Conserving Energy While Doing Your Everyday Chores

Young woman in wheelchair cleaning kitchen

31 Jan 2023 | ~6:03 Engagement Time


Roz Kalb , Psychologist


Stephanie Nolan , Occupational Therapist


Chores – whether the indoor or outdoor kind – can sap your energy to the point that there’s not much left for the fun stuff. Think bed-making, vacuuming, laundry sorting, grocery shopping, lawn mowing, snow shoveling – and you’ll agree that nothing takes more out of you than these necessary chores. The good news is that these physically-demanding tasks also count toward the recommended 150 minutes per week of physical activity and exercise, but the trick is do them in ways that leave you feeling energized and satisfied rather than drained and discouraged.   

The 5 Ps

Let’s consider a few basic strategies first. The 4 P’s remind us to plan, prioritize, pace, and position for optimal efficiency and energy conservation. A 5th P – the power of tools and devices, reminds us that we never want to do things the hard way when there’s an easier way staring us in the face.   

For example, if house-cleaning is on your to-do list for the week, the 5 P’s can help make this chore less of a drain on your energy.   

  • Start by identifying the time in your day, and the days in your week, which best align with your energy levels and other commitments.  
  • Then plan on using those times to get the cleaning done and prioritize these activities so they don’t get back-burnered unless absolutely necessary.  
  • Setting the right pace for yourself sets you up for success:   
    • Figure out how to spread the cleaning chores out over the course of a day and/or the days of the week  
    • Do something less tiring both before and after each housecleaning task. In other words, give your body a rest before and after a tiring activity. If you set out to clean your whole house in one day, chances are you won’t succeed or you will succeed and then be so exhausted for the next several days that you won’t be able to do anything else.  
    • Remember that an elevation in your core body temperature of even a half a degree can cause temporary flare-ups of MS symptoms. These symptoms will disappear as soon as your body temperature returns to normal, so take breaks, drink cool fluids, and/or consider wearing a cooling scarf or vest while you clean.   
    • Rest or stretch when you need to (yes – making a bed does take every muscle in your body).   
  • As you clean each part of your house (or garage or closets, or attic, if you’re into that) be sure to position yourself for ease, comfort, and safety. There’s an easier way and a harder way to do everything, and cleaning is no exception.   
    • Gather your cleaning materials into one convenient container so you can move them with you with the fewest possible trips.  
    • Sit when you can.  
    • Vacuum or dust one area at a time so that you don’t waste energy going back and forth from place to place. And consider sitting while vacuuming in one spot (a rolling stool can come in very handy for this).   
  • Tools of all kinds are powerful aids for conserving energy. If possible, invest in cleaning equipment that makes your tasks easier. Can you reach those hard-to-reach corners? Are your tools light and manageable for you? Are your washer and dryer easy for you to access, load/unload? Can you use your rolling walker or power chair to help you conserve energy and remain safe? 

The 6th P

Maybe we should add a 6th P partnering. Even if you have prided yourself on keeping the house in order and clean as a whistle, it’s OK to share the work with others. Partners and children can assist in myriad ways. Family members can:  

  • Turn their clothes right side out and sort them into darks and lights before putting them in the laundry.   
  • Fold clean clothes and put them away.   
  • Vacuum a room, clean a bathroom, empty the dishwasher, or take turns over the course of the month.   
  • Bring cleaning tools and equipment from one floor to another if stair climbing is too difficult or tiring for you.   

Outdoor Chores

Outdoor chores have their own set of challenges, including weather and safety conditions. If you’re heat or cold sensitive, the 5 P’s are particularly important for conserving your energy and staying safe. Doing outdoor chores in extreme heat/humidity or cold, will sap your energy faster and leave you feeling tired and drained.   

  • Pick your time of day.  
  • Break your tasks into smaller bits that can be done during that time. 
  • Give yourself rest breaks for fluids, stretching, relaxing. 
  • Use the most energy-saving tools, including power mowers, snow blowers, electric shovels. 
  • If you must climb a ladder or engage in other risky activities, enlist someone to spot you (or better yet, do the task for you!).  

We all have tasks and chores that need doing – and getting them done is an accomplishment. A clean house or a nice yard can be sources of pride and satisfaction. The key is to do them wisely, in ways that conserve your energy and keep you safe. And give yourself grace if you can’t do all that you planned to do. Then, when the chores are done, rest up so you can move on to the fun activity you’ve planned as your reward.