Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend is an Absolute Slob!”

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I am a 26-year-old woman who lives with her 30-year-old boyfriend. We’ve been together almost three years and have lived together for one. He is wonderful: funny, smart, sweet, kind, thoughtful, and supportive. He would be perfect except for one thing: He is an absolute slob.

I am a clean freak, and, before we moved in together, we agreed that we would need to adjust so that we weren’t making the other one crazy: I would relax about tidiness, and he would try to pick up more. The problem is that I am still constantly picking up after him (even after I explicitly tell him to do something), which makes me angry, which makes me pick a fight with him, which admittedly I know I’m in the wrong about.

Here’s the catch: We are both very, very busy and pretty stressed out 24/7. He’s a law student with a part-time job; I’m doing two master’s with two part-time jobs. I get that he’s busy, and I don’t mind doing the bigger half of housework since I’m the one who is more demanding of that stuff. But his total lack of consideration for picking up after himself is, quite frankly, disrespectful, and I’ve told him that. But he feels like I’m constantly attacking him — and maybe I am. I’ve tried leaving subtle hints, expressly telling him what needs to get done, praising him for doing something and not mentioning the stuff he hasn’t done, using “When you __, I feel __,” statements, asking for and putting a system in place (like “Every Sunday you do X” or “Mail only in the mail holder”), and nothing seems to work for either of us. He’s still messy, and I’m still nagging.

I’m at a total loss. I don’t want to be hurtful. But I cannot live with messes everywhere. So what do you think we should do? Am I overreacting? Is he? — Living with a Slob

You say a couple of times that you have some responsibility in this issue: In your own words, you say you attack him and you pick fights with him. You also say that you both agreed to adjust your expectations/behavior; you said you would “relax about tidiness.” Well, have you done that? If you haven’t adjusted any of your own expectations, it’s hardly fair to attack your boyfriend for not adjusting his behavior. But beyond that, it sounds like you have made an effort to get the kind of behavior from him that you want and nothing is working, so I have a few tips:

1. If you can afford it (and I realize it would be hard on students’ budgets), consider hiring a cleaning service once a month or once every two weeks. Cleaners will help straighten up, but will also give your boyfriend an added incentive to pick up after himself at least before they arrive.

2. Designate areas of your home for messes and no messes. Is there a room that can be off limits to your boyfriend that you can go to unwind and get away from the mess elsewhere in the home? Can you have separate bedrooms?

3. If your busy and stressful schedules play a large part in your short temper and your boyfriend’s reluctance to clean up, perhaps you need to live separately until you’re both done with school and the stressors and time limitations on your schedules ease up enough for you to find more happy compromises living together.

4. If you’re unable to move out immediately or really don’t want to go that route and you can’t afford cleaners and you don’t have a room in your home that can be off limits to your boyfriend and his mess, find another place besides home where you can go to relax. Maybe that’s a friend’s house or a coffee shop or a spot under a tree in the park. Wherever it is, you need somewhere that is free from clutter where you can re-charge and collect your thoughts before facing your boyfriend and taking out on him your day’s frustrations.

5. Decide if this is a deal-breaker. If it is, MOA. If it isn’t, keep trying these different tips and make some plans for the future that include the tips you might not be able to afford just yet (regular cleaning service, a bigger home with designated “no-mess” areas, etc.).

Has anyone else gone through a similar experience? How did you deal with it?

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

113 comments… add one
  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 8:27 am

    I think you have to take him or leave him as he is. He is messy so you either take him or leave him as a messy person.

    Unless he has expressly asked you what you would like him to do, this “even after I explicitly tell him to do something” will never work. You can’t make yourself the boss and tell him explicitly or any other way, what to do. You have to let him be himself and he has to let you be yourself and then the two of you have to see if you are a good fit. Unless the two of you can work this out by having someone else come in to clean up the clutter I don’t see how this relationship will work long term. The other option is for him to clutter and for you to clean and I think that will continue to make you angry.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 8:30 am

      Basically, you want to and are trying to change him and you can’t.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2015, 12:06 pm

      I’m a slob, admittedly. If my husband bugged me all the time about cleaning up, I’d be very unhappy being partnered with him. I agree that I don’t think this will work long-term. She’s taking it personally, as if he’s specifically insulting her. No, as someone who’s messy, it’s nothing to do with the other people around. It’s just how you are and what your comfort level is. When my husband cleans up I do feel bad and pitch in, but then again, cleaning is a gendered thing which means the boyfriend might not feel the same level of guilt as I do about it. So you can’t compare his situation to mine.
      .
      Anyway, bottom line, this is who he is and if she can’t deal with it, then they’re not a match.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh April 8, 2015, 8:30 am

    My husband is much messier than I am. I definitely knew this before we moved in together, but I got to see it first hand after. We both have tried to meet in the middle. Obviously there are some days that I get frustrated and he might get frustrated, but they are few and far between now. I have learned to deal with a little more ‘clutter’ than I used to like. And he has learned that there is a difference between clutter and mess. He tries to keep his area as clean as possible. And my space that I want to be as clutter free as possible is the living room. And sometimes that means picking things up that I wish he had. But, I have a choice. I can either get upset and tell him he needs to pick it up or I can take two seconds and pick up his socks and wallet and put them somewhere else. We have a cleaning routine too. We each have our thing we hate. I hate bathrooms, he hates laundry. We’ve split it so that we each don’t have to do things we hate. And we have a cleaning day each weekend. It only takes two-ish hours to get everything done and it makes me happy to have a house that is clean and he’s happy that I’m happy!

