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13/Oct/2022

Tips to help you sweep away winter

Spring is such a wonderful time of year 😊🌼. The mornings are becoming lighter, the weather’s improving, and the smell of spring blossoms is in the air. So take a moment to breathe it in – you’ll definitely feel a lift in your mood (unless you have allergies – sorry about that 🤧).

It’s also the perfect time to do a bit of spring cleaning; of your home, office, garden or garage. Especially if, like me, you open the blinds on a sunny day and the sunlight highlights every dust bunny, dirty surface, and pet hair tumbleweed 😮.

But cleaning and reorganising can take a toll when you live with a musculoskeletal condition, chronic pain, and fatigue. So we’ve got some tips to help you clean without overdoing it.

Planning, prioritising and pacing

First, make a plan. You can’t do everything at once. So write down all of the things you want to do.

Now prioritise the jobs. What’s most important? And when you consider this, remember your home doesn’t need to be a glossy magazine or Pinterest version of ‘perfect’. That takes a lot of styling, filters, and constant effort. It just needs to be your version of ‘perfect’ – comfortable and cosy for you and whoever you live with.

And finally, pacing. Take your time when you tackle your cleaning. Break it into smaller tasks. For example, don’t try to organise and clean your entire bedroom cupboard in one go. Go small. Deal with your shoes one day; the next day, you can focus on the things stored on shelves, and so on. Make it achievable and realistic for you and how you’re feeling.

Take breaks

We’re often tempted to get as much done as possible while we’re feeling good or motivated. But you need to take breaks so that you don’t overdo it. Otherwise, before you know it, your back’s sore, you can’t move your neck, and exhaustion hits you like a sledgehammer.

Set an alert on your phone to prevent this from happening. Give yourself a specific time to work and take a break when the alert chimes. Do some stretches, drink water, go outside for some air and vitamin D, or have a healthy snack if you’re hungry.

And if you find yourself getting tired, or starting to ache before the alert goes off, listen to your body readjust your timing, and take an earlier break.

Taking regular breaks, rather than pushing through, will leave you feeling much better at the end of your cleaning session.

Get the right tools for the jobs

Lightweight brooms, mops and vacuums make life much easier, especially if you have stairs or a large space to clean. Upright or robotic vacuums can be helpful as you don’t need to bend over a lot, especially when compared with barrel vacs. Just be aware of where the robots are so you don’t trip over them 😐!

Use an upright dustpan to sweep up crumbs, fluff and other debris from the floor. They require minimal bending, which is great if you have a sore back or get dizzy when you bend over.

Long-handled dusters can help you reach high places, especially if stretching or reaching your arms above your head is painful. If you don’t have one, you can attach your duster to a piece of dowel or a ruler to give you the extra length. Or even better, get someone else to do the dusting!

And don’t forget to use your reacher, grabber or other pick-up tools if you have one. They’re not just handy for retrieving something you’ve dropped but also for cleaning. You can pick up stray toys, socks and other items from the floor and retrieve light objects from high shelves.

Choose your battles

If you need to vacuum but aren’t up to doing your entire home, don’t. Just do the high-traffic areas. Or a high-traffic area. If your bathroom needs cleaning, do the high-use areas. Your shower screen doesn’t need to sparkle, but you do need clean towels and a clean sink.

Let the cleaning products do the hard work

Have you ever read the instructions on your cleaning products? Or do you just spray and wipe away? I’m definitely guilty of that! But many cleaning products need time to work on the grunge and grime. Then you can wipe it and the dirt away with far less effort. It’s also good to know that you don’t need separate multipurpose, kitchen and bathroom sprays. Choice has tested many of these products and found that they basically work the same. So you can save your money and cupboard space and just buy one.

Beware of dust and toxic smells

Many people with musculoskeletal and other chronic conditions are sensitive to chemicals, strong smells and/or dust. Some alternatives to the usual cleaning products include bi-carb soda, vinegar, tea tree oil, lemon juice and water. Many websites provide details for making your own cleaning products. There’s also a large range of more natural and plant-based cleaning products you can buy online and from the supermarket.

As far as dust goes, dusters often just move it from your surfaces to the air around you. Use a slightly damp cloth over surfaces to remove dust, and rinse it frequently. Or use an electrostatic duster that attracts and holds onto the dust.

Recycle old socks

I’ve recently discovered that old socks are perfect for many cleaning jobs around the house. You can put one on your hand and wipe down furniture, clean skirting boards, shutters, blinds, ceiling fans and even your indoor plants. When you’ve finished, you can remove the sock from your hand by pulling it off inside-out, and the dust and grime stay off your hand.

You can also put some potpourri or lavender into a sock, tie or sew the end shut, and stick it in the back of your closet, drawers, and other closed-up spaces you want to freshen up. 😊🌸🌻🌼🌷

Use your dishwasher for more than dishes

Did you know you can clean plastic toys, thongs, metal keys, exhaust covers, scrubbing brushes, and even dog toys in your dishwasher? Check out this article: Can you wash it in the dishwasher? The big list of things you can and can’t wash in the dishwasher from Choice for more info.

Consider reorganising your pantry, laundry or kitchen

These are the areas we use a lot. And they often have heavy things we use regularly – e.g. packets of rice, canned goods, pots and pans, detergents and cleaning products. Put these heavy items at waist level (if you have the space) so you aren’t constantly bending or stretching to access them. Check out Pinterest for ideas and inspo.

Get some wheels

A basket of wet washing or a bucket full of water can be really heavy. Instead, use a laundry trolley or a mop bucket with wheels.

Repackage it

We often buy cleaning products in bulk as it tends to be cheaper. But that can end up being several kilos or litres. So when you buy a big box or bottle of cleaning products, put a quantity into smaller, easier-to-use containers. You can top them up when you need to. And make sure you label the new containers clearly.

