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How to Complete Chores When in a Wheelchair

Barb has lived with multiple sclerosis since she was a teenager when very little information on the devastating disease was available.

Getting chores done is something we all have to get done eventually, otherwise, we would all live in a perpetual smelly pile of our own messes. The bigger challenge often comes after being in an accident or from tragedy or illness which leaves one confined to a wheelchair.

Whether the need to use a wheelchair will be a temporary or a permanent change in one’s lifestyle, it’s a new challenge that will have to be faced and dealt with sooner or later.

The first reality will be an almost immediate realization of your inability to accomplish certain tasks in the same manner that you’re accustomed to. It’s not an impossible problem to overcome. It will however be necessary to make some changes that will coincide with your new wheelchair lifestyle.

The rest of the world may be slow in accommodating wheelchairs, but your own home can be exactly what you need it to be.

Make Your Living Space Wheelchair Accessible

The first thing you have to do is realistically consider the space that you live in. Regardless of whether your living space is big or small, direct your thoughts towards making things easier on yourself. If it looks like you and a wheelchair will be partnered for a long time or indefinitely, after you’ve prepared yourself mentally and emotionally, prepare your home to accommodate you. Get help if you can. Go through the house and get rid of anything and everything that you can. Purge your home of anything and everything that you don’t really need or are not excited about cleaning or dusting for an extended period of time.

Granted, this sounds like an extreme action to suggest but remind yourself anew, that you will have to maintain your home from a wheelchair. All that your life is right now—all of your household activities—will have to be performed from the wheelchair. So again, make it easy on yourself. If you just can’t bear to get rid of any of your stuff and if you can afford to, put all you can in storage until you can and are able to deal with it. Your goal is to simplify your home to make it easy for you to get around in it and to care for and maintain it. The less you have and have in the way, the easier it will be for you to do that. It may not be spotless unless you want it to be, but it will not overwhelm you because you will have it under control.

Chore Planning

Discovering that you forgot to bring something with you into another room is even more frustrating if you’re in a wheelchair than if not. The reason is probably due to the extra energy expended in using a wheelchair.

If you have a power chair, it may not be such a big deal, but not everyone is using power chairs. Even so, the point is that some planning should be a regular part of your daily routine. Planning out all of your activities along with all the supplies or equipment you will need for each activity will save you from spinning your wheels unnecessarily going back and forth, even in a power chair. Don’t ever go into a room without taking everything that you need, unless the amount needed necessitates making more than one trip.

For detail-oriented minds, making an itemized list of everything that needs to be done and how often, along with a list of supplies needed for each chore or task will help you in your planning. Write it down on a pad or a chart that’s accessible. Make sure it’s your plan and not someone else’s. Make sure it works for you.

Your Personalized Kitchen

Make your kitchen personal to your tastes and needs with nothing extraneous that will create more work for you. Move and rearrange everything around in the kitchen so that it is within easy reach and not in danger of falling on or hurting or injuring you. That includes pots, pans, dishes, canned goods, baking supplies, and those items in the refrigerator too. Make convenience and safety the rule from now on.

Smart Laundry Tips

However often you do the laundry, keep it simple and convenient. Make every effort to get your soiled items into the laundry hamper or receptacle as soon as possible, saving you from any unnecessary wheeling back and forth.

If there’s room, keep the hamper, whatever detergent, bleach, stain removal, and other supplies you need for doing the laundry in the same room or as close as is possible for you to reach them.

Cleaning Tall Windows From a Wheelchair

Cleaning any kind of window is challenging from the start. Cleaning tall windows take a bit more thought about the tools you'll use and especially about safety. Adding the dynamic of cleaning from a wheelchair is a different but not impossible challenge. You just have to think it through, allowing for a few mishaps before you perfect your method.

It's a good idea to have a friend over the first couple of times you attempt your first window project. Besides being a reliable spotter in case something goes wrong, they may be able to offer helpful suggestions while watching you in action.

The Wheelchair-Accessible Bathroom

The bathroom can be a dangerous place for anyone, wheelchair-bound or not. Even if you have a lot of space in the bathroom, it’s not a good idea to store an abundance of things there.

Try to keep your bathroom free and clear of random items that are not needed to keep yourself or the bathroom clean. It’s much easier to clean an area that’s not cluttered with a bunch of things, that are falling over as you try to clean, no matter how cute.

Also, be mindful of water on the floor while you’re wheeling back and forth. Water can cause wheelchairs to get out of control too.

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The Living Room

Lots of living is done here according to its name, and it’s assumed that you will be spending quite a bit of time here too. Taking that into consideration, a little lenience on décor and style is allowed. But for your own well-being and convenience in completing chores, keep simplicity, safety, and ability of the wheelchair to move around in mind.

Wheelchair-Accessible Bedroom

For your bedroom, maintain simplicity but make it personal. Create a place where you can move around without fuss and where peaceful rest can happen as well. Make everything accessible, safe, and easy to reach. If there are other bedrooms in your home, keep them free and clear of clutter. If you have others that live with you, let them maintain their own bedrooms.

Vacuuming Floors and Carpets

You can easily call professionals once a year for a thorough steam cleaning of your floors and carpets, but for regular cleaning, you might want to do it yourself.

Choose your vacuum cleaner carefully. There are many choices of great and efficient vacuums in the marketplace today, but for those vacuuming from wheelchairs, cords can be a real hindrance, even dangerous. A battery-operated cordless vacuum cleaner can prove to be a more suitable choice that’s not only easier to handle and lightweight, but safer too. Some models can handle both carpets and floors. You also have a choice of robotic vacuums to help with at least some of the vacuuming on days you might be too tired to tackle the task.

Daily Chore Maintenance

Keeping messes to a minimum will go far in managing the cleaning and other chores of your household. Simply picking up after yourself, washing your dirty dishes or putting them into the dishwasher soon after each meal, getting dirty laundry into the hamper or directly into the washing machine if you really want to save extra steps, will save you from being overwhelmed with the many things needing to be done around the house.

Conserve your energy and avoid frustration by just keeping up on these little things that can build up and make you feel overwhelmed and defeated.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’ll be depending upon a wheelchair for a short or longer period of time, you now have some ideas and suggestions that can help you make it through this challenging time in your life without any additional stress, frustration, or further injury to yourself that can commonly accompany tackling household chores from a wheelchair.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Barb Johnson


Barb Johnson (author) from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula on July 07, 2015:

D Arun, I hope you can use some of the ideas in my article to help you think about how you can help with the family chores. Let me know how it works out. Have a good week.

Arun Dev from United Countries of the World on July 06, 2015:

I'm a wheelchair user too. It would feel good if you could contribute to your family's chores!

Barb Johnson (author) from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula on May 05, 2015:

Yes we are resilient in the toughest situations. Thanks Bill!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 04, 2015:

An interesting article. I've never been in a wheelchair, so I don't have any perspective for a comment. However, I do know that humans are amazingly resilient and we learn to adjust fairly quickly to just about any situation. I love articles like this...raising awareness and helping others to realize that life does goes on, regardless of the limitations. Well done!

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