Making Life Easier

RA can make it challenging to accomplish tasks that we once considered easy.  Rather than struggle and be frustrated, or give up activities we enjoy, it makes sense to adapt.

Opening Doors – Just say no to doorknobs.  Save your pennies, then swap out those pesky knobs for levers that work even when your hands don’t.


If you have significant issues with doorknobs and can’t afford levers, get creative. Occasionally a business will change out all the locks in their building – and will change all the levers, even those that don’t lock, so that everything matches.  They work perfectly well, but there isn’t much market for used commercial door hardware. If approached right, some locksmiths might give you a bargain (as long as you realize that it’s clunky, commercial hardware and not the lightweight stuff you normally find in houses).

Laundry – First, get a good sorter and train everyone in the house in its use.  I keep my three-bin sorter in my laundry room and taught the kids how to separate their clothes into whites/mediums/darks as soon as they were able to dress and undress themselves.  If I could do it over again, I’d get a fourth bin for denim. We do have a separate bin for clothes that require cold/delicate handling. This method makes things much easier because I don’t have to bend and reach and go through various contortions to retrieve everyone’s dirty clothes and sort them into their respective loads.  When a bin is full, I dump things into the washer. It’s that easy.

That said, there are different styles of sorters.  I highly recommend finding one that has separate bags that lift off the frame, not a single bag with multiple compartments. This will allow you to pick up the bag and empty it into the washer, rather than having to bend over multiple times to dig every last sock out of the bottom of the bag!

In an ideal world, only dry items would go into the sorter, but in the real world, children toss wet socks and washcloths into the sorter and eventually the bag mildews.  Therefore, I highly recommend getting the style that has bags which easily slide off their hangers.  This means that the bag can be tossed into the washing machine and dryer along with the clothes.


My other laundry tip has to do with detergent.  If your hands or shoulders get to the point that pouring detergent into the washer is difficult/painful, spend the extra money for individual pods.  I’m pretty frugal (I have five children, so can’t afford to throw away money), but have decided that these convenience packs are worth every penny.  It works out to 15 cents per pod; I use one in most loads, but two on socks and dirty jeans.  There is a similar option for dishwasher detergent.


Hanging Rods – Closets with rods that hang at (or above) eye level are poorly designed, in my opinion, and not a friend of anyone with shoulder issues. If you have trouble reaching up to hang your clothes, consider modifying things so that you can hang your clothes at waist height.  Fortunately, my closet has rods at two heights; when my shoulders started causing problems we swapped things around so that my husband had all the top rods, and I got all the lower ones that I could reach easily.


Berry Picking – There’s nothing like trekking up into the mountains to get huckleberries.  The peace and quiet, back-to-nature, time with the family… it’s heavenly. Months later you get to re-live the pleasant memories while enjoying the berries you’ve preserved. Unfortunately, huckleberries are tiny little things (half-the size of a blueberry), and not always easy to grasp.  This year I discovered two tools that I love.  While I used them for huckleberries, they’d also work on blueberries, gooseberries, and various other berries (not so great on wild blackberries, imo, but cultivated ones might be okay).  Do these tools work?  I have five gallons of huckleberries in my freezer for us to enjoy all year long. 🙂

The first tool I found is oh-so-imaginatively called a berry picker.  You just stick it under the branch, then gently comb along the branch from the center of the bush out. The berries fall into the picker, while the leaves (mostly) stay on the bush.  A little debris gets mixed in with the berries, but it’s quite easy to shake the container gently and get the leaves to fall out.


The second tool is made by the same company, and just as creatively named:  berry cleanup tray.  This was not something I planned to purchase, but it was suggested when I ordered my berry picker.  I don’t usually fall for those gimmicks designed to part you with your money, but this had very good reviews and my Raynauds-afflicted hands do not appreciate being immersed in cold water.  After some experimentation, I discovered that the most efficient method is to pour the dry berries into this tray and shake it gently.  Most of the debris will fall out of the tray (exactly as designed).  I then grab my blow-dryer and turn it on the low/cool setting; this blows the remaining debris off of the huckleberries. Note that this method is best used on dry berries.  Wet leaves stick to huckleberries and the tray.  It’s a pain.  First get rid of the debris, then rinse the berries after all the leaves and twigs have been removed.


