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When Chronic Illness Leaves You Unable to Do Housework

I’ve always been a tidy, organized person. It’s just who I am. I keep a diary of mine and my fiancé’s plans, meetings and reminders and my life is as organized as it can be. This is also reflected in my home and again, always has been. While most 12-year-olds were dancing around their room to the latest tune from their favorite band, I was cleaning my room. I was reorganizing my already organized room and whizzing ’round the wooden flooring with baby wipes. I was a strange child. I’ll give you that.

The point is, I’ve always been happy in a clean and tidy environment and I take pride and comfort in such an environment. I feel most relaxed and accomplished in one. My anxiety disorder is calmed when in a clean and tidy room and it never took up much of my time.

But when several chronic health conditions struck, this changed my ability to keep it up. 


My Friday evenings or Saturday mornings were dedicated to a full house clean, pre-hypothyroid days. This meant one to two hours of cleaning, scrubbing, polishing, mopping, vacuuming, laundry and more, which, I oddly enjoyed. Cleaning can be rewarding work, if you think of it that way, since the end result is a clean, tidy and relaxing home. After cleaning, I would put my feet up with a cup of tea and watch a film or two and enjoy being in a home that was neat, organized and smelled amazingly. I had seemingly endless energy to do all of this and I’d never miss a week.

Even throughout the week, the house was tidy to the point that all pots and pans were washed as soon as they were finished being used and I did a few extra sessions of vacuuming to keep the carpets spotless. It was a great stress release, too, as I moved around the house, cleaning and dancing to my iPod on shuffle. I was pretty particular when it came to hygiene and how I liked my home environment to be.

Now? Now I’m lucky if I get even 10 minutes of housework done a week, sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, my health is a lot better than it used to be, now I’m on the correct medication for me and implementing several things to promote better health, but I’m not superwoman. I’m not in optimal good health. I have bad days or weeks (thanks, Hashimoto’s) and some weeks, when I can manage to clean, it’s 10 minutes at most and it tends to wipe me out for the rest of the day. Or all I can manage is putting a load of laundry in the washing machine before I need half an hour’s worth of rest again.

Luckily, I didn’t have to ask my fiancé to step up and pick up the slack when I became less able, because he could see I was struggling and stepped up without prompting, but I’ve still lost something. I’ve lost some control.

I’ve had the ability to take pride in my home and keep it in a way that keeps my stress and anxiety levels low taken away. It makes me feel inadequate and, at times, pathetic. It makes me feel out of control. It makes me feel like my health conditions are, yet again, winning.

It makes me feel like I no longer have a defining role in my own household.


If there is a week where I’m having to get all the housework done on my own, for whatever reason, it looks much more like this: wipe surfaces, then rest. Do washing up, then rest. Hoover one room, then rest. And you get the idea! My whole day becomes based around the need to work my way through the cleaning and it’s never going to be done as well I used to do it anyway. Cutting corners and leaving certain bits out, just so I don’t pass out. Some days I’ll start to wipes surfaces and quickly become so lightheaded I have to abandon the idea.

Food shopping is a whole other thing which I’ve grown to hate. We usually go on weekday evenings as we just don’t get the time on weekends, and by 7:00 p.m. at night, I’m already so tired! I don’t always go with my other half, but if I do, the walking around the shop is tiring. Pushing a trolley is tiring. Trying to remember what you’re looking for or where you put the shopping list again… It’s all tiring. Then you’ve got the unloading back at home. It’s such a momentous effort and dominates a whole evening because it takes so long for me to complete it.

Pre-hypothyroidism, I never thought there would come a day when I would miss doing the housework, or taking being able to do it, for granted. Who would? But I do miss it. I miss that freedom, the control, the responsibility… The comfort.

I’ve found ways to manage it, though. I’ve become more relaxed in my approach to a clean and tidy house and I can leave things if I really can’t do them. I’ve learned to lean on friends and my other half for help with tasks and I’ve made my other half aware of what help I need from him and in what quantities. I’m not one of these spoonies who can do it in chunks, hoovering one day of the week, washing pots the next and cleaning the bathroom the next. The thought of the house never fully being clean in sync would bother me so much! I either want it all clean at the same time or not at all.

But at the end of the day, it’s important to remember that no one wishes they’d done more cleaning when on their deathbed. It gets me down, but I have to look at everything with a step back and realize it’s not the end of the world.

That being said, it’s worth keeping in mind that those who struggle to keep up with housework likely don’t appreciate surprise visits from people. It can be anxiety-inducing and inconsiderate. I would always check it’s OK to pop ’round before you do and give a realistic time of arrival.

This story was originally published on The Invisible Hypothyroidism.

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Thinkstock photo via sezer66.

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