This page contains various hints and tips for completing housework when suffering from RSI and chronic pain.
- If you are on workers compensation, your employer’s insurance may cover both house and garden help.
- Hire help or barter for help. If you can’t afford a weekly cleaner, employ someone to do the hard work once a fortnight.
- If you feel up to some housework, build up grips (by wrapping towelling, etc, round the handle) on mops, brooms, etc.
- Do small parts of the housework throughout the week.
- Clean one room at a time so that you never do any one task for too long.
- Have carpet removed (hard floors are easier to clean).
- Move your body as a whole to decrease pressure on your arms. For example, when sweeping the floor, walk the broom with your whole body rather than just pushing with your arms.
- use a mattress overlay and put the fitted sheet over that rather than the mattress
- use a two sided duvet cover so you can turn it over and only wash it half as often
- use a piece of board with a handle (such as a table-tennis bat) to tuck in sheets and blankets.
Handy hints in the laundry
- A front-loading washing machine doesn’t tangle clothes and creases them less. It will also get them drier. Some machines have very high (1000rpm) spin cycles, which means washed clothes are drier and lighter to carry.
- Wash small loads often instead of large, heavy loads infrequently.
- Hang clothes as soon as you can after washing to reduce creasing.
- When ironing, iron only the areas that are seen, such as the front of shirts.
- Use a light-weight iron (e.g. a travel iron) available from duty-free shops.
- To get creases out of your washing in hot weather, put the sprinkler on the lawn and let it water the clothes on the clothesline for a short period.
Hanging washing on the clothesline
- Try to swap new pegs with old ones from your friends, as the spring is a lot weaker in old pegs. Dolly pegs might be worth a try too.
- Hang or peg the garments on hangers and then lift them up on to the line. When the clothes are dry, you can hang them in the cupboard without folding/ironing.
- If the weather’s still, just hang clothes over the line without pegs.
- Dry clothes on a clothes horse or plastic clip line.
- Use a laundry trolley to get clothes to the line.
Handy hints in the kitchen
- ready-grated or sliced cheese
- pre-chopped tomatoes (in cans and cartons)
- pre-chopped ginger, garlic, lemon grass, chilli
- ready-made sauces
- pre-chopped vegetables from tte supermarket
- frozen sliced or chopped onion
- frozen pastry
- ready-made pizza bases
- pre-sliced or diced meat
- frozen vegetables or vegetables that require little preparation, eg, brussel sprouts, baby squash, baby carrots, snow peas, cauliflower, broccoli
- sliced bread.
- carry things with both hands where possible
- use your open palms to lift and carry
- slide cookware along benches on an old dry tea towel
- a kitchen trolley is very useful for gathering things and taking them to where they will be used
- Avoid carrying whenever possible. A laundry trolley can also be used to carry groceries from the car to the house and to take out garbage to the bin. Remind yourself that it is always better to make two trips rather than overloading yourself on one and paying the price.
- If you do not have someone to assist you with shopping, you may be able to use a telephone ordering and delivery service. Alternatively, do the shopping several times a week rather than once a week, as that means smaller amounts have to be lifted and carried.
- Select a supermarket trolley that runs properly and use it to transfer shopping to your car.
Storage and easy access:
- keep drawers running smoothly by rubbing them with candle wax or EasyGlide
- a Lazy Susan can be useful in cupboards or on the bench
- baskets or shelves fitted to the inside of the cupboard doors provide more accessible storage
- pack shelves in accordance with usage – nearer to waist level for things you use the most
- Keep frequently used items on the benchtop. You can buy a storage rack that will keep all your crockery neatly on the bench in a small space Storage racks can create extra space in cupboards.
- Keep the food processor next to the mixer on the benchtop – this makes it easier to move between chopping in the processor and combining foods in the mixer.
- When pouring liquids or draining vegetables, stand the kettle, jug or saucepan on the edge of the sink on a non-slip mat or wet dishcloth, place the receptacle in the sink and pour. In this way, you can tip the kettle or saucepan without having to hold its weight.
- use smaller, lighter jugs and teapots
- don’t over-fill containers.
Making tea and coffee:
- when making tea or coffee for yourself, just heat one cup of water in the microwave
- fill the kettle/electric jug from a light plastic jug
- put a hose attachment on the tap for filling the kettle
- to make taps easier to turn, have them fitted with special washers for people with arthritis
- use a tea bag squeezer to remove the tea-bag from your cup – it requires only a light, easy grasp
- carry the teapot or kettle on a trolley or a tray
- choose a light-weight kettle which is easy to pour, or try a kettle or teapot tipper
- use a light-weight glass or cup that can be grasped without pressure from the thumb.
- use an electric knife
- Use the “power grip” whenever possible. This is the grip where your hand forms a fist with the handle of an implement against the palm. Small implements that you would normally use just your fingers and thumb to hold can be very painful to use, but if you build up the handles with firm foam padding, you can use the power grip instead. The Stirex U-knife is specially designed for people with hand or arm problems and has a large and comfortable easy-to-grip handle at an angle of about 70 degrees to the blade.
- For eating, it is essential to use a very sharp knife; if your index finger is painful it may be necessary to build up the knife handle so that you can use the power grip.
- A serrated blade requires less pressure to cut than a straight-edged knife.
- keep knives in a knife rack rather than in a drawer; it will keep them sharper longer.
Opening cans, jars and bottles:
- An electric can opener may be a useful addition in the kitchen, but try before buying!
- Ring-pull cans can be opened by applying leverage with a spoon.
There are various approaches to opening jars and bottles. For example, putting the lid under hot water before attempting to open it, purchasing a special jar or bottle opening tool, using a thin rubber mat to grip the lid. A jar (or can) can be stabilised for opening by putting it in an open drawer and leaning against the drawer.
Use one of the following types of jar/bottle openers:
- those which operate on the principle of improved hand grip on the lid. A piece of sandpaper or non-slip matting can also be used for this job
- those which operate on the leverage principle
- The under-shelf mounted jar openers. You need to be sure you have a convenient place for fixing this. Do not position it above chest level. You can hold the jar with two hands for this method.
Opening milk cartons and food packages:
- cut the top off the milk carton using a bread knife or scissors and pour the milk into a jug that’s easy to use. When pouring, grasp the jug with both hands.
- use a knife to cut a cross in foil-topped cream or yoghurt containers and then peel back corners
- For liquids in cartons, you might try a carton spout. These punch an opening into the carton and provide a pouring outlet.
Washing up and wiping spills:
- Let dirty dishes soak first and use the dishwasher for as much as possible (if you have one). Ideally, a dishwasher should be built in about 50 cm from the floor, to make loading and unloading easier.
- buy extra-absorbent cloths and use both hands when wiping
- put newspaper under electric frypans (to absorb spillage, no wiping will be needed)
- if liquid spills on the floor, drop a towel and use your feet to wipe up
- dry bottom of cups by placing a tea towel over all cups in dishwasher when draining
- use newspaper on benches to catch spills.
Preparing meat, vegetables and fruit:
- Do not peel anything that doesn’t absolutely need it. Try the various kinds of vegetable peelers to find the one that suits you best. For some foods, such as pumpkin, it is easiest to remove the skin after it is cooked.
- To peel an onion easily, pour boiling water over it and leave for ten minutes, drain, and the skin will slip off easily. The onion can then be chopped or sliced in a food processor.
- For pumpkin, try part-cooking in the microwave before peeling or cutting it.
- Use baby carrots that don’t have to be peeled.
- Buy, when possible, only good quality, unblemished potatoes – small ones for boiling in their skins, large ones to bake in their jackets in the oven or cook in the microwave.
- Look for easy to prepare meals that require little chopping and stirring.
- Get other household members to help with meal preparation or get them to prepare the whole meal, at least some of the time. If they don’t know how to cook, then they can probably do it while you give instructions. It will be a valuable life skill for them to acquire!
- Cook in foil to reduce the amount of washing up needed
- Cook more each time for leftovers that can be used later.
- Your food processor will chop up just about any vegetable into small pieces. It will grate soft vegetables like zucchini and will turn tomatoes into mash. If you want to process something soft or sticky, put it in your processor with something harder – eg if using herbs in a recipe, you can chop them up with the onions quite successfully and, similarly, raisins can be chopped with nuts. If you decide to buy one, make sure it is easy to assemble and clean. If it moves around on the bench, use a rubber mat underneath.
- If you cannot afford an electric processor, there is a cheaper one-handed food chopper on the market which is operated by pushing a knob downwards with the heel of your hand
- Use kitchen scissors (Mundial are recommended by members) to cut up herbs and sliced meat, e.g. bacon.
- Buy a light-weight peeler with a wide grip. Have short breaks while you are peeling. Try having a couple of different types of peeler and using each alternately for the same job to give your hands a break.
- You can use foam rubber or buy cheap tubing to build up the handle of kitchen utensils, including cutlery and peelers, for easier use. The “Goodgrips” range of utensils has large, soft handles that make holding easier.
Stirring ingredients in bowls and saucepans:
- Use a power grip when stirring food during cooking. The power grip is three times as strong as any other grip when your wrist is in the mid position. It is the best one to use whenever possible because the muscles are working to their best advantage. A U-shaped magnet can be used to stabilise a saucepan by securing the handle to the stove.
- A balloon whisk with a wide handle may be particularly useful for stirring. For turning food during cooking, try self-opening turner tongs, as they only need a light easy grasp to close them.
- Have a non-slip mat, a damp dishcloth or a soap grip handy on which to stabilise bowls and saucepans. This allows you to use both hands for stirring.
- Try working with the bowl/pan at a lower level, such as in the sink.
- Use a mixing wand with an on/off button that does not need to be held on.
Draining vegetables and pasta:
- Use a steamer or steamer insert in a saucepan to cook vegetables, or use a microwave oven. You only need to cook in a small amount of water, thus reducing lifting heavy saucepans of water
- Take cooked vegetables out of the saucepan with a slotted spoon.
Making cakes, biscuits and pastry:
- To make cooking pies, tarts, etc easier, try using frozen pastry. Not only is it kinder to your hands but also practically 100% failure proof!
- grease cake tins with oil or by melting the butter and swirling it around
- use light-weight cookware – microwave cookware is very light
- use mixing bowls with pouring lips and handles.
Have you got visitors coming over?
- Give up trying to impress – lower your standards!
- order a plate of sandwiches from your local deli or bakery
- ask your guests to help with carrying, setting the table, cooking at the BBQ
- eat outside to minimise clean up
- make the occasion as informal as possible
- go out to eat, invite friends back for wine and biscuits or dessert
- spend less on other things and spend the difference on prepared foods and a cleaner
- use paper or plastic plates
- keep to simple dishes when entertaining
- Accept any offers of a food contribution!
- use a no-iron tablecloth or placemats.
For more information take a look at our Helping Hand sheets ‘In the Laundry’ and ‘In the Kitchen’.
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