Dog Hair? Who Cares. How MS Freed Me

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

by Jennifer (Jenn) Powell |

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Jennifer Silver LiningsI just saw a couple of “golden tumbleweeds” swirl past my feet. My attempts at keeping a clean house are no match for Abby’s ever-falling golden locks, and I am OK with that. There was a time when those two balls of hair would have elicited profound anxiety. The anxiety would abate only after I had picked up the hair and cleaned the area. This cycle repeated itself ad nauseam.

Exhausting, really.

While I would love to take full credit for ultimately reducing my anxiety, I must give MS some credit. I write this with a hint of sarcasm. However, the truth is I’m simply too tired or in too much pain to have Abby’s hair (or any mess) dominate my mind. I’ve had to find coping mechanisms for the anxiety that inevitably follows. And so I’ve come to a point where seeing dust bunnies does not have me anxiously hopping in circles.

Before having multiple sclerosis, I lived in a museum. One cannot live in a museum. Lest you think me a liar, ask anyone who came to visit. Everything had a place, and if it left that place, it absolutely had to return. My house was not clean — it was meticulous — making the naturally occurring specks of dust appear Goliath-like. Looking back, I am mortified.

Everything from towels to sheets was put aside to be kept for “show” only. I was a stress ball, and that stress spread like an unwanted virus to family, friends, and whoever shared my sterile space. I inadvertently hurt those I loved with my self-imposed anxious habits.

Talk about a first-world (and first-health) problem. My, how things change.

A couple of years after my MS diagnosis an old friend came to visit. My husband and I had just adopted our first golden retriever, Lucy. My friend walked into my family room to see a wiggling, upside-down Lucy on her oversized bed surrounded by a bevy of colorful toys. Having known me for a decade she asked with surprise and amusement, “Did you ever think you would live like this?” “No,” I replied, “I never thought I could be so happy.”

I was as surprised as she was to hear those words fly so effortlessly out of my mouth, yet it was my truth. In two short years, MS had schooled me by way of necessity, but I had come to own the education. We have plans for our lives, but things rarely go according to our plans. It is on these unplanned journeys that we learn the most about ourselves and our capabilities.

MS was certainly unplanned, yet it has freed me from confines I once thought impossible to escape. While I still have moments of freneticism, abstract anxiety does not rule my day-to-day life. It simply cannot.

I have heard that one’s home is a reflection of oneself. I believe this to be true. I smile as I glance over to Abby, asleep on the sofa, her toys strewn haphazardly across the family room. I spy various magazines, my Kindle, laptop, a few books, and devotionals on the end table. Photos of my parents, kids, and grandkids smile back at me, while a baby grand sits dusty, but loved, in the next room. Dog hair lovingly covers everything. It is a home.

And I live here.


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Amanda avatar


I grew up in a museum like you described. I keep my house relatively neat but I don’t stress about stuff. When my mom comes over, she sees our happy kids and our thriving family and always asks, ‘why did I stress over the house being clean?’ The dirt will still be there in a hundred years but the people you love won’t.
Great article!

Nene H avatar

Nene H

This article perfectly describes my life before and after the effects of MS took hold of my ordered life.Once my house was the model of order and cleanliness. I was in a constant state of anxiety about the state of my home-I would even vacuum AFTER guests had left so that everything was “perfect” again!.
This continued after my daughter was born until the serious attack I suffered when she was 4 months old.
I was left with chronic pain that exhausted me; I still have it although it has lessened in the 18 years since her birth , but the combination of a new baby 4 years later and some medications further exhausted me so that only one solution was obvious to me. I decided having a spotless house was definitely NOT the epitome of a happy home, and that unlike my own mother, I was not going to spend my precious time and energy endlessly trying to achieve the impossible- a home that was spotless. I chose instead to use the precious time MS left me with to talk and play with my children, to get to know them as people,in a way which my parents had never known me.
Even now, my mother will ask me if I have found someone to clean the house(we have employed cleaners briefly at times when I was v.unwell or the children were full on, but they annoyed me more than helped me!) and I tell her that “it’s not a priority”,something which I feel sad she at 88 still doesn’t understand.So I too can thank MS for something,namely perspective and the understanding that you are never really in total control, even if your home is supposedly “perfect”!

Glenda avatar


I can relate. Loved this article. I never had a museum - like house, but it was cleaner. Thanks for reminding me of the benefits to having MS.

cynthia avatar


thank you for sharing that.......I, too, had to finally realize that I couldn't keep up.....and it doesn't matter if others think my house is extremely messy...I just tell them that it isn't the same ''mess'' as last time they were here . I can do some things , but can no longer ''do it all''...and that's ok ! I have a cleaning lady who vacuums and the house is clean....but MESSY....oh, well

FB avatar


Ha - I can relate to this. I was never a "clean freak" and I wasn't a slob either, but life always had better and more interesting things to offer than cleaning and tidying. Now, since MS came along, it's not a question of choice - it's an issue of capacity. And that capacity just ain't there any more - even if I wanted it to be. It's ridiculous when what used to be a quick run-around with the vacuum cleaner now takes at least two hours and six or more sit-down rests, and ends up being the only thing I can do in a whole day. As I live by myself and have no family support. if I don't do something then it doesn't get done, and prioritising has become the entire game. So, I've had no choice but to adopt what I call "horizontal blinkers" - essentials like food preparation areas etc are always spotless, but there's a pretty good herd of dust bunnies that's taken up permanent residence - especially as one of my cats sheds fine undercoat fluff 24/7/365. Oh the joys of living with a physically limiting illness................


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