13 Tips to Simplify Daily Living with a Chronic Illness

Every day can be a struggle with a chronic illness. Even when my husband helped me with just about everything around the house, there were very few days when I didn’t feel the brunt of fibromyalgia in one way or another. Now, with him out of commission, I am feeling it even more.

I have previously written about how I managed grad school with fibromyalgia. And I am using many of the same strategies at my current job. But I have had to “rediscover” some tips to manage the daily chores in a way that eases my growing pain and fatigue now that I have to hold up the fort at home as well.

I have shared them here, hoping they may reach someone who might benefit from them.


In general:

1. Don’t be proud. (If living like a college student is a complete deal breaker for you, you might as well stop reading now!) Seriously though, many a time, it is our pride and expectations of how we should appear, how our house should look, how holidays should be conducted, that make life more difficult for us than they need to be. Try to let go of the allure of appearances, and worrying about how it looks to the neighbors. Focus only on what you need to do to get some semblance of your life back.

2. Prioritize. Start with doing the things that absolutely need doing that day (if that garbage is starting to stink, taking it out needs to be near the top of the list!). Jokes apart, with this general strategy, if you run out of energy before you finish your list, you can stop without too much concern. Let those less important things wait. Trust me, they’ll be waiting for you tomorrow. Unless your fairy godmother steps in and turns some mice into fairy-housekeepers who magically take care of the remaining chores for you! (If that happens, please give them my number!)

3. It’s OK to put off the optional activities if there’s only room for the mandatory. Sometimes the optional activities are the fun “me-time” things, like our hobbies. If so, consider replacing them with equally fun “non-activities” (binge watching Netflix, for example) that help you relax and find peace in a chaotic day. However, if you can move around some less important tasks to make room for that “me-time” activity, don’t pass up the chance!


Groceries and Meals

4. Frozen meat and vegetables. If you enjoy cooking, doing large batches once a week and freezing meals is a great idea. But, that does add to other “intensive” weekend chores, and may not be the right fit for everyone (certainly isn’t for a non-cook like me). So, I turn to frozen chicken, sausage, fish and vegetables. Many of them can be prepared within minutes in the oven, microwave or on stove-top, and they are really hard to mess up! With some careful label reading, portion control and balancing with other food groups, this is not a terribly unhealthy option either.

5. Snack healthy with fruits and nuts. This is easy for me because I love both, but they really are an excellent source of nutrients and perfect for between-meal snacking!

6. Meal delivery services (e.g. Uber Eats). When all else fails, and you simply haven’t the energy to do one more thing, meal delivery services can prevent you from starving. If available where you live, Uber Eats (or other delivery options) can be a life saver!

7. Online groceries. Several places like WalMart and Amazon (Amazon Fresh & Prime Pantry) are now allowing you to buy groceries online, and either picking them up at the store or delivering to your home. It cuts out much of the walking, reaching, bending, standing, etc. that can make grocery shopping hard on spoonies. I think Amazon is kind of expensive for this service, but I feel I am actually saving money buying a list of things I need online at WalMart and having them load the bags into my car at the store. It reduces impulsive buying because I just saw something cool at the store. Rather a neat “plus” for an already useful service!

8. Use wheels to transport groceries. A folding bag or basket on wheels (something like this, for example) can be very helpful so you don’t have to carry a heavy load of bags from your car to the home. It’s a bit more awkward to use if you have stairs to climb, but there are some “stair climbing” options too, like this one.


Hosting & Housekeeping

9. If hosting is too much trouble, take your friends out to eat. Don’t feel obligated to deal with the cleaning, decorations, table and meal preparations, and the subsequent clean-up, if that is not your thing and you know it will wipe you out. This also goes for the holidays; find creative alternative solutions so you can still spend quality time with friends and family, without tiring yourself out.

10. Make as few dirty dishes as possible. Don’t be too proud to use paper plates or just eat out of take-out boxes! Soak “adult” dishes/utensils (or use a dishwasher) for easier clean-up that requires less wrist and elbow grease.

11. Reduce frequency of housekeeping tasks. House cleaning once a week, or alternating between rooms and taking it easy might reduce how much energy is spent on a ritual task that can often take more time and energy than we anticipate (and leave us drained and hurting).

12. Focus on functionality over perfection. Practice the science of “good-enough.” That means the house may not be perfectly clean, the corners may remain dusty, actually a lot of things are probably dusty, but at least I can walk across my floor without the dirt and grit sticking to my bare foot! That’s good enough for me! My clothes are not neatly folded (in fact, if they are not hanging, they are lying in a “dump” on a shelf in my closet), but as long as I can still find what I need, I don’t bother fixing up the closet just to make it look pretty. It’s in a state of “working disorder,” which is good enough for me.

13. Break up tasks. If cleaning takes a lot out of you (as it does for me), try breaking up the different tasks on different days. Dust the books and shelves one day, vacuum or mop the other, clean the bathroom on a third. If a particular cleaning job takes more arm-power (cleaning the toilet or bathtub for example), do that on its own day when you take on fewer other intensive chores.


