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5 Spring Cleaning Hacks for Life with MS

Living Well

April 04, 2023

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Photography by MirageC/Getty Images

Photography by MirageC/Getty Images

by Erin Vore


Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT


by Erin Vore


Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT


The deep cleaning we crave in spring takes even more energy than regular housekeeping. I set timers, use the right tools, and prioritize the dirtiest rooms to keep fatigue and other MS concerns in check.

Confession: One of my best girlfriends gave me a drink coaster recently that says, “My housekeeping style is best described as ‘There appears to have been a struggle.’”

She’s clearly the type of friend who knows me well enough (and has been to my house enough) to know that this is both humorous and accurate, and not offensive in the least.

I’ve never thought of myself as tidy. For years, whenever guests came over, announced or unexpected, I found myself apologizing that it didn’t look like an HGTV magazine spread. And yet, I value cleanliness.

I try to embrace what Anne Lamott wrote in her timeless book, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life”: “Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.”

If the place where you live is anything like my house, then we are both far from perfect and heavy on the clutter.

There’s a difference between cluttered and dirty; a house can be messy but clean. Even so, the weekly grind of keeping a clean home takes work.

Then comes spring, with its insistence on an even deeper clean. As buds burst open on tree branches and green shoots spring forth from the soil — indicators of something new and beautiful in the process of being born — we too seem to desire, even crave, the blank slate of a pristine house.

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My top 5 hacks for a painless spring cleaning

This type of cleaning takes more energy and effort than the daily and weekly chore lists. Even though the work may be double, so is the reward.

So I’ve developed some hacks to make spring cleaning a little bit easier to manage with my multiple sclerosis (MS). You may find them helpful too.

Of course, consider what works for your home, your abilities, and your budget.

1. Prioritize

We can’t do ALL the things, so what really needs to be cleaned deeply? What should be cleaned first?

It may be helpful to list all the areas that need a deep cleaning. Bathrooms, kitchens, playrooms, bedrooms. The basement. The garage. OK, OK. So maybe it’s the whole house. If you have the time and energy, great! Go for the whole thing. If not, rank in order what you want to clean first.

For me, bathrooms and the kitchen usually win out, but you may see things differently.

If you plan to deep clean the whole home, consider setting a tentative schedule, so the next-most important item actually gets done soon-ish. And then schedule everything else in descending order of importance — perhaps deep cleaning one area every week until the work is done.

I like cleaning on Thursdays because the majority of my Monday–Friday work week is nearly done, and the sweet reward of the weekend awaits.

2. Break out the cleaning arsenal (if your nose can stand it)

Just as I want to put healthy foods in my body most of the time (but also Oreos and Cheetos because we only live once), I am all in favor of using more natural cleaners on a daily basis. I love a good baking soda and white vinegar scrub in the bathroom.

However, for spring cleaning, especially for stubborn mildew or grout stains, the natural stuff doesn’t always go far enough unless I want to overexert myself by scrubbing for hours.

In such cases, the fast-working mega-chemicals that some cleaners contain are worth the trade-off for me. When I use this type of cleansing product, however, I make sure to wear a mask — sometimes two — so that my sensitive nose isn’t bothered and I can avoid headaches.

3. Set a timer

If you’re like me, overexertion comes from a combination of things, but one thing I’ve noticed more and more is that I don’t stop when I should. Maybe I’m in the flow. Or maybe it’s one of those times when I’m worried that if I stop, I’ll never come back to it.

These are valid reasons, but I know one thing for sure: If I deep clean for 4 hours straight, I will pay for it later in the day. And maybe the next day and the day after that.

But if I set a timer for 1 hour, silence my phone, and get to work, I know I’m both working hard AND conserving energy for the things I want to do later. I can start the timer again the next day.

There’s always a new day. I promise.

4. Enlist the help of others

I am spoiled by help. It goes without saying that getting others to join in the hard work of deep cleaning comes from a place of privilege.

I enlist my whole family: an able-bodied husband and two children old enough to handle cleaning supplies safely.

My mom and my mother-in-law are my top two helpers. They kindly drive a few miles to our house each morning to get our boys on the school bus (since my husband and I leave before our children do), and it’s normal for us to come home to the gift of clean dishes and folded laundry each day.

I also enlist the help of my newly hired, once-a-month-cleaning person. I’ve never had someone in my home to clean for me. This is a new experience. But after living in our home for 11 years with lots of careful budgeting, we are in a position to hire outside help once a month.

5. Make it fun-ish

Blast some music or have a funny movie you know by heart playing in the background. If the temperature is nice and your allergies won’t go bananas, open the windows and let in the fresh air.

Make a special drink like fresh squeezed lemonade for when you need a break. Your kid’s juice boxes will do in a pinch, too.

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Considerations for MS symptoms

If you have issues with balance, mobility, vision, or other MS symptoms, you’ll want to take them into account when cleaning.


If balance is an issue for you like it is sometimes for me, then make sure you’re on stable footing.

If I’m dusting a corner of a room, I make sure to use a feather duster with a long handle or to be on a stool that isn’t wobbly. In the bathrooms, I let someone help me with the higher levels of grout.


If eyesight is an issue, as it was for me when I had optic neuritis, stick to less detailed tasks like mopping and get help with the things you can’t see well.

If help is not an option, then be sure to have a set place for all your cleaning supplies — bathroom supplies in the bathroom, kitchen supplies in the kitchen, vacuum and sponges in the same place — so you can trust what you’re reaching for as you tackle each room.

Stick to daytime cleaning with the curtains open, if possible, so as much natural light as possible filters into your space.


Conserving energy — when we have some to begin with — is one thing. However, if I wake up and am having a “fatigue day” right away, I simply decide the cleaning can wait.

In fact, so can just about everything else. No cleaning, no hustling, no cooking. That’s what microwave burritos are for.

The takeaway

Spring cleaning, like your birthday, comes once a year. It’s hard work, but it’s worth celebrating.

Whether you’re Martha Stewart or Roseanne Barr (who famously said, “Excuse the mess, but we live here”), everyone enjoys a home that’s safe and clean. In short, have a game plan, invite your people over, and have a ball.

Medically reviewed on April 04, 2023

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About the author

Erin Vore

Erin Vore is a high school English teacher and Enneagram four who lives in Ohio with her family. When her nose isn’t in a book, she can usually be found hiking with her family, trying to keep her houseplants alive, or painting in her basement. A wannabe comedian, she lives with MS, copes with a whole lot of humor, and hopes to meet Tina Fey one day. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram.

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