As I sit here bundled up on the couch trying to recover from this nasty flu during flu season, I'm looking around at the mess and clutter that's accumulated in my home over the past few days. Between constantly blowing my nose, coughing, and feeling completely exhausted, decluttering and cleaning have fallen to the bottom of my priority list. But allowing dirt, clutter and germs to build up will only make me feel worse in the long run.
When you're home sick, it's easy to let clutter and mess get out of control quickly. Mail piles up, dirty tissues and medicine wrappers accumulate, dishes stack up in the sink, and dust builds up on all surfaces. But letting your home get too messy and dirty can actually impede your recovery for a few reasons.
First, clutter and filth breeds germs. When you're home trying to get over an illness, the last thing you want is more germs reinfecting you or making other members of your household sick. So disinfecting surfaces and reducing clutter are important for infection control.
Second, a chaotic and dirty home environment can be depressing, stressful and demotivating. When you're already feeling rubbish from being sick, coming out to a giant mess in the kitchen or overflowing laundry basket makes you feel even worse mentally.
Finally, letting cleaning and decluttering slide can mean coming back to an even bigger mess when you recover. Having to tackle a huge cleaning job right when you're getting back on your feet can be overwhelming.
So in the interest of supporting my healing, boosting my mood, and preventing household chaos, I'm doing some periodic tidying and decluttering sessions on my sick days. Here are some of the cleaning and decluttering hacks I'm using to maintain a relatively orderly home while I recover.
The thought of decluttering and deep cleaning the entire house is overwhelming right now. So I'm just tackling one room, or even part of a room, each day. Decluttering by getting rid of what I don't need makes tidying up go faster with my low energy levels.
Mess and clutter build up rapidly when I'm homebound and not feeling well. I'm focusing on getting clutter under control so it's not overwhelming. Doing quick 5 minute decluttering sessions whenever I walk through a room helps. Filling donation boxes with clutter clears things out fast.
One major benefit of quick cleans while sick is lowering the germ count at home. I'm using antibacterial wipes daily on surfaces like door knobs, sink taps, remotes and my phone. Frequent light disinfecting kills some germs and contains the spread.
I don't have the stamina for intense scrubbing sessions, so I'm doing speedy cleanups. Doing dishes as I cook or trying to use recipes for one-pot meals means fewer dishes pile up. I'll save more labour-intensive cleaning like windows and baseboards for later.
One great decluttering tactic is putting off-season items in self storage. Since I don't have much stamina now, I had a friend swap out my summer clothes and gear for items I need this season. Having less clutter makes cleaning easier when I'm under the weather.
I can't expect my home to be perfect while I'm feeling like this. So I'm letting go of perfectionism temporarily. Dishes soaking in the sink and not making my bed every day is okay for now. My focus is getting rest and recovering.
To kill germs and prevent their spread, I'm washing my bedroom sheets and pyjamas separately in hot water. For extra disinfection, I sometimes add a cup of bleach with the whites. Washing towels and clothes after each use kills lingering bacteria.
One way to declutter without expending too much energy is by sorting through items like post, magazines or paperwork while sitting on the couch or in bed. I can easily make "keep", "toss" or "donate" piles. Decluttering this way prevents mess buildup.
I'm taking advantage of anything that provides automated help with cleaning while I'm down for the count. I have an Alexa to help add items to the shopping list and a dishwasher that tackles the dishes so I don't have to stand at the sink. These gadgets are real life savers when I'm sick!
As much as possible, I'm trying to stick to my usual tidying routine, even if abbreviated. Doing my typical daily cleaning like wiping counters still brings a sense of normalcy on sick days. And preventing significant buildup means less huge cleaning efforts are required when I'm better.
When the idea of deep cleaning the bathroom or reorganizing my closet feels impossible, I remind myself small progress is still worthwhile. Even just wiping down the bathroom mirror or sorting one drawer helps. Mini-declutters and 5-minute pick-me-ups eventually add up.
If some days all I can manage is rinsing my coffee cup or dry swallowing some cold medicine, that's okay. Don't beat yourself up over an untidy home. Listen to your body and focus your limited energy on rest and healing. The chores will still be there when you've recovered. Cut yourself some slack.
To motivate myself to continue decluttering and tidying up while sick, I reward myself after completing a big chore. After clearing off the coffee table, I treat myself to a nice mug of tea. Finishing a load of laundry means time for snuggling under a cosy blanket. Celebrating accomplishments energises me to do more.
Rather than aim for perfection, I set a simple goal each day, like "clear the kitchen counters" or "vacuum the living room". Achieving one small but tangible decluttering or cleaning goal provides motivation and satisfaction without being too taxing in my compromised state.
I made my friend at work Asha my "cleaning accountability partner" while I'm sick. We check in daily and I report my daily tidy and decluttering goal. Knowing I have to notify her that I've wiped down the bathroom or cleaned out the fridge keeps me motivated.
With some adjustments, it is possible to keep your home from spiralling into unmanageable mess and clutter while you recover from illness. Focus on quick tidying tasks, decluttering, lowered standards and being gentle with yourself. Maintaining a relatively orderly environment reduces stress and supports the healing process. And once the flu has passed, your energy and eagerness for more intense cleaning will bounce back - along with your health. You've got this!
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