Even naturally neat people have hectic times when it’s hard to keep up on things. Add ongoing health problems that sap physical and mental energy, and formerly simple tasks can feel daunting.

Many popular cleaning systems assume that your main issue is knowing what to do. For most facing pain, weakness and/or coordination issues, knowing that dishes, laundry, sweeping, etc. should be done regularly isn’t the issue.

It’s the fact that large periods of time pass when it is simply impossible to do them. On the rare day when there is time and at least a moderate amount of energy, it’s easy to find yourself spinning in circles not knowing where to begin!

Below are ideas that have helped others in the same situation.

Cleaning “Games”

The purpose of the games is to help you focus on the most important things first and see progress faster.

15 Minutes Until Someone Comes Over

Pretend someone just called to say they’re on their way over and will be there in 15 minutes. Set the timer for 15 minutes, go to your front door, turn around and do anything you would think would be essential if someone was on their way. (“Who put their dirty socks in the middle of the living room?”) When the timer dings, pretend it’s the doorbell.

If you can, try to do this every day. If that’s just too much today, consider the 5 or 10 Minute Methods. If even that’s too much, we hope you rest up and feel better soon! Many of us know how you feel!

1 Hour Until Overnight Guests Arrive

I like to do this for weekly maintenance, but it is great to do if you have company coming in a few days. At the beginning you feel like “Aaaa…I only have a few days.” At the end, a few days (almost) feels like a long time. Break the hour up into 15 minute segments, starting with the one above.

During the second segment, focus on things that someone staying over would need. You might toss in a load of linens so guests have fresh towels and sheets when they arrive, and quickly spray the shower. (Wipe it down immediately or let it soak as needed.) If you have time left over, you could wipe down the sink.

For the third segment, pick the room that needs the most attention and focus on that for 15 minutes. (Often this is the kitchen. You won’t get a very messy kitchen clean in 15 minutes, but you can stack the dishes, wipe down the counters, and sweep the floor in that time.)

For the final segment, do another round of the first segment, but on a deeper level this time.

Note: Avoid any “swooping or stuffing” that will cause you more work in the long run. For example, dirty dishes in the sink – fine. Dirty dishes in the oven or the attic – bad idea.

Try to do this at least once a week if you can. If you just can’t do one hour straight, you can pause between segments as needed. (In our game, we can stop time!)

This system helps you avoid the temptation to get involved in projects that would be very nice to do, but are beyond your resources at the moment.  Even though I know better, when I have company coming, I am so tempted to start projects that I’ve been putting off so the house will look nicer when they get here. That’s great if I have additional energy and time once the essentials are taken care of, but I could easily end up with a bigger mess than I started with if I decide to paint the bookcase or replace the floor in the bathroom the week before someone comes, have to stop halfway through, and then run out of energy for the cleaning and cooking.

The reality is I will have forced downtime between now and then, and I have to ration my energy. If you have health challenges, it’s very likely that you will too. Do the most important things first and save some energy to enjoy your company.

5 Minute Method

Sometimes even 15 minutes is too much.

Try just 5 minutes. Everybody has different physical strengths and challenges, but here are some tasks you can probably do in 5 minutes.

Dump a bag of laundry into the washer, add soap, and start it.

Take one bag of trash out.

Switch laundry from the washer to the dryer, add a dryer sheet, turn it on.

Put away a load of dishes from the dish drainer. (If you have a dishwasher, each shelf will probably take five minutes.)

Put any dishes that don’t need scraping into the dishwasher if you have one.

Scrape some of the dishes that need it.

Fill pans that need soaking with water. (Avoid filling the sink with water to soak the dishes in case you can’t get back to them for too long.)

If you don’t have a dishwasher, wash a small load of dishes. (Start with the easiest to clean/the ones taking up the most space so you see progress faster.)

Sweep one room with a broom.

Clean the toilet. (It’s nice to use the disposable brushes with cleaner built right in.)

Clean the bathroom sink or mirror.

There are many more you’ll think of as you go. You might find yourself able to do several throughout the day.

10 Minute Method

Ten minutes is perfect for the things that you have been putting off because they’re so overwhelming. Tell yourself you just have to do 10 minutes on that icky project. (The garage, the closet, pantry shelves, etc.) Little by little you’ll get there, and you might be surprised at how much you really can get done ten minutes at a time.

You might use the following during your ten minutes:

Throw Away – Give Away

Things pile up and clutter our lives. Take a trash bag and go around your house filling it with either trash or things to give away, and then put it in the appropriate place as soon as you can. (The trash can if it’s trash, the trunk of your car if it’s going to charity.)