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Autistic Lens

Cleaning tips for autistic adults

March 14th, 2024

Aly Laube

For Autistic Adults

Can you guess which daily living activity autistic adults in BC struggle with the most?  

If you guessed cleaning, you’re right! According to our recent survey, 74 per cent of participants find it challenging. 

Sensory overwhelm, burnout, co-occurring conditions, and more all contribute to why cleaning can be more difficult for autistic adults, especially anyone without access to adequate support. 

A person going through their recycling. (Shvets Production/Pexels)
A person going through their recycling. (Shvets Production/Pexels)

However, some strategies can make cleaning more accessible and more enjoyable. Try these techniques and tackle those tasks autistic-style. 

  1. Use sensory-friendly cleaning products: Experiment with different options to find cleaning products that don’t cause discomfort. Consider hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and natural alternatives.  
  2. Make supplies storage fun: Organize supplies in a way that’s visually appealing and accessible. If you have see-through containers to display your sensory-friendly products in, displaying them can be a pleasant visual reminder and incentivize you to clean. 
  3. Keep a visual cleaning schedule: Use visual schedules or checklists with images to represent each task, then check them off as you go. This can make it feel less overwhelming and help you track your progress. 
  4. Work with adaptive tools: Wearing gloves for washing dishes, noise-cancelling headphones for vacuuming, and super comfortable clothes are all examples of adaptive tools autistic people can use for cleaning. So are products with ergonomic and adjustable handles, multidirectional wheels for easy transportation, and other features that make them easier to use. 
  5. Try task breakdowns: Break down larger cleaning tasks into smaller steps and finish one at a time, or multitask if that feels more natural. This approach can help maintain focus and make cleaning feel more doable.  
  6. Involve special interests: Work your favourite activities into your cleaning routine. Engaging in what you enjoy simultaneously can be incredibly motivating — for example, listening to podcasts or audiobooks about your special interest while you do chores. 
  7. Set timers or alarms: Doing chores in smaller time blocks with scheduled breaks marked by visual timers or alarms can help prevent burnout. Set a timer for each cleaning task to help you stay on track and regularly recharge. 
  8. Practice patience and flexibility: Recognize that cleaning may take longer or be more challenging than you’d like at times. Praise yourself for any progress, no matter how gradual, and adapt your approach as needed. 
  9. Regulate while you work: Stimming is one way to self-regulate, but you could also do so by listening to music as you check off your to-do list. Body doubling is another option if you want to co-regulate instead; having someone in the room with you can make cleaning more fun and efficient!  
  10. Make more minor jobs part of your routine: Wiping out the sink after brushing your teeth, wiping the counters after making coffee, or cleaning the bathtub after using it are all examples of smaller jobs you can work into your day-to-day life.  
  11. Break the rules: Just because most people keep their hampers in their closets doesn’t mean yours has to be there. If you’re more likely to do laundry when it’s near the washing machine, keep it wherever it makes sense for you.  
  12. Reap the rewards: Treat yourself for completing cleaning tasks with whatever feels rewarding and is within your means. Whether it’s enjoying a tasty snack, watching an episode of a comforting show, or relaxing in a calming environment, rewarding yourself can help reinforce positive cleaning habits. 

Ask for help from friends, family, professionals, or other trusted community members if cleaning is too difficult to manage alone. If you can afford it, hiring professional cleaners on an ongoing basis could offer relief. It can be hard to ask for support if you’re not used to it, but it can also be worthwhile. 

What do you do to make cleaning more manageable as an autistic adult? Reach out using our Contact Us page. 

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