Gardening Cleaning DIY

Gardening, cleaning & DIY

Stay-independent > Gardening, cleaning & DIY

On this page we look at how to make gardening, cleaning and DIY easier, with tips and suggestions of what equipment could help you with those jobs around the house and garden. If you decide to engage someone to do work for you, we also look at how to find a trusted tradesperson.

Tips on making gardening easier

Gardening can be an enjoyable way to spend time, and a great way to get fresh air and some exercise. However, if you have mobility issues you may not feel it is as easy to do. Here we suggest some ways to make gardening easier and how to take care so you can enjoy the many benefits.  

Preparing to garden  

  • Think about what you will be doing so you can help yourself in the tasks. Do you need a stool to sit on and take rests, a kneeler to protect your knees, a handrail to take rests at?  
  • Use lightweight tools with longer handles to avoid hurting yourself or straining to reach something.   
  • Take time to warm up by doing some simple stretches to loosen muscles and reduce the risk of straining yourself. Be extra careful if it is very cold outside and wear several layers. Consider whether it will be better to wait until the weather warms up. 
  • Ensure you have seating positioned around the garden so that you can sit and take regular rests. 
  • Ensure that you have good external lighting if you are out and about after dusk. Buying automatic lighting will ensure that you do not have to remember to activate it. 

Moving things in the garden  

  • Get all the tools together so you don’t have to go back and forth and use more energy than you need. Will you need a spade, a trowel, and secateurs?  
  • Have a range of carrying options that are easy for you to use e.g. a lightweight bucket, apron to carry light tools, trolleys for moving heavier items. 
  • Ask someone to help you with heavy items, such as pushing a wheelbarrow or carrying a full watering can. An extendable hoist pipe is easier for watering the borders and will avoid numerous trips to fill up a watering can, meaning you can conserve your energy for other tasks.  
  • If you are carrying some things, make sure you keep your back straight and bend your knees when lifting to stop yourself straining or aching. 
  • A plastic sheet can be used to carry trimmings and cuttings and this can be easily dragged to the compost bin. 

Planting and Weeding 

  • If you kneel down for planting and digging, use a kneeler or knee pads to avoid damage and pain to your knees. 
  • Take regular breaks from bending and lifting when planting.  
  • Make changes to your garden to reduce the amount of weeding you need to do, e.g. lay down a weed supressing membrane, use raised beds or plant pots or plant ground cover plants. 
  • Choose plants that are not high maintenance for pruning or growth. Plant experts at your local garden centre will be able to offer advice and planting schemes for you to consider. 

Mowing the lawn 

  • Try mowing a short stretch at a time and then take a break – this is the best way to avoid any strain on your back, legs and arms. 
  • Use a petrol mower that is self-propelling. This means that you don’t have to push it so makes mowing easier. Alternatively, use a light weight electric hover mower. The most expensive option is a robot lawn mower – once the timer is set, the sensor will check whether it is raining, and if not, it will automatically cut your grass before parking itself ready for the next cut. 
  • When cutting the edges of your lawn, use a comfortable kneeler or seat and always keep your back straight and avoid stretching too far. 
  • For longer term plans to make the lawn more manageable you could consider planting a clover lawn or wild flower meadow that requires less maintenance; or removing the grass all together and replacing with gravel, a paved area, wooden decking or even artificial grass: a practical solution for replacing a small lawn that looks good all year around. This will need less attention and make maintaining your garden easier.   
Adapted equipment for gardening

If you experience a health or medical condition there maybe tasks that you want to work on in the garden that may be more challenging, so here are 13 of the top pieces of adapted equipment that will  help take the strain out of the hard work. 

  1. Long and lightweight hand tools – Forks or trowels with long handles can improve your reach or reduce the need to bend thus taking strain off your back. Some of the long handled tools have adjustable length handles allowing for close work or for working at the back of the bed. Look out for tools made from lightweight materials to make things easier. 
  1. Gripping aids – These special designed garden hand tools are designed with a right angled handle that positions the wrist in a neutral position, reducing strain on the joints and any subsequent pain. The large handles also allow you to grip and hold the tool more firmly.  

If you find that any leverage when working puts too much strain on your joints then a forearm support in addition will help take some of the strain.   

