Cleaning up and keeping it that way

Cleaning Up and Keeping It that Way

Not only is cleaning up a challenge when dealing with RA, but keeping it clean is equally as difficult for some of us.  Let me offer some tips that have worked for me over the last 20 years with RA.

First of all, I am a person who loves, loves, loves lists!  They make my life feel so organized and they also allow me to put that particular task out of my mind since I know it is on the list.  So, first recommendation start a list of what needs to get done, room by room.  Separate the lists by those that are ongoing and those that are seasonal or one time only tasks.

Divide up the tasks into:

1. Those you can do yourself (for me that is laundry and loading the dishwasher)  
2. Those you can do with help or some modifications (for me that would be carrying in groceries) and
3. Those you need to fully delegate (for me that would be deep cleaning and heavy yard work)

Next, review the lists in terms of a plan to get them done by using a calendar.  So, if you need to get a clothes closet cleaned out to make room for the new season, put that on the calendar when it makes the most sense.  Spread out the various tasks over time, making sure to have time allotted for much needed rest and recovery.  As my mom used to tell me “it will all get done, so just take your time”.  Very good advice, especially for those of us with RA.

If it is ongoing, like changing the bed linens, you know how long it will take and if you can do it alone or need help.  That should all be considered when deciding when to do it and how long it will take.

For the seasonal tasks, allow more time than you might normally, so that if you are not doing well, you can slow down, and still feel like you are getting things done.  Also, note if you need to delegate a job or need assistance.  I used to try to do everything myself, which only led to frustration and a sense of failure when I was flaring and unable to do a task.  Now, I know that in the spring when I want to get my back porch opened and set up, that my husband and I will do it together.  So, that means I consult him about when we will do it and often I will put it on my calendar for a more than one day to allow for any circumstances that might delay or change the plan.

The key is to HAVE A PLAN

Making adjustments is fine but having a plan will help you get started.

Here are some additional simple tips:  Keep your joints happy by using lightweight or disposable tools so that you have little or no clean up afterwards.  Use long handled tools with extensions to avoid bending or reaching too much.  Ergonomic tools are a must as well and your hands will thank you.  A large apron with pockets to keep some simple, lightweight tools in will save you carrying around a bucket or tool cart.

Dealing with paper clutter

When dealing with paper clutter I use a system I call FAT.  With each piece of mail I do one of three things.

F is for File if it needs to be kept (like an insurance document)

A is for Attend if it is a bill that needs paid or some other action is necessary.

T is for Trash which, frankly, is where most of it goes these days!

If you follow FAT you will reduce paper clutter significantly.  It is so easy to just let those piles build up till they overwhelm us and we find it hard to even get started.  Just remember to FAT and you will be all set.

As to other types of clutter, I find it needs to be broken down into small increments, both in terms of scope and time spent.  So, if I have a closet that needs to be cleaned out (and who doesn’t?) I try very hard not to open the door, look at all of the crowded shelves and run screaming from the room.  Instead, I purposely look at one part of one shelf and say, OK I can tackle that.  Then I get started just doing one small section at a time.  I also don’t decide the whole thing must be done in one space of time.  I may well do one shelf one day one a day or week later.  The point is, progress is being made.  That is what we need to repeat to ourselves over and over.

Studies have shown that when our homes are clean and neat, there is a sense of peace and satisfaction that leads to reduced stress and anxiety for people.  So, once we have gotten our homes the way we want, remember to think about how to keep it that way, by setting up and reviewing those ongoing list(s) and your calendar.  By developing a master plan for keeping your home clean, you will also be managing your RA!


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