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Hey Women with Arthritis! What is the One Crucial Room in Your Home?

amy bartlam, photo credit

Do you know what’s really important to you? Do you know what things to value in your life above all others? Is it a happy family? A beautiful home? A healthy mind and body? I want to talk today about some ways to stay on top of the things in life that are super important to you such as self-care, your home’s functionality and appearance (yes appearance, it has a huge effect on your psyche!), and the importance of keeping agreements with yourself.

Living a life with arthritis is an incredible challenge. I know because I’ve been diagnosed with several forms of it myself. To avoid overwhelm and achieve balance it’s actually easier if we do the work and manage it earlier rather than later. Remember that famous Ben Franklin quote, “a stitch in time saves nine”? As a child I loved Franklin and this quote was one of my favorites. Well it truly applies to those of us with arthritis and other chronic pain. Managing your life, your symptoms, your eating plan (notice I didn’t say diet…if you ever hear me say the D-word please call me out!) your stress levels etc. are all imperative so that they don’t manage you.

Self-care really begins at home, right? And much of it happens in the morning, in your kitchen with that first cup of coffee or green tea. But how does your kitchen work in the morning? Does it support you and your special needs? Does it inspire you to begin your day in a healthy, proactive way? If it drains you as early in the day as breakfast, I can tell you exactly how you’ll feel by dinner: burned out! Maybe your dinner won’t be burnt but your psyche will be for sure!

Let’s tackle some of this tough stuff together.

Kitchen: The Hub of the Home

First of all, the kitchen. I get that not everyone wants to fully remodel their kitchen just because she’s been diagnosed with arthritis. Now if you’re building a home, yes it’s a great opportunity to design it right the first time and I have strategy sessions available for just that contingency. But for now, let’s look at things that can be done without a big, expensive set of blue prints.

I just painted the kitchen of my new home, upgraded all my door and drawer pulls and I’m in the process of purchasing a new gas stove and dishwasher. But do I want to gut it and start over? Absolutely not. This house is a downsizing home for me and I have no intention of sinking my funds on a remodel that the value of my home might not realize. But I love my new cabinet paint and pulls! The shiny, soft gray cabinets make me feel at ease and the drawer pulls are large, easy to grasp D-shaped pulls in a beautiful brushed nickel finish.

Ease of Access

All of my most often used tools are out on my baking center counter for easy access such as my VitaMix, KitchenAid mixer, Breville juicer and my proper new Dualit tea kettle! No more straining my wrist and hands to pull them out of hard to reach cabinets. Getting up in the morning, surrounded by the colors that nurture me and items I love inspires me to create a better morning for myself, which leads to me making better choices all day long and you can too.

New Beginnings 

How do you start your day? Is it with a cup of organic green tea with organic, raw unfiltered honey or hot water with a squeeze of lemon juice? Or is it artificially flavored coffees and a chemical laden bottled creamer? These are incredibly important choices you make each day when you have arthritis because arthritis requires a clean diet free from dairy, chemicals and sugar to live your best life daily. If you are not aware of this or if you don’t practice these things at least six out of seven days a week, managing your pain and subsequent joint degeneration will be an uphill struggle at best.

There are some fairly easy steps to take and upgrades to make to your home now to ease your everyday life. But we also want beauty in our home to feed our soul right? Fortunately for the most part, there is no need to sacrifice beauty for functionality. Why can’t we have both? Well…we can!

Function and Beauty Co-Exist

Round doorknobs, jars, potato chip bags, and those little honey packets you get with your green tea at Starbucks. These are the bane of my existence! If these are the worst things I have going on in my life I’ve got it made but not having functional, opposing thumbs is really upsetting when you’ve dropped and broken yet another cherished “keepsake”.

The truth is potato chip bags and honey packets are easily solved with a pair of scissors. And if you have round doorknobs in your home, lever style knobs are a great upgrade. There are plenty of attractive styles to choose from so you won’t have to sacrifice beauty for function. A less expensive option is adding rubberized “sleeves” to your round door knobs to aid traction. Little round cabinet knobs are the worst for arthritic hands. Opt for larger, D-shaped pulls instead. Again, there are plenty of great looking styles to choose from. I love my new modern looking 5 inch pulls!

I also love my single lever kitchen sink faucet. I can nudge it off and on with my elbow and it extends and retracts too.

Rocker style light switches are so much easier than traditional toggle light switches. These are standard in new homes. They often come outfitted with sliding dimmers, also easier than the old round style dimmers.

For the tech lover, smart refrigerators create grocery shopping lists, share calendars, inter family notes and photos, and even stream movies and music. The latest smart faucets measure the amount of water dispensed and even control the temperature.

If your counter space is limited, install an under the counter pull down or pop up shelves for your juicer, blender, etc. If your kitchen is equipped with shallow, full height pantry style cabinets the middle, arm height shelves are perfect for heavy pots and skillets. There are quite a few price options for DIY, custom and semi-custom projects.

If your kitchen is ready for a remodel, employ one of the most important and often overlooked tenants of kitchen design, the work triangle. Simply stated, the work triangle refers to the distance between the three main work stations: the stove, the sink and the refrigerator. It is ideally around 27 feet in diameter. Each leg of the triangle should consist of roughly 9 feet. That’s nine feet from the sink to the refrigerator, nine feet from the refrigerator to the stove, and nine feet from the stove back to the sink.

It’s in the Details

Little things can be such a joy can’t they? Before unpacking my kitchen, my helpers lined my cabinet and drawer shelves and installed bamboo divider trays in my drawers and every time I open them I feel special. It’s easy for me to keep things organized when my drawer and cabinet interiors look so pretty! I also love having fresh tea towels for drying hands, clean white flour sack towels for drying glasses and dishes (aren’t they the softest and most absorbent towel ever?) and cotton wash cloths for wiping the counter. The little tools you keep around your kitchen sink like special dish soaps and scrub brushes are not a big expense but add a little joy to your day. With arthritis, we must really limit our exposure to toxins so choose your cleaning products with care. Remember your skin absorbs everything… but more on that another time.

Self Care Priorities for Arthritis Management

The most important tasks that take place in my kitchen “hands down” are related to managing my arthritis and they are juicing and salad making. Fresh green juices and big raw salads are the optimal arthritis eating plan! I’m committed to making these two essentials happen each and every day. They help me live at a much higher quality level, give me endless energy, manage my inflammation, improve my mood, make my skin, hair and nails look their best and they slow down aging. I will repeatedly share with you the importance of adding daily juicing and raw foods to your arthritis eating plan.

Let your kitchen inspire you to make great choices every morning. Getting off to a good start in the morning will make it easier to keep that ball rolling all day. If you eat clean and exercise consistently five days in a row, reward yourself with a new set of tea towels!

If you suffer from arthritis like me, and found this lesson helpful but need that little extra push to get started with self-care and design, check out this free ebook chapter from my new book “Pain Free Decorating: Creating NurturingSpaces for Women with Arthritis”! It’s packed with great ideas to live better at home with arthritis!

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree’