Cleaning While Chronically Ill – It’s Slow

I spent the past few days alternating between resting, stretching, and cleaning. That may sound boring, however I am pretty excited about it. My house has gone a long time without a deep clean, and various obligations have meant I couldn’t use my energy toward whipping it back into shape. All summer, I have looked forward to these last two and a half weeks of August because I knew I could use one week to clean, one week to prep for September medical appointments, and the last half week of August to prep for September overall, which is a busy month this for me this year.

This is cleaning week. Today (Friday), I couldn’t clean as much as planned because I have a gnarly migraine from the past few days of activity. I did clear off the coffee table, and dust all the living room furniture, so today wasn’t a total loss. Wednesday, my task was to organize a rack in the bathroom, and clean the surfaces in the bathroom. The rack in the bathroom was a beast of a job. I forgot to take a “real” before picture, but found a picture of the rack in all its former glory in the corner of another picture.


Here is the after picture:


Yesterday, I gathered every piece of paper in our house in order to file it all (except my research papers which are already fairly organized). This alone cleared a lot of our cluttered surfaces. When I looked at all the papers I had gathered, I thought, “This shouldn’t take too long.”


Well, looks are deceiving. I didn’t consider how some of our mail wasn’t opened. (Whoops!) I didn’t consider the time it would take to look over each paper and decide if it was garbage or not, and if not, how to categorize it. Granted I go at a snails pace because I need to take breaks, a few hours later, I was looking at this:


Yes. It somehow managed to look WORSE after a few hours! πŸ™‚ I took my time and eventually ended up with one bag of garbage, one milk crate of files, and a few odds and ends in a mail sorter.


I find breaking cleaning up into tiny chunks helps me avoid getting overwhelmed. Here is my process. First, I look around and write a general list of what I would like done. Then, I break down each chore on the list into as small of pieces as possible. For example, “clean surfaces in living room” was on my list. “Clean surfaces” was then was broken down into smaller parts which were “clear off surfaces” and “dust.” “Clear surfaces” was then broken down to even smaller parts which included “throw away garbage”/”put items away”/”sort mail.”Β  This planning process might sound more overwhelming than simply getting on with it and cleaning, however it is what works for me. I can make the list on a day where I can’t get up much. Then, on a good day, I can easily look at my list and identify a task I am physically/mentally up to doing.

I do get the urge to skip the organizing part and make my house look clean on the surface. It would save time, energy, and give quicker gratification. However, I don’t want my house clean for the week; I want it organized so it can stay clean this time. It is also tough not being able to just suck it up, power clean for a few days, and have an organized, clean space. That was my old method. These days, I remind myself that even if it took me an entire day to sort papers, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have bothered. The time would have passed regardless; at least this way, I have sorted mail!

I would like to share a strategy I plan to employ to help my husband and stepdaughter keep their messes cleaned up. Whatever messes they leave at the end of a day (or week, or whatever interval we decide) go into a laundry basket. With E, the rule will be she cannot take anything out of her laundry basket to use until she puts everything in the basket away. I think getting permission to put what my husband leaves lying around into a basket sounds like heaven. If it were reverse, I wouldn’t agree to it. The thought of someone moving things from where I put them stresses me out, however Jake is not an organization nut like me, so he doesn’t care. The laundry basket strategy will hopefully make it so when I get some energy and want to dust or vacuum, it won’t matter if I didn’t have them pick up/I won’t have to pick up myself. It will be kind of funny if after all this planning, I don’t have the desire or energy to dust and vacuum as often as I think. πŸ˜€

As for strategies for overcoming the symptoms cleaning brings on… aside from the aforementioned pacing (spread one chore across an entire day), being flexible with cleaning plans, taking breaks to stretch and rest (your pain will thank you), and setting small goals, I don’t have loads of advice. The reality is, anything I do will make me symptomatic. If you are chronically ill, you can probably relate. I don’t care how simple the activity – reading, talking, watching TV – there is never a time in which I am not trading doing an activity for some sort of physical discomfort. In this case, a clean bathroom and organized mail was traded for swollen lymph nodes, fever, nausea, back pain, palpitations, and a migraine. It certainly is a bummer, but that’s my life and it isn’t changing in the near future, so I need to work with it.

As you read at the start of this post, I view this week of cleaning as exciting rather than as something that will make me sick. With the way my brain works, I am able to achieve this by making an effort to think about the positives I can find more than the negatives, especially since most of the negatives cannot be changed.Here are examples of four positives:
Positive 1: I am excited to have a week where I don’t have to “trade” my energy for any other activities and can focus on organizing.
Positive 2: I focus on the prize – I feel much less stressed when my house is clean.
Positive 3: I read some articles that suggested I will be able to think and write more easily if my space is clean and organized. This makes a lot of sense to me, however maybe that is because I am a little bit of an organization nut, and I cannot easily focus in an unorganized space.
Positive 4: Next week, when I am prepping for my September medical appointments, I will be doing it in a tidy space. I won’t be glancing around thinking about the tasks I “should” be doing.