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh April 8, 2015, 8:35 am

      It probably helps that I don’t think I’m as much of a neat freak as the LW. Our mail doesn’t have a home. I’m just glad when it makes it out of my car and in to the house, haha.

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes April 8, 2015, 9:05 am

      Jlyfsh, I really like your assigned clean day- I might suggest that to my bf.
      *
      LW, I understand your situation. For my dearest boyfriend and me, it is reversed. Im tidy-ish, but I tend to pack rattiness (NOT HOARDING, I am very capable of throwing things away). For us, we both have things we always do – like I always fold laundry and he always vacuums, and we both know what we both dont like, but that isnt a hard-and-fast list. As in, I dislike taking out the trash/recycling (but I do it sometimes) and he dislikes cleaning out the sink and windexing mirrors, but he will do it sometimes. But basically, we talk about it. Does he occasionally say a sharp word about the dirty laundry spilling out of the closet? Yes, but I get huffy push it into the closet and close the closet door… and then we both apologize and laugh about it. (This process takes anywhere from immediately to 10 minutes to occur.) The bottom line is, we both accept each other and we dont make it a dealbreaker. I definitely try to be less clutter-y than I naturally am, and he acknowledges that our place is not as “clean” as he’d prefer, but we both dont make it a dealbreaker.
      *
      So LW, really the bottom like is… it is your decision if this is a dealbreaker. But right now, it does not sound like you all have a healthy dynamic regarding the cleanliness of your place.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph April 8, 2015, 11:32 am

      jlyfish, we do something similar with a cleaning schedule. I decided on a 4 week rotation where we tackle one category hardcore each weekend:
      -Bathrooms
      -Bedrooms
      -Kitchen
      -Everywhere Else (declutter, dust, vacuum, mop the rest of the house)
      -On Bathroom/Kitchen weekend we wash towels/bathmats, on Bedroom/EE weekend we wash sheets.
      (This doesn’t mean I only clean my kitchen and bathroom once every four weeks, but a wipe down with a Clorox wipe or a swish of the toilet brush between the cycles is really all you need to keep things clean if you give it a good scrub down every 4 weeks.)
      I think most couples have a neater partner and a messier partner (although maybe not as extreme as this LW) and I’m definitely the neater partner. Its taken me a long time to accept that if left to his own devices my husband wouldn’t clean anything until he ran out of dishes/counters/places to stand and so I’m always going to be the one who gets annoyed and cleans first. By instituting the cleaning schedule and getting him to agree to help clean, then I can relax a little more during the week when there’s shoes all over the floor and receipts (my husband is a receipt hoarder!) piling up, because I know that he’ll help me clean it all up this weekend. I think the cycle keeps it overall cleaner so we don’t have to spend hours upon hours scrubbing before we have company, too.
      .
      Also the garage is his to keep as cluttery as he wants, as long as we can fit the 2 cars in there (and for temporary projects, we waive that requirement). And the bedroom “office” is mine to keep neat and do my homework. He has a computer in there that he uses, but we don’t put junk in there so it’s always clean and not distracting/annoying when I’m doing my work. If you have enough space to divide so that you have a place to be clean and he has a place to be messy, even if it’s just like a bucket on his side of the bed that he can throw all his crap in, I think it would help you both.

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  • avatar

    Sara April 8, 2015, 8:43 am

    Some of us don’t see the mess. Yes, it’s there in front of us, but it genuinely doesn’t register. And yeah, someone else trying to impose rules and systems that quite frankly aren’t natural to us are going to come across as nagging and attacking.

    Here are my thoughts. One, what are your absolute deal-breakers? Can you pick 3-4 things and ask him to concentrate on those? And don’t just say “keep the kitchen clean”…that’s too vague for someone like me who just doesn’t process the mess. But if you tell me, it bugs me to see dirty dishes in the sink and spills on the counter, then I will make an effort there. Might not sweep the floor (and don’t harp on that if it wasn’t one of the 3-4 things), but I’ll make an effort on the sinks and counters.

    I realize this is just an example you chose, but the example of mail in the mail holder seems pretty anal to me as someone coming from the slob side. If I was getting nitpicked about stuff like that with everything else going on in my life, I’d be incredibly defensive and would shut down in terms of any other sort of cleaning.

    I am in a position to have a housekeeper once a month and have to second the idea of it making someone pick up. I wish I could have her here twice a month.

    Other thing is…when you created your systems, did you ask him what worked for him, or was it your suggestions?

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. April 8, 2015, 10:13 am

      Have to agree with this. “Messy” is a matter of perspective. Take it from an experienced “nag-ee”: It doesn’t work. All it does is make the person angry.

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  • avatar

    Ale April 8, 2015, 8:47 am

    I think the most important point in Wendy’s advice is #5. If this is a dealbreaker to the LW, then she should just cut her losses and move on. I wonder if the LW nags her boyfriend about the messes he creates, out of stress. Meaning, maybe if she wasn’t so busy and stressed all the time, she’d be happy picking up after her boyfriend. Maybe nagging him about all of this is just a way of releasing stress. She should think about that and then make a decission. The cleaning service sounds like a good advice, but it won’t change her bf’s ways.

