Decluttering with Chronic Pain

Mara asked about cleaning and decluttering when you have chronic pain conditions. I have quite a few friends and relatives living with chronic pain. And one of the most important things is to listen to your body. If you overdo it one day, you are going to have even more pain and inability to do things the next few days.

  • Work a little at a time. Set a reminder or timer to tell you when to stop if you are having one of your good days so you don’t overdo it.
  • Don’t beat yourself up when you have a bad day. Rest and know you can always clean and declutter the next day you are feeling better.
  • Remember, perfectionistic thinking will stop you before you even begin. Aim for "good enough." If you used to clean the bathroom every day aim for every few days, vacuum every few weeks instead of weekly.
  • Focus on a small area at a time. It’s easier to see progress. You can keep notes so you know where you ended and what you want to do next. If you don’t know where to start, find a corner of the room you are in and work around from there. If on your dusting day, you aren’t able to dust, then wait until you next can. A perfect house is not worth the effects of overdoing cleaning.
  • It’s also helpful to have a box or bag you are putting things to declutter. Whenever you are in a closet, drawer or cabinet do a quick sweep with your eyes to see if there is anything to give away. Decluttering becomes part of a habit even when you aren’t setting a decluttering time.
  • Is there anyone you can delegate to? Or maybe hire a teenager to help you do the physical work? Asking a friend to help?

Why bother decluttering when you are in chronic pain? Clutter causes stress and stress makes pain flare ups more likely. It also helps deal with the brain-fog if you have less stuff around as visual input. It’s a lot easier to find things when there is less of it and it all has its place. Let go of things like knicknacks and excess that just causes more work for you. Getting rid of the outer clutter can help tame some of the inner clutter.

But, as the women in my last declutter group taught me, you can still do a little. Even 5 minutes or 5 things a day is progress. Maybe you won’t declutter as fast as other people, but most people have some sort of constraints – working too many hours, little kids at home, ADHD, single parenting and so on. The idea is to work with your limits, not pretend you don’t or wish you didn’t have any.

You can do this!

(If you live with chronic pain, how do you deal with housework and decluttering?)


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