The Paced Guide to Cleaning: AKA Cleaning With a Chronic Illness

It isn’t easy managing our health, our family and our home. Pacing is a valuable tool in managing chronic illnesses that cause chronic pain and fatigue. Even those with more normal energy levels can benefit from spreading out all of the expectations. Taking the concept of pacing into our home management is just one way to help us manage our health.

I have watched and enjoyed YouTube videos of busy mamas showing their “deep clean” videos where they clean the entire house in one go. I just don’t have the time or energy for this and with small children it makes sense to schedule things like this in chunks.

the pacer's guide to cleaning aka cleaning with a chronic illness

Here are my key tips for paced cleaning:

Write a list of:

  • The seasonal tasks
  • The monthly tasks
  • The weekly tasks
  • The daily tasks

Divvy them up over the month according to what you think you can manage and fits with your schedule.

Edit the schedule as you go according to how your days/weeks/month pans out with energy, pain and commitments.

My Template Set

I created a template set (because, of course I did, I am an avid planner and template my paced cleaning plan, weekly monthly seasonalmaker). It is essentially the print and go lists I mentioned above that make it super easy to plan ahead for the month.

Your List and Tips for Paced Cleaning

However you make your lists and track your progress, I suggest you start with your bare minimum tasks that need to be done daily (such as dishes and washing – I have three small children, the washing needs to be kept on top of). Then look at what needs to be done weekly (like the vacuuming, a proper clean of the toilet and bathroom etc) and then add in the monthly and seasonal tasks.

The next level is to consider if there are things on your list that you cannot do and assign them to someone else (if you can). Or if there are things that you need to break down into smaller chunks. When I was pregnant and my pelvis issues were severe I couldn’t vacuum so my husband had to take care of that. Even when I am not pregnant I do not vacuum the entire house at once (our house is spread over three levels), I almost never do the rumpus room downstairs and I vacuum the bedrooms upstairs less often then the living areas.

More useful posts for you

4 Healthy Eating Choices You Can Make Now with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia

A Confession on Pacing and Boundaries with Fibromyalgia

What Works for Me Now: Fighting Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia

A few tips to close our paced cleaning guide:

  • Continually tidy up as you go so you avoid large messes to clean – I especially do this as I am cooking.
  • Involve the children in tidying up, my boys have to tidy up their own toys and have been included in cleaning efforts (at an age-appropriate level).
  • Keep your cleaning supplies all together, easily accessible and find your best tools and products and keep them stocked.
  • Don’t go out and leave a mess in the kitchen and lounge.

Do you have any tips for paced cleaning with a chronic illness?

Sign up to receive access to my free resource library and newsletter list. The library includes the You vs Fibromyalgia six lesson micro course and a heap of printables, reports and workshops to help you kickstart your fight against chronic pain and fatigue. 
free resource library

Top Posts of 2017: What You Were Looking For

I haven’t done this before, but it’s excessively interesting! Here are the seven most popular posts from 2017.

What Works-

The most popular post of 2017 was What Works: A Round Up. I shared my seven top tips for living well with Fibromyalgia and seven fibro bloggers shared some tips of what works for them.

They talk symptom relief, diet, rest and daily rituals to manage Fibromyalgia.

Pregnancy and Fibro

The second most popular post was the one where I announced my book Fibro Mama Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia. It was such a dream come true to write and publish a book and to share this hard earned knowledge.


Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)The third was where I shared my research and experience with low dose naltrexone (LDN). It has been such a ride since starting LDN last April. I could never have published my Fibro Mama book or written my Melissa vs Fibromyalgia book (out January 29th). LDN isn’t a stand alone treatment, but it has helped me so much.



fibro friendly links

I’m a big fan of yoga. I use it in all its forms to manage the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. In this post I shared My Pain/Fatigue Friendly Yoga Links from bed yoga for spoonies, to yoga for neck pain and full sun salutations.

You can also sign up for access to my free resources page where there is a PDF report Yoga for Fibromyalgia.




A Tricky Parenting SecretI shared A Tricky Parenting Secret after I’d been despairing about how to help my kids have a nice time despite pain and fatigue. It really doesn’t take as much as you’d think.





A Confession on Pacing and Boundaries was also popular, it’s a really tricky balance when you have children. It sometimes feels like the biggest battle isn’t to define your boundaries, but to protect them.

I wrote my Pregnancy Diaries when I was pregnant in 2016, last year I edited and posted fibro mama weeks 31-33them. Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 31-33 was rather popular. Looking back, this was the calm before the storm.

So these were my seven most popular posts of 2017. I’d love to hear the topics you have enjoyed the most and would like me to write more about in 2018.

