Everyone loves a shortcut—but for people with FM, shortcuts can mean the difference between a great day and a flare-up. Try these trips from other FM patients next time you’re doing housework.
You can help alleviate pain by not raising your arms too often—a stressful position used especially frequently in the kitchen, when you’re reaching for dishes or utensils. Try rearranging your storage areas so that the items you use most often are within easy reach. If that’s not feasible, Margaret McGing has a simple solution: “Invest in a stepstool with two steps,” she says. Because of her small stature (she’s five-foot-one), she stands on her stepstool to stir food cooking on the stove and to mix ingredients on the countertop, as well as to replace and retrieve items in high cupboards.
She also has suggestions to make unloading the dishwasher less strenuous. “First, I place all the dishes, etc., in groups according to where they are stored on the counter. Secondly, I use the stepstool to replace those in higher areas. Then I get another group and replace those,” she says. This helps her prevent any lightheadedness that might otherwise have resulted from bending down and straightening up too often.
Few people enjoy doing housework—and when you’re struggling to manage a chronic illness, regular dusting, vacuuming, and mopping can be more than just distasteful activities. They can throw additional stress on you, perhaps even contributing to a flare-up. Carie Anderson decided to take action to reduce that stress. She reviewed all her possessions, from clothing to knick-knacks, and gave serious thought to what she really needed. She got rid of the rest. “It took quite a while, but I have only kept family treasures, such as heirlooms that my husband and I really wanted,” says the Oklahoma City resident. “This has included furniture as well. I realized I simply could no longer keep those items clean, dusted and in proper condition.
“This has made it easier to keep my clothing and personal care items to a minimum and in doing so, realized how much easier it is to keep those things tidy,” she says.
There have been beneficial side effects, too. When she gave away items she didn’t need, she gave pleasure to the new owners; and she now enjoys her possessions more than she did before.
Climbing upstairs and going downstairs can be a real sap on your energy levels—but by being organized, you can reduce your trips from one floor to another. Joni Stein’s washer and dryer are located in the basement, so she makes sure to keep that room stocked with projects she needs to complete. (She also has a comfortable chair and a television in the basement—and a telephone.) “I can get a fun project done while I am doing the laundry and that makes me feel pretty good about myself!” she says.
FM patients constantly hear about the importance of pacing—but that’s a challenge in and of itself. How do you know when to push yourself harder, and how do you know when to cut yourself some slack? Patty Poston has set up a schedule that eliminates that decision-making process.
Before beginning a cleaning project, she sets up a “rest area” with a footstool, a blanket, reading material, and a cool drink. Then she sets a timer for 10 minutes and gets to work. When the timer rings, she stops her task and retreats to the rest area for a 10-minute break. This means, of course, that each cleaning project takes longer to complete than it did before—but the benefits more than make up for the longer period of time needed. “With the tasks broken down into small time amounts I can accomplish just as much without the energy drain causing too much problem,” she says.
Amy McCualsky has an alternative tip. She starts long-term tasks—like laundry, or cooking dinner in a slow cooker—while she undertakes a project that requires less time. “While you try to do other things, especially if you don't succeed, at least that will be getting done,” she says.
If you combine cleaning tasks, you may be able to accomplish more than you otherwise would have. Take this other tip from McCualsky: “Before cleaning the bathtub, fill it up to ring if there is one and add a little baby oil along with bubble bath. Wash your dogs, then use some Pine-Sol on a sponge and wipe the tub, and shower clean.”
Before starting the tub, be sure to spritz a cleaning product in the toilet and the sink. When you’re done with the tub, all you’ll have to do is a quick wipe-down and then the entire bathroom will be clean.
Build rewards into housecleaning (rewards beyond clean rugs and sparkling coffee tables, that is!). While you’re cleaning, put on upbeat music you enjoy. If you’re a fan of scented candles, light one so that the scent surrounds you as you’re working. If you’re using scented furntire polish or scrubbing kitchen tiles, be sure to choose a scent you enjoy—rather than something with a harsh cleanser odor—so that you won’t dread the project so much.