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60 thoughts on “Dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Housework

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  • May 4, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Oh Kelly,you hit the nail on the head.Once upon a time,you could literally eat off of any surface in my house.Then after my back injury that slowed down.And now I say I have a comfortably lived in house.You can walk in and yes,there will be clutter,perhaps there are a few things in the sink.I can’t think of the last time that I ironed or actually folded my clothes and put them away as soon as they came out of the dryer.
    I used to say that I would really love to have this or that as a gift but now my fondest wish?A cleaning service to come in and do a deep cleaning and someone to come in once a week after that.
    Oh,one more thing.Can they make pill bottles that aren’t so darn hard to open?

    • May 4, 2010 at 7:52 pm

      Cathy, I feel like all I can reply is “yes.” 😉

  • May 4, 2010 at 7:56 am

    You know, I am a slob, been one all my life, and I don’t think it makes it easier. Because now I just feel like, maybe if I had been better at housework then I’d be better able to keep up with it now. My RA isn’t as bad as yours, not at this point anyway, but it definitely affects what I do and how much. The good news is that my kids are starting to get old enough to help. 🙂

    • May 4, 2010 at 8:22 am

      This is me too, and even though I could barely keep up when there were two of us, now we have a toddler I feel like there’s no point trying. And, I have the cliche of husband/partner who doesn’t see the mess unless I ask him to, and then I feel like I’m nagging.

    • May 4, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      Yes, that is the funny part. I thought it would be easier now if I’d been a natural slob instead of an RA slob. 😉 Erin, I guess it’s hard for all of us. Even great organizational skills are useless when you can’t move. :razzmad:

  • May 4, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Is it too shameful to admit that I have a cleaner that comes every week? I can vacuum and wash dishes and even lift Le Crueset, but I tire very easily.

    My Other Half has also taken up the slack in the cleaning arena!

    • May 4, 2010 at 8:05 am

      Oh my gosh No! Not shameful; that’s what we should do! Haha – I was trying to decide whether that should be in the post since I have been trying for a while to convince one friend to do that.

      I will have to when my teenage daughter moves on. She carries a heavy load right now. It makes me feel awful, but I would rather the money help them w/ college… 😛

  • May 4, 2010 at 8:14 am

    I also have a cool laundry system involving my dryer. I have the dryer in the utility room with a washing line & hangers on it. I take everything out the dryer & either hang it right on the line (the kids & hubby then take it to the appropriate wardrobe), or I fold it all in the dining room and one of my sweeties takes the baskets up for me, I then put everything away. I also find my ‘able’ to do list is getting longer, mopping fires up my shoulders & elbows so hubby does that for me, or my son sometimes & paintwork is also very hard going on me. Every so often I pay the kids extra pocket money to go round and clean the paintwork. I’m still able to hoover most days,hubby usually beats me to it weekends though. And I have the big hoover downstairs and an electric lightweight carpet sweeper upstairs as I can’t carry the big one up and down. I can manage the dusting but have one of those fluffy on a handle things. Of course that only gets done when I actually have the energy to do it!!

    • May 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      Gilly, It sounds like you have a great hubby. O:-)

  • May 4, 2010 at 9:50 am

    A clean house is a vague memory right now. Laundry up to my ears, boxes to be unpacked from my Mom’s apt., May have used the last dish in the house, not sure if there’s clean pj’s anywhere.

    I thought I was so smart. Bought a vacuum that was self-propelled in both forward and reverse. Oops, turns out I can’t even get it out of the closet anymore. So much for my helpful idea. So if I vacuum it’s with the littlest, lightest vac I could find.

    I find my definition of cluttered vs. grungy is getting pretty elastic.

    • May 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      Nanc, you have such a way with words: “elastic.” :chic:

  • May 4, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Well, my house use to be very neat and clean….no more. When people come over I just warn them that the house is well lived in and I close the bedroom door. Doesn’t seem to bother them. They always end up meeting at my house to go out. Vacuuming has become a once a week, at most, chore and the downstairs is done one day. The upstairs another. I get the laundry done but never seem to get it out away.

