How to Maintain a Home with a Chronic Illness or Disability

Do you ever have the desire to work in your home but you don’t have the energy or stamina due to a chronic illness or disability?

Wouldn’t it be great to get ideas on being able to get the decluttering, cleaning and housework done even if you aren’t feeling well or perhaps physically limited?

Sarah Mueller reached out last month in a post asking members to give their best tips on overcoming these obstacles in order to maintain their homes.

Our community responded in a BIG way…

Here are their best tips:

Give yourself grace. Smaller projects. (One corner, not the full room.) Set a timer.Christine Tremoulet

Lots of rest in between. I went from a highly active person to collapsing my lower body because of spinal issues. Learning to listen to my body and take breaks has been my biggest obstacle.

Also planning your days out minute by minute so you can organize yourself, and again be kind to yourself if you can’t do what you thought you could. Another big one is ask for help when you need it. –Casey Gaudet

Disabled due to knee and ankle, limiting standing, your timed decluttering challenges have been a god send! – Claire Crane

I do a bit every day.. Still exhausts me but I know I’m doing my bestHelen Oxenham

I have to remember and list what I did each day. And I’m always amazed at how much I completed. Be gentle with your progress and kind to yourself. – Louise Grasso

I organize/clean/walk, whatever, until I need to sit. I take mini breaks. Music helps.Patti Blair

Ask for help if you can. Mostly listen to your body. Don’t let people shame you for not doing more. Forgive yourself. Don’t try and do it all at once. Take it one drawer, shelf, corner at a time. – Angel Snow

Oddly, a simple wooden stool let my old knees “sit” to clean and sort stuff. That’s its purpose in the house. It has no true place, on purpose.

I sit and do dishes, make noodles, clean the pantry. Mine is a little two dollar one bought at auction! It saves me.Tracy Lynne

I think Sarah’s ten minute plan works for all these limitations as well as for any one overwhelmed to just get started. – Kass Demeter

I clean and declutter daily, if I don’t feel the best, I only do a little. I vacuum daily and dust weekly, mop tile and wood floors weekly. It can be done. You just have to know your limits.Kiki Burczyk Baran

I schedule things by 3rds. So instead of scheduling things by hour or half hour like I use to – now I do morning, afternoon and evening. No actual times set.Robyn Michaels

I think it helps to remember the tortoise and the hare… Slow and steady wins the race… If I can only work for five minutes and then have to take a 20 minute break, that’s okay… If I keep those five minutes going throughout the day they add up pretty quickly and it is amazing how much I can get done in five minutes. – Elizabeth Wissbaum

I get fatigued really easily and hurt a lot sometimes. I have to make myself do a little at a time and limit my “sessions” to 3 or 4 a day. If I don’t, I can’t do anything the next day.Andrea Thornton

Do what you can based on whatever is limiting you. So for me, I put a folding chair in the midst of what I need to do. Or sit at the table to sort, etc.

I use boxes and trash bags to group things. My husband is a great help, so if you need someone to help, don’t be afraid to ask. – Laurie Bailey

I have a stool on wheels in my kitchen, a life and feet saver!Casey Gaudet

It really isn’t easy. Don’t quit, do a little bit at a time and try to let things go. Sometimes I just push and get something done then have to take it easy the next day.

Some people really need to ask for help, children or grandchildren to do the carrying. It’s a lot of work just to transport the items to a better location or out to the trash.

Also I have been trying to accept the fact that something’s have to be how they are because that is what works for me, my washroom is set up like a master closet so I am not having to drag my clothes up two flights then back down to dress for the day. It’s easiest for me and isn’t hurting anyone.Maria Ann

For the physical things I try to go to my house so and pick a few items to donate, sell it trash so I am doing a little something and I don’t work very long 5 to 10 minutes at a time and then restRuth Adams

My best recommendation is to not compare yourself with others. And don’t compare your bad days with your good days. It is easy to get discouraged by your limitations.

It helps me to write down my plans and priorities and make adjustments. But having a clear list helps. – Alaskan Melody

I’ve started writing down the things I’ve accomplished in a week. And the regular chores do count. This has helped me realize just how much I really do get done, in spite of the pain & fatigue.Vickie Huerta

I make a to-do list. It includes small tasks as well as large. It makes me feel accomplished to cross items off.Ginger Grant

Get help with the physical aspects and plan everything carefully first. Just do one small area of your home at a time and expect mess to creep around while you work to finish that area (the linen closet for instance).

If you think it’ll take half a day set aside a week or two. That’s how I do it and it works for me. The further in to decluttering I got the less time it takes because there’s less mess everywhere else and I’ve developed a style now so it’s easier to feel comfortable with my decisions.Magnolia Gee

I’m disabled and have trouble walking. I have a rolling office chair that I sit in to cook, do dishes… I even roll and sweep.Amy Christensen

I’ve been dealing with a spouse that needs a taxi driver. During those times of sitting and wait in the car, I’ve cleaned out my purse, cleaned up the car, brought notepad to make notes, plan my cleaning when I got home. Make necessary phone calls, rested.