  1. Kneeler stools – If you have low flower beds it is likely that you will need to kneel in the garden to weed or plant. If you can kneel down, use a kneeler pad or knee pads to help reduce pain or damage to the knees.  If getting up and down to kneel is difficult for you, consider a garden kneeler with handles that you can hold on to for support when going down and standing back up. Often they can be turned over and used as a stool to sit on; others are height adjustable. If you have good paths or paving there is a garden stool on wheels that you can sit on to scoot around as you tend your borders! 
  1. Lightweight hover mowers – These are the lightest mowers available and will make mowing easier. There is no grass box which makes it lighter and there will be less bending and lifting to empty it.  
  1. Grab and lift rakes  These tools are like a conventional rake and have two large scoops that close together to lift leaves and debris. They are very lightweight, strong and versatile and are efficient at raking leaves. By using one you can avoid the pulling and straining that can happen with a traditional wire rake. 
  1. Lightweight watering can with control valve – A lightweight watering can with flat sides will be easier to carry than a round can. A can with valve control releases water on demand which means that you don’t need to tip it as much so there will be less strain on your joints and at the same time it will prevent you from over-watering. Plastic watering cans are generally lighter that metal. 
  1. Extendable watering lance – This watering lance only needs one hand to operate and is lightweight so ideal for someone who has a weak grip. The extended arm allows you to reach to the back of the bed or into hanging baskets. It can also be used when sitting down as the head can be adjusted to different heights and angles.  
  1. Gripping weed puller  This tool is ideal for if you have difficulty bending as you can use it when sitting down. You will need two hands to grab onto the handle and this will control the grabbing mechanism at the end to dig into the soil and claw the weeds out. It will work best on soft, dry soil, but can be used on sticky soil as long as the blade is cleared regularly. 
  1. Longhandled weeder – this is more useful for someone with the use of one hand. Again it has claws that grab the weed and an extended arm that allows you to lever against the ground, thus pulling out the weed. 
  1. Garden Tiller  this long-handled tiller allows you to turn the soil over without having to lift soil on a heavier spade. An excellent tool for reducing back strain or if your muscle strength is compromised. 
  1. Power lever and geared secateurs  These feature a mechanical action that makes cutting stems easier. They are easier to use as you don’t require as much grip or power in the hands to make the movement. The gear secateurs allow you to cut into the branch, release the pressure and then cut further in. They significantly reduce the strain placed on the wrist and hand joints when pruning. 
  1. Trolleys and grippers  If you have trouble lifting and moving pots, garden grippers can be of great use. They have wide jaws so they can lift small plant pots or pick up debris from the ground. For moving larger pots or buckets, you can use a two wheeled trolley that can take the weight of the pot whilst you steer it to the right place.   
  1. Raised free standing beds  a range of freestanding containers normally made from wood or recycled plastic that can be filled with soil and used to grow flowers or vegetables. They allow you to work from a sitting or standing position. These are a good alternative if you find you are unable to access the garden and are a relative inexpensive solution compared to redesigning your flower and vegetable borders. 

How can I get adapted equipment?  

Large garden centres will provide a range of different equipment and can offer advice on what will suit your needs. It is a good idea to try before you buy to get a feel for the equipment and if it works for you.  

Alternatively, if you are looking for more specialist adapted equipment, you may want to look online. If you search ‘adapted equipment for gardening’ you should be able to find the right equipment for your needs. 

Tips on finding a trusted trader

We all know someone who has a horror story of when a construction job has gone wrong. When adapting or having work done in your home, it’s important that the work is done to a high standard so you can be confident of the new work making your life easier and safer. This guide has some tips on finding a trader you can trust. 

Where to get recommendations 

  • Good quality traders you have used before – even if it’s not the same kind of job, the person you used last time may work closely with someone with the relevant experience. 
  • Family and friends – especially if they have commissioned similar work. 
  • TrustMark – a scheme that accredits companies after thorough vetting and is endorsed by the Government. Use their online search tool to find good quality companies in your local area: https://www.trustmark.org.uk/ 
  • Buy With Confidence – a Government website which displays organisations that have been vetted and approved by Trading Standards to ensure that they operate in a legal, honest and fair way. Use their online search tool here: https://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/ 
  • Trading Standards Institute (TSI) Consumer Codes Approval Scheme – another scheme that vets companies and allows them to display TSI Approved Code logo in their communications and marketing if they agree to adhere to the code. The code looks like this: 
  • If  it is a smaller job many local councils run a “Handy Person’s Scheme” and have trusted people who can undertake smaller jobs, for example low level  property maintenance or installation of grab rails.  
  • Age UK and other local charities frequently hold a list of Trusted Contractors. 