  • May 4, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Things have gotten so bad for me lately that I have actually agreed for my mother-in-law to come and clean my house for me. This is the same woman who makes really insulting comments to people about what my house looks like – of course, she never tells them that I have RA. I can’t afford to hire in help so I have to just suck it up and push through the pain of hearing her tell me what a wonderful housekeeper she is and how if I just follow her instructions I’ll be able to have a beautiful and healthy home for her grandchildren! She acts as if I want to have a sink full of dirty dishes and laundry piled a mile high along with clutter gathering all over! I always imagined my home looking like something featured in Southern Living, not How Clean is Your House! It’s a very frustrating issue!

    • May 4, 2010 at 8:13 pm

      :hugright: Janel, I really feel for you with her. That sounds awful. I have folks in my life like that, too. How can they maintain such a high level of denial? It does hurt. At least you are getting the house cleaned. I wish I could come take you for coffee while the house was being cleaned so you wouldn’t have to hear the comments. Or at least you could schedule getting your hair done?

  • May 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Sadly, I’ve had to learn to be okay with mediocre. Before RA, if I knew someone was coming over, I would do a quick cleaning frenzy. Now if someone comes over they will see dishes in the sink, cluttered counters, and grimy glass coffee table. I just don’t have the energy or the strength to keep up with it. Also, I have troubles getting my three children to help me. I think I have finally gotten them to do one chore a day, so that’s at least an improvement. My dream would one day have a housekeeper, but that’s not likely to happen since I’m single and living on disability.


    • May 4, 2010 at 8:17 pm

      Aww, Mere – it’s not wrong to settle for “mediocre” in this. It is accepting reality & putting people first over things – even people like YOU. God values you for much more important things than your house. You are such a loving mom. You know that’s what the kids need more than anything else.

  • May 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    On a good day, I’m able to do most household chores, although vacuuming always kills and I really should not even try to carry laundry baskets. The frustration for me is the fatigue factor and how slowly/carefully I have to move. I have a large house with stairs (something I know may need to change), but I used to be able to clean it in about 6 hours. Now it takes me a whole day–with frequent rests–just to do the basics in HALF the downstairs. It has only been 6 months since my diagnosis (about 1 year since the clear onset although I had intermittent joint pain for years). So it seems like every day, I’m realizing one more way that this has changed my life. Right now, I’ve recruited my husband to help with a massive and ruthless decluttering so at least I don’t have to deal with too much stuff. But I also know that the declutter campaign is partly an attempt to feel in control–because this disease feels so uncontrollable.

    • May 4, 2010 at 8:19 pm

      Good luck w/ the campaign, Kris. Sounds like a good strategy for us to consider.

    • May 5, 2010 at 7:56 pm

      I have recently also felt the desire to declutter for the same reasons. I’ve done it a few times before. I’ve been diagnosed with AS since the age of 19 (7yrs now).

  • May 4, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I can sooo relate to this. I finally bit the bullet and rented out my three level townhome and my fiancee and I moved into a one level home in the country. I garden when I can, a little bit at a time, but cleaning and doing laundry, dishes, you name it, without three flights of stairs has made my life so much easier. It was hard to bite the bullet and realize that I really need one level living, but I am so glad I did. My fiancee is so helpful with things and never puts any pressure on me and my kids help out by doing some of the dishes, washing some floors, etc. Now it only takes me about 45 minutes to clean my home when it used to take me three hours. So, even when I have to take breaks, it does not take very long. I try and split things up and clean bathrooms one day, vacuum another, kitchen another, etc. If it does not get done… because I am not feeling well, or I just worked a 12 hour shift, it just gets pushed one day back. I don’t obsess anymore. I just do what I can.

    I too used to do so much that I cannot anymore. The disability of all of this is hard to take. I just am glad I am able to work at least for a little bit longer.

    • May 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Heather. Hopefully, “lifestyle” changes like moving or downsizing will help preserve strength for other things.

  • May 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Oh MY Gosh I just loved this article. I thought that I was the only one!!

