Housecleaning: An Unconventional Therapy for Vasculitis Patients

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by Allison Ross |

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One of my roommates moved out this week, so I’m spending all my free time cleaning house. It’s a lot of upheaval — boxes stacked in every available corner and on the dining room table, personal belongings misplaced, and a sense of general chaos.

I know it’s temporary, but it unsettles me! With vasculitis, I try to take control of most things in my life, from my physical health to my environment, to ensure I’m as healthy inside and out as possible. The trick is knowing how much I can do before I tire myself out. Striking a balance between productivity and rest can be difficult.

I’m not Type A, but somehow I’m a neat freak. (I get it from my mother.) A clean house balances me. I can feel mental wellness emerge when I’m in a space that’s bright, clean, and uncluttered. I prefer a minimalist aesthetic in my living area, so it’s decoratively sparse. Besides the necessities of furniture and storage, all that remains are a few houseplants.

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Many people appreciate the calm energy a friendly space creates. The organizing consultant Marie Kondo was onto something when she encouraged us to throw out items that don’t “spark joy.” When I’m surrounded by beauty and positivity, it makes a significant impact on my outlook.

For a vasculitis patient, there’s more to consider than the psychological effects. We need to know that our environments are safe and pathogen-free. Dust, mold, and other household issues are not just unpleasant, they’re also potentially dangerous. For anyone like me who experiences respiratory symptoms as part of their disease, we want to cut down on nasal and lung irritation as much as possible. With pets, dander and hair amplify the situation and require extra attention.

In an emergency, I want to know I have my things organized so I can move efficiently. If I suddenly needed to get to the hospital, searching for things in a bag would be a hurdle of time and effort. Some patients I know go so far as to have an ER bag ready, filled with basic hygiene items and a change of clothes — like what pregnant women prepare when they’re approaching their delivery date.

Cleaning can be distracting, too. If I’m feeling frustrated or discouraged, I can channel that energy into a task that produces positive results. I know I’m not the only one who thinks of doing dishes or tidying up my bedroom as Zen-like activities.

The catch: Sometimes my ambition is stronger than my ability. On any given day, those of us with chronic conditions have a limited number of “spoons” we can use — an energy analogy coined by writer Christine Miserandino — before we’re tapped out. To help pace myself, I have to go in small bits. Maybe just one room of the house today, or a certain type of task, such as dusting or vacuuming. The rest can wait.

Though everyone’s different, I find that allocating one hour a day to housecleaning makes a big difference. It’s enough time to get things in order, but not so much that it takes away from other work. My favorite time to clean is in the morning, right after breakfast and just before signing onto my laptop for the day. Buzzing around the house makes me feel immediately productive and puts me in a good headspace to get on with the day.

Often, we get so caught up in our physical health that the rest gets overlooked. But taking care of my surroundings is a small thing that makes a big impact. It’s one simple way to tend to both my physical and mental wellness.

Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.


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