Alternate your cleaning activities

If you’ve spent some time doing physically tiring cleaning, take a break and do something more passive, like sitting at your desk and cleaning out your email inbox or reviewing receipts for your tax return. Or take a break and read a book or do some guided imagery. Then when/if you feel up to more physical work, you can go back to it. The important thing is you’ve given your body a chance to rest.

Get the family involved

This is obvious, but often such a drama that many of us just end up doing the chores ourselves 😑. But that’s not sustainable. Also, as everyone contributes to the mess, everyone needs to contribute to the cleaning. Read ‘How to divide chores around the home and get kids involved’ from RACV for some tips.

De-clutter

When we have a build-up of clutter and everyday things invading our space, they can become a trip hazard. Here are some ways to tackle the mess.

  • Make a plan and start small.
  • Organise the clutter by putting ‘like’ things together. For example, in your linen cupboard, put all your towels together in one group, bedsheets in another etc.
  • Decide what you want to keep and what’s just taking up valuable space. Then you need to decide what to do with the things you no longer want. So donate, give away, sell, and repurpose what you can. Or if it’s damaged/worn out/soiled/beyond repair, recycle or throw it away.

Hire someone

This isn’t an option for everyone or for every time, but there might be occasions you decide it’s worth the cost. Consider hiring a local handyperson/business to help with your lawns/gardening or cleaning your carpets, curtains or blinds.

Distract yourself with music, podcasts and audiobooks

This can make the cleaning more enjoyable. Just be mindful of the passing time, so you don’t get distracted and overdo things 😉.

Give your medicine cabinet a spring clean too

Get rid of out-of-date or unnecessary items. But don’t throw medications in the bin – take them to your local pharmacy for disposal.

Things don’t have to be perfect…

So give yourself a break. As a clean freak, I constantly struggle with this. But listening to your body and doing things that are realistic for you is more important than some idea of perfection that’s unsustainable (or unattainable). Accept that and just enjoy being in your home 😊.

Call our Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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22/Apr/2020

Updated July 2022

We’re halfway through 2022, and sadly, as much as we’d like it to be done and dusted, we’re still in the midst of the COVID pandemic. In fact, more people are getting sick than ever before because of these pesky variants. To make matters worse, we’re also in the middle of cold and flu season 😯.

We were so good at searching for and destroying germs at the beginning of the pandemic – we washed, scrubbed and sanitised like the legends we are. But with COVID barely being reported in the media, it’s easy to think we don’t need these measures anymore. And we may be getting a bit lax in our habits. Unfortunately, if your condition or meds have weakened your immune system, this increases your risk of getting infections.

So let’s revisit some key points about hygiene to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other nasties.

Washing your hands

We need to wash our hands with soap and water more frequently than we did before the pandemic. And we need to do it for at least 20 seconds. So no more splashing a bit of water around and considering the job done. Time yourself washing your hands a few times – 20 seconds is surprisingly long! A rough guide is the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice 😊🎁.

You also need to be thorough – so use plenty of soap, lather up and wash your hands front and back, between your fingers, and under the nails. And don’t forget to dry them properly.

So when should you wash your hands? Well, there are the obvious times we should have been washing our hands before the virus appeared – so continue washing your hands:

  • after you go to the toilet
  • after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • after touching or being in contact with someone who’s sick
  • before and after you eat
  • when preparing food
  • when handling rubbish
  • when your hands are visibly dirty
  • when dealing with your pets or other animals (patting, feeding, dealing with their poo or litter trays).

Other times you should be washing your hands because of COVID-19:

  • after going out in public – for example, the shops, public transport, petrol station, chemist, workplace, childcare centre, healthcare setting etc. Basically, any place where you’re touching things that other people may have touched or breathed on.
  • before and after you unpack your groceries. Read our blog about grocery shopping for more info about how you can look after yourself and your family and still get the groceries you need.

Hand sanitisers

Remember when hand sanitiser was hard to find in 2020 😮😂? Now it’s everywhere and it’s a handy tool for combatting germs.

Hand sanitisers are really helpful when you don’t have access to soap and water, for example when you’re at the shops or using public transport. Just be sure your sanitiser contains at least 70% alcohol to be effective against COVID-19.

Compound Interest has a great article explaining how hand sanitisers protect against infections.

Avoid touching your face

We touch our faces a lot…more often than we actually realise. The problem is our faces include eyes, noses and mouths – perfect places for viruses and other germs to enter our bodies. So it’s important to avoid touching our faces, especially when we’re out in public or around other people.

Sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose

If you need to sneeze or cough (for whatever reason – allergy, virus, sun in your eyes), do it into your elbow or a tissue, not your hand. If you use a tissue, throw it in the bin. And regardless of whether you use your elbow or a tissue, wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser immediately.

If you’re blowing your nose, it’s best to use a tissue instead of a hanky. That way, you can throw it away, rather than carrying a dirty hanky in your pocket or bag, contaminating your hands every time you touch it.

Seriously – I’m exhausted just reading this!

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of this, you’re not alone; I still can’t stop touching my face, and we’re years into this pandemic!

But we get it – when you have a condition that often has you waking up exhausted or fatigue that weighs you down throughout your day, you want to take shortcuts when you can, often with the ‘simple’ things. But because we’re living through a pandemic, we need to be vigilant regarding our hygiene (see above points) and do the best we can 😊.

Stay clean, stay (physically) distant and stay safe

The best thing we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to practise good hygiene (as we’ve listed here), continue physical distancing measures and follow the instructions of the health department (both Federal and your state/territory).

This will pass, but unfortunately, it’s taking longer than we expected (hoped). So stay strong and stay safe.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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