  • May 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Before I sold my house, I got to the point where I had someone come in and clean it every 2 weeks. Especially since it was up for sale and had to be clean all the time. I found someone that was very, very reasonable in price. Now I live in a small condo, a lot easier to keep clean, but I still sometimes just don’t bother because I can’t. My hands hurt and swell up just cleaning the bathroom sink. I DO have one thing that helps me clean and I CAN NOT live without. A Roomba. I can’t vacuum, well I can but it is painful, because of the RA and also back issues as well. I love my Roomba. To me soooo worth the money. You can run it whenever and floors and carpets will be clean. I will once in a blue moon run the big vacuum, but not lately, as far as I’m concerned my little robot does a good enough job. Now if I could just get it to do my laundry and scrub the toilet I will be good. 🙂

    • May 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm

      Hi Taf! With the Roomba robot & the cleaning lady references, I kept seeing the Jetsons as I read your comment. :skywalker: hehe

      • May 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm

        Oh that cracked me up!! Rosie was the robot maid right!!

  • May 5, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Kelly I am SO impressed and a bit jealous you can do laundry! Bending to pick up the dirty laundry, bending to peek into the drier and get clothes out hurts SO bad. Usually one load and I am done for it for an entire day. Any suggestions? Do you have trouble bending? If so how do you manage getting things from the black hole of a drier? Any suggestions would be AMAZING!

    Reading this post reminds me of how much I want a super clean house. I had a friend over this morning and I was so embarrassed. My house used to be BEAUTIFUL, so clean and sparkling but not anymore.

    PS Kelly you are a SUPERHERO!

    • May 5, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      Okay so it’s confession time. First: my teenage sons bring me the baskets & collect up the towels & set it all up on the washer. 2nd: I throw down onto the floor into piles as I sort. 3rd: They put the piles into baskets & pick up the baskets for me. 4th: When the water & soap are ready, I tilt the basket down and pour things into the top loading washer. 5th: Pulling clothes out of the washer kills. I have talked about this a few times on the blog. Back issues yes and my fingers dislocate. Often, I have someone do this for me too. 6th: I get only 3-4 things out of the dryer at at time to smooth on the counter. If its towels, etc. then I just have one of them put it in a basket and bring it to the sofa. If it’s a good day for me, I fold it a little at a time. It makes my back scream. I’m seeing a back surgeon in a few days. If it’s a bad week, the baskets gather dust & people come poke thru them to find stuff. SO, that is how I do laundry – I guess I really don’t. But they let me take credit for it though. 😉

      • May 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm

        Kelly, you are brilliant. You have found a great way to do laundry!! Even though you have help, you still deserve credit! Good luck at the back dr, let me know how it goes. I’m praying for you!

        • May 5, 2010 at 9:20 pm

          Yes, after the several diagnoses there were sorted out, I was going to check with you to see what you think. Dreading new MRI’s – I know you know that one. :chic:

          • May 6, 2010 at 9:52 pm

            Kelly: I’m really hoping you’ll share as much as you are comfortable with us on your appt. I’ll be getting a steroid shot in my compression fracture this month. Have had so many joint injections over the years, but not one this close to the spine. He’ll be doing an x-ray guided one, so I probably shouldn’t be so worried. Also will have to go back to s/i trigger point steroid injections, which makes me sad, but can’t find any more coping skills for it. My s/i brace can only do so much, BioFreeze is helpful, but so temporary, same w/ heat and ice. But I have to find a way to cope with cleaning, I just can’t find an affordable housekeeper. Kinda makes me wish I could throw everything out and start over!

            The back pain, s/i pain and pain from the subluxed c/1-/c2 neck problems have turned me into such a wimp. For me they’re just so different than hot, red, swollen, tender, regular old RA pain and seem to need a pain scale of their very own.

            Much luck on your appt., and if this is a new doc, may you get the type of doc we all dream of.