It’s taken me a bit to get my mind more organized to have things ready to take. No the house isn’t clean yet, but I’m still trying. Inch by inch its a cinch, yard by yard, very hard. – Nanny Jeannie

My best experience it’s a 10 minutes per hour per room it will do great.. do you think it’s not a lot but does make a different…Brenda A Hardt Cureses

My therapist suggested a gratitude/accomplishment journal. So at the end of every day, you write down things you accomplished over the course of the day, no matter how small, and also things you are grateful for. I was surprised at how much I actually do get done, because all I had focused on was everything that was left to do.Chrissy Wheeler

Keeping a list of small jobs I want to get done (breaking things like a room of work down into things like the desk drawer, letters a-h in a file drawer etc).Sandy Brandes

Keep moving, there are even things to do while sitting. Clean out drawers. Gather things in a box and sit and go through it. I always kept things I need to read where I would sit to take a break. You can do it…….not easy but you will get there. – Cheryl Gromoll

I started following this page in hopes of getting some help getting so I feel comfortable in my own home again. The 20 minute timer is a lot of help. – LindaLee Furstenwerth

Grabbers are a Godsend! I use them because I’m short. They came in handy when I blew out each knee, had back/disc issues, after surgery, & when I was pregnant! Great for picking up stuff off the floor or when something falls behind a cabinet, or for under furniture.

Standing dust pan saves the back! Magic eraser mop, Swiffer, & Clorox scrubber w telescoping handle for walls, ceilings, bathroom tile, & shower! – Cari L Shaffer

I make sure I take breaks, the timer idea I read in this group has helped so much. My new motto is “I can do anything for 10-20 minutes.” – Marcie Lynette Thompson 

Have fibro and chronic pain following shingles (called PHN). I do regular home tasks, and I keep a list of simple projects and big ones. Work 15-30 minutes, rest with a book or puzzles, then do more. I’m collecting stuff I don’t want in small boxes I can carry. I’m putting books in rubber tubs in the basement to rearrange my wall space. – Edie Daley

I have issues with my knees, ankles, and mostly my lower back. I have a wooden folding chair that I sit in to declutter because most of mine is accessible that way. I just move my chair around the room I’m working in as I get deeper into the room. – Denise Ginn

Little wins as often as you’re able to and something that is highly visible to you when you’re in that room and you can see the improvement that you have made. – Mandy Robertson-Mercado

Make every trip count. Whether it’s to the bank, the kitchen, or downstairs to the laundry never travel with empty hands or trunk. You could be saving yourself a trip later. – Sharon Coates

I have learned to work shorter, take breaks, I can do to separate projects if I get frustrated with one I can go break to the other one or continue with it. Not getting frustrated or disappointed I didn’t get enough done makes a difference. As long as I am doing something.

While my disabilities are nowhere near others have, I am blessed to be able to be here, learn new and different ways to do things. – Glory Mahaffey

My best tip to myself is to work a small section then rest. I never set a timer since that causes stress for me. Too mush pressure which tightens my muscles. Slow and easy wins the race.Heidi Francisco Hanz

As a single mom when my daughter was young, I networked… a lot! I set up rotating group play dates. Having to be “on” when it was my day was fueled by the joy of seeing the children interact and knowing the next play date would be a great break for me.Darci Hemleb Thompson

If I have to go out, I make sure I’ve gotten my household chores done because I’m probably going to be out of commission the rest of the day. – Vanessa Penner

Eliminate the number of things I have to do in my house by decluttering so I don’t have to sort, purge, clean, dust, organize, put away etc. anymore things than I absolutely need.Toni Bond

I have Lyme which affects my energy the most. Number 1: recruit help as much as possible. Number 2: When you’re in a health crisis there might not be too much you can do, so just focus on what you can do and let go of the rest. Number 3: When you’re able to do more, try and hit the stuff that will make the most impact and have the most lasting effect.Jana Kroesbergen

Envision what you want. Mine was a house that could be easily cleaned. That meant clear floors so that I wasn’t wasting spoons cleaning up the crap strewn about the house. Declutter. As much as can be done on the days that one is capable.

Always, always begin with maintaining the decluttered spaces before moving on to a new area. Visible spaces first. Seriously, entire house, visible spaces completed first. Declutter unseen spaces: drawers, closets, cabinets. Only doing as much as can be completed that day.

Some days it is possible to tackle a closet. Other days it is only a drawer. If it is impossible to do more than get out of bed, that’s just fine too. – Sharon Wagoner

I have fibro and so there are days I can’t do anything… plus anxiety.. so I just do small sections.. break it all up into smaller sections.. or set a timer for 15 min at a time and do what I can then walk away and come back after 30 min to an hour.Missy Walters

Want more awesome tips?

Consider joining our membership community, Organize My Home, to take control of the organizing and decluttering of your home with support from other awesome members.


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24 thoughts on “How to Maintain a Home with a Chronic Illness or Disability”

  1. There was a time when my floor hadn’t been mopped in 3 months and i had dishes in the sink from about that long too. I felt so disgusted with myself and i had a poor roommate! But I couldn’t vacuum the floor then mop it and you kind of need to do the two together. And i couldn’t stand for more than five minutes to do dishes. The floor and kitchen are clean now because i learned to do what i can (short bursts of activity) and take breaks.

