Creating a daily routine has allowed me to maintain balance in the cleanliness of my home, all without depleting my energy. Before implementing my cleaning routine, I would often find myself not knowing where to start. I would glance at the mess piling up in every direction and it would become overwhelming. Most times, too overwhelming. And when you’re constantly dealing with chronic pain, it’s enough to give up before you’ve started.
Below are a few tips I’ve used to keep me motivated, stay on track and avoid burn out during the cleaning process.
1. Don’t attempt to clean an entire room in one day
Trust me on this one. I’ve tried doing this and let me tell you…I’ve regretted it every. time. Have you experienced a similar situation? You get started, excited at the idea of a cleaning project and start pulling out everything. Boxes, paperwork, clothing, electronics. Anything you see ends up in one massive pile, in the center of the room. You begin going through the pile, starting smaller, grouped piles all over the carpet. Still, everything is going okay, you’re plodding along until three hours in. Your room looks like a disaster zone and to make it worse, you’re beginning to feel that nauseating tiredness creep in. Not only do you leave that room in a state of chaos, you end up feeling disheartened, exhausted, unmotivated and give up on your goals to clean the rest of the house.
What I’ve found helps, is to start cleaning in certain sections or corners of a room. For example, in the bedroom – on day one, I’ll go through all the drawers in the wardrobe. Day two, I’ll go through all of the hanging clothes. Day three, I’ll work on the bedside tables. Day four, I’ll tackle any paperwork in the room. Yes, it does seem like a slower way to get through cleaning but it will keep you motivated, being able to tick off an item of your to-do list and you’ll avoid the chronic illness crash. And, if you feel as though you have enough energy to tackle two areas in one room, that’s great! But make sure you tackle one area first before moving on to the second and make sure you don’t overdo it in one day. Overdoing it on day one will ruin any chance of cleaning during the rest of the week.
2. Take adequate rest breaks
We all have that attitude of wanting to power through our task list. We will ourselves on, “okay, you can have a snack once you’ve cleaned this room” or “okay, no social media until we clean all the dishes”. Seems like a good plan but in hindsight, you’ll end up crashing a lot sooner than you should. Make sure to take a small break every 15-30 minutes. Even if that means just sitting down, drinking some water and spending time trying to catch your breath. Maybe avoid checking any social media accounts, at least until your second or third small break. I tend to get very sidetracked haha!
3. Keep hydrated
I deal with a lot of dizziness/vertigo symptoms when I stand or move. If you deal with low blood pressure issues, like I do with my chronic illness, keep a bottle of water or Gatorade and bag of salted chips close by. Cleaning can take a lot of energy and you can lose a lot of body fluid through sweating. This can exacerbate any symptoms you deal with on a normal day and lead to crashing soon after starting.
4. Group similar tasks together
If I’ve decided to mop the kitchen floor, I’ll also mop the bathroom floor. This prevents me from having to pull out the bucket and mop, twice in one week. If I’ve decided to tackle all the clothing in the house, I will scour through every room and pick up all the dirty clothes – to make sure I’m doing all the washing at the same time. This means going on a hunt and locating all of my husband’s dirty socks that have been known to reside under the bed, down the arm of the couch (??) and all around the laundry basket, but never inside. Grouping together similar tasks avoids any doubling up and unnecessary overexertion.
5. Try and maintain a baseline state
This is the hard one. And I’m not the best at always keeping this tip, but I can guarantee, when I am able to meet it, it does help. A baseline state means having an initial level of what you decide as clean and aiming to maintain that level every day. This might mean your baseline state is having all dishes washed, the counters wiped down, carpets vacuumed and bed made, at the end of each day. That’s the baseline I try to maintain. As soon as I start skipping days, the dirty dishes pile up, the counters look grubby and the crumbs on the carpet become mini mountains. Getting back into a cleaning routine after this is hard. It’s one reason why I decided to try and minimalise everything in my home. With fewer items scattered in each room, I can go through and clean surfaces a lot quicker.
Keep in mind, everyone’s chronic illness differs, so this might not be applicable to everyone. I’ve found myself having day/week/month periods where I’ve spent most of them at specialist appointments or at hospital visits. When I arrived home, cleaning was not at the top of my priority list. Or I’m in the middle of a flare period and I’m struggling to maintain a normal heart rate and my whole body completely aches. Maintaining the baseline on the days that I can, ensures that my home is not unmanageable during periods where I don’t have the energy to even wash the dishes.
6. Reward yourself!
I’m a firm believer in positive reinforcement and rewarding oneself after completing a big task. It doesn’t have to be a costly reward either. For me, it’s enjoying a chai latte at home on the couch or if I have enough energy after cleaning, visiting the local cafe for a gluten free treat. It might be getting to relax and watch a Youtube video, or read a book, or engage in a favourite hobby. Knowing that a reward is waiting at the end of the process, makes cleaning more exciting and strengthens any motivation I have to meet any daily tasks consistently.
I hope these 6 tips help you to stay motivated and avoid overexertion during the cleaning process. What are your best tips for avoiding burn out during your cleaning routine? What have you done that works?