          • May 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm

            Thanks for the info Nanc. I have not talked about my back issues here yet, but it sounds like we have some in common. Had to postpone back appt for UTI. 😛

          • May 10, 2010 at 3:18 am

            Nanc: I am thinking about asking my dr about cortisone injections. I have a compression fracture in my spine at L2 and the pain is horrible, I just want some relief. Do you find the injections helpful for your compression fracture?

            Thanks. Good luck!


  • May 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Love this post. I finally found myself a wonderful housecleaner after a year of not being able to clean. She is older than I am and has so much strength and energy that I marvel watching her but feel envious and guilty that I am no longer like that. She took two days and a team of 6 to deep clean and get the place up to speed the first visit! I cannot believe how much relief I felt after that first deep clean. I didn’t realize what a psychological weight it was on me to live in messy/dirty house until it was cleaned. She now comes every other week and will do anything to help, she drops off dry cleaning, takes loads to the GoodWill, etc. I am embarrassed to admit that I just took down my 2 Christmas trees two weeks ago! She wanted to do it but I was too embarrassed and kept saying I would get to it. I got the ornaments off but the artificial trees & ornaments are now stacked on the stairs waiting for an able body to lift them to the attic.
    I highly recommend to everyone who can afford it or maybe ask a friend or family member to get help with cleaning. It makes you feel so much better inside and then when you are laid up in bed you don’t have those “I should” thoughts nagging at you. Now I can save my energy to prepare meals and have more fun with my family.

  • May 9, 2010 at 12:26 am

    To Kelly (and all the other RA bloggers): Can you set up Comments feeds where one doesn’t have to go to each post every time to read the comments? I thought you used to have this feature, but I can’t find it if you do. Thsnkd!

  • May 10, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I used to clean my house, in one day. I did laundry on another day. When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 9 years ago, I learned it was okay to take ALL week to clean the house. So, I paced myself.

    This year, I was diagnosed with RA. I have learned to delegate chores. Men CAN do laundry. Sons CAN load dishwashers. I don’t have to do everything for it to get done. It can even be done well, without my hands touching it.

    Although I am still new to RA, I am learning to make the adjustments. Life isn’t less, but it requires taking a different approach. For example, my garden is growing perenials now instead of annuals. It will be less work for the future. Yet, it’s still a great garden.

    • May 11, 2010 at 9:28 pm

      Haha. “Men CAN do laundry.” I guess they could. My dad was a Marine & he could.
      :-)) And “Sons CAN load diswashers.” INDEED. My sons have learned this great life truth; I am not able to wash dishes.

  • May 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I was diagnosed with RA ten years ago and immediately began an editing process in my garden. I got rid of the Roses because they were too much work. I replaced them with a row of daylilies which require almost nothing for care, yet are still beautiful.
    I have used the same philosophy for other things in my life. I have gradually decluttered, organized and delegated over the years. The trick is to do a little at a time. Once I accepted that like it or not there was a new me I made the changes. Life goes on.

  • May 16, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Cleaning for me is something of a sore spot, literally & figuretively. I think that for me it is the worst part of my RA because I tend to isolate myself from the embarrassment of having a cluttered home. I am mortified at the thought that one of my friends will “just be in the area” and decide to drop in for a visit. I would give my eyeteeth to have those bursts of energy I used to, just to get it done. But that won’t happen. I don’t have a significant other or kids to help so it really is all me, good bad or otherwise. Maybe one of these years I’ll get lucky enough to find that burst?? 🙂

    • May 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

      Haha. I am the same way. I do have some teenagers who do some of it, but it is not the same and they are sometimes too busy. It is too painful to do most things, and it is not worth the consequences. If I sometimes can do anything that requires more moving, it ought to be playing catch with my Roo or walking with my kids on the beach. :-))

  • July 20, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Cathy, I always loved a wry description I read describing a mother with small children:

    “She gave new meaning to ‘you could eat off her floors.'”