To be completely honest, these tips have not been enough to keep me from sliding into a flare. I have felt my symptoms worsen despite using the strategies above. However, I do feel they have made a difference. When every little bit seems to take a gargantuan effort, any bit of reprieve is appreciated.

I certainly don’t think I could manage to keep on taking care of my home as well as work full time forever, even using all the strategies I write about. But these tips have allowed me to successfully fulfill the temporary needs of my household, without needing to take at least 1-2 days off from work (that I have not even collected yet!) over a complete crash that pins me to the bed. Essentially, they have slowed my decline, and that was about all I could ask for!

So, if you or someone you know is in a similar spot, and is struggling with daily life as a fibromyalgiac, I hope these tips help them too — at least a little anyway. And if you are a fellow chronic illness warrior with more daily living tips of your own, I invite you to share them in the comments below, so others can benefit from them too!

Gentle hugs,

Fibronacci

12 thoughts on “13 Tips to Simplify Daily Living with a Chronic Illness

  1. Once again it is so refreshing to hear you speak up about how you deal with fibromyalgia every day. Sounds like you are every bit the trooper. I also think a lot of these points you raised can help a lot of us who have a chronic illness or maybe even those of us who are stuck in a rut and are finding life quite overwhelming. Priotising is such an important point – look out for what needs to be done and putting all that first over what you want to do. For me, I have anxiety and get overwhelmed easily. Each day I like to plan out my day, writing down what I have to do after I get home from work, and try to stick with the list. I will put what I have to do at the top (e.g. look at paying some bills) over what I have to to do (e.g. blogging). I usually put my book at the last of the list and so…it is not seeing the light of day anytime soon 😀

    I also agree with the point on using wheels to transport groceries! A wheelie bag can be a lifesaver, and you don’t have to spend physical strength to lug a backpack around with stuff in it 😀

    Above all, it’s not the end of the world if you can’t do something, and you can always do it later 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally hear how you feel about your anxiety! Sounds like you have a great plan to keep it under check though. For an already accomplished blogger and author, I hardly think you need worry about your latest book! You know you are capable of making it happen! 🙂

      You’re so right, that prioritizing and not stressing the small things are helpful for almost anybody. I have a friend who wrote to me saying these tips are great for perfectionists too! It is, indeed, not the end of the world if everything is not done/not done perfectly. I had to keep reminding myself of that many times during this weekend when the fridge and house needed cleaning but I just didn’t have it in me to do it. Sometimes it’s more important to be able to stick your head out of the rut instead of focusing on cleaning the rut up, LOL! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, thanks but writing doesn’t come easy to me, lol 🙂 Cleaning is also something I’ve put off…and the worst is I have to put up with disorganised things for a while. Putting things off teaches us to be flexible and in your case, to not sweat the small things 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I would never have guessed that writing didn’t come to you easy! Your blogs are always so well researched, and well thought-out, and clearly written. 🙂

          Haha, putting up with disorder is my M.O.! But I try to find some order in the chaos where it really matters! The general house cleaning can wait, but if it is “important clutter”, I definitely fix it fast.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. M.O? Modus operandi? I think you are dealing with your condition very well. It is interesting to hear you say it’s a disorder… I don’t and see it as more of a condition, and sort of similar to how I like to say ‘people with …. (e.g. disability, etc.). At the end of the day, we are all people with different conditions, traits and personalities 🙂

            Like

            1. You are right, of course. It’s a very kind outlook on life, one that I think I should adopt more. I guess I always associated the condition with “loss” and hence felt it was a disorder, like something that upset the order of my life. But in a sense, I don’t mind the new order I gained after developing FM either, so perhaps I shouldn’t associate it so much with what I lost. 🙂 I think there’s a blog post in this musing, haha! Stay tuned, lol!

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Some really great ideas, and I think that cutting back and simplifying are so important when dealing with chronic illness. “When every little bit seems to take a gargantuan effort, any bit of reprieve is appreciated” – that’s so true, and I think that’s a great reminder (especially for me, as I perhaps expect too much then get too disappointing when things are still so difficult). The little things can really help. Fab post! 🙂
    Caz x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know how you feel about expecting too much and then feeling disappointed. I spent some time just thinking about that today… there is so much I am sad about not being able to do, or how much effort it takes, etc. Perhaps what’s more to the point is everything that I *can* do! And it’s worth preserving all that by cutting back wherever else needed. 🙂 I am glad that you found this post helpful. Feel free to share it with your friends/readers if you think it might be of any use to them! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I had never heard of peapod! I’ll look it up, thanks!! It’s great to pool our resources, isn’t it, and find new options to ease our lives! 🙂 Yes, we’ve been doing a lot of Uber Eats, but trying to balance those with frozen foods for the sake of our wallets too, lol! But sometimes it is worth the extra cash, I feel,to save me from feeling crummier than I already feel!

      Liked by 1 person

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