Recommendation-based directories 

There are a number of online directories where traders are rated by other past customers so you can see who has done a good job and who hasn’t: 

  • Trust a trader (https://www.trustatrader.com/how-it-works/) lets you search by the type of trade and location, view the profiles of relevant organisations, and see how other customers rated them. 
  • Rated People (https://www.ratedpeople.com/) allows you to post your own job to the site and explain what kind of work you want to be done. Tradespeople will then get in touch to provide a quote so you can get several quotes without a huge amount of effort.  

When you’ve found a trader 

  • It’s hard to determine whether the trader you’ve found is licensed because each trade has a different set of regulations, and some don’t have to abide by a single set of standards. Using one of the quality mark schemes above is your best bet because everyone in that scheme has to abide by the same code of practice. 
  • Ask how long they have been in business for. 
  • Have a chat about whether they have done similar work before. For example if you are altering the bathroom and installing a level access shower, it is important that the contractor  can demonstrate that they understand the complexity of the work, and the best indicator for this is that they have experience of similar work. 
  • Ask for a reference from other customers who have had similar work done and follow it up with a telephone call. A quick chat about the other person’s experience of the contractor can be very reassuring.
  • If the contractor is indicating he cannot do the modification as you would like, do not take their word for it. Be sure to approach other contractors, ask for similar quotes and ensure that they explain the work to you. 
  • Ask if they offer a money back guarantee. 
  • Make sure the quote includes when the work will start and finish, the terms of payment, and a penalty clause if the work overruns. 
  • If the contractor asks for the full amount upfront be very wary, most honest contractors would not ask for your money until the work is completed and you have the chance to confirm that you are happy with the job. 
Tips on making cleaning easier

Cleaning is an essential household task that you can have extra challenges with if you have mobility or joint pain issues. This page looks at top tips on making cleaning easier so you can enjoy being at home and living in comfort. 

  1. Pace yourself – Rather than have a dedicated day for cleaning, spread the cleaning throughout the week so you don’t tire yourself out. Washing clothes is better achieved in small amounts and pace yourself with the ironing too. In addition, develop the habit of cleaning as you go. For example, wipe up spills as they happen – it will be quicker and easier before they have dried. If using a shower, clean it with a long handle mop or blade before you leave the bathroom. 
  1. Find the best time to clean – Work out what time of the day is best to do your cleaning. This is a small factor that may make a big difference to how you feel after cleaning. Do you get very tired in the evenings? Are you better after you have taken any medication? Are you stiff in the mornings? 
  1. Store cleaning supplies where needed – Instead of storing all the cleaning supplies in one place, such as under the stairs or the sink, put them where you will use them. Keep bathroom supplies in the bathroom, etc. You may also wish to buy two small lightweight vacuum cleaners for different floors as they are often difficult to manoeuvre.  
  1. Use good cleaning products – It may seem simple, but finding cleaning products that work for you can save time and a lot of effort. Choose concentrated laundry detergents which come in smaller, lighter bottles but can clean the same amount of laundry. Decant large bottles of detergent into smaller spray bottles. Use microfibre cloths and gloves to remove dirt easily and use minimal water and muscle power.   
  1. Focus on heavytraffic areas – You may not always need to clean the whole house. Choose which places people are most likely to walk through or use and do a quick clean up, eg. prioritise vacuuming the hall and stairs rather than the spare bedroom if you don’t feel able to do the whole house. Close up any rooms, particularly bedrooms, not in regular use and only clean when you need to use them. 
  1. Employ a cleaner – If you are finding it difficult to keep on top of cleaning, you could get a cleaner to come in and help out. Many will advertise locally, such as in your local shop or community hall, or you could look for a cleaning business.  Make sure that the cleaner is spending time on the heavier jobs that you cannot manage rather than dusting or tidying up which you can probably do yourself as you go along. Good tasks for the cleaner would be vacuuming especially under the beds, behind furniture and the stairs, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning windows, making the bed and cleaning kitchen cupboards and floors. 
  1. Contact your local council for support – If you are classed as having a disability you may be entitled to a cleaner provided by the local council. The council will complete a needs assessment for you, and if you are eligible you will be able to have a free cleaning service. Contact your local council to find out how to access these.  
  1. Make changes to your home – Consider changes you can make so that cleaning is easier in the long term. It is easier to sweep and clean up spills on hard floors then vacuuming and shampooing carpets so if you are considering changing your carpets perhaps having hard flooring would be the sensible option. Reduce the number of ornaments or decorative things in your house – the less you have the less there is to clean! 

