Multitask: How to protect your body while you ‘tidy up’

  • Wednesday, February 13, 2019 10:31am
  • Life

Are you obsessed with Marie Kondo and the way she folds all of her clothes into tiny little packets? You may have already started searching for the items that “spark joy” while parting with the ones that don’t.

Have you found that your back or neck hurts after you finish working on a room? Who knew that it would be so difficult on your body to tidy up?

Don’t worry. You are not alone. Many people find themselves with pain for a day or two after a strenuous house project. Here are five tips to keep your body full of joy while you tidy up.

1) Use your arms. The goal is to bring each object to your stomach while you are carrying it. So, if those boxes on the top shelves of your closet need to come down, then bring them to your stomach as soon as possible. This helps to decrease tension in your neck and shoulders.

2) Use your legs. Put one knee on the ground for stability as you lift heavy objects. Using your arms, bring the item to your stomach. Then straighten your legs so you are standing. Avoid reaching forward and lifting heavy objects as this increases stress on the spine.

3) Keep items at waist level. Pile all your clothes on your bed instead of the floor before you sort them. This will keep you from having to bend forward for long periods of time while you are sorting and folding all those shirts, pants, and socks. While you are sorting through papers or books, place them on a kitchen counter or dining room table. Again, having items at a higher level helps to decrease the amount of bending through your spine.

4) Take a stretch break. Once you start cleaning it can be hard to stop. But, taking a stretch break will help to decrease tension throughout your body and give you a chance to get a drink of water – and perhaps a little perspective. Set a timer to take a five minute break every hour. Not only will your body feel better but you will be more productive too.

5) Breathe. We often hold our breath when we are focusing on a task or lifting heavy objects. But holding your breath can put increased stress on the spine. Take regular, deep, even breaths to improve your endurance and decrease tension while you tidy up.

A few simple tips can help to decrease your low back and neck pain after you are working around the house. Make sure to say “thank you” to your body for all it has done to help you “tidy up”.

Dr. Amy Konvalin, PhD, MSPT, is owner of Physical Therapy for EveryBODY in Maple Valley. She can be reached at

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Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in a neighborhood near you. You can read more of her writing on her website To see her columns come to life, follow her on Facebook at Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh.
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