RA Hacks for Household Chores

by Cathy Kramer Patient Advocate

Lack of energy, swollen joints, and general pain can make cleaning your home a challenge when rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is part of your life. Sometimes it may seem impossible. But one amazing thing about our community is this: We don’t give up. We find ways to work around our RA. We turned to our social media community for tips on getting household chores done.

Couple taking a break on the couch at home.
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Pace Yourself

“Pace myself ... chore, rest, chore.” ~ Jody

Since housecleaning tends to zap a lot of energy, you have to learn to pace yourself. This takes discipline because your mind continues to work the way it did pre-RA: It sees a situation, such as a dirty house, and quickly wants to fix it. Keep Jody’s mantra in mind: “Chore, rest, chore.” It takes more time, but it gets the job done without leaving you exhausted.

Woman washing window at home.
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Tackle a Job Each Day to Avoid the Pile-up

“I do a little every day no matter what, even if it’s just to go through a pile of mail.” ~ Angela

Set time and energy aside each day to do one or two tasks rather than trying to tackle everything at once. Don’t choose heavy-energy chores, such as changing bedsheets, on the same day you clean the bathroom tub. Perhaps make a list of high- and low-energy chores and then spread them out throughout the week. A written schedule never hurts.

Woman washing dishes.
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Plan Tasks Around Your Own Pain

“I think my best hack is to know your body. I’m definitely a morning person, with more energy after my hour of stiffness.” ~ Bellachristin

What is the best time of the day for you to clean? By listening to our bodies, we know if the time is right to take on a big chore like cleaning the bathroom. Maybe mornings are a no-go for productivity — wait until a break in the evening. Personally, I know there are days when bending over cleaning the tub and toilet will take every ounce of energy I have plus leave me with swollen fingers. I listen and do it another day.

Man shopping online.
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Skip the Trip Out and Shop Online

A common hack from our community is the use of online businesses to make life easier. Amazon, Target, and Walmart are among many that offer quick delivery of products you use regularly so you don’t have to leave the house. Depending on where you live, you might also have grocery delivery options. Another great hack is ordering everything online and then driving to the store to pick up your prepaid merchandise. This is a great way to cut walking around stores and waiting in lines.

Making a crockpot meal.
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Prep Meals Ahead and Use a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

“I know it’s often hard for me to stand in front of a stove making dinner. Crockpot to the rescue!” ~ Bellachristin

Many shared that they use a slow cooker or instant pot regularly and make meals ahead of time. Since returning to work full-time, I have started incorporating both into my routine. On the weekend, my son helps me prepare our meals, cutting most of the vegetables. We always double recipes and freeze one portion.

Experiment with frozen meals that your family enjoys. As you prepare these meals, include your kids so they can help next time. Many groceries also have fresh meats and veggies put together in a foil pan that just needs to be cooked. Don’t be afraid to buy precut vegetables. Your hands and wrists will thank you later.

Woman using a Swiffer mop.
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Buy Easy-to-use Cleaning Tools

“I use my Swiffer Wet Jet to clean out the dog crate, so I don’t have to bend over.” ~ Kimberly

There are many products on the market today to assist us in cleaning. Besides the Swiffer, several community members are using Roomba, a robot vacuum. Look for cleaning tools that are easy to maneuver, light, and store easily. The goal is to use them. If they are too cumbersome to use or to get out of a closet, you end up feeling defeated.

woman in apron cleaning kitchen
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Hire a Cleaning Service

“I have a housekeeper (come) every other week.” ~ Ellen

Many in our community recommend outsourcing at least part of your housecleaning. There are various options for this type of help. Depending on your needs and finances, you could hire someone to come in weekly, monthly, or every few months. You might want help with bigger projects that consume a lot of energy, such as changing the sheets, mopping, or deep cleaning your bathrooms, while you take care of the smaller chores. Don’t be afraid to share your specific needs.

Woman sorting trash and recycling.
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Get Rid of Clutter

“Definitely try to minimize the number of possessions you have.” ~ Mrstorijones19

It’s difficult to part with things we have had for a long time, but sometimes clearing out the old allows us to embrace who we are today. Plus, by reducing the number of things we own, we have fewer items to move out of the way before we can even start to clean. For some, this might even include downsizing their home.

Mother and Daughter using a dishwasher in the kitchen
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Don't Do It Alone

“Always take help when it’s offered.” ~ Mrstorijones19

Asking for help often feels like you are giving in to RA. You aren’t. You are simply acknowledging that you cannot do everything alone. It’s OK to need help. Teach your children to put dirty dishes away and clean up after themselves. Ask your spouse to share in more of the chores. Put pride aside and let friends come over and help clean out the refrigerator as you chat.

Happy family at home.
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Be Realistic

“Set realistic goals that are flexible.” ~ Leslie

Be gentle with yourself. A diagnosis of RA does not automatically mean your house cannot be clean ever again, but it might mean it is no longer spotless every day. Remember that you are doing the best you can and there are often more important things to spend your energy on than a clean house. Learn to let things go.

Cathy Kramer
Meet Our Writer
Cathy Kramer

Cathy Kramer has been married longer than not and is a mom to two young adults plus an aging border collie. She splits her days/nights between two community colleges as an ESL/ABE instructor. She is a strong believer in gratitude and attempts to leave a smile everywhere she goes. Cathy shares her positive voice as an advocate in the rheumatoid arthritis (RA), chronic illness, and self-care communities. Her ongoing journey with RA can be found on her blog The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo. She often hangs out @cateepoo88 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Cathy is also a Social Ambassador for the RAHealthCentral Facebook page: facebook.com/RAHealthCentral.