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Originally published on 31st October 2017 Last updated on 19th June 2019
Please note that I wrote this article when I was still quite unwell with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s. I’m since doing a lot better and my quality of life has improved hugely, which means that my ability to manage housework is no longer affected. However, I know many others with thyroid disease will still relate to this article as we go through the ups and downs of living with thyroid disease and are at different points in our journey.
I have always been a tidy, organised person. It’s just who I am. My husband and I keep a shared online calendar which organises any meetings, appointments, tasks, reminders etc. and my life is pretty much as organised as it can be. This is also reflected in my organised home and again, always has been.
Whilst most twelve-year-old kids were dancing around their room to the latest tune from their favourite band, I was cleaning my room. I was reorganising my already organised room and enjoyed doing so. I was a strange child, I’ll give you that!
But the point is, I have always been happier in a clean and tidy environment and I take pride and comfort in maintaining such an environment. I feel most relaxed in one. My anxiety is lower and my HSP trait is balanced when I am in clean and tidy surroundings. Before I developed any health conditions, I was able to maintain one without any major issues.
But when hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s struck, this changed my ability to keep it up.
See related article: Tips for Keeping on Top of Housework with Thyroid Disease
How I Used To Clean
My Friday evenings or Saturday mornings were dedicated to a full house clean, pre-hypothyroid days. This meant one to two hours of cleaning; scrubbing, polishing, mopping, vacuuming, laundry and more. Which, oddly, I always enjoyed.
Cleaning can be rewarding work, if you think of it that way, since the end result is a clean, tidy and relaxing home.
After cleaning, I would put my feet up with a cup of tea and watch a film or read a book and enjoy being in a home that was neat, organised and smelt amazing.
I had seemingly endless energy to do all of this and I’d never miss a week. Cleaning and organisation was a priority. Even throughout the week, the house was tidy to the point that all pots and pans were washed as soon as they were finished being used and I did a few extra sessions of vacuuming to keep the carpets spotless. It was a great stress release, too, as I moved around the house, cleaning and dancing to my iPod throwing songs at me on ‘shuffle’. I was pretty particular when it came to hygiene and how I liked my home environment to be.
How Cleaning Was Affected
Now, don’t get me wrong – my health is a lot better than it used to be, now I’m on a different thyroid medication (NDT) and implementing several things to promote better health, but I’m not superwoman. I’m not in optimal good health just yet. I have bad days or weeks (thanks, Hashimoto’s) and some weeks, when I can manage to clean, it’s ten minutes at most and it tends to wipe me out for the rest of the day.
Or at best, all I can manage is putting a load of laundry in the washing machine before I need to rest and then take on the next task.
I feel very blessed that I didn’t have to ask my husband to step up and pick up the slack when I became less able, because he could see I was struggling to keep on top of my previous tasks and did it without prompting, but I’ve still lost something. I’ve lost some control.
I’ve had the ability to take pride in my home and keep it in a way that keeps my stress and anxiety levels low, taken away. It makes me feel inadequate and, at times, pathetic. It makes me feel out of control. It makes me feel like my health conditions are, yet again, winning.
It makes me feel like I no longer having a defining role in my own household.
If there is a week where I’m having to get all the housework done on my own, for whatever reason, it may look like this: wipe surfaces, then rest. Do washing up, then rest. Hoover one room, then rest. And you get the idea!
My whole day becomes based around the need to work my way through the cleaning and it’s never going to be as thorough as how I used to do it, anyway. Cutting corners and leaving certain bits out, just so I don’t pass out. Some days I’ll start to wipes surfaces and quickly become so light headed that I have to abandon the idea.
Grocery Shopping – Another Task!
Food shopping is a whole other thing which I’ve grown to hate. We usually go on weekday evenings as we just don’t get the time on weekends, and by 7pm at night, I’m already so tired! I don’t always go with my husband, but if I do, the walking around the shop is tiring. Pushing a trolley is tiring. Trying to remember what you’re looking for or where you put the shopping list again… It’s all tiring. Then you’ve got the unpacking back at home. It’s such a momentous effort and dominates a whole evening because it takes so long for me to complete it.
I Miss Cleaning Without a Thought
Pre-hypothyroidism, I never thought that there would come a day when I would miss doing the housework, or taking being able to do it, for granted. Who would? But I do miss it. I miss that freedom, the control, the responsibility… The comfort.
I’ve found ways to manage it, though. I’ve become more relaxed in my approach to a clean and tidy house and I can leave things if I really can’t do it. I’ve learnt to lean on friends and my other half for help with tasks and I’ve made my husband aware of what help I need from him and in what quantities.
I’m not one of these spoonies who can do it in chunks, hoovering one day of the week, washing pots the next and cleaning the bathroom the next. The thought of the house never fully being clean in sync would drive me crazy! I either want it all cleaning at the same time or not at all.
But at the end of the day, it’s important to remember that no one wishes they’d done more cleaning when on their deathbed. It gets me down, but I have to look at everything with a step back and realise it’s not the end of the world.
That being said, it’s worth keeping in mind that those who struggle to keep up with housework likely don’t appreciate surprise visits from people. It can be anxiety inducing and inconsiderate. I would always check it’s OK to go round before you do and give a realistic time or arrival.
Has your ability to keep on top of adult chores and responsibilities been affected?
You, Me and Hypothyroidism: When Someone You Love Has Hypothyroidism, is a book for those who know someone with hypothyroidism. This book talks about how relationships are often affected by hypothyroidism and what to expect from someone you life with. Especially when it comes to working, keeping on top of housework, parenting and more.
Please remember that if you’re a thyroid patient living with poor mental health or lingering physical symptoms, that you don’t have to live this way. To address why you may still be feeling unwell (often despite being on thyroid medication too), please see this article and go through each suggestion, putting your thyroid jigsaw back together.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.