6 Ways to Do Big Tasks with Rheumatoid Arthritis | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

6 Ways to Do Big Tasks with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Scheming to do big tasks with rheumatoid arthritis (UPDATED 2016)

6 Ways to Do Big Tasks with Rheumatoid ArthritisRemember the old movie “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”? Sometimes I think I am living in it! Everything in my world is too large for me now. Cups of coffee are too heavy to lift; dishes are too heavy to wash; pulling on a gas pump feels like wrestling a python. How would I ever do big tasks with rheumatoid arthritis hindering me?

I feel a bit helpless most days… but I like to look on the bright side. So, I am repeatedly thinking, “Is there any way for the new me to ever tackle a big project again?” Of course, for some of them, the answer is clearly, “NO.”

No, I can no longer lift 50lb. bags of concrete. No, I cannot move a ton of fill dirt with a wheelbarrow. And, NO, I will not be planting trees or trimming them 15 feet above my head.

However, I have amazed even myself with some of the things that Im have gotten accomplished over the last few years. Every day is different, as many of you know. So, I always hold out hope that there will be more good days coming and I still keep a list of projects I wish to accomplish “someday.”

After yesterday’s post about the me before RA, I thought we could all use a little encouragement as to how to approach those “larger than life” sized tasks with our new “reduced” abilities. For the things we still keep on our lists, here are my suggestions for doing big tasks with rheumatoid arthritis tagging along.

6 strategies for big tasks with rheumatoid arthritis

How can you do big jobs with undersized ability from RA disability?

1) Plan. Plan out the details and study the process to mentally prepare. Get an accurate view of what steps you will need to take.

2) Find different tools. Take time to gather tools which will be more appropriate for you: smaller, lighter weight, and higher quality like this Softtough pruning snip. Examples include child-sized garden tools, smaller sized professional paint brushes, and soft rubber mats to kneel on.

3) Ready, set, wait. Gather all of your supplies and wait for a good time. That might mean a good shoulder day or a good hand day. It might mean a week with no doctor’s appointments. If you plan ahead, when a good moment comes, you will be able to seize it.

4) Enlist help. Find someone to partner with you, even if you are a big DIY’er. He / she can help with little tasks like opening cans, carrying tools to the site and setting them up, and cleaning up the utensils or trash. This allows you to preserve your strength for the actual task. Also, helpers are your back-up when you need a break. (I cook this way with my kids almost daily.)

5) Work in bytes. Take frequent breaks. I have painted a room this way: paint for 15 minutes… lie on the floor 15 minutes… Rinse. Repeat. Your new motto is “PATIENCE MAKES PERFECT.”

6) Do something else. No, I don’t mean give up! But think outside the box. When I bought a $10 chair at the Salvation Army, I thought I would just re-upholster it as always. What was I thinking? I don’t have the strength to pull and staple!

After I thought about it a while (only one year!), I realized I might be able to sew a sloppy slipcover instead. Maybe you can think of something different which will be just as good, but more feasible for you to undertake.

By the way, I used every step on this list to accomplish my chair.

What big tasks with rheumatoid arthritis are in your future?

So, what is on your list? Is it making jelly or homemade pizza? Writing a blog? Planting flowers? Taking a road trip? Sewing a baby quilt? Teaching a class? Building a snowman? (Still on mine!) Don’t just do something; sit there. Sit, but scheme.

Recommended reading

Kelly O'Neill Young

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked over 10 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over thirteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


27 thoughts on “6 Ways to Do Big Tasks with Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • July 8, 2009 at 9:05 pm
    Permalink

    Amazing isn't it….how the new person still thinks they should be able to do what the old person used to do.

    I still catch myself doing some of those things….but pay for it later.

    I have taken on the approach like you mentioned….do the task for 15 minutes, rest, then go back again. It may take longer but it will get done…..eventually, right?

    Reply
  • July 8, 2009 at 9:14 pm
    Permalink

    Yep, PATIENCE MAKES PERFECT. 😀
    And you might still be able walk the next day. 🙂

    Reply
  • July 8, 2009 at 9:32 pm
    Permalink

    I love that saying! And I completely agree. I've found that taking the time to really think ahead and plan things has helped me do way more than I thought I could. I took one of the most ambitious trips of my life last summer, marking one year of RA, and am taking another one this September, so it can be done!

