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Housekeeping and MS: Tips for When You Need Help

By Mary Pettigrew

As I sit down to write this piece, I’m momentarily distracted by the piles of laundry piled high on my dining room table and dirty dishes sitting in the sink. I’m just too exhausted, in pain and not in the mood to clean. But it will need to be addressed sometime. The bottom line is we all have chores. Housekeeping, cleaning, and other responsibilities need our attention on a regular basis. However, when you have MS, it’s not so easy. It can be daunting, exhausting, and overwhelming just thinking about it. When you have MS, disability/mobility issues and other symptoms can interfere, making it impossible to tackle without the help from others. Housekeeping is important and has to get done by someone, somehow, someway.

Some of us are fortunate to have a spouse, partner, parents, caregiver, children, or hired help to take care of our household needs. Some of us live alone and we struggle. If we don’t have someone who can come in and help us with the laundry, dishes, bathroom, dusting, and other housekeeping needs, things may not get done. Some of us can afford to pay housekeepers or cleaning services, but many of us are on a limited income and the out-of-pocket monies may not be an option. If we’re left to take care of everything ourselves, additional problems may arise. Our physical and mental health can suffer and nothing gets done because we need help. We’re not lazy, we want to take care of things but maybe we can’t do it alone. 

So, what can be done to make life easier, cleaner, and more organized? I think we all know how important it is to keep a clean house. A clean house is key for maintaining a healthy, hygienic home environment with everything in its place. Our mental and physical health will benefit and our quality of life depends on it. Here are some mindfulness thinking points to consider:

* Don’t feel guilty, it’s not your fault, take your time
* Set a budget and seek outside help
* Focus on priority areas first, small increments, rest and do what you can
* Call 211 for local resources available to you. This connects to the local United Way

The primary areas to focus on for good housekeeping are the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and your bedroom. If you can keep these areas in decent shape on a regular basis, then you’re in good shape. Clorox bleach spray is great for a quick cleanup on countertops and bathroom areas.

* Change your air filters regularly – as directed. Dust accumulates quickly and it’s tiresome to tackle. Try using some Pledge dust wipes for a fast, easy surface clean. 

* The less you contort yourself into straining positions, the better. I hate vacuuming, so I’ve got an iRobot Roomba on my wish list. They’re quite pricey so I’m sure I’ll never be able to get one, but a girl can dream, right? For your floors and counters try Swiffer sweeps and Clorox bleach spray for quick cleanups on countertops and bathroom areas.

* Try to stay on top of clutter management. Get rid of stuff you don’t use. When you get your mail, open it right away and trash the junk. Don’t let it pile up. Go paperless.

* Ask family members or friends if they can help you from time to time. If they cannot, ask them for some resources.

* Ask neighbors for resources. Try out the nextdoor app and set up your account specific to your neighborhood. There are lists of services available and posts from people in the neighborhood who are looking for part time work. Is this safe? Yes, Nextdoor makes it safe to share the kinds of things you would share with your neighbors in person. Every neighbor must verify their address in the neighborhood. They must use their real name and the app is securely encrypted using proper internet protocol.

* Hire a housekeeper. I realize finances and budgets can be tight for many of us with MS and a lot of us are on a fixed income or disability (SSDI). When it comes to hiring a housekeeper, think of your specific needs. Think of the things you need that you are unable to take care of yourself. I like to have someone who will focus on the “grunge work” such as the bathroom, floors, dusting, etc. These details might help you determine if you need part time, full time, or just a few hours here and there. My personal suggestion is to have someone come in twice a month – Once a month is the bare minimum.

* Check with your MS clinic or neurologist to see if they have any housekeeping or assistance resources to offer. Check with other MS organizations too.

* Another good source to look for help is to try Care.com. You can search under specific categories and you’ll be able to see profiles, job descriptions, fees, references, and more. If they’re licensed and bonded it will say so on their profile. It’s an easy site to navigate. 

Good luck and happy cleaning.