  • July 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I totally like and appreciated the article on housework and RA.. My husband and mother just do not understand why my house is usually a mess.. ah.. when ya hurt and tired all the time.. who in the world has energy to clean… my mother is a fanatic of clean houses..hers is spotless and i was brought up clean freak.. but since DX RA i have left things go.. plus having kids messing up after u clean up doesnt help.. I get so angry at my hubby and mother.. they just do not understand.. im not saying i live in total disgust,… i do what i can when i can. I have found cleaning the shower while im showering is good cause the hot water beating on my back while im bent over feels great.. i do laundry when i need to. I do not do a lot of cooking, just standing to cook is very tiring and straining. I have a dishwasher and my 14 yr old so keeps it emptied for me and i fill it. My hubby is a truck driver and isnt home much so everything is on my shoulders and it is very tough!!! People just do not get it!!!

    • July 27, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      Tracey, I like your shower cleaning method. 🙂 It would help if people had a good idea of how RA feels, wouldn’t it?

  • November 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    This is a HUGE issue. But I have learned work-arounds in my 35 years of having RA (I just turned 56 last month). I do not buy any clothes that need ironing, and often, I buy larger sizes for myself than I really need, so I can just pull things on over my head. I wear only flat shoes, sometimes with shearling, so I don’t have to put on socks.

    In the kitchen, I use light-weight pans. Most often, I cook dinners in crock pots. The kids had to help a lot, when they still lived at home. I gave away my heavy dishes and bought Correlle. When I was married (ie, had more money) I used my SSDisability payments to hire Merry Maids for every two weeks. I have practically given up on dusting.

    Thanks for starting this topic …..

    • November 23, 2010 at 8:22 am

      Thanks, Nina. It has sure been a life altering one for me.

  • December 2, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    I ran into the same problem; I couldn’t hold the plates to wash them so I went to paper plates and the wicker holders to resolve that problem. I can always use the sturdier type when needed but, for the most part, I get by with the standard type. Both the paper plates and the wicker holder are microwavable, so heating up a plate of food is a piece of cake and, when I’m done eating, into the trash goes the plate and the wicker holder goes back into the cupboard.

    Also, I try to cook things that will last many meals so that I don’t have to cook often, because the cleanup is so rough when it comes to the pots and pans.

    One helpful household hint I found out about recently that I would like to share. Because so many of the medications I take are constipating (I know that I am not alone in this) and I don’t have the strength to plunge the toilet, I found out that pouring about a tablespoon of Dawn dish detergent into the toilet and letting it sit for an hour or so will allow everything to go down without plunging. I realize this isn’t a pleasant topic, but the Dawn does work and I haven’t had to plunge a toilet ever since.

  • December 6, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    I can relate to this issue about keeping the house clean. I was a “Felix” (really OCD) before RA claimed my fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders & neck. It pains me to see the condition my house is now in, often times dusty, carpet needing vaccuming, stove needing a thorough cleaning. I could go on & on, but I won’t; you get the picture.
    When I move I have to have a dishwasher, the washer & dryer have to be on the same floor (not in the basement), & wood floors & most importantly.
    I will also have to break down & pay someone to come in at least twice & month do a professional cleaning. I love my RA 🙁

  • December 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I think the most important room that should be in tip top shape is the master bed/bath. Sure some guests never make it that far, but I do!! Some days it’s so hard to even think about doing housework. My insignificant other has no clue what it takes to maintain a household. He doesn’t change the bulbs, fix the dryer, paint, fix toilets, change door knobs, hang shelves, clean anything, ever. Just goes to work and comes home and talks about work. We’re broke. Can’t hire a cleaning service…and I used to run my own! LOL ! Most important room should be YOUR room. If you have to question my clutter, you shouldn’t be in my house. If you’d like to help clean my clutter, WELCOME !
    What a great Christmas gift that would be !!!!
    Give the gift of “ahhhh smells nice in here…LOOK !!!! Vaccuum cleaner lines!!!! DON”T WALK ON IT !!!
    … I’m going to my room.

    • December 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

      what a neat post – haha – I mean what a nice thought. Being the one who does everything is difficult when you get RA and there is not someone who picks up the slack. Appears to be the catch22 to having been “superwoman,” doesn’t it?

      Actually, I *have* asked for that gift for Christmas – that my kids would get this place really clean. It can’t be in perfect condition as once was kept with flower beds neat and trim paint always fresh but it can be “Ahhhhh smells nice” anyway. 😀
      PS: for anyone reading, those kids are 13 to 21 – not the little one 😉

  • December 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Reading this today has made me tear up…as in, my eyes are filling with tears. I used to have a clean house, and rolls of homemade cookie dough that I could pull out of the freezer, slice, and bake to serve to unexpected guests. Now, I rarely get guests. My house is a mess. And I have had cookie dough (ie, creamed butter and sugar) underway in the mixer for at least 3 weeks. I am too tired, and in too much pain, to want to force myself to do anything.
    I am on meds for depression, even just got the dose bumped up. but still…..

    Glad I am not the only one.
    Sorry to be such a downer today.

    • December 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      Nina, you are not a downer. It helps others to know we aren’t the only one either, so thanks for sharing.
      I used to do that with cookies too. No guests or parties now.
      I wish I knew what could make it better for you. For me, I just keep accepting what happens, like waves on the sea that we can’t change. And looking each day for what God does have for me to do. There are still valuable things you can do if you don’t regain those abilities. And some people do regain them when they find the right treatment. Good luck to you.

  • April 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I think that my laundry baskets filled with clean clothes that I cannot fold, are what makes me feel the worst about myself…. Maybe I can be a little less hard on myself, seeing that you have them too!

  • January 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Boy, hit the nail on the head with this one. I used to be able to clean the whole house, fix dinner, and do laundry in a day. Yea, that was the me before RA. I can’t even cook dinner now without taking almost most of the afternoon because I do it in sections. Thanks.

    • January 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      I don’t know about you Julie but that has been an irritating blow to my ego. I think I’m adjusted to it and then I realize others assume I still do those things and I feel guilty & useless. It helps me to know it’s not just me. I hate that helpless feeling when I realize that I’m home alone with Roo and it’s already dinner time.
      Fighting for every little bit of life we can get is a hard way to live but we certainly are forced to focus on things that are important. I sat there last night talking about this with Mary Khris – it was a hard way to learn that God will take care of me & my kids somehow, no matter what I can or can’t do.

  • November 8, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Hi kelly and all fellow recovering homemakers,

    I read the articles on kitchen organization and housework just now to see if i could find a tip or two.
    I miss that sense of accomplishment when the house looks good, smells good. feels good and I did it.
    My tongue Hurts after one of my semi adult children cleans the bathroom and i see the nooks and crannies were ignored again. etc…
    i was stunned when i tried a cleaning service and they did not move the chairs and end tables while vacumming and mopping
    After reading the posts going back several years i have two suggestions that i stumbled on.

    1. i keep my radio, mixer, coffee maker and when in use the crockpot on towel on my counter. Sliding them around is so much easier then lifting.

    Before this jolly health condition and the divorce i discovered these new washer/dryer combos at my in-laws. they are set on a base which lifts them a good twelve inches higher from the floor reducing the amount of bending and stooping. I’m not a fan of the front load washer but if i was short armed right now a top loader would be difficult
    in the apartment i moved to after the the divorce i learned the pluses of a stack unit.
    the washer is top load but because it is smaller than a normal washer you don’t have much bending for the unloading. the dryer is front load.
    these machines do not hold ful loads. that is fine . the family is grown and my wrists do not allow lifting a heavy baskets.

    i just bought the apartment i was renting. not sure if it is the mid 50’s or the RD but the enrgy to pack , move and unpack just about crushed me. as i turn this place int a more nested home i plan and putting heavy furniture on wheels or glideres


  • April 8, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Thankyou Kelly for this article.
    I feel so much better after reading other peoples responses. Now I don’t feel so alone.
    I used to be an avid cleaner and now with the RA every simple task plays it’s toll. Learning to let things go is one of the hardest things.
    Gentle Hugs to fellow RA sufferers!

    • April 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      you’re welcome. I feel the same way when I read them Sheila.

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