If you like my posts then please feel free to sign up to my newsletter. You’ll also receive my free Microcourse – Arm Yourself with Knowledge (about pregnancy, nursing and parenting with Fibromyalgia)


A Confession on Pacing and Boundaries with Fibromyalgia

May I confess something to you? I don’t always practice what I preach. I don’t always realise or acknowledge my boundaries, let alone fight for them. I let guilt eat at me and let it trick me into over committing.

A confession on pacing and boundaries with fibromyalgia

I’ve had this growing sense that the amount of hours I was searching for as I seek employment now that my baby is nearing his first birthday were too much. After much internal struggle, I lowered the expectation in my head, knowing we need the extra money, but also that I would not be able to sustain it, my health and be a good mama.

Other posts you might like:

My Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) for Fibromyalgia One Year Experiment

Natural Pain Relief: Supplements for Fibromyalgia Energy

Living the Best Life with Fibromyalgia: A Book Review

For a long time, I prided myself on being a 60 on the CFS/Fibromyalgia Rating Scale, “Able to do about 6-7 hours of work a day. Mostly mild to moderate symptoms” despite pain levels more in line with a 50, “able to do 4-5 hours a day of work or similar activity at home. Daily rest required. Symptoms mostly moderate.” (My italics)

I pushed myself to 6-7 hours per day minimum and suffered moderate symptoms. I had missed the key as suggested in this article on understanding our situation: “What is the highest level of functioning I can sustain without intensifying my symptoms?”. If my pain is at a moderate level, then I should not be striving to work the hours of a person with more mild symptoms, especially given that I go home to two small children as opposed to being able to rest. You need to take into account your symptom level and your situation. Especially as our context changes so quickly, soon enough those small ones will be at school and will need me in a totally different way.

I keep myself in the boom-bust pain-fatigue cycle. Well, me and my circumstances – I have two small children and we have a mortgage in the most expensive city in New Zealand. We cannot move as this is the only place my husband can do his job. Childcare is not a cheap commodity, nor would I want substandard care for them when I am at work.  As I move forward and go back to work now that I have had my second baby, I must learn to balance all of these demands. And that is going to be my life’s work – balancing life with the fight against the Fibromyalgia.

This year I have finally experienced a slight reduction in pain in my neck, this has enabled sleep to come easier. It’s been such a relief, I don’t want to give it up. But my work requires a lot of computer time, so that’s unavoidable. I can only hope that I can find the hours and position that will do the least damage.

But I will admit it is tough. It will always be a struggle, even if your people understood fully (which they likely don’t).

For more information about Fibromyalgia and an introduction to how to manage it, join my free eCourse.

Free eCourse sign up you vs fibromyalgia

My book is everything I know and have researched to fight Fibromyalgia, this blog post forms part of a chapter.

Please note that this is an affiliate link, if you make a purchase using my link I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

melissa vs fibromyalgia book angled shadowed


Fibro Mama Tools for Managing Early Pregnancy Symptoms

fibro-mama-tools-for-early-pregnancy-1Motherhood for a person with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not a short sprint, it’s an epic marathon spanning pregnancy, labour and baby’s first year. So it’s really important to get your pregnancy wellness plan underway fast.

Here are some things I have learnt for tackling the early pregnancy symptoms:

Sleep – I tried as best I could, but I had a lot back pains which made lying down difficult. I needed pain relief to get to sleep and woke often either in pain or to go to the bathroom. I had pillows to alternate and utilised brief body scans to encourage certain parts of my body to relax. I found that the Chronic Fatigue was greatly flared up and the amount of sleep I got was almost directly related to my nausea levels.

Pacing – The second time around, I was super lucky that a work contract ended at week four so I had week five off to get into a routine of rest/errand. The first time around, I had little choice and needed to work the entire time, however I worked from home and was able to schedule lie down breaks regularly – for a while there I napped at 10am and 3pm (and my body’s a rigid non napper usually!) The work/rest cycle is really best for managing pain, fatigue and pregnancy. Sometimes it may feel as if the rest needs to be longer than the work portion, but try to allow that as best you can. Some days I was so (miserably) tired but couldn’t nap and  resting was the difference between coping and not. I actually lay down with my eyes closed and listened to Pride and Prejudice audio book which was a lovely treat.

Meditation – as a stubborn (my body, not me!) non napper and a troubled sleeper meditation was a lifesaver. It is useful first thing if you wake too early and cannot get back to sleep. It can be used midday, or whenever you need a lie down. Or it can be used right before bed. You can choose simple breath focused meditation, you can listen to guided meditation or do body scans. You can choose meditations specifically for pain or pregnancy. There’s a heap available on YouTube to try.

This is a free printable PDF in my Resources page, sign up here to find it.

Exercise – walking is a big part of my usual pain management plan and this is no different in pregnancy. I had to pause my experiment to see if I could increase the amount I could comfortably walk without increasing the pain or fatigue. But I was able to continue gentle 20-30 minute walks all around our neighbourhood after the hardest weeks were over. During the worst weeks I managed about 10 minutes a day. Yoga was off the menu for me due to post exertion malaise, but this could return in the second trimester for me and may be useful for others in trimester one. Your body will tell you. Anything you did before is usually okay during pregnancy.

Here are three cool yoga poses for your entire pregnancy that I found

Fuel – I needed smaller amounts of food more often, so I adjusted my meals to suit this and this helped stabilise my energy levels and avoid the more severe nausea. When I was the most sick and unable to eat I found that gently coaxing my tummy back to food with diluted orange juice, small amounts of milk, toast and then whatever I fancied worked. Crackers by the bed for midnight or 3am snacks was a handy hack!

Pain management plan – my doctor helped me to put together a system for dealing with the pain using as minimal medicinal input as possible. My big struggle has always been my neck, so I needed a dose of pregnancy suitable pain killers before bed. I took a combination paracetamol and low dose codiene mixture. I allowed myself one dose per day unless my back pain was severely breaking through the more natural methods of management. You may like to look into homeopathic remedies, using an experienced practitioner’s advice – my doctor is a big fan and I used Crampmed by Naturo Pharm.

There are a ton of natural pain control mechanisms that I have written about before (links) but a snapshot: heatpack, warm bath or shower, meditation, self massage or partner massage or paid massage, herbal topical relief cream (like arnica), gentle walk (seems counterproductive but often helps my neck and back the key word is gentle), a swim, distraction (funny videos, phone a pick me up friend), self trigger point, foam rolling, yoga poses (restorative poses for pregnancy), stretch (seriously, do this several times a day!).

Nausea – this is pretty much unavoidable but I have a few tricks for reducing it: 1. Keep your tummy from getting empty, 2. Don’t get too fatigued (using tools above), 3. Ginger lozenges or mints, 4. Acupuncture for nausea in the wrist point or the seasickness bands that hold pressure in the same point.

Going to the bathroom ALL the time – I can’t really help with this, but I do avoid anything other than water after 3pm and, otherwise, just go with the flow!

Plan – if you’re at all like me, you will find comfort in planning ahead. And write everything down because it may fall out of your head. Figure out potential parental leave options.

Enjoy – you’re growing a tiny human! Revel in that a little. Also enjoy the things you can do now and will have to give up later (weird fact, I do certain stretches and legs on a chair pose like crazy because I know I’ll have to give them up from week 16 or so!)

Do you have any tips for getting through the first trimester?


More information about pregnancy and parenting with Fibromyalgia:

Pregnancy andFibromyalgia_resources

The Perils of Pacing

When you have chronic pain and fatigue, you get used to doing what you can. Using the energy you have. When the goalposts change it can be hard to figure out where you’re at.

You are so used to pushing, that you push right past what is a sensible limit.

Nu having a rest

Yet, if you don’t push, you are accused of limiting yourself – creating your own box. And you don’t get any further.

I can be my own worst enemy, no one pushes me further than I do. But my husband and son are a close second.

Mounds of literature on Fibromyalgia include pacing as a core non medicinal treatment. A part  of what you can do in cognitive behavioral therapy (another prominent Fibromyalgia treatment) is to keep a diary of your activities for the purposes of finding limits and trying to stick to them.

But my energy and pain levels change so often, I couldn’t tell. Last year, a long walk would have caused a great deal of pain afterward. Last week, I did a 50 minute walk with my husband and son. The only side effect was “normal” muscle tension the day after.

The part after learning your limits isn’t so easy either. I know that I need to rest around 3pm – after work and before the evening. But on the weeks when my husband works day shift and when there’s a lot on, I can’t. So I deal with increased pain and fatigue.

It’s this proximity to normal we’re expected to live at. Where noone else sees or feels the consequences of normal activity.

Working until 3pm seems a luxury on its own, how can one need a rest?!

You just got into the habit of going to sleep at 930. (Like it can be changed when you’re absolutely struggling to keep your eyes open)

How hard can it be getting up with the toddler at 6 or 630am?

Sometimes I wonder the point of learning to pace myself. It’ll never be enough.

But then I rememeber my key principle for this life – I don’t have to live like that. I have tools and knowledge for a reason!

Some tiny steps to helping:

  • Keep to your desired bedtime, no matter what others may say.
  • Take a 10 minute Yoga Nidra or body scan meditation in the car after work and before picking the child up.
  • Find a stretch that you always find particularly delicious and do it a few times a day.
  • Utilise pacing tools when doing computer work (and good ergonomics always!)
  • Create an exercise plan and slowly work up, allowing for extra tired/painful days.
  • Learn that you need to look after yourself. Put that oxygen mask on yourself before you help others with theirs!
  • Grab any opportunity to do a meditation/hobby/exercise you love.
  • Try to listen to your poor body when it screams “no!” But always expect slightly more.
Do you have any other tiny tips for helping with pacing?