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How to avoid exhaustion when cleaning with chronic illness

How to avoid exhaustion when cleaning with chronic illness

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?



How to avoid exhaustion when cleaning with chronic illness

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  1. These are all good tips! I really struggle with keeping my home clean because I want it to be *super* clean but I don’t have the physical capability to keep it that clean. I also have a lot of pain in my fingers… which are pretty essential for cleaning it turns out!

    1. Hi Ava,
      Thanks for your comment! I know exactly what you mean – I used to be quite obsessive with having my house a certain way until I lost physical ability to keep it that way. Haha yes, I wish we didn’t need our hands to clean!
      Wishing you the best on your road to recovery x

  2. Thank you for sharing these great tips. A few months ago, I made the mistake of trying to clean the entire house at once and it threw me into one of the worst flare-ups I’ve had in years. Definitely won’t do that again!

    1. Hi Tammy,
      Thanks for your comment! My pleasure to share the tips. So sorry to hear, I hope you are feeling better after that flare-up. It’s a very frustrating battle – the want to accomplish multiple tasks versus physical restrictions. It has taken me quite a while to find a balance, exerting myself too far a few times has definitely affected the way I approach cleaning/general tasks. Hugs xo

  3. This is great, I struggle so much to keep the house tidy and clean. It gets so bad I start getting anxious and then my mum comes to sort it all out. Repeating every few months. I’ve got to try these tips!

    1. Hi Becki, I’m so sorry about the late response! Thank you for leaving your comment! I agree, it can become overwhelming to clean the house whilst managing our chronic illnesses. It’s great that your mum is able to assist, support can really help us balance everything! I hope these tips have helped! Hugs xo

  4. Thankyou.I have had to become a single parent as my daughters dad does not understand my need to do as much as possible daily and prepare for flare ups .but it’s so much better if I can only eat after prepping in a clean kitchen it’s all ways available for my highest pain scale days or I didn’t eat and got sicker

    1. Hi Claire, I apologise for the delayed response. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my post. I’m sorry to hear that, it can be difficult and frustrating when our loved ones don’t understand our situation. I agree, preparation is paramount. Prepping (especially meal prepping) can really help manage our symptoms better!

  5. I loved your blog…I’m 72 yrs old, have had fibromyalgia since my 20’s, depression and anxiety….I am so tired and overwhelmed that my husband does all of the work and I hardly ever leave the house…a good day, when i have enough energy and motivation to do a little, I have all these grand plans but then i always crash afterwards. I have never not crashed afterwards. I feel so helpless and discouraged. Yes,you are absolutely right, everything has to be reduced into smaller increments. I plan to follow your blog. Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Janis, thank you for your comment! So sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with chronic illness for quite a while. It’s great that your husband is able to help, support makes such a difference, especially when we crash and find ourselves becoming discouraged. Thank you for following my blog also, I really appreciate your support! Hugs xo

  6. Hi,

    I am afraid that I cannot share your house cleaning worries. I have a wife who does that and will not allow me to participate. Apparently I makie more mess than I clear up.

    However, I do share your spoon counting approach when I think of my gardening duties. This has to be done in short bursts with frequent rest breaks.

    Thankfully, it’s not gardening season at the moment. Too cold and too wet. Its the only time I appreciate winter.

    1. Hi Stephen, thank you for your comment! That’s great that your wife is able to help – I am sure that I have said the exact same thing to my husband a few times haha! I’d love to hear any gardening tips you may have. I have always wanted to get stuck into gardening but I struggle in the heat. It’s the middle of Summer in Australia at the moment but I’m definitely looking forward to the cooler weather.