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    • avatar

      ktfran April 8, 2015, 9:05 am

      I don’t think the bf should fundamentally change who he is. She shouldn’t have to either. If they want it to work, they’ll both have to meet somewhere in the middle or MOA.

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      • avatar

        Ale April 8, 2015, 9:26 am

        No, he shouldn’t change his ways, unless he wants to, for him, or if he was someking of hoarder. Having a cleaning service helps, but it seems like LW’s problem is that her bf doesn’t do things himself, and having a cleaning service won’t help that.

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      • avatar

        Ale April 8, 2015, 9:27 am

        *some kind

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      • avatar

        kelly ann February 12, 2017, 9:35 am

        He shouldn’t change himself for her but he could be more considerate and realize that he could lose a good partner over his lack of contribution. Is the risk worth it? Think about it, if she leaves him and no other woman puts up with that and he lives alone, he’s going to eventually have to clean up. The only difference is he’ll be single. He’ll have lost all the benefits of a great partner and be stuck cleaning 100% when he now has a partner to help out 50/50. Yes she should accept him ad he is but thats no excuse for him not to try. Slobs are slobs and abusers are abusers, and cheaters are cheaters but that doesn’t mean someone should settle for mediocrity. Partners are supposed to bring out the best in you and make u want to do better. So many people actively try to correct bad habits to make their partners happy. It’s no different here. Bottom line, yes she should accept him for who he is but he should appreciate her enough to make the effort. If they both can’t do that they don’t belong together no matter how kind he is. Trust me when he is with the woman he can’t bear to lose, he will scrub toilets to keep her there, and when she finds her soul mate, she will just relax and learn to live with it.

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  • avatar

    Sara April 8, 2015, 8:48 am

    I have to add that the fact that you don’t feel he is making any sort of effort does bug me. My roommate in college was a neat freak and cleaned all the time. I tried to keep the bulk of my clutter out of the common areas (although there was still more there than she would have probably liked) out of respect for her, although my room was chaos. She saw that I was making an effort and respected that and didn’t get upset over what mess I did leave around.

    Also, my mom was really bad for noticing what I did not do and ignoring what I had spent ages working on when cleaning my room. Really frustrating to make an effort and have it dismissed, so keep up the positive reinforcement.

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  • avatar

    Lovelygirl April 8, 2015, 8:50 am

    My husband and I are not very good at cleaning thanks to busy schedules. We have a housekeeper come every 2 weeks and it is working for us. I know this is expensive but this is necessary for my sanity. I know my husband appreciates it too because I nag him much less about cleaning and tidying up. The big piece of this is de cluttering before she comes to clean. I know not everyone can afford this option but if you can it is totally worth it.

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  • avatar

    ktfran April 8, 2015, 9:03 am

    I think Wendy’s advice is really good and I hope you read it with an open mind LW.
    .
    As far as examples and how people have dealt, I would say this is the biggest point of contention between my parents. Well, as far as I could tell… it was the only thing that bothered my mom. My dad ALWAYS leaves stuff around the house and out of place. It drives my mom nuts. So, socks left on the floor or wallet out, my mom eventually just picked up because no amount of her “nagging” would change him. Also, now, my dad has a little area in the kitchen he piles his stuff up at and I’m pretty sure my mom just chooses not to see it. As far as household chores, my mom cleans the inside and my dad takes care of the outside. It works for them.
    .
    So that’s another suggestion I would give you LW. Each be responsible for certain household chores… unless you can afford a cleaning person. I think that would help a lot if you could swing it.

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    • avatar

      Ange April 8, 2015, 6:40 pm

      I like that, an assigned area for mess. A chronically messy friend of mine used to share with someone who had three containers next to the kitchen. Anything my friend left lying around went into the containers and if she wanted it she’d just dig around in there and find it. It worked super well for them because they both had a good sense of humour about it.

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  • kare

    kare April 8, 2015, 9:11 am

    If not putting the mail in the mail holder makes you a slob, then I’m definitely failing. Leaving food out, dirty dishes, etc is gross. Things like organization aren’t a huge deal to me, and I don’t consider it a mess. He’s probably the same way. Sometimes you have to pick your battles.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 9:27 am

      I agree, there is a huge difference to me between clutter and dirty. Dirty dishes, food spills and food wrappers need to be taken care of immediately because they attract insects and because they rot and grow gunk even in the absence of insects. Shoes left where someone will trip over the are annoying. Socks on the floor don’t bother me but will need to be picked up before sweeping or vacuuming. In my mind the difference is whether it is dirt or clutter and whether it can wait without creating it’s own growing problem.

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    • TaraMonster

      TaraMonster April 8, 2015, 10:03 am

      I agree she should pick her battles, but I’m surprised so many people on here think her mail holder comment is anal. I don’t consider myself a neat freak whatsoever, and frequently leave my mail in places it shouldn’t be- on the coffee table, the kitchen table, my bedside table, etc. It looks awful to me when it’s scattered all over the place. When I neaten up, I’m constantly annoyed AT MYSELF for not just putting it in one place and saving myself the hassle of walking through every room in the apartment to collect it. The funny thing is my roommate has the same problem. So we bought a mail holder and mounted it to the wall by the door. It’s helped the problem considerably.

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      • kare

        kare April 8, 2015, 11:12 am

        I have a “mail spot” but no holder. My parents never had a mail holder growing up and they’re super tidy.
        *
        But I have a nail polish holder with everything organized by brand then alphabetically (or by color if there’s no name), and it would really bother me if one of the 80+ bottles was out of place. So I guess everyone has their thing.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. April 8, 2015, 9:28 am

    I am a slob. I don’t do housework, I don’t make the bed. I just don’t care about those things. I do wash the dishes (Or, rather, I push the button on the dishwasher so that it washes the dishes.) because food lying around is gross and attracts bugs. I do do laundry because I find it relaxing. I do not fold. I clean the bathroom only when I cannot tolerate it anymore. I take out the garbage. This is all I am willing to do. Life is too short and my free time too valuable to spend it cleaning. I also live alone. I made a decision a long time ago that if I ever lived with anyone, either he would have to be in charge of cleaning the house or we’d hire a service. I am willing to pay for this. As someone who would most likely be the target of nagging, I can understand how your BF must feel. But, I can also see your point of view. I would hate to live with someone messier than me. (For example, clothes do not belong on the floor, except sweatpants at the foot of the bed.) In your situation, I see only two viable solutions: hire a service or move out.

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    • avatar

      K April 8, 2015, 11:23 am

      “Life is too short and my free time too valuable to spend it cleaning.” – Totally agree with you on this! I never dust or vacuum (I have hardwood floors) unless I’m having people over. I don’t make my bed, because what’s the point if nobody is going to see it except me? I’ve been better about not letting dishes sit in the sink too long, and a bit better about other cleaning-related issues, since I started dating my boyfriend a little over a year ago. However, he’s not too neat either, so we mesh well in that regard.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 9:34 am

    “even after I explicitly tell him to do something”

    This statement tells me the two of you are in trouble. There is a level of arrogance in that statement that won’t work in a long term relationship. It is arrogant for you to assume that you are right and he is wrong and arrogant for you to assume that you have the authority in your relationship, meaning you have the final say, to tell him what to do. Unless he wants to be dominated, that level of arrogance will destroy your relationship.

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    • avatar

      Erica April 8, 2015, 10:04 am

      I have to agree with you. I admit my cleaning skills are lacking but my bf has never TOLD me to do anything. When we need something done, we always ask. Yes,we do forget but then we just ask again and understand that sometimes ( or a lot of the time) we need a reminder. This is a especially true because both of us are so busy and it is easy to forget.

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. April 8, 2015, 10:08 am

      Yes.

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    • avatar

      Ange April 8, 2015, 6:44 pm

      But what if that something was ‘please wash your dishes, they’re attracting bugs’ or ‘please clean that spill off the floor because it’s slippery and I might fall,’ then would it be arrogant or just someone sick to death of cleaning up after another person? Both of them should be able to live in a level of comfort that works.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 6:54 pm

        Then you discuss the specific issues and the reason for the request. That’s why she needs to be specific and come to an agreement that they can both live with. I’ve never known someone who would spill something on the floor and just leave it. I’m sure there are people like that somewhere but it isn’t common. If they discuss it and come to an agreement that they both like and then he still doesn’t do it then she has to decide whether to stay with him or leave. I do know that bossing him around and nagging at him will definitely end their relationship.

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        Ange April 8, 2015, 8:31 pm

        I agree with that, I guess I can just see where there are some times someone needs to be told. Do you really need to sit down and have a state of the nation summit every time there are gross dishes in the sink? No, you should be able to tell your partner that it’s unhygienic and they should sort it out. It’s a different story for just clutter, or the odd thing left out but I can see the need for it if they’re being actively dirty.

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      • avatar

        Ange April 8, 2015, 8:32 pm

        And I will add if she can’t deal with his level of cleanliness then definitely leave! Life is too short to fight over cleaning.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 8:56 pm

        When they discuss the issue it should include what the issue is (dirty dishes) and the specifics about the issue. Maybe they agree that dirty dishes are always rinsed if they are going to be left in the sink so that they look clean and don’t attract insects or mold while waiting to be washed. They could also agree that if there is room in the dishwasher they go directly into the dishwasher so that there are no dishes left in the sink. If dirty dishes are left in the sink, then they need a time frame for when the dishes will be washed. How long can his dirty dishes be left in the sink, even if they’ve been rinsed. This could be a time frame such as 24 or 48 hours or it could be an agreement that he has more time on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will make sure that the dirty dishes are out of the sink before he goes to bed on those two days. Whatever they agree to it needs to be specific in the what, when, how and why. If they fully discuss the aspects of the issue they shouldn’t have to repeat this discussion every time there are dirty dishes. Once should do it. She shouldn’t try to do this for every type of clutter in the home. She needs to choose her most irksome thing and then if they are to meet in the middle he should be able to choose one thing that she will never mention or some equivalent to that. If she really wants to meet in the middle there will be give and take on both sides. They could do this for the most important things.

