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5 tips for house cleaning with Parkinson’s

If the words “spring cleaning” make you groan out loud, don’t worry, we found some shortcuts to make cleaning with Parkinson’s easier.

Much like paying your taxes or waiting in long lines at the post office, cleaning your home is one of life’s necessities that few people enjoy doing, but it has to be done. However, cleaning tends to get a little more complicated when you have Parkinson’s disease.

Fatigue, stiffness, tremors and other motor symptoms of PD can turn ordinary tasks, such as washing dishes, ironing clothes or scooping the litter box, into monumental feats that suck up most of your time and energy. Before you know it, you’re too exhausted to make dinner, fit in a workout or socialize with friends and family.

If that sounds like you, don’t worry! This is a common predicament for the millions of people around the world with health issues. Fortunately, there are shortcuts that can make cleaning with Parkinson’s quicker and easier, sparing you enough time and energy to enjoy the rest of your day. Here are our five best tips.

Plan ahead and set reasonable goals.

Some folks despise To-Do Lists; others can’t function without them. If you fall in the first category, we implore you to give it a try.

Consider planning the next day’s activities the night before—not just the chores you want to accomplish that day, but all of your activities, including eating, exercise, recreation, medical appointments, social engagements and bedtime. Space them out throughout the day. Do the things that take more energy when you are feeling your best or when your medication is most effective.

Above all, set realistic goals for yourself. It can feel very disheartening when you don’t accomplish every task on your To-Do List. Don’t put too many things on your list. Set the bar low and raise it as needed. You may need to cut down on some of your activities, and that’s O.K. You don’t have to do things the same way you’ve always done them.

Keep things clean, minimal and organized.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant, author and host of the wildly popular Netflix show “Tidying up with Marie Kondo,” created the KonMari method, which consists of gathering up all of your belongings, one category at a time, and only keeping the items that “spark joy” as a way to declutter your home.

Whether you decide to jump on the KonMari bandwagon is a personal choice. Not everyone wants to “Marie Kondo their home,” as the expression goes. But here are three valuable takeaways from her methodology worth considering:

1. The less stuff you have in your home to clean, the less time and energy it takes to clean your home. To put it another way, owning more stuff equals more stuff to clean and more time spent cleaning it.

2. Staying organized and tidy, ala “putting items back where they belong immediately after you use them” makes housecleaning faster and easier. Bonus: It takes a lot less time to find things.

3. Decluttering your living space and keeping only the things you use every day (unless it holds significant emotional value) is sort of like decluttering your brain. You wind up feeling happier, more productive and more in control.

Drink water and rest between chores.

Consider including periods of rest on your To-Do List, especially in between chores. Do not plan activities right after you eat. Rest 20 to 30 minutes after each meal. People with PD are even encouraged to rest between recreation and leisure activities.

If you become fatigued during an activity, don’t push yourself to keep going. Stop, rest and drink water. If you have swelling in your feet or ankles, elevate your legs when resting. You may need to finish your chores another day or when you feel less tired. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Cleaning your home doesn’t have to be done in a day either.

Keep in mind that the concept of “rest” is open to interpretation. Maybe it means reading a book or magazine for 30 minutes. Perhaps it’s watching an episode of your favorite show or taking a nap. Whatever you define as rest, be sure to get plenty of it throughout the day.

Use energy-saving tools and techniques.

There is no shortage of gadgets and time-saving techniques that make it easier than ever to clean your home. Once upon a time, people used to get on their hands and knees to scrub the floor with a rag and bucket of soapy water. Fast forward to today, and now we have mops, brooms, vacuum cleaners and Roombas.

People with Parkinson’s would benefit from using cleaning tools with long handles including dusters, brooms, mops, dustpans, window washers and toilet scrubbers. Look for handles that have soft grippers. If you struggle to hold onto sponges or dusters, there are different types of gloves you can wear that make dusting, washing dishes or scrubbing the bathtub much easier.

Try keeping the bathroom cleaning supplies in the bathroom and the kitchen cleaning supplies in the kitchen, as opposed to having all cleaning supplies in one central location. This might reduce the time and energy spent returning to the same location to grab more supplies. Put supplies where they can be easily reached and returned.

Think about all the energy that is wasted standing in one spot for long stretches of time. Why not sit down when you’re folding laundry, ironing clothes or washing dishes? Sitting down while using long-handled devices is a huge energy saver. If you will be doing a lot of kneeling or work that is at the ground level, place a cushion under your knees.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

There are people on this earth who actually don’t mind cleaning. Some folks do it for a living or for supplemental income. If you have the financial means to hire professional cleaners, great! If you’re the parent of a child who is looking for ways to increase their allowance, there’s a good bargaining tool. If someone you know has fallen on hard times and wants to make a few extra bucks, this would be a classic win-win.

Sometimes you have to put your ego or pride aside and ask for assistance when needed. Divide the tasks among your loved ones. It can be your spouse, partner, child, friend, coworker, neighbor—whomever. Having someone help you clean will lighten the load, and together, you’ll be twice as efficient with time left over to socialize and have fun.

Look at it this way, if someone who cares about you realized the extra time and energy required for a person with Parkinson’s to do their chores compared to a person without PD, they would be happy to assist. Likewise, if they understood these tasks were taking away valuable time that you could otherwise spend hanging out with them, they would not hesitate to help.

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