Doing Housework With Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Housework Help

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Housework is bad enough when you don't have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome -- when you do, it's a whole collection of things you just can't keep up on like you want to.

While keeping your house clean will probably never be "easy," we can do a lot of things that make it easier on us, whether they help conserve energy, ease physical strain, or reduce the amount of contact you have with allergens or chemicals that may bother you.

I've listed the things that help me and some tips I've heard from other people with these conditions.

Tip #1 - Clearing the Clutter

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When you don't have the energy to run around the house, clutter is bound to pile up (especially next to the bed or couch where you spend a lot of time.) A small tray or basket can help you clear out those problem areas in one trip.

I have a multi-level house, so if I'm not careful I can end up making dozens of trips up and down the stairs when I'm doing a major de-cluttering. To avoid that, I make piles of things -- a pile for each level, if need be -- so I can take them all up or down at once, or ask my husband or kids to take specific piles. Again, a tray or basket can help.

If I find that the same things keep ending up in the same spots, I try to see if I can make a spot for those items close by. For example, my remote control caddy contains a nail clipper and file, a foot massager, guitar picks, and lip balm because those are things I frequently want when I'm in "my spot" on the couch.

It's also helpful when you're buying furniture to look for items with a lot of storage. I have storage ottomans that can hold things like blankets, slippers, books, heating pads, and all the other things I like to have on hand but don't want laying around.

Tip #2 - Supplies Where You Need Them

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I used to keep all my cleaning supplies in the laundry room, which meant they were 7 stairs away from the kitchen, and 14 stairs away from my upstairs bathrooms. Now, to save energy, I keep cleaning supplies in the rooms where they're needed. It takes up more space, but it's worth it -- especially afterward when I don't have the energy to run everything back downstairs and put it away.

Small hand broom/dust pan sets are pretty cheap and easy to find, and it's great to have several so you're not always running for a broom.

Because I can't carry the vacuum all over the house, we found a really lightweight, inexpensive vacuum that fits in the coat closet. It doesn't work all that well, but it does at least take care of the surface mess until my husband can haul out the big one and give it a more thorough cleaning. A small, rechargeable hand vacuum would work for this as well.

Tip #3 - The Vacuum

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The vibration of the vacuum cleaner really irritates the nerves in my hands and arms. Gloves can dampen the vibrations and help a lot.

Before you buy a vacuum, see if you can test it. Along with looking for one that's lightweight, see how easy it is to push. Some turn a lot easier than others. A self-propelled vacuum might sound like a good idea, but some of them can pull on your arm, which can be painful.

Consider a bagless vacuum if you have a dust allergy or sensitivity -- bags can release a lot of dust into the air, especially when you change them.

When vacuuming, don't push and pull rapidly with your arm, as that can be really hard on your arm and upper back. Instead, walk the vacuum slowly forward and backward.

Tip #4 - Dusting

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Some dusters can put a lot of dust in the air, so if you're allergic or sensitive you might be better off with the newer products that trap dust more effectively.

To keep from straining yourself or having to climb, look for a duster with a telescoping handle. I have a nice long one that allows me to get dust off of chair rungs and cobwebs off the ceiling without bending or stretching.

If dust really bothers you, try wearing a surgical-type mask. They're generally available at drug stores or in the pharmacy section of grocery or big-box stores.

Tip #5 - Reducing Possible Hazards

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For the chemically sensitive, cleaning products can be a real problem. An easy, inexpensive solution for your bathroom is something you already have -- laundry detergent. It does a great job on tubs, toilets, and sinks, and you already know you can tolerate it. Some other bonuses: you only need a tiny amount, and it rinses well.

Multiple smells in a small space can also be aggravating to the senses. You can get rid of one by using warm water to wash your mirror. It works surprisingly well!

Sponges can hold onto germs and spread them, which you especially don't want if you have a compromised immune system. Instead of using a dirty sponge, grab an old wash cloth and then drop it in the laundry when you're done.

Rubber gloves can protect your skin from chemicals. If they make you too clumsy, you might want to try latex gloves, which aren't as bulky (or the latex-free alternatives if you're allergic.)

You might also want to try "green" chemicals or use household items like vinegar instead of typical cleaning products.

Tip #6 - Pace Yourself!

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Pacing is important no matter what you're doing. Try working in short bursts with rest periods in between. Also, vary your tasks so you're not using the same muscles for too long a period.

For more pacing help, see: ​How to Pace Yourself.

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