        Another way to do this would be to trade cleaning for other chores. Maybe she cleans the bathroom and kitchen and he shops for groceries. Maybe he packs their lunches and cooks dinner and she does the dishes and tidies the kitchen. Maybe he pays the bills and she vacuums he living room and bedroom. There are many ways to split chores so that they get done and the person who cares most about the task is the one doing the task so that it gets done the way they want it. If you want something done in very specific or precise manner then you should do it yourself. If you have totally different standards on everything then you have to consider that you might not be compatible.

        If none of this works she should consider the two of them incompatible or skip living together until they can afford to hire someone to do the cleaning.

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      • Portia

        Portia April 8, 2015, 8:42 pm

        You know, amid cleaning up spills, that’s always a thing I never understood about Bassanio. He will be bothered by dishes in the sink and clutter on the tables and towels on the floor, but if he spills some milk on the counter, he doesn’t clean it up immediately. And he’ll leave the bathroom floor as a minefield of puddles.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 8:59 pm

        That’s interesting. It seems like a contradiction and you wonder how that happens.

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        SpaceySteph April 9, 2015, 9:09 am

        Hah… I’m totally like that with the wet bathroom. I guess it’s odd because otherwise I’m the cleaner one of my relationship. My mom used to say it was like Shamu came through the shower and the floor was the splash zone. I guess I just don’t get why it matters if the floor in the bathroom is wet with clean post-shower water? But my husband hated it when we were dating because he’d always get wet socks. He stopped going in the bathroom with socks in the morning and we never discuss it anymore.
        I think that the LW is missing that really no two people are going to be equally matched on what clean is and what chores matter. So there’s always going to be a conflict over SOMETHING. You decide which concessions you are willing to live with, which chores you are willing to always be stuck doing because the other person never will, and when it’s too much.

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      • Portia

        Portia April 9, 2015, 11:18 am

        Re socks: YES! Wet socks are the worst! I’m in your husband’s camp on this one (and my solution has been to avoid walking around in socks as well). When we’re staying with other people, I remind him to mop up the floor with the bathmat, along with a couple other things I don’t usually bring up because I’ve determined that they’re things I can live with.

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      • Portia

        Portia April 8, 2015, 8:44 pm

        You know, about cleaning up spills, that’s a thing I never understood about Bassanio. He will be bothered by dishes in the sink and clutter on the tables and towels on the floor, but if he spills some milk on the counter, he doesn’t clean it up. And he’ll leave the bathroom floor as a minefield of puddles.

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  • avatar

    mertlej April 8, 2015, 9:50 am

    It seems like I’m in the minority here, but I can see where the LW’s frustration is coming from. It sounds like they both recognized that this issue had potential to be the source of conflict before they moved in together, so they discussed it and came up with a compromise. I get the impression that the boyfriend hasn’t held up his end of the bargain (trying to pick up more), which is causing the LW more and more agitation and is likely leading her to not be able to let it go.
    *
    I think there is a difference between asking someone to “change” and asking someone to have a little consideration for the needs and priorities of their partner. It isn’t asking someone to change a huge facet of their personality to ask them to, say, put mail in a designated spot instead of spreading it out all over the counter, or whatever the issue is here. If you are 2 students with very busy lives, living in a small apartment, then yes, having junk mail strewn all about can be overwhelming and problematic to someone who needs a little bit of order in their home.
    *
    That being said, I don’t really have any advice for a solution. Does he think he’s holding up his end of the compromise? Do you think you are holding up yours? If yes to both answers, than you may need to really consider whether you can put up with this during such a high-stress time of your life.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh April 8, 2015, 10:01 am

      He might even be doing what he thinks is ‘more’ based on what he is used to. But, she still thinks it is lacking based on what she is used to. Cleanliness/messiness is so subjective that even when you say things like I will try to clean up more, the more might look like nothing to a person who is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Someone above mentioned listing specific things, like the sink being empty and the counters being wiped down. Or maybe the kitchen table being clear, etc. She might have also just found that she can’t let go of it like she thought she could and that she needs a cleaner house than he will ever be able to achieve.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle April 8, 2015, 9:51 am

    Yeah, LW, if you keep thinking if his sloppiness as “disrespect” & whatnot–this relationship is doomed. This is what you signed up for. If the mess bothers you, continue picking up after him WITHOUT marinating in resentment and starting fights (hopefully you can remember that relationships are a balance? Maybe you annoy him in other ways, but he keeps quiet about it? ). You sound extremely nitpicky about cleanliness, and also like mayyybe the kind of person who, even if their partner DOES attempt to clean, berates them on it not being “right”. Try just *not* saying anything to your bf about the messes he makes for, like, 2 weeks & see what happens. You may find yourself in a routine and less likely to even feel angry, and he might find himself so happy that no one is yelling at him that he’ll actually clean.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh April 8, 2015, 10:05 am

      Yes, I grew up in a family where there were ‘right’ ways to do certain things. I never learned to fold towels the ‘right’ way. And I love my dishwasher because I also apparently can’t wash dishes right. It was frustrating to see that play out. As long as the cleaning is getting done what’s the deal? And if you are super specific about their being a ‘right’ way to do certain tasks you just have to suck it up and do it yourself.
      *
      I like the idea of trying not to complain for to weeks.

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      • avatar

        snoopy128 April 8, 2015, 10:19 am

        Ha. My parents have some anal-retentive habits that they passed on to me. I can’t stand it when all the cups in the cupboard aren’t arranged by size or when the cutlery in the tray isn’t arranged by size (i.e. soup spoons and teaspoons in the same slot). Other people don’t have these little nagging issues. And I make it very clear to others that me re-arranging things is just my own neurosis, not a reflection of the quality of work that they did.

