I am one of those people who actually likes to clean. I make a game of it – I open windows, put on music, and then dust, vacuum, sweep and wash to the rhythm. There’s nothing more invigorating to me than a freshly cleaned apartment gleaming in the sunshine. It refreshes me, it cleans out the clutter, and creates room for new inspiration – after every cleaning, it almost feels like I have fashioned a new home filled with a vibrant pristine energy. There’s a certain satisfaction I get in sitting back with a hot cup of tea and admiring a freshly cleaned room.
Housework is challenging at the best of times – between working, family, friends, rehearsals and sometimes classes, finding the time can be tricky. Housework with RA presents an extra challenge, because not only do we need to find the time we need to find the energy. Fatigue is always a big obstacle to overcome and when we do overcome the fatigue, we have to find a way to carry out our cleaning duties without putting extra stress on our joints.
I liked to vacuum at least twice a week. I was motivated by the idea that vacuuming not only cleaned up the dirt, but also sucked up the residue of soiled energy, paving the way for a clear and clean atmosphere. My vacuuming routine dropped significantly after RA arrived, mainly because our vacuum was a beast. He was a giant, powerful apparatus that required me to arm myself in wrist braces and splints every time I pulled him from the closet – I always felt a bit like a football player padding myself up for the big game. To give it due credit, our beast did its job effectively, but it was very heavy and I found when it came time to vacuum I didn’t have the motivation – I would put off vacuuming as long as I could. For months, I dreamed of buying a lighter, more streamlined vacuum – but each time that dream was doused by my practical stubborn side ruled by that old phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I used every excuse not to buy a new vacuum, and yet had every excuse to do just that.
It so happened one day that while I was vacuuming ( or as it seemed to me, struggling to push my own weight over the carpet), a miracle occurred – the beast was roaring and shaking when suddenly there was a pop and everything fell silent. A slight burning scent lingered in the air. I checked the plug, I checked the fuses, and everything was fine. The beast had simply gasped its last breath and now took its rightful place in the heaven of broken appliances. I didn’t mourn for long – I now had the perfect opportunity to buy my new vacuum. No more excuses.
My new vacuum cleaner is, in comparison, a petite small canister, easy to manoeuvre, easy to clean, and streamlined. It is a virtual stallion in the body of a gerbil. Its suction is strong and it’s light and small enough to dance with – in fact I did. I was so excited by my new light appliance, instead of trying to put off vacuuming as long as possible, I vacuumed every two days in the first couple weeks of owning it. With my new vacuum, I don’t have to bundle myself up in braces and splints – I can just be myself, in whatever comfortable clothing I happen to be wearing.
I do have an advantage on my side when it comes to housecleaning – I live in an apartment and because they are smaller, apartments are easier to keep clean than a whole house. I learned how to adjust certain tasks to protect my joints from excess stress. My partner helps out and I now split up bits of housework throughout the week instead of trying to tackle it all at once.
I learned a helpful lesson in my own tale. I live in an age where I can take advantage of several different methods and techniques to make my life with RA easier. The next time I need a new product to aid me in my daily chores I won’t hesitate – because my comfort, my welfare and my life is far more precious than a beastly old appliance.
Now it’s time for a good hot cuppa. Mmm…lovely…
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.