To clean, or not to clean, that is the question.
Well, not really. Everyone needs to clean to a certain extent even if you’re a natural-born mess maker like me but what happens when you physically can’t clean anymore?
We as a nation are much more aware of the everyday struggles of disabled people when it comes to things like public transport access, difficulties finding or maintaining paid employment, mobility needs and invisible illness needs such as environmental factors, anxiety and depression. One area I’ve found to still be taboo is the issue of keeping a clean and tidy house and a clean and tidy you.
I’m a messy toad. All four of us living here are. We naturally collect, store and hold things which inevitably end up as piles of clutter around the house. Half of my wardrobe contents is usually on my floor, somehow each month we end up with 9 empty toilet paper rolls shoved back into loo roll bag or spilling out on to the floor. We can’t help it. But we try to keep it at bay. Over the years, this was working out OK. I’ve never ever been one to enjoy cleaning but I’ve always managed to keep the house looking nice and nothing that a frantic hour blitz wouldn’t sort out if we unexpectedly had guests visiting.
Since my mobility drastically started to deteriorate over these past few years, I’ve found keeping up was fast becoming impossible. More and more responsibility was being passed to my husband who also has his own physical difficulties living with chronic lymphoedema. A cleaner was something we’d both been thinking about for a while but I could never bring myself to look into it properly. I felt a failure not being able to look after my family. I felt uncomfortable with the idea of someone else coming in and cleaning my things. I felt worried that I’d be looked upon as someone who was too wealthy or couldn’t be bothered so she hired staff in. It was a really loaded subject and I kept pushing it away. There’s the other issue of trust too. There are so many cleaning companies out there especially on Facebook, splattered with glowing 5* reviews but once you look past the polished surface you can see all those reviews are from family and friends. Are they really trust-worthy? Will they really be able to help me rather than doing bare minimum for the money? Are they registered? Insured? Too many questions spinning around in my head.
Then completely out of the blue, our lovely, trustworthy block caretaker popped a leaflet through our door for her cleaning service.
I did then what I’d never really done before and made a snap decision that I was going to talk with her about her company and see if they could help me. I think I had to do it quickly or I’d find another reason, worry or negative point to use an escape point away from having to tackle this increasingly urgent issue.
In a bit of a whirlwind week I met with our lovely caretaker, we went through all the legalities and I really opened up to her about what it has been like dealing with mobility difficulties and trying to keep a family living space in order. It’s not just the general aspects of not being able to clean my toilet, bath or sinks properly, not being able to vacuum the carpets or mop the floors, being continually dismayed when it’s slightly rainy, windy or muddy knowing after venturing outside that my wheelchair is going to bring in ten ton more mess on its wheels…
…It’s also the reality that I really struggle with my own personal hygiene too. What really kicked me up the bum to seek help when the leaflet dropped through my door is: I washed my own hair. I washed my hair and it left me in a pre-syncope state for hours afterwards, the following day was a write off with me sometimes being unable to even sit up without going into a fainting fit. I had to sleep in spurts of 10-15 minutes for hours through the day which I absolutely detest as it makes me feel awful. I feel horrendously guilty for Sullivan my 6-year-old son who never leaves my side when I’m in a flare up but gently checks up on me now and again and nudges me when I snore, as it means I’m sleeping too heavily. The past 10 days or so directly since then have been filled with chronic and intense back pain from my lower herniated discs. Relentless, immobilising and untouched by any physio and the strongest mix of painkillers the doctors will give me, over and over again. I’d be tricked into thinking it was dissipating only for it all to start up again. Pain so bad it physically stops you from peeing. Pain so bad you wish so badly for your lower body to be amputated.
I just washed my own hair.
And I was brutally honest with our lovely caretaker about this and again with the cleaner that she paired me with. For the first time outside my PIP review a few years back, I really opened up and let these two relative strangers hear where I was struggling, how I needed help and how much this side of things was affecting my life. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders once we’d seen that my chosen cleaner and I had clicked and how professional, understanding and empathetic they both were to my situation.
Tomorrow is my first cleaner day. She will be here from 10-12 noon and I’m a little nervous. We get along great, our kids are the same age, she’s funny and hard-working and local, it’s just, I’m not used to new things and no matter how comforted I have been, this is still a massive deal for me. I hope to be able to update with a positive story after tomorrow and hopefully with someone around once a week helping me out with the other tasks that have been making things so difficult, maybe I will be able to do something like wash my own hair once in a blue moon without having such a massive fall out with my body afterwards.