A Clean Home Despite Ill Health
Some homemakers share their secrets
THE three-room apartment is surprisingly neat. The fresh scent of a newly mopped kitchen floor hangs in the air. The woman of the house is busily preparing dinner on a stove clean enough to be used as a dinner table. The furniture, including her refrigerator, is spotless.
In a nearby apartment, dinner preparations are also under way. But the smell of dirty linen overpowers the food aromas. Fuzzy balls of dust peep out from under pieces of torn and stained furniture. The stack of dirty dishes next to the sink is at avalanche level.
Yet, what do these two women have in common? They suffer from chronic asthma—at times so severe that they can hardly breathe and must be confined to bed. But what a contrast in their homes!
You, or someone close to you, may be among the millions worldwide who daily face the struggle of keeping a house clean while being shackled with a disabling chronic illness, such as asthma, arthritis, heart disorder, or some other malady.
Why Worry About a Little Dirt?
“I live alone. Nobody but I and a few of my close friends see the dirt, so why worry?” asked a white-haired widow. “Only the family sees it and they know my condition,” adds a homemaker whose joints pain from arthritis.
Yet there are definite benefits from a clean home. Actually, some respiratory diseases are made even worse because of dust. We feel a natural attraction to the beauty of orderliness and the cleanliness associated with it, and at the same time we have a tendency to flee, even if only mentally, from that which is untidy. When the home is orderly, the frustrations of trying to find some needed item are usually avoided. Also, a clean home gives a person a sense of pride and self-respect.
Most chronic sufferers agree that there are definite benefits from a tidy home, yet deep-seated feelings seem to hinder the efforts of some.
Half the Battle Is Attitude
Very easily a chronic sufferer could develop a “poor me, poor me” attitude and feel, “What’s the use in trying.” Certainly when one is sorely handicapped and often in pain, it is difficult to keep a cheerful outlook. It is easy for others to say, “Cheer up, it can’t be that bad.” But you know how bad it is and you have to live with your disability every day.
Still, you have to agree that things could be worse. You do have life, and your own attitude can contribute to whether that life seems empty and frustrating or rich and meaningful. A wise Bible proverb (Pr 15:15) says: “For the miserable man [afflicted one] every day is unhappy; but the cheerful [good at heart] man enjoys a perpetual feast.”—An American Translation.
“Every day is unhappy” or bad to some who are afflicted with disabilities. They are miserable. However, if one considers the blessings even to have a home to clean and at least some resources of energy with which to do it, things can appear different. To that one, life can be as delightful as enjoying a “perpetual feast.” Though some days are not the best, still not every day is unhappy.
“Sometimes I really don’t feel like cleaning,” said one housewife with chronic asthma, “but I’ve always cared. I can’t stand a dirty place. So I go ahead and try to clean. Afterward I’m really tired, but I look back over my work—everything looks nice and shiny—and I feel good inside.” Her attitude made the difference.
“Try to do everything you possibly can within the limitations of your handicap, but don’t waste your energy in doing something that really isn’t important just to prove you can do it!” recommends the book Homemaking for the Handicapped. You have to be realistic.
Just as you accept the fact that you have blue eyes and brown hair or have to wear glasses, so learn to accept your illness or other limitations. Consider what abilities you do have and go from there. Recognize that your home will not be as spotless as that of some others in better health. Still, in many instances, if you care, your home will be cleaner than that of persons who allow laziness or a lack of pride to hinder them from cleaning up.
However, the best intentions can go unfulfilled because cleaning work can be overwhelming. Yet several practical hints can lighten the work.
Make It Easier for Yourself
“If an iron tool [ax] has become blunt and someone has not whetted its edge, then he will exert his own vital energies,” observes the Bible. “So the using of wisdom to success means advantage.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10) Though you could cut down a tree with a blunt ax, what a chore! However, if you wisely “whetted” or sharpened the ax, how much less ‘vital energy’ you would spend! Following this principle is essential for one who is sickly, for energy is like money—the less we have of it, the farther we have to make it go.
So think: How can I simplify my housework? What steps can I take to use less of my ‘vital energy’ and yet get the task done?
● REMOVE CLUTTER.
“I try not to keep the house clogged up with things here and there. I don’t believe it’s good,” said an 80-year-old widower convalescing after major surgery. Looking at his simple, yet strikingly neat home, one cannot help but see the value of his viewpoint.
Analyze your home to see what you could eliminate. Perhaps you could remove the easy chair in that dark corner where nobody sits anyway or that little cabinet that contains only junk. How many ornaments are standing or hanging in the room? It takes less effort to dust 10 of these than it does 20. With better health, perhaps you could have more furniture and ornaments. Yet a room need not seem bare if there are only a few ornaments. If these few are carefully selected, it may give more evidence of your good taste.
If your home is large, you may even wish to close off a section, perhaps covering the furniture with old sheets, and open it only when company comes or when it is otherwise needed. This will save much extra cleaning.
● CONSIDER EASE OF CLEANING WHEN PURCHASING.
Dark upholstery shows up the dust; light colors are easily soiled. In-between colors, perhaps with a pattern rather than solids, will look cleaner with a minimum of effort. You will find that a smooth linoleum or wood floor will be easier to clean than a carpet. Even when buying dishes, some have found that unbreakable plastic pieces make washing simpler with less worry about breakage.
● CONVENIENT TOOLS AND SUPPLIES.
Keep cleaning supplies that are frequently used handy. By placing a sponge and cleanser next to the bathtub, you or your family will be more inclined to wash out the tub when finished with using it.
“I keep a small flat basket at hand to carry items back and forth, so, instead of making half a dozen trips, I make two,” reported one woman crippled with arthritis. Others have conserved strength by using tongs to grab items or when cleaning in hard-to-reach places.
“I will go out on a limb and say that I think a feather duster is an absolute necessity,” states writer Carol Eisen. Though she admits the dust is scattered on the floor (which can be cleaned up with a dust mop), she adds, “it’s four times as fast as cleaning with a dustcloth, especially on nonflat areas like telephones and candles and potted palms.” Of course, the flying dust may irritate some asthma sufferers. Others have found that a toy dust mop works better and collects the dust rather than scattering it.
Yet, despite all your efforts, problems will arise for which there is no easy solution. These can give you some bad days, as one woman whose joints are terribly disfigured by arthritis admitted: “For spilled milk there is nothing to do but turn the radio up so I hear music instead of my complaining joints as I mop up.”
Do a Little at a Time
Many with limited health clean one room at a time to avoid becoming overtired. You may even have to do less at times. “One day I was cleaning the bedroom. Moving the furniture became too much for me,” confessed one with ill health, “so I told my daughter, ‘Today I did half a room and tomorrow I’ll do the rest!’ We both had a good laugh, and the next day I finished it.”
Cleaning up after yourself can save time later on. The five minutes wiping up spills on the stove or in the oven when they occur can save several hours of hard cleaning when the spills become “baked on.”
A general routine can prevent panic when you see housework piling up, because you know it will be cared for eventually. But your schedule must be flexible. Tuesday morning you may not feel up to tackling the scheduled kitchen floor, so you may have to substitute some easier task.
“If you keep things in good shape,” said one experienced homemaker, “then when you’re not feeling well, you can just touch up things so no one knows the difference.” Still there are times when you are too sick even to “touch up.” What then?
Help from Others—Gratefully Accept It
Others may be sensitive to your needs and respond with help. Never be too proud to accept such, nor so picky about how things are to be done that your helper regrets the day he or she volunteered.
Not only is such help deeply appreciated but it is a mark of genuine Christianity. (James 1:27; John 13:35) One elderly witness of Jehovah who lives alone had just undergone major surgery. “When I came out of the hospital,” he said, “two of the women in the congregation came to my home and cleaned it from top to bottom. They made it shine! In fact, they cleaned areas I had neglected. Even after this they periodically returned to keep everything shining.” Words failed to express how much he appreciated such Christian work.
Cleanliness Does Make a Difference
Pleasant surroundings have a cheering effect. The favorable comments of others about our tidy home can likewise be stimulating.
When a person can cope with the challenge of the grease and grime, despite ill health, his or her own enjoyment of life is enhanced. One is no longer burdened with guilt and depression over what should be done.
The difference that a clean home makes was well summed up by a homemaker who is almost totally blind and yet keeps a spotless home. She says: “There is an inner feeling of well-being knowing that something is clean.” You can have that feeling too, despite the limitations of ill health!
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HOW TO SIMPLIFY WORK
1. Have a special place for each article.
2. Select the right tools for the job.
3. Use the body efficiently.