Hacks for Household Chores

Life After 50

Are your everyday household chores literally a pain in the back or neck? Maybe you just need to learn to work smarter, not harder. Here are my 5 top tips for doing just that:

1) Ask for less, not more

When you’re working ask yourself, “Can I do this job, but do it with a little less effort and still get it done?” Just asking the question can do you wonders. You often don’t even know you’re using unnecessary tension to get a job done until you question it.

This past winter we had more wet heavy snows than usual. I would ask myself this question as I worked on our front walk. Inevitably I didn’t need to hold onto that shovel with an iron grip.

2) There’s always more than one way

My mom’s best piece of advice—that I’ve actually listened to—is that there is always another way. This applies in lots of situations. You and I are creatures of habit. Everyday things, you do a certain way, over and over again. You forget you can always stop to consider that maybe—just maybe—there is an easier way.

My husband and I spent 17 years shoveling before we got the idea to use our battery-powered leafblower when the snow was light and fluffy. Who knew you could use a leafblower on snow? What can I say? We’re slow learners.

3) Use the right tool for the job

There’s a reason you use a paint can opener to open a paint can and not a screwdriver. Need I say more? The right tool makes life so much easier.

4) Tune things up

Keep your tools in good shape. Sharpen your knives, oil the wheels on your wheelbarrow, and get your vacuum serviced. Having the right tool for the job makes things easier. But having the right tool for the job, that’s in tip-top shape, makes it easier still.

Ever try to cut something with a dull knife? Besides being dangerous you have to work that much harder. If it’s sharp all you need to do is glide it back and forth and the knife will do the work of cutting.

Ever go to Target and grab the last grocery cart—the one everyone else has rejected—only to quickly discover why? It’s the one with the funky wheels that keep sticking. You have to physically work harder to push the cart where you want to go than if it was in proper working order. And all the time you are silently swearing under your breath.

5) Stand up for yourself

A lot of our mundane physical chores involve bending over. So it’s worth your while to learn how to bend in a way that respects your back. But sometimes you’re bending over and you don’t need to. Look for ways you can bring things up higher if that’s more comfortable. I often pull a heavy pot that needs scrubbing out of the deep kitchen sink and put it on the counter where it’s more comfortable for me to work on.

If you’re bending over my best piece of advice is to stand up, completely, and often. If you’re bent over vacuuming that pet hair off your couch, do half of the couch, stand up completely, then do the other half. Check yourself. Often I find I’m coming up out of that bent-over position, but not quite completely. Going that extra inch or so to stand up completely does my body a world of good.

So, find the right tool for the job, and make sure it’s sharpened, oiled, and serviced. Do less and let the tool do more. If you’re still struggling, take a moment to see if there’s another way to get the job done. And most importantly, stand up completely and often.

Your body will thank you for it.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

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  • Dan May 3, 2023, 5:43 pm

    You commented on bending over in this post. Even though old, late seventies, I tend to squat to pick things up. I’ve been deliberately doing that even more lately. If something drops or is laying on the floor I squat, flat footed. It’s important to keep the heels on the floor to pick it up. I squat to look at the bottom shelf of a bookcase, to look in a lower cupboard or for any reason I have to get anything low. There are still cultures around the world where throughout their lives to old age people squat. I’m not so flexible because of growing up in our culture so that I can sit comfortably in that posture for long but I’m working on it. I would appreciate your opinion on this. Thank you

    • Lauren May 3, 2023, 7:32 pm

      Thanks for your comment and question. Squatting is great because it’s a way of lowering yourself using your hip joints. Not everyone is flexible enough through the ankles to squat all the way down with heels on the ground so if you can, keep doing it as long as you can. I personally find when I squat down for a few minutes it really feels good on my lower back. And it sounds like you are using squats throughout your day during everyday activities, which is great. So many times we think we have to work on things–like squatting–during prescribed times for exercise–but if you can just work them into everyday life it’s much more beneficial.


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