    Reply
  • July 8, 2009 at 11:04 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks especially for these last two posts. You have poured out your heart and it has touched mine! Yesterday's post made me very sad but today and I am very encouraged. Even though I've been diagnosed, my life is still a lot like your "before" life….I'm still holding onto it…just cant hold it quite as tightly. 🙂

    Reply
  • July 9, 2009 at 7:18 am
    Permalink

    Hold on as long as you can, Jenny. 😀 We are all different, so do not give up.

    Reply
  • July 9, 2009 at 9:30 am
    Permalink

    I just love you! You are such an inspiration. I am struggling with the "I can't do what I want/use to do" syndrome pretty bad right now. Thank you so much for sharing your struggles and triumphs.

    Reply
  • July 9, 2009 at 9:39 am
    Permalink

    Thank you, my pleasure. Sorta. 😀
    (My wrists and fingers are hurting from too much typing right now…) Thanks for the encouragement. 😀

    Reply
  • October 20, 2009 at 10:35 am
    Permalink

    Very positive, helpful blog post. We all need more of this type.

    I have changed so many, many things through the years. Recently I got tired of my old corelle-ware dishes, which are lightweight, got a new set of real dishes. Can’t hold them, but it is fun and rewarding to have the pretty ones. One can’t give up on life because it’s too precious.

    A dear friend was a polio survivor, very handicapped. I used to marvel at the way she got things done. That was years ago, now ever so often I remember how Mary did something and use the same method.

    Reply
  • January 18, 2010 at 9:23 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for the reminders of how to do things in managable ways. My husband and I were just discussing last night how long it’s been that our place has had a thorough-going over. (not spring cleaning-I’d say it’s been years since some of our curtains have been washed.) I used to be a type-A person-get it all done at once. That changed A LONG time ago!My hubby talked about having someone come in to do it but I have to adjust to that idea. He’s great about doing the daily type housework but it’s not fair to him that he should have to do everything with working a 50+ work week too. I try to follow the above guidelines when I do attempt some housework or like task;and appreciate all the ideas to improve on my imperfect system.

    Reply
  • January 19, 2010 at 1:23 pm
    Permalink

    I was renovating the basement Sept. 2008 when I became sick with RA. The painting is still undone and I still dream about finishing it. I finally had the nerve to put away my tools and painting supplies last month and admit that i wasn’t going to be finishing anytime soon. I kept hoping that this wasn’t real and the real me was coming back, the one who thrived on DIY projects. I now realize I was in denial this first year and am moving into acceptance and developing coping skills.

    Thanks Kelly, your 15 min. painting story made me laugh and the article gave me inspiration and hope to find new ways to get the hard things done.

    Jamie

    Reply
    • January 19, 2010 at 8:54 pm
      Permalink

      Jamie,
      The 15 minute story is absolutely true! It is kind of tough for a girl w/the heart of a US Marine to force breaks like that. But otherwise, it would not have been done at all. Period. It feels so good when you actually do have anything finished. Even a piecrust! I should have added that to my list: CELEBRATE after! :present:

      By the way, I am the same. I will leave supplies sitting for ages while I hope to get back to something. Hope is good. Of course so is cleaning up the mess… 😛

      Reply
  • July 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm
    Permalink

    This reminds me of a personal funny moment, under the heading of “compensate,compensate.” My newly-divorced friend was renting a room from me when my sweetheart died suddenly. We looked at each other and one said “How are we going to get our cars fixed now?” The other said “Well, we have to 1-learn to do it ourselves, or 2-earn enough money to pay someone, or 3-sleep with a mechanic!” It gave us comic relief at a time we badly needed it.

    Reply
  • August 1, 2010 at 12:22 pm
    Permalink

    Great post as always Kelly. I used to be a ‘clean the whole house in one day’ kinda gal, & strange but true, I miss it!!! This summer holiday I have plans to do the whole house, but in manageable chunks and while enlisting the kids help to do the bits I can’t. Things like cleaning paintwork will finish me, but I can still sort and throw stuff out, tidy and organise while the kids get extra pocket money for doing the paintwork. Last week my hips had me scuppered but come tomorrow I plan to get started!!

    Reply
  • December 10, 2010 at 9:03 am
    Permalink

    One of my big projects is to take some cooking classes. I love to cook and want to learn new skills. Half of the battle is already won because my co-workers gave me a gift certificate to the cooking school I want to taking classes at as part of my retirement gift (had to take a disability retirement effective August 2010). I keep looking at the catalog, reviewing which class I think I can complete, and waiting for the opportunity. I already know that I need take a 3-day class instead of 1-day class, this way the class is of shorter duration each day instead of a marathon. I also know that I will need to prepare dinner for the 3 days in advance so that my son will have some food in case my shoulders, wrists & fingers are too swollen & sore to cook after I get home. I continue to plan & keep my eye on the prize.