That’s about all I have to say about cleaning, which actually was quite a bit more than I thought. Looking forward — since I am running behind schedule, cleaning week will have to be cleaning week and a half, and appointment prep week will have to be appointment prep days. Hopefully I can get it all done the way I want. I have FOUR appointments in September, and three of the doctors are new to me. If you are a regular reader, you already know I prepare fairly intensely for new doctors. If you are a new reader, here are some links to posts where I discuss preparing for appointments:

  • Here is a post about not leaving appointments up to luck.
  • Here is a short one that touches on how I prepare.
  • Here is one about how come appointments (prep, actual appointment, follow-up) are so time consuming, especially with new doctors
  • Here is a recent one from when I was cramming for an appointment last month and feeling a little like a mad scientist

The last week of August will be spent resting and preparing for September as a whole. In September, I have 2 weddings in 2 different states on the same weekend, a family party one weekend, my stepdaughter’s birthday one weekend, and the aforementioned 4 doctors appointments. Two are 2 hours each way on good traffic days, one is 45 minutes away, and one is only 30 minutes away. I am going to plan out the entire month in that last week of August so I can go through September on autopilot and rest between all the big days!

I hope to be back before October, but if I’m not, now you know why! πŸ™‚




24 thoughts on “Cleaning While Chronically Ill – It’s Slow

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. I hope that I can one day do that type of organizing so that I can clean my room so it’s not so messy and dusty. But it’s hard with chronic pain and not being able to stand for a long period of time. You have some excellent ideas that I will try to remember. Hope your appointments go well in Sept!!


    1. I hear ya! Aside from my kitchen, my house is messy more often than not for the past few years. I think it is extra hard when an organization system isn’t already in place because there isn’t anywhere to put stuff. I hope one day your pain is under enough control for you to be able to get one into place – you deserve it.

      I found following organization/cleaning blogs inspiring. One tip I read last week and used was when cleaning today, was using a laundry basket to put everything that needs relocated in. I waited until I done with picking up, then went from area to area with the basket putting stuff away. It saved me a lot of walking around.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Can you imagine me letting someone organize for me? I would lose my mind. I am lucky to have family I can call for whatever I need help with, but it’s probably better for us all that I handle organizing on my own.

      Some kind lady chopped up a ton of vegetables for me to freeze, so I have been able to save energy from meal prep and use it cleaning. πŸ™‚


  2. I too have POTS and your blog is always insightful, but also encouraging. Every activity, small or not has a consequence with POTS. I plan each day bc with two kids, I have to be careful not to spend all my energy too early in the day. And bc I can’t drive it makes scheduling “life” with kids even trickier. But, I am thankful for the things I am still able to do with them! Even if it’s just snuggling at home. 😊 Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know how you full time moms with POTS do it! You all are superheroes as far as I am concerned. My stepdaughter is only with us a small portion of the time, and while those small chunks of time contain all of my best memories, they also are incredibly exhausting. Good for you for treasuring the things you can still do with them – especially those cuddles!

      Thank you for your kind words about my posts. Insightful and encouraging sounds exactly like the type of blogger I aspire to be. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I would NEVER be able to do it without my support team! My family and friends are the reason life is staying normal-ish for my kiddos! πŸ˜‰ There’s lots of mommy guilt even though it’s out of my control, but my faith is what gets me through it. I go to a POTS clinic at Duke. Thank goodness for informed doctors! I had it for 8 years before finally getting diagnosed. But, it only became completely debilitating this past November when everything spiraled out of control. I too was unable to walk, but now can walk around my house easily (on good days) and we take the wheelchair when going out. Which is never…hahaha! Especially in this summer heat! Duke has said the same thing to me that exercise is my next step in healing. I used to run 4-6 miles a day, but I cannot exercise at all without getting sick. But for some reason, that seems to be hard for them to understand. I do stretch! And sometimes I do yoga, in my mind. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Classic superhero response – denying you are a superhero. πŸ˜‰ I’m happy to hear you have a good medical team and support system. It makes such a difference. I hope you continue to experience improvements in your condition! It sounds like you’re a very determined woman.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! Well I better find my cape then! If I’m gonna be a superhero I want a cape…and a tiara! πŸ˜‚ actually, I will settle for a new pair of compression hose. That excites me as much as anything when I see that Amazon box at my door! It’s like Christmas. That and cashew icecream! I don’t know if you can eat dairy but if you can’t and haven’t tried Sodelicious cashew icecream, you must!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Good for you having a can-do approach to cleaning, and for accepting the link between clean surfaces and your state of mind. Sounds like this would be the case were you not immune compromised, but especially admirable given that you are. Because I am writing about the value of domestic life your post was particularly valuable to me – even if reading it is not on the list of emails by my right elbow!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I am honored to hear my post distracted you from your email to-do list. Nothing has made me appreciate the value domestic life more than participating in it becoming such a challenge. In fact, the other day I was telling my husband, “I hope whichever medication I try this fall gets me more stable. Then, I could do everyone’s laundry!” He laughed because doing everyone’s laundry (he does his own clothes – I fold them sometimes) was not what he expected me to having “better health” daydreams about. Each time I look at the areas of my house I have wrangled in the past week, I feel happy. 😊


  5. Great post! Good topic! I do that basket idea too (it’s a big basket…). But I never thought of adding the idea that you can’t take something out unless you put it all away! I loved the photos about the filing. You captured VERY well the process, which I think mirrors how our body heals when we make changes. Sometimes, things get worse with a change as the body shuffles things around to find a nice equilibrium again. Oh, you sound SO busy this next month! Agh! Good luck!—Terri

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m inspired – particularly by the ‘paperwork’ which is surrounding me in every corner at the moment … and yes some unopened letters too… Yikes I really need to follow your lead on this one! Thanks for sharing and inspiring and great to meet you xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! I hope you do it, because having a mail system has been even better than I realized it would be. When I went to pay bills a few days ago, all I had to do was grab the “to pay this month” folder. Thanks for letting me know you liked my post – great to meet you too Wendy!

      Liked by 1 person

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