Assistive equipment for cleaning

There are many gadgets that can make cleaning easier and reduce the risk of strain or discomfort. Here are our suggestions for practical assistive equipment for cleaning. 

Cleaning frequently involves considerable bending and stretching, and this can be particularly detrimental for people with back problems. If you do suffer from a painful back do take care to avoid straining your lower back. Many of the suggestions below will help but it needs to be combined with good posture to ensure you are minimising unnecessary strain. 

  1. Long handled dusters – These dusters allow you to reach up to dust rails, cornices, or pictures with greater ease. You won’t have to strain to reach up or feel unsteady on your feet as you can use these from a comfortable standing position. 
  1. Long handled dustpan and brush – Sweeping up often requires lots of bending which is tiring and may lead to pain or discomfort. Using a long handled brush and pan can make sweeping up a lot easier as you can stay standing.  
  1. Cleaning floors – to avoid having to fill a bucket with soap and water, consider a floor mop with an integrated water and soap spray. They are considerably lighter and quicker to use. 
  1. Long handled sponge  To clean with a sponge it often requires bending and moving your wrists, but a long handled sponge can make this easier for you. These are helpful for cleaning the bath or shower. Long handled shower Squeegee’s will again ensure you do not have to bend or stretch to remove excess water in the shower area. 
  1. Lightweight vacuum cleaner – Traditional vacuums can be heavy and difficult to move. Lightweight vacuums do not have a bag and you will find it much easier to push them around. Alternatively, you may choose to buy a handheld vacuum cleaner that you charge at a port. These may be easier if you are worried about tripping over wires or have multiple floors to vacuum. 
  1. Robotic vacuum cleaner – These vacuum cleaners can be programmed to move around independently vacuuming as they go. Sensors prevent them from bumping into things and getting stuck but they can’t be used on steps or stairs. They are a bit more expensive, but may be a useful investment.  
  1. Kitchen trolley – If you find it difficult lifting laundry baskets, consider using a kitchen trolley or a wheeled walker. Trolleys do not generally have brakes on them so be careful if you need the support of mobility equipment for walking and want to use a trolley. If you are in the habit of using a trolley for support with walking, consider purchasing a trolley with brakes incorporated. It’s a little more expensive but it’s far safer, especially on wooden or vinyl floors. Alternatively a wheeled walker can be fitted with a basket or bag, and you may find this sufficient for your carrying needs. 
  1. Duvet clips – If you find it difficult to change your duvet, you can buy clips that attach to the corners. This makes it much easier to change duvets so you don’t have to wrestle with them! 
     
  2. Perching Stool – You may find a stool useful if your standing balance is compromised when carrying out tasks or if you fatigue readily, as it will help you conserve energy.  Taking the weight off your feet can often make tasks much more manageable. You can buy a perching stool so you can rest whilst ironing, folding clothes or carrying out tasks in the kitchen.  

 If you acquire a perching stool, arm rests and back supports will make it heavier to move around but provide extra support if you need them to help you balance when sitting and standing up. To adjust the height of the stool to meet your needs, do not adjust it too low so that you are sitting in it. It needs to be at a height to allow you to perch on the seat with your knees not too bent. This will allow you to get closer to the surface you are working on. Never adjust the seat to remove the slope as it will compromise your safety. 

Take extra care when using a hot iron whilst sitting down because if the iron falls off the ironing board you won’t be able to move out of the way as easily as if you were standing. 