    Reply
  • October 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm
    Permalink

    I’m new to this RA lifestyle that my body is forcing me to adapt to. I’ve always been one to tackle any project and complete it in record time. Now I’m learning to do things like have my husband open jars slightly for me on days that I know I will need relish, jam, etc…Today I convinced myself that the wadded, somewhat rolled clean sheets fit in the closet almost as well as last years neatly folded ones. Short spikey haircuts work well, those slide on Sketcher shoes aren’t that ugly. Those pots can stay on the stove, they are clean. If I can’t get the vaccuum out today, maybe tomorrow. I hate asking for help with the simplist tasks, I feel embarrassed, and so useless. Tell me it gets better. I seem to be stuck in this forever flare.

    Reply
  • March 14, 2013 at 9:10 am
    Permalink

    I have tried to do things this way for the last 17 years. I have actually taken 3 weeks to paint a small room! Sometimes I am a little impatient and I end up paying for it. A few weeks ago I wanted to wash the bedskirt. I thought I could just pull it little by little and lift the mattress with my knee. Unfortunately, I was wrong and I injured some lower back muscles. The pain was extreme! I am slowly recovering from that injury and I have decided I don’t need a bedskirt! I love reading all your posts. I wish you had been around when I was first diagnosed (I don’t know your age but I’m sure you are at least 20 years younger than me). 17 years ago I had to figure everything out for myself at the age of 36. I have experienced a lot of what you write about. It makes me smile to read your posts!

    Reply
  • January 8, 2016 at 2:40 pm
    Permalink

    I would like to wall paper my half bathroom. Before RA I could paint. Room clean the house & make a great dinner in the same day. Now I’m challenged to keep up with basic things.

    Reply
    • January 8, 2016 at 2:59 pm
      Permalink

      Me too Val. I have a hard time with any scrubbing especially – even dishes most days. Recently I repaired a toy for Roo and it was SO hard to do but it felt so good to do it.
      It’s so funny at first I thought you said wallpaper half my bathroom. LOL.

      Reply
  • January 8, 2016 at 4:16 pm
    Permalink

    What is so frustrating to me is not having the strength in my hands. Constantly dropping and breaking things. But, I will continue to try….will not give up. Sitting here taking a break taking down Christmas decorations on my day off.

    Reply
  • January 8, 2016 at 6:03 pm
    Permalink

    My way of dealing with this… Give up on the tasks that do not give you pleasure. I’ve hired a cleaning women, can only afford once a month. So I keep my bathroom clean, stay out of my husbands and ignore the dust. I still go to the gym, but now I swim. Afterwards I enjoy the hottub, sauna, and steam room. My daughter says, Are you trying to melt away the fat? That works. One of my most enjoyable hobbies has always been refurbishing furniture. Shrug, now I do the planning. Allow my husband the enjoyable task of sanding (Har har) and I do the finish work. I travel but I allow others to be THE driver, I get to ride shotgun! And when I’m too exhausted to do the dishes after I cook… we’ll it’s okay if somebody else would like to do that. (Paper plates anyone) It’s all about trade offs, and leading the life you have the best way you are able.

    Reply
  • January 8, 2016 at 6:05 pm
    Permalink

    By the way, when my thumbs don’t work I don’t sweat the typos!

    Reply
  • December 27, 2016 at 1:30 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you Kelly – this information is so encouraging to me. Everything takes me twice as long anymore. I love your strategies – it makes me feel understood to see that others understand the way that its impossible to do things the way you used too.

    Reply
  • December 27, 2016 at 11:00 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you for therther updated information

    Reply
  • April 24, 2017 at 6:08 am
    Permalink

    This is totaly how I’ve conducted my life for years now, even long before the diagnosis. I’ve got some pretty big jobs done this way, building chicken coops and enclosures, making fences, painting rooms. It does take longer .. The chicken coop could have been done in a weekend by a “normal” person, it took me months, but I did it, it’s it’s how I want too which is the crucial thing!
    I also have a list of smaller jobs (well, a notepad I carry with me all the time) it not only helps with remembering everything I’ve got to do and helps me plan ahead it makes me feel accomplished crossing those items off when done! I put everything on this list, including bathing and washing hair, because as we all know that takes our energy too

    Reply
“imaware™
    Advertisement
Would You Like Free Email Updates?
Stay in touch with RA Warrior.
We respect your privacy. Your email address will never be shared.