    • My doctor told me that my back would be better if I did not sweep, mop or vacuum! Oh boy, I might as well move into the barn, I told him. Then I discovered IRobot! Although it seemed expensive, I purchased on a payment plan so that I could afford it. So much cheaper than hiring someone to do the work. It runs on a schedule everyday. At first I watched and it seemed to run in circles, but it was always full of dirt and pet hair, so I was happy., Now I realize that it is doing a great job! Because it runs every day, mopping is not as necessary. The best thing I have done for myself in a long time.

    • Thank you! If you can do it, so can I! seeing my floor & my own dish pile challenge like yours helped bunches!

  2. Thanks for this blog
    As a mum with chronic illnesses chronic pain registered disabled wheelchair user
    Made me see I’m not alone So many have the same struggles
    A little bit a day with the help of my husband and children

  3. Reading all these tips has given me confidence in knowing that I am achieving something slow as it is. And knowing that there are heaps of people out there with the same difficulties and inspirations makes me know just to keep on keeping on.

  4. So many good tips! And it helps to know so many are fighting the same fight! Thank you to all who shared! Your encouragement means more than you know!!

  5. My back and knees are so bad I can’t clean the tub/shower like normal. I bought a mop that you can wring out with the handle. I spray my tub with vinegar and dawn blue dish soap, sprinkle with comet and then I mop the bathtub on the bottom and sides. Then I rinse with hot water and my shower and tub sparkle.

  6. I have a very small apartment, but find the bathroom and kitchen floors a challenge. I use long tongs to pick up big stuff, but a little patch of stuck on dirt on a floor when mopping was difficult. My daughter said, ‘Oh – easy. Just Throw down a one of those green scrubby things and move it around with the mop. Then you can scrub standing up.’ This works very well. I was surprised when someone said that they vacuumed and dusted daily. Unless you have a pet or live in polluted area, I wouldn’t bother. I may be a grub, but my Mum always said that you can fool people with tidiness. Fresh flowers help too.

  7. Thank You! All of these tips are so helpful…especially to my mental attitude. It is nice to know that there are others struggling just to get out of bed in the morning too. Slowly, I am making some headway just by having a plan to follow. Be glad for what you are able to do and have done rather than thinking about all that is yet to do.

  8. i was thinking about trying an IRobot, but I too think they are expensive and I didn’t know how well it worked especially with my 4 legged long hair fur babies that shed a lot. I cannot vacuum daily like I used to. Most of our house is carpet. It has been so hard to get some of the hair anymore. My house looks so much better when I can vacuum.

    • Roomba is great, but not so good with pet hair. You have to clean the vacuum out after each use, so I’m not sure it really saves any time. We bought one but I use the upright more. Better to buy a really good easy to use upright vacuum. Check reviews and find one that you can handle easily.

    • Some health insurance programs do provide home housekeeping care (weekly, bi-weekly) to help people stay in their homes longer. (Especially if your doctor has said you have limitations.) To stay in our homes with assistance is less expensive for them than assisted living facilities. And sometimes social services will even provide decluttering help.

  9. I loved all of these comments ! As I set here this morning and read them, it gave me so much hope that I too can still maintain my household jobs ! Thank you for the inspiration that I have needed so badly.

  10. I initially posted this under another topic, but it really makes most sense here… so if it sounds like you’ve read this one – you may have! LOL.

    I have physical limitations that require frequent “breaks”. So One thing I found myself doing is taking a 15 min break that becomes a 2 hour break. So I set a timer on an Ap called “Alarmed”. It has “nag me” alarms so if you set an alarm that says “break over” and set it for 15 min, you can tell it how often to nag you. So I set it for 5 min. That way if I don’t “clear” it by marking it done it will repeat every 5 minutes. You can set the repeat for any amount of time that works for you. This is perfect for people like me who can get distracted by social media or Pinterest for hours.

  11. Sarah…thank you for addressing the illness issue. This last year a fell further and further behind. I was wondering why I was getting tapped out after sweep the porch. I found myself short of breath walking to my mail box. Could my asthma cause that. Yes, no. The lung dr said COPD. I’m operating at 41 percent of oxygen. Dah! Now it makes sense. So thank you for address this issue. Baby steps are better than no steps. Nancy in LA… that’s Lower Alabama.

  12. My dad (who also has a disability) always told me “Don’t use your disability as an excuse to not do something. Use it as an explanation as to why you have to do it differently or at a different speed.” Sometimes I tend to forget that, but I’m trying not to be so hard on myself. Which is HARD.

  13. Thank you, Jil for your reply. Please help me find a clock like yours with varied alarm setting!

    Sounds like a perfect “buddy”!

  14. I am just now stumbling on this after suffer with chronic pain for over 20 years. Truthfully, I am in tears just being grateful for the understanding that I am not alone in this fight. Knowing that there are people who understand makes it a little more bearable than yesterday. I am going to start using these tips – today!!


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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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