  1. Lightweight iron – Irons can be heavy and difficult to use for anyone with weak wrists or a lack of arm strength, but luckily there are lighter irons that you can buy. You may also find cordless irons easier to use: they come on a stand and reheat each time they are returned to the stand. Try these out before you buy to make sure they are the right weight for you and remember to pace your ironing so you don’t tire yourself out. 
  1. Wall or tablemounted ironing board – Getting out and putting away ironing boards can be a task in itself, so fixing a wall-mounted ironing board can be much easier as they can easily fit in a cupboard in a place that is accessible for you. Having a table-mounted board also means that you can sit whilst ironing. If you are having a new kitchen fitted then a pull-out ironing board can be fitted in a drawer space. 
  1. Wheeling laundry bag – instead of carrying heavy laundry to and from the bedroom to the washing machine, have a laundry bag with wheels that you can use to transfer them. These can cost from £25. It’s best not to carry this up and down the stairs, so perhaps keep your laundry bag at the bottom of the stairs and bring a bit of your laundry down each day. 
  1. Hanging washing – If you like to hang your washing out in the garden but have difficulty reaching your line consider a wall mounted washing line with three or five arms. It is similar to a rotary line but fixed to the wall at a height to meet your own needs. Alternatively, if you are unable to access the outdoors and need to dry clothes indoors a heated clothes airer is generally more economical than using a tumble drier. It will also be faster and easier than relying on standing washing near a radiator. 

How can I get assistive equipment? 

Homeware and DIY stores will provide a range of different cleaning equipment and can offer advice on what will suit your needs. It is a good idea to try before you buy to get a feel for the equipment and if it works for you.  

Alternatively, if you are looking for more specialist adapted cleaning equipment, you may want to look online. When searching online use as many descriptive words as possible, such as ‘perching stool with handles’ – this will give you better search results.  

Tips on making DIY easier

DIY is a highly useful skill for any home owner and for many it can be an enjoyable hobby. However, it may be a cause of worry or a stress if you have mobility issues. This page gives you some helpful tips on how to make DIY easier.  

  1. Pace yourself – DIY can involve lots of lifting and moving around and can therefore be tiring. To avoid tiring yourself out, take regular breaks and try not to be too ambitious, do a little at a time.  
  1. Use a perching stool  Standing whilst you work can be tiring and so it is a good idea to use a perching stool to rest your legs. These can come with handles and a small back rest if needed, allowing you to sit to take the weight off your feet but not be too low to work at a bench or work surface. 
  1. Wear an apron or a tool belt – If you are moving around a lot whilst doing DIY, it is a good idea to wear an apron with front pockets for tools, or a tool belt for around your hips. If this isn’t possible, try to gather all your tools together before you start so you don’t need to exert more energy going to and from your tools. 
  1. Use a kneeler – If kneeling is a problem and you need to assemble something on the floor, try using a kneeler to cushion your knees against the floor. Alternatively, use individual knee pads that strap around your legs. 
  1. Get a wheeled toolbox – Toolboxes can be heavy and awkward to carry. Having one made of plastic with wheels can make things easier and you will still have access to all the tools you need. 
  1. Power tools can help out – Even for simple DIY there are some electric tools that can make tasks more simple. For example, using an electric screwdriver allows you to still carry out jobs if you have reduced use of your hands and wrists. 
  1. Look for lighter hand tools – There are many tools available that you will find that come in lighter weight versions and these will reduce the strain on your joints and muscles. Some screwdrivers come with heavy handles so look out for lighter plastic handles that are easier to grip.  
  1. Get grab rails fitted – Grab rails can be used anywhere around the home to help you find steadiness and balance in daily tasks. For more information, take a look at our grab rails page. 
  1. Ensure that wherever you work you have good light around you. Try not to work in a shadowy area and if necessary consider purchasing a strong torch that can stand up unsupported to provide good lighting. 
  1. Contact your local council – Your local council may offer a service to older people or those with a disability to help out with DIY. These may be called small repairs service or a handyperson scheme. Contact your local council to find out what is available in your area. For information on how to get support from the council, see our guide here. 
  1. Contact a local voluntary group – There are some voluntary schemes that run their own small repairs services. Age UK often runs these schemes so contact your local branch for more information, or look out for a Good Neighbours scheme in your local area. For more information on what’s available in your area, call the Guideposts Information Service

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