Don’t struggle, making tasks harder than they need to be, and don’t give up things you enjoy.  Invest in tools that will allow you to do the things that you both need and want to do.  What are some gadgets you’ve discovered that make life easier?


Having joints that don’t always work as designed can present challenges to daily living.  Fortunately, there are a few gadgets that can make life a little easier.  Here are some of my favorites.

Levers, not knobs – The doors in my house, with very few exceptions, open with levers.  The water faucets are the same way.  This is a great design.  Every time I see my rheumatologist, she asks if I have difficulty turning door knobs, and I always say, “I don’t have door knobs.”  If your home has the traditional knobs and they can’t be replaced with levers, Great Grips are good, too.

Garage door opener – There are days that my shoulders won’t tolerate reaching overhead.  That makes it extremely difficult to reach up to grab the rope which is used to pull the door closed.  Even when I can reach up, grasping the rope with stiff hands can be a challenge.  Pressing a button to let a machine take care of the door eliminates painful reaching and grasping.  My side of the garage has an automatic door opener; my husband’s side of the garage opens manually.  I have ample opportunity to reinforce how helpful it is to have this great tool!

Stand mixer – It’s really nice to put ingredients in a bowl and throw the switch, no holding, juggling, lifting, or reaching required.  I particularly like the dough hook because I never knew until RA how much wrist/elbow/shoulder action is needed to knead bread dough.  I can mix two loaves at a time with the dough hook, no hand-kneading required.  It’s great for mixing noodle dough, too.

Long-handled shoe horn – Since I put my shoes on as soon as I get out of bed every day, I’m at my stiffest when I need to bend over and shove feet into shoes.  The long handle is especially nice; this handy tool makes it much easier to get my shoes on in the mornings.

Pill sorter – It can be hard to get into the habit of taking medicine every day.  A pill box helps.  First, because I don’t have to get the lid off of all those medicine bottles.  Second, because it’s very easy to see whether or not I’ve remembered to take my dose.  For a while, I forgot to take my pills every Monday at noon.  The pill boxes made it easy to identify the pattern, and I realized I needed to figure out what was going on that day to screw up my routine – which helped me solve the problem.  Every couple months I bought an extra box, and now I have four.  When I get home from the pharmacy, I transfer my pills for the month into the little pill sorter boxes.  There’s no need to deal with the bottles again until my next trip to the pharmacy.

Dough thrower – Just for fun, because I like to bake bread (and my family likes to eat fresh-baked bread), but it’s become pretty hard to do sometimes, I thought I’d mention my dough thrower.  This is a large dough hook which attaches to a pail, and has a easy-grasp handle atop for turning the dough hook.  The pail is big enough to hold dough for four loaves of bread (or four dozen dinner rolls).  Some days I can’t manage the handle very long, but when there are enough people around that I need to bake four loaves, there are enough people around that I can recruit someone else to turn the handle.

Do you have special tools that make things easier for you?

Opening Doors

Grasping door knobs requires the ability to close one’s hand.  Sometimes that’s easier said than done.  Fortunately, my house doesn’t have knobs.  We have those wonderful levers that make it easy to open the doors.  Wonderful for adults, anyhow; not so terrific if you have toddlers!

After two years of telling my doctor that I don’t have any doorknobs, one day I realized that my house does have knobs – just a couple – but I don’t usually use those doors.  They’re difficult to open, and sometimes it’s easier to just use a different entrance (or pound until someone hears me and opens the door).  Last Christmas an organization to which we made a donation sent out “thank you” gifts, and ours was a two-pack of door openers:

In the picture you can see that there’s a cut-out to allow insertion of a key into the keyhole.   I expected them to be a gimmicky thing, but they aren’t.  They work great, and after nearly a year they’re still soft (but not as clean as they were in the beginning).  It’s really nice to be able to open those two doors that I rarely used before!

If you’re independently wealthy and can afford to replace all the door knobs in your house with levers, that’s definitely the way to go.  However, for the price to install levers on three doors, you can get a bin of twenty Great Grips adapters (enough for ten doors).  For those whose houses don’t have quite that many doors, the knob covers are also available in packs of two.

The same company also make faucet grips, and I’d definitely try them if all my water faucets didn’t also have levers.

Disclosure:  I received two Great Grips door knob adapters free, and have received no compensation for stating my opinion.