Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Age of High-Tech Housekeeping

By D.Z. Stone

The pain and mobility issues that accompany a chronic illness such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can make perform­ing household chores extremely difficult. The good news: As home design is modernized and technolo­gies evolve in this era of robotics and microfibers, house cleaning is get­ting easier. Add to these innovations minimalist interior design strategies implemented by many with RA to decrease maintenance, and house­keeping is a much less daunting task.

Many CreakyJoints members agree that the first line of defense against accumulated household dirt and grit is to de-clutter.

Vickie Hatcher now favors a mini­malist style—a simple, utilitarian Shaker approach to design has re­placed the more labor-intensive Vic­torian chichi aesthetic she used to favor: “I just got rid of a very heavy clutter-prone end table, a coffee table, and sofa tables. I don’t want any furniture that is hard to move, and the fewer knick-knacks, the less dusting.”

Suzy Bones is equally ruthless at streamlining: “First dump the tchotchkes! Then, instead of con­templating all the junk you have to clean, you can contemplate your higher self—whilst making that toi­let bowl gleam!”

Scouring a bathtub and scrubbing a floor were once among the myriad burdensome household chores that those with RA found too physically demanding. But today, thanks to ap­pliances that are lightweight and ma­neuverable (and sometimes smart!), the ability to perform such tasks is more manageable.

Indeed, CreakyJoints blogger and law professor Katherine Macfarlane actually enjoys cleaning her floors: “I love Swiffer. It’s light and easy to carry, designed to glide across the floor so I’m never pushing it too hard.”

Debbie Harki Merry is a fan of her upright Shark Rocket vacuum, which she says is lightweight and maneu­verable. And for Dorothy Pecson, vacuuming has gone cutting-edge: she uses a hands-free vacuuming ro­bot: “I dearly love my Roomba vacuum cleaner, Hazel!”

Microfiber towels are another new advance in cleaning technology that is helping make housekeeping easier for those living with RA. Mona Shelby is a big advocate: “Microfiber cloths make scrubbing so much easier for faucets, bathroom ceramics, and almost any surface. They are affordable, and if you wash them after cleaning, they are virtually indestructible!”

Marcie Lynn Stout adds that micro­fiber towels can also combat germs, an ongoing concern for those with com­promised immune systems: “There is a microfiber made by a company called Norwex that has microfilaments of sil­ver woven into the cloth. These micro­fiber cloths are antibacterial and will not spread the germs.”

When it comes to sanitizing her bathroom, Gloria Mayrand prefers to let Scrubbing Bubbles do the work, “I don’t have to scrub—just wipe the dirt away.”

Lynnette Albrecht agrees: “It really saves my knees and back.”

Still others prefer an eco-friendly ap­proach. Arlene Elsdon goes green with a time-honored solution: “My favorite is vinegar and water.”

Many CreakyJoints members recom­mend that those with RA ditch per­fectionist standards when it comes to their homes, or consider hiring a clean­ing service if that is an option; though many agree that relinquishing control of housekeeping can be a challenge. Merry Benjamin Perkins says, “It’s not easy to give up the control of house­keeping; it took a great deal of thought to transition to using a cleaning ser­vice.”

If the idea of hiring a service does not feel right, consider asking family and friends to help. Some CreakyJoints members have worked out trades with others who might need help in other areas. Amy Rohner says, “I have a friend with OCD [obsessive-compulsive dis­order] who is a clean fanatic; she helps me clean, and I make her dinner once a week.”