Doing "simple" things like laundry can be a real challenge when you have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or other physical limitations. It typically involves a lot of standing, hauling, bending, twisting and reaching -- all of which can be hard on your body and quickly drain your energy.
I've come up with a lot of ways to ease the strain of doing laundry. I hope some of these ideas help you, and also that you'll share your own tips by clicking on the link at the end of this article, so other people can learn from you.
Laundry Tip #1: Ditch the Big Basket
I found several problems with the typical laundry basket:
- It's awkward to carry,
- It's too heavy when filled,
- It's hard to keep things organized and easy to put away,
- It's big and always in the way.
That's why I no longer use one.
What used to happen: I'd fill the basket with everything that needed to go upstairs, then struggle to haul it up. Usually by then I didn't have the energy to sort everything and put it away in 3 different bedrooms, so I'd leave it for later and not get to it for far too long.
Now, I have several small wicker baskets that are easier to carry, don't ever get too heavy, and carry about a drawer's worth of clothing, i.e. just socks and underwear, or just my son's pajamas. That means I can go to one room and unload the entire basket quickly and easily.
The baskets also nest inside each other, so they don't take up nearly the space of a typical laundry basket. My laundry room is in a daylight basement, and the baskets fit nicely on the ledge behind the washer.
Laundry Tip #2: Bending & Twisting
It's just about impossible to do laundry without some bending and twisting, but after 30 years of back problems I've found several ways to minimize them.
In my laundry room, I have a sorter with 3 large bags in it. The clothes on top are easy to get out, and by the time they're low enough that I can't reach them easily, the bags are light enough to pull up to where I can reach everything without bending.
I have a waist-height shelf next to the washer with all the detergent, stain removers, etc. that I need so I don't have to reach for them. I don't buy heavy bottles of things that I'd have to lift. Instead, for liquids, I look for the ones that have push-button pour spouts so I can fill a cup instead of picking anything up.
It really hurts my back to pull wet clothes out of the washer and then bend and twist to put them into the dryer. What I do is pull up clothes with my right hand, take a step straight back, and drop the clothes onto the open dryer door. When it starts getting full, I'll step to the side and push them straight in. It's a little slower, but I have a lot less back pain.
Laundry Tip #3: Standing & Reaching
Folding and hanging laundry is physically demanding. What I try to do is have a mixture of hanging and folding clothes in each load, so I'm not repeating the same motions too many times. As I unload, I'll put things to be folded in my little baskets and get the hanging stuff taken care of. Then, I can take the baskets to the couch and fold them while I'm sitting down. I put them directly back into the baskets, and if I don't have the energy to take them up right away, I can put them back on the dryer or near the stairs, so my husband and kids will see them and (with some urging, generally) take their own clothes up. (The small baskets also come in handy here -- my 5-year-old can carry one with no problem, and it's easy for her to open a drawer and put everything in.)
Sometimes the hanging clothes take all my energy, so I'll only fold what really needs to be taken care of right away. Socks, underwear, pajamas and sweats can wait until I have the energy for them -- who cares if they're a little wrinkly?
Laundry Tip #4: Getting Caught Up
Especially during flares, it's easy to get really behind on laundry. When it comes time to play catch up, I like to be very organized about it both to make it easy and so I can make sure each member of my family has enough to wear.
My main tactic is to separate clothing strategically. Sometimes I'll sort it by who it belongs to. Once I've done a full load for my husband, I know he's set for the next several days of work. Or, if everyone is running out of pants, I'll do a full load of jeans and dark-colored slacks.
I also try to alternate between loads of clothes and loads of sheets and towels that don't need to be taken care of right away. That gives me longer to recover in between bouts of standing.
Laundry Tip #5: Pacing Yourself
As with everything, it's important that we pace ourselves when it comes to laundry. Some pacing is built in because of the time it takes the machines to do their jobs. To make sure I don't over do it on laundry day, I keep a close eye on my energy and rarely do more than 3 loads in one day. I used to try doing as much as possible, and I'd inevitably end up with a full washer and dryer and no energy to deal with them. Now, I don't start a load unless I'm pretty certain I can finish it. I refuse to start a load before bed, because I never know whether I'll have the energy to finish it in the morning (and then there's always the possibility of brain fog making me forget it's there.)
What Helps You?
Have you found ways to ease the strain of laundry? Use the link below to share your own tips & tricks!