Ah spring time! The sun comes back, the birds sing again, and the pollen in the air reminds us why we don’t usually go outside in the first place. It’s around this time of year that people begin a major cleaning of their living space. The dreaded Spring Cleaning. I don’t know about you but say that simple phrase and suddenly I’m 10 years old again, vacuuming the back of the refrigerator and sneezing a year’s worth of dust out of my sinuses. Culturally, the idea of spring cleaning is fascinating, with many religions and spiritual beliefs practicing a spring cleaning of sorts. Orthodox Christians heavily clean the altar on Maundy Thursday to prepare for the coming of Christ on Easter, observant Jews clean the house of all chametz (leavened bread) for Passover, and some Iranians still practice khaneh tekani (literally, ‘shaking the house’) in time for the Persian New Year. Whether your Spring Cleaning has religious justification, or if you just think it’s about time someone washed the drapes, this practice can be particularly draining for spoonies. Sometimes just keeping up with the everyday chores of washing dishes, folding laundry, and preparing meals can seem a feat in itself, particularly when you struggle with illness-borne fatigue. So here are some of my tips for a productive spoonie spring, without a trip to the ER.
Write it out
I am a very type A person, and almost nothing makes me happier than new stationary and a perfectly organized planner. So, when I am faced with a task, simple or long-term, one of the first things I do is write it all down in my Handy Dandy Notebook. I tend to look almost exclusively at the big picture when it comes to projects, and then become easily overwhelmed, spiraling into a ball of stress and anxiety when in reality I only had to complete three things. For me, writing things down is both a joy and a necessity. For you, this could mean breaking down every task by room, type of cleaning, and materials needed, or this could be as vague as “clean living areas”. Whatever works best for you.
Before starting any project, and I am absolutely counting cleaning as a project, make sure you have all the tools necessary to be successful. I used to dread cleaning my bathroom as it required a lot of bending, squatting, and kneeling, things that I struggle with on a good day. So, my sinks got a nice wipe down about once a week, my toiled scrubbed every other week, and my bathtub… well, let’s not get into that. Then one day, I was at Target and found a scrubber sponge, get this, on a stick! What a concept! I was so wrapped up in my physical abilities, I didn’t remember that there are tools out there to practically do the job for you! Now my bathtub is just as clean as the rest of my bathroom! (Granted, this is probably not up to a Southern Grandmother’s standards, but I digress.)
Slow and Steady
I have the habit, whether because I’ve put something off until the last minute, or because I am filled with the burst of energy only a new idea can give me, of trying to do everything in one swoop. And I do mean everything. 10-page paper I’ve had months to complete? Who needs sleep anyway! Laundry been piling up for weeks? That’s what industrial sized washing machines are for, right? Cleaning the apartment? Just give me a few hours and an ABBA mix-tape and I’m ready to go! Unfortunately, this is not the best way to approach life (and probably not the best way to approach my research papers…). Overexert yourself today, feel the repercussions for a week, so make sure you’re spacing out your tasks. Make a game plan but go easy on yourself if you can’t complete it all within your ‘set time’.
Sometimes, no matter how pressing the project may be, you just don’t have the motivation. And trust me, I get it. Between the physical burn out of chronic pain, and the mental/emotional burn out of life with chronic illness and a sprinkle of mental illness for flavor, motivation is not a common guest in The Brain of Alex. But there’s just some shit in life that must be done, and only you can do it, muse or no muse. That’s when you treat your brain like a toddler or puppy. Want to listen to that audiobook? Well, you can only do that if you are also washing dishes at the same time. Feel like accidentally mispronouncing every Korean word in a BTS song but enjoying it all the same? Sing and dance your heart out! Just make sure you’re folding the laundry too. This is a trick used by the greats! For example, when my sister has a lot of grading to do (she’s a teacher, aka Super Hero) she turns on one of her favorite tv shows or a movie and grades with that on in the background.
Remember in this time of new life and blooming that just as the seasons change and rotate, so too do we. Sometimes our energy will be overflowing, and we’ll wonder how we ever struggled with X in the first place. Other times the pain or illness will be too much to handle and we’ll feel like we’re trapped in the body of someone who Just Can’t. No one expects a flower to bloom all year long, so why do you expect your body to do the same? Take a breather, drink some tea (my solution for everything) and remember that you are a Warrior, fighting battles others cannot even dream of. So, if spring cleaning takes a back seat, let it. It’ll still be there when you come back to it. And in the meantime, if all that clutter is bothering you, they made bedroom closets for a reason.