        Just because someone didn’t do something the way YOU want, doesn’t mean they didn’t do it *right* or *well*

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh April 8, 2015, 10:24 am

        ahh i used to the wrong there.
        .
        I will say I even started to resent the rearranging because why did you ask me to do it if you prefer it a certain way? As a teenager/kid I definitely reacted badly when that happened and basically said fine I won’t do it at all, haha. As an adult I’ve learned to ignore it. But, it used to tick me off so much.

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      • avatar

        snoopy128 April 8, 2015, 10:44 am

        I guess the things is I never ask anybody to unload the dishwasher, and I’m pretty upfront that it’s my little quirk and not a reflection of the job I think they did. It’s not like I go through the cupboards afterwards and re-arrange, but if I need a glass, I will grab one and then shuffle the rest around. I also let it slide for some things. It’s really just the glasses and cutlery that bother me.

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      • avatar

        shakeourtree April 8, 2015, 10:29 am

        My ex and I once had a big fight about his rearranging the dishes I had put into the dishwasher. I finally forced him to teach me his “system,” which was completely neurotic, but I went with it. I told him his options were to teach me how to load the dishwasher in a way that was acceptable to him or do it himself because I’m not loading a dishwasher only for someone to come behind me and rearrange!

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      • avatar

        MsMisery April 8, 2015, 11:59 am

        Ooooh yeah. My step-mom believes everyone else is an alien because we can’t load the dishwasher, put away groceries, or fold laundry “correctly,” but then those same people are also all a-holes because they never do any of the housework. I wonder why??? At Easter, I asked if there was anything I could help out with, and she gave me some vegetables to cut up for a platter. I apparently chop wrong.

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      • Portia

        Portia April 8, 2015, 1:27 pm

        I was always preparing food (chopping, mixing, etc.) the wrong way growing up and my mom would take it over. I just didn’t to cook from her, I learned on my own later on and mostly won’t cook with her now, but she always love what I make (she’s just not allowed in the kitchen with me).

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    • avatar

      shakeourtree April 8, 2015, 10:16 am

      My mother to a T. When my brother and I were kids, she would give us a long list of chores, but then she followed us around the entire time, monitoring to make sure we did everything correctly. She once freaked out on me and rewashed an entire load of dishes because apparently I had loaded the dishwasher incorrectly! Even now that I’m a grown woman, if I try and cook something in her kitchen, she follows me around and tells me I’m making a mess.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray April 8, 2015, 9:52 am

    I feel like there are 3 levels of cleanliness: decluttering, deep cleaning, and reorganizing. I would call myself a neat freak (with my parents being hoarders it’s a big deal to me), and my husband is also very neat, but reorganizing isn’t on his radar. He doesn’t think mail needs to have a system, shoes should have an area by the door, etc. He doesn’t leave clutter really but he has a different way of dealing with things like mail than I do and sometimes I think of it as clutter. I try not to let his way bother me and vice versa. I know that he does end up taking care of what I consider a little mess. Then there are the things I don’t care about like making the bed, but my husband cares so he does it. We have a woman come for most of the deep cleaning, especially since our cleaning standards are a little different. Having grown up with my parents constantly fighting about their hoarding mess, I think this is a pretty important issue to either be very similar in, or to compromise, let things go, and hire out some tasks. Or it may end up being too much of a deal breaker and in that case you MOA.

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  • avatar

    shakeourtree April 8, 2015, 10:09 am

    My mother is a neat freak, and coincidentally, all of my serious boyfriends have been neat freaks too. I am decidedly NOT a neat freak. A big problem for me is that, a lot of times, really clean people tend to regard being sloppy or cluttered as a moral failing and think that their way of life is superior. It’s not. In fact, aren’t there studies that say that cluttered/disorganized people tend to be more creative than others? Anyway, it can get really annoying when you feel like your partner is looking down on you or condescending to you. The constant nagging is also infantilizing–just because you’re the cleaner person, it doesn’t give you the right to order him around like a little kid! I also happen to be in law school, and I can tell you that how messy my house is directly corresponds to how stressed I am. It’s just harder to keep up a routine that doesn’t come naturally to you when you’re stressed. Exams are coming up, and keeping my house clean is no longer even on my long list of priorities until they’re over. You really have to cut him some slack. Wendy is pretty spot-on with her advice. He needs somewhere he can be messy without you nagging him. A cleaning service is great, but I know it can be difficult on a budget. Groupon and Living Social and those kinds of sites sometimes have good deals, though, so be on the lookout for that. Ultimately, I agree with Wendy that, if you really just can’t deal, you might just be better off living separately, at least until you’re both done with school. Law school/grad school is stressful enough, and the discord at home is probably not helping either one of you.

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  • avatar

    snoopy128 April 8, 2015, 10:13 am

    I understand where you are coming from, as the cleaner of two housemates, but I also have to say that the tone you take here is putting you on a road to trouble. There are times in this letter where you sound very condescending.

    Have you ever lived with other people before (roomates, etc?).

    I’ve learned that people’s level of messiness/tidyiness is not so much about respect or values, but about their level of tolerance and what they consider mess. It also has to do with how they were raised (neat freak parents, having to do lots of chores, priority on cleaning the house). At the end of the day, there’s always one person who has a higher level of cleanliness and they are the one who probably ends up doing more cleaning. For me, I hate crumbs and spills on counters and floors. I will sweep 2-3 times a week just to keep the floor free of crumbs. For some people, like my current roommate, this is total overkill. But crumbs on the floor beyond our once a week cleaning day only bother ME and so *I* deal with them with a smile on my face.

    You need to pick your battles. Acknowledge what he HAS been changing. And also acknowledge that the two of you picked a really stressful time to move in together and work through these bumps which makes it harder. Find the things he likes to do to help clean, praise them. And find your major sticking points and ask how you can work together towards them. For example, I love chucking my keys on the counter when I walk in the door. My bf hates clutter, so we got cute little trays to leave on the counter so I can chuck my keys IN them (they make it there 80% of the time, the other 20% they’re a foot away, and that’s good enough of a compromise). You also need to recognize that he just isn’t going to “see” some things and either you deal with it yourself without nagging or you learn to leave it.

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    • avatar

      Ange April 8, 2015, 6:56 pm

      I can’t stress enough how awesome robot vacuums are, if you have the spare money they will save you hours of sweeping. I got mine through a Groupon type deal and it’s been great.

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      • avatar

        snoopy128 April 9, 2015, 1:10 am

        Oh, I have one and I love it. But my kitchen is too weird of a shape (small apartment) that it’s more of a pain to set up the boundaries for it than it is to quickly sweep the small and oddly shaped kitchen. The rest of the apartment though gets a thorough robot vaccuuming often 🙂

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  • avatar

    _s_ April 8, 2015, 10:32 am

    Neither my husband nor I are big on cleaning, but he definitely has more of a tolerance for mess/clutter than I do. What works best for us when one area gets to the point where something needs to be done about it, we ask the other to help. So if the kitchen is messy, he might say “come help me with the dishes” and we do it together. Or if laundry needs to be folded I’ll say “come help me fold laundry and we do it together.” Neither of us wants to get stuck doing stuff by ourselves, and tasks are less daunting (and get done faster) when shared. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely things he does that drive me crazy – he’s always leaving cabinet doors open, or dumping clothes somewhere within a few feet of a hamper, but for the most part I’ve had to learn for sanity’s sake that there’s no point in nagging about those things – I just have to close the cabinet or toss the socks in the hamper and move on.

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    • TaraMonster

      TaraMonster April 8, 2015, 11:21 am

      Haha. My ex used to leave the cabinet doors open too. One night I went into the kitchen for a glass of water and turned on the light. EVERY cabinet was open. It scared the bejeezus out of me for a hot second. After that I started calling him the poltergeist. I’d even turn it into a verb, “Babe, please do not poltergeist the kitchen before bed, thanks!” It didn’t bother me too much, I just viewed it as one of his weird little quirks. Now the hangers he used to leave all over the place… that drove me bonkers. I once found one behind the refrigerator… how does that even happen?!

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      • avatar

        K April 8, 2015, 11:29 am

        My boyfriend does this, but not as often as he leaves his dresser drawers open! Drawers are meant to be open and then shut! I’m often shutting them right before bed because I also feel weird about sleeping next to a dresser with 3 drawers half-open, haha.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope April 8, 2015, 10:35 am

    Welcome to my world! He’s not going to change. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you but it’s as hard for him to be neat as it would be for you to let the mess just fester. I’ll bet you just can’t do it. (I know I can’t). So you either have to deal with his habits or move on. Nagging won’t get you anywhere.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray April 8, 2015, 4:44 pm

      Yes, it’s just has hard for him to be neat as it is for you to let the mess just fester – very true. Also, this is one of those situations where, the truth is, no one is “right.” Yet, there’s something about the clean freaks-types who think they are in the right and the slob should be less of a slob. It kind of reminds me of planners and non-planners. I’m not a big planner. Not because I don’t know how to plan but because I prefer not to. I have a friend who is a big-time planner; she gets her panties in a wad when there’s not a plan for every minute. And she just thinks it’s ok to plan everything, like we won’t mind. But I do mind! Someone this clean v. slob thing is reminding me of that. Really, neither one is correct, but there’s something about certain dynamics where one kind of assumes their way is the right away. I mean, “clean” is more positive than “messy” but really, why? He’s likely just as stressed out about LW cleaning up around him all the time as she is about living in a messy place. I don’t know where I’m going with this. I’m just really annoyed with my friend who always hijacks plans and plans everything out.

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  • avatar

    Heather April 8, 2015, 10:43 am

    I’m a neat freak. I dated a guy a few years ago who was the opposite. He wasn’t just messy, but would leave dirty dishes sitting at his desk, etc. I foolishly moved in with him knowing he was this way and, selfishly on my end, thinking he would change to accomodate my needs. Obviously it didn’t work out.

    I think you need to decide if this is a dealbreaker. I realized that for me, it absolutely was. To be fair, him and I had a whole host of other issues besides that one, but one thing I did take out of that relationship is that I simply can not live with someone or date someone significantly messier than I am. It drove a huge wedge of resentment between him and I because I constantly felt like I had to “take care” of him. Growing up, I was taught that your home is a reflection of you and if you don’t take care of your surroundings you don’t respect yourself (not saying that’s right, it’s just how I was raised and contributed to my anal retentiveness). It was exhausting, and I can never go back to that. If you choose to stay with him, I think you need to accept that this won’t change.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark April 8, 2015, 10:57 am

    Eh, your mail holder line speaks volumes. You ARE obsessive. If you want this relationship to work — back the fuck off. You come off as a nagging shrew… And it’s NOT attractive… If this is THAT big a deal to you — MOA. You’re just making you both miserable…

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray April 8, 2015, 1:58 pm

      This is funny. I JUST got a mail holder from the Container Store. I now have a place for all the bills I’m ignoring. I feel so grown up.

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  • avatar

    emily85 April 8, 2015, 11:01 am

    It is so interesting to see all these comments, and none of them think the bf is being disrespectful at all really. Certain things need to be done in houses to keep them liveable (though obviously that standard is different for different people), but if he isn’t really doing anything to keep the place clean – how is that not a little disrespectful of LW’s time? If she has to do pretty much all the cleaning and tidying up, that is a lot of her (precious little) time that she has to spend doing something that (I think) should be somewhat of a team effort in a relationship. If they had gone in agreeing that he wouldn’t do any of the housework to speak of, I would think differently, but they agreed to try and meet in the middle. The fact that he doesn’t would bother me too.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh April 8, 2015, 11:03 am

      I mentioned this before but I really think that meeting in the ‘middle’ looks very different to people on opposite sides of this. What he sees as doing more might look like nothing to her. And what she expects as meeting in the middle might be seen as way more than the middle to him. A place being livable doesn’t have to mean that the mail is in the mail holder to everyone. The same as not everyone is bothered by dishes in the sink, etc. I think if she wants this to work they both have to actually describe what the middle looks like to them and then go from there. They might just way different expectations of what that line meant that they agreed to.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 11:21 am

        I agree. I think the term meet in the middle is so vague that they probably came away with totally different ideas about what they would be doing. They need specifics which means specific chores that will be done and how frequently. They also need to agree on things that can slide.

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        emily85 April 8, 2015, 11:28 am

        Well, that is definitely true. Mail in the mail holder is maybe a little extreme. But if her perception is accurate, it does seem that he is taking advantage of the situation. I do agree with Mark though – nagging isn’t going to help anything.

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh April 8, 2015, 11:39 am

        I don’t think you can automatically assume he’s taking advantage. There are examples here on this thread of what different people view as clean. He might just view it differently than she does and not see what she’s making a big deal over. Which is why having explicit things that she would like to prioritize are so important. Instead of saying I want a clean house. Say I can deal with the mail not making it to the mail carrier. But, x, y and z being done would make me happy. If she can’t let go of anything she’s not meeting in the middle either.

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      • Stonegypsy

        Stonegypsy April 8, 2015, 1:39 pm

        I don’t think there’s really any such thing as an “accurate” perspective in situations like this. That’s the problem. It looks so different to everyone involved that there’s not a right and wrong.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 11:31 am

      Seeing it as disrespectful is a mindset. I don’t attach the concepts of respect or disrespect to cleaning. Cleaning is on a priority list and it falls were it does depending on what else needs to be done. Also certain things, like dishes, are a much higher priority than other things like dusting. Our dishes get done every day. We do some laundry almost every day. Floors get done about once a week. Bathrooms once a week. Dusting every so often. Windows once or twice a year when they bug me. But none of it is attached to the concept of respect. I’m trying to juggle everyone’s work/school/activity schedule with when they need to eat and my daughter still has to be driven around to her activities and we all need clean dishes to eat off of and clean clothes to wear and there are only so many hours in the day and I prioritize relaxing as much as cleaning.

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      • avatar

        ktfran April 8, 2015, 11:45 am

        I agree. I think the word respect gets thrown around too easily. “If you don’t do whatever ever action or feeling I want, then you are disrespecting me.” But couldn’t be the opposite be true? “You’re trying to change me or make me do something I’m not comfortable with, therefore, you’re actually disrespecting me.”
        .
        I don’t think it’s always “disrespect.” I think what most people have to do is try to understand where each other are coming from, have a rational discussion, and work out a plan that appease both parties.

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      • avatar

        emily85 April 8, 2015, 12:39 pm

        Skyblossom – your cleaning regimen is a lot more strenuous than mine is, for example. But I don’t think that wanting to not live in filth is an unreasonable request of a partner. Clearly the LW may have a higher than normal standard for the house, but also, there is a reason slob is a pejorative term. I certainly don’t prioritize cleaning over enjoying life myself. I guess what I meant by disrespect is that I could understand the LW feeling disrespected if she’s spending a lot of time keeping the house at a reasonable level of cleanliness (again, I know this is subjective, and that LW’s standard may not be “reasonable” but she did say she was trying to relax about it so who knows), and the bf doesn’t put in any effort himself. Or maybe disrespect just isn’t the right word at all. Maybe all I’d feel is taken advantage of.

        ktfran – you are totally right. They do need to work out a plan that appeases both parties. But what happens if they make the plan, and he doesn’t follow through?

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      • avatar

        ktfran April 8, 2015, 1:24 pm

        I guess then you decide to live with it or MOