Cleaning House, the Fibro Way

Cleaning House, the Fibro Way

finding balance
My house was a disaster. I used to clean the entire place every Friday night. With my husband working the graveyard shift, it was the perfect time — until we bought a house over twice the size. One bathroom became three. An unfinished basement became a finished lower level with a bar and family room. I loved the new house — until I had to clean it.

Shortly after we moved in, my fibro went into beast mode. In a three-month period, I was laid off, my mom passed away, and my grieving, alcoholic father needed my help with his finances and to get him off the sauce. Not easy tasks, especially during the flare of a lifetime.

My husband was wonderful. He asked only that I keep up on laundry, dishes, and the cat litter. But I still found even these three simple requests hard to manage. I was embarrassed by how messy and dirty my house had become. If someone stopped by unexpectedly, I couldn’t let them inside!

I needed to make cleaning my house easier. To accomplish that, I had to look at what the biggest issues were that I could change. Since I can’t change fibro, I had to find ways to work with or around my symptoms. Top of the list was the chemical smell of household cleaners. They make me sick. My sensitivity to certain smells had increased over the years. I had to go with natural, more mild-smelling cleaners.

I scoured the internet for ideas and came across Castile soap. This is the best discovery I have made. This stuff is amazing. It is made with natural oils, so it cleans up grease like a pro.

I use it for everything from stove and countertops to showers and floors. You can use it to clean humans, too. I use it as a shower gel and it leaves me feeling squeaky clean. Just remember, it is highly concentrated so you don’t need much. You can find the soap in most co-ops (where you can even refill your bottles repeatedly), or larger retailers.

Vacuuming was the hardest household chore for me. But having three cats calls for frequent vacuuming. Now I try to get it all done in a weekend instead of trying to do it all in one day. If I vacuum the whole house in one day, I risk a flare. If necessary, I ask my husband to carry the vacuum cleaner up or down the stairs.

Another issue was keeping up with clutter. One of the biggest sore spots was the kitchen table. It became the catch-all for everything paper. Mail, forms, pay stubs, receipts … you name it, it’s on my table! If I put it away, I’ll forget about it. If I don’t have time to read it or deal with it at the time, it goes on a pile where I think I will notice it later. I needed to get organized. My husband came up with the idea of using baskets or plastic containers to keep all the odds and ends together. If someone stops by unexpectedly, I can quickly hide them away.

Keeping three bathrooms clean was a major stressor. We don’t need to use all three showers and bathtubs, but we do use all the toilets. I found a solution to help keep them clean: Toilet bombs. Drop one in each of the toilet bowls once a week (or when someone stops over) and when it’s done fizzing, give the bowl a quick brush and flush. They leave toilets smelling and looking clean and fresh. I make my own, but you can buy them online. Once a month, I also give all the toilets a good cleaning with Borax.

Not sweating the small stuff and using these tips help keep me sane. I feel less stressed when people stop over now, but please don’t take that as an open invitation to drop in uninvited. I still appreciate a call or text first. My fibro thanks you for your consideration.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

11 comments

  1. Merf56 says:

    Thank you for this piece! I was hoping to see something on how to maintain a nice home with fibro.
    I too was used to having a clean clean clean neat house but with my fibro going into overdrive it became impossible and I became practically bedridden trying! . I ended up doing something I NEVER in a million years thought I would do – I turned from a person with neat super clean but heavily ( very) antique decorated home with a library full of books to a light bright sparsely decorated and heavily curated minimalist with a couple of dozen books.
    Once I ‘saw the light’ that I and hubby would rather have the time and my limited energy to spend our lives doing things rather than owning and maintaining things – tossing, selling and giving away most of our stuff became a almost breeze and a very positive experience. Our friends and family were, frankly stunned. I had never ever given any indication I would like a minimalist home – just the opposite!!
    But fibro was the catalyst and in many ways I am glad for it.
    We now can breeze through a three cat house ( like the author!) with a daily swiffering – me upstairs and he downstairs as we gave away our orientals and other rugs to family. I got rid of so much kitchen stuff that pulling out a fry pan does not require moving anything or getting down on my knees. All the small knickknacks gave way to only a few larger things. We did buy a corner cupboard that my husband fitted with an invisible seal so the special items I truly loved in it would not get dusty.
    We let my (many) beloved at one time gardens go back to grass except for one raised bed my husband built for me. A smaller canvas to be sure but one I have designed and made very special. Bonus – it is small so it always looks spectacular!!!And raised means no extra aching and easy to dig loamy soil! And we put it in an eye catching spot so everyone can enjoy it.
    We simplified our meals as well. Nothing fancy anymore – just good fresh food we love. Better food and our food bill actually went down and we lost much of those extra pounds over a year.
    I loved collecting and decorating and my stuff was important to me for many years but fibro issues made me really examine what I wanted for my life going forward and also what my husband wanted. I was surprised to realize aquision of stuff, no matter how beautiful and quality it was was less important that having the energy to do and see things. After all life is short!!
    Now we spend my limited energy doing things we love – hiking, birding and traveling here and abroad. We have saved a lot of money doing this as well.
    Sorry – didn’t mean to write a novel! I hope to see more articles about how people have successfully adapted their homes and life to fibro!

  2. Julie says:

    We have been toying with downsizing since all four daughters have flown the coop. We have three felines who are like my children. I wouldn’t have it any other way as we sure have a bond. However, I am physically incapable of keeping the carpets maintained due to my neck and spine. My husband does clean and do the main cleaning. He was always such a helper as we did so as a couple or I had the girls do the housecleaning (we homeschooled). Anyway, I was never very fond of cleaning. I know, I’m unusual but would rather read, write, research, teach…… I do dishes as my therapy. I dust went it’s absolutely necesssary. I care for our pets except for the litter boxes as OA, FM, Autoimmune work against me. I still am able to grocery shop and plan, plan, plan everything that happens in our lives. My husband loves to implement creative ideas and also loves to drive. We’ve treated shopping as our date and our local daughter helps me there as well. I, also, maintain the laundry and most of the communication outside of his job except his own stuff. Not sure what the future holds but we know WHO holds our future.

  3. PAMELA BERGMANN-KNEBEL says:

    This article and Merf56’s comment are something I’m going to put in play. Of course we are in the middle of a remodel but we are trying to get rid of everything we don’t need or love. I love the organic DIY cleaners and am going to try them. We moved from a house with a very large yard and 13 major flower beds (I love to garden) to a smaller home and yard. I have put in several flower beds but they are much easier for me to maintain with lots of mulch. Pulling weeds is a stress reliever for me but 13 was too many. We have 3 dogs and I am really anxious for our waterproof flooring to go in. I know I will have to sweep often but it will be nice to have less furniture and mess to sweep around. Thanks

  4. Alison says:

    Yes decluttering and minimising is the way to go. Being super organised with back up frozen, home cooked meals is also a life saver when in a flare. Making sure you have enough space between furniture so moving around with the swiffer is easy and you don’t have to move anything out of your way. Time to go for a gentle walk at least three times a week has also helped me. I used to push myself to walk hard but now I walk at a more gentle pace and stop to admire views along the way. Deep diaphamatic breathing also helps. Good luck, keep going but remember to love your poor body and get some rest inbetween.

  5. Brandie says:

    OMG this article couldn’t be more timely . . . cleaning last night and drove me right into a flare – plus I get sooo sick every time I use strongly scented cleaners. I feel like I wrote this article myself (minus the 3 bathrooms – god bless you).

  6. wendy says:

    after 2 breakdowns & having to relearn even basic things too much clutter & “stuff” pissed me off. & now, my mil has passed away the piles of
    of stuff & dust seem endless! past medical emergencies ( eg my aged mom moved in to recuperate & then back out & then in & out… ) &
    trying to cope with our own stuff, if this fails to kill me 1st we’ll keep & buy based on no clutter basis! i can hardly wait! eg 1
    item in, 1 out. i have had to learn eg that perfectionism can drive you cray cray. pace yourself. don’t beat yourself up eg by comparing yourself to someone with high energy & great health.
    do your best & that incl being yourself & being kind to yourself, too! & then my/our recovery eg higher energy & better mental/health may even have a fighting chance!

  7. Mandy says:

    So great to see this article and the responses! Our household is a bit different as we still have teenagers living at home (4 boys ranging from 15-21), plus two cats! I agree about the chemical fumes being an issue and I find scrubbing bathtubs is the most difficult, but I have a scrubber with a long handle which saves me from having to bend and reach too much. My partner and I share cleaning duties and spread the work out over the course of a few days so it doesn’t overwhelm me. The only thing I do almost daily is sweep, but that’s okay. Laundry wears me out though. 3-4 large loads twice a week with a busy family of six and that doesn’t include bedding! 😕 Then I definitely need help!
    My partner and I share cooking duties and he does all the mopping and vacuuming which is wonderful 😊

  8. Estella says:

    Hi guys! My tip for house work is this. Break everything down into very small tasks. If the kitchen is a mess, decide to just wipe one surface, mindful all the time of how you feel. I wouldn’t have the energy to make my own cleaning products, but I do use naturally-sourced bought products, ie. Method. They smell gorgeous, which is uplifting to the senses. When you have achieved one goal, go on to the next. If you begin to feel strained, make a cup of tea and rest until you feel better. Never, ever push through the pain or tiredness (she says, after completely overdoing gardening yesterday, and ending up in excruciating pain in the evening and this morning). We have to re-learn everything. As women, we are hard-wired to just get on with it. I have had five children, and worked as a labour ward Registered Midwife. We have to learn to listen to our bodies, and act on cues, where we are used to ignoring how we feel.
    On a bad day, all I will do is keep myself hydrated, answer the door to the postman in my dressing-gown, and feed the cats. My husband will get something for us to eat when he gets home. I still have a couple of pretty lazy kids at home, and have decided against trying to make them understand fibro, there is just no point whatsoever. They are old enough to look after themselves.
    I use my PIP to pay for help in the home. I cannot possibly iron more than one item of clothing, or change bed linen, but I can keep things ticking over, albeit slowly.
    Good Luck everyone!

  9. N says:

    Sorry Carrie,but wait a minute, during the rough patch you are going through your husband asked you ‘only’ to keep up with laundry,dishes & cat litter?, well that’s plenty. How about maybe he could do it for awhile until you felt better,isn’t that the way it really should be?

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