to do a chore – you’re creating the sanctuary you need to restore your energy – everything changes.
This is encompassed in the KonMari Method™ – an organisational system that tells you only to keep the things you love in your life and not focus on removing what you don’t want.
It challenges you to look forward and envision what you would love your living space to become.
I understand that working through your feelings of guilt are hard when you're chronically ill – especially when you need to do basic tasks like cleaning.
If these issues resonate with you – take a look at this article: Overcoming Guilt and Chronic Illness
How to Clean When You Have No Energy
I love making systems more efficient where I can – it’s played a prominent role in how I’ve learnt to “save my spoons” every day. That goes down to the very products I choose to clean with.
A bit like saving money – every penny counts. These are not massive energy “savings” but will help you nonetheless.
Unfortunately, some of the best ways to “save spoons” means you need to spend money.
If you’re not sure about making such a significant investment. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does my condition leave me little energy for intensive tasks like cleaning windows?
- Does my condition leave me with physical limits that make such tasks inaccessible?
- Do I need to reserve my energy for work and other commitments?
- Does my body suffer from undertaking big cleaning tasks?
- Is it more expensive to hire a cleaning service in my area?
If you answer “yes” to some of these questions, you should consider seeing what energy-saving gadgets can help you.
Here are some of my tips (some are really cheap and others are more costly):
- Line dishes with baking paper before you put them in the oven
Do this before you put anything in the oven to bake or roast, and it will save you so much time that you waste soaking.
You can also use aluminium foil, but I do not recommend it as its heavy metal content is not good for you.
- Place dirty pots in hot water and soap on the stovetop
You can do this after you finish cooking. Add a little water and dish soap to the pot you’ve used and place it on a high heat.
Once the water comes to a boil, rinse it out, and any grime stuck to the bottom of the pot breaks away with almost no effort from you.
- When you wash dishes by hand – let them drip dry
Don’t fuss over-drying and polishing unless it’s necessary. Get yourself a great drying rack that holds all your pots and pans – so that you can take a break after you’re done washing.
- Dry laundry neatly so that you don’t have to iron
I’m not a fan of ironing and have found a few ways to cheat this chore. (Anything to save spoons!)
My favourite way to avoid ironing is by ensuring that my laundry dries crease-free on the drying rack. It’s not perfect, but it does the job well.
- Use laundry pods
All-in-one laundry pods save you so much time and energy because you spend less time faffing with bottles and measurements when you do the washing.
- Have extra cupboard basics
Things like extra underwear, basic tees and sweatpants will help you avoid doing laundry all the time.
If you time things right (and don’t have small children), you can limit laundry cycles to once a week.
- Use automated cleaning equipment
If you don’t have an extra pair of hands to help you clean (or even if you do), it’s worth seeing how your equipment can work for you. It takes the burden of doing energy-draining activities away.
The five automatic cleaning devices that everyone with a chronic illness should have (unless you have help) include a:
If you’re looking to make an investment purchase in robotic cleaners, here are some excellent suggestions:
The best-rated robotic window cleaners in 2022
The best-rated robotic floor cleaners in 2022
Otherwise, if you need some help learning when to preserve your energy, you’ll get the best advice here: What is a Spoonie (14 Things to Know Including Charts)
How to Set a Chronic Illness Daily Cleaning Schedule
A weekly routine is a great way to help you keep a clean home when things like brain fog, limited energy levels and pain prevent you from doing too much.
Here are some hacks for setting a daily cleaning routine that you can stick to:
- Space your tiring activities out
I like to space out my “intense” cleaning activities to every second or third day so that I have time to recover in between.
Do activities that don’t require too much strain for you on your interval days, like doing laundry.
- Set time aside for breaks
When you set a time frame for your cleaning, always be considerate and account for breaks as you go along. I know that I need to take a break every 10-15minutes.
It doesn’t need to be long, but I have to sit down and let my heart rate stabilise and my joints decompress.
- Shop smart (not often)
Try to map out the meals you’d like to have that week before you do a grocery shop. That way, you can get all the items you need in one go.
Of course, if you’re having your groceries delivered, then it also makes your life a lot less stressful and saves you spoons.
I also recommend being realistic about your shopping. While it’s great to be motivated, you’re not going to want to cook some nights, and takeout will be on the menu. Make sure you consider this so that you don’t overshop.
- Use the TDY chronic illness cleaning schedule
A lovely template goes a long way when you’re trying to make a schedule. It’s easy to print and stick on your fridge so that you have a visual representation of what to do. (It’ll also hold you accountable.)
- Reward yourself
I like to use a reward system to keep me motivated when I’m cleaning as opposed to just criticising myself when I can’t get the work done as planned.
Doing housework HARD, and reward systems shouldn’t just be for kids! If you’ve cleaned the bathrooms, then you do deserve a piece of chocolate or a neck massage.
Download your FREE template here:
If you find these activities useful and you suffer from brain fog, you need to read this: 11 Tips for Staying Organised with Brain Fog
Remember that it’s okay if you don’t do a perfect job when cleaning your house. Things change when you have a chronic illness.
Your wellbeing is more precious than an immaculate house.
Not everything has to be done in an instant.
Not everything is worth killing yourself over.
The most important thing is to be patient and kind to yourself. Your body is fighting hard, and everything you manage to, big or small, is worth celebrating.
And if you've got any tips you'd like to share with me – I'd love to hear them!
Thank you so much for writing these invaluable blogs! I was just diagnosed with AS after years of pain. You write exactly about all these topics I have been wondering about. Can’t wait to read them all! Kat
Kat, your comment reminds us why we do this. It’s an honor to know that we have helped you in this small way, and we only hope to continue. I know what it’s like to go years without any answers or a diagnosis – so I am thinking of you. Reach out if you ever have any questions you’d like answered. As a team, we want to support you as best we can. So, thank you very much for the feedback. Wishing you a strong week ahead, Marina. Founder at The Discerning You
Thank you Marina. I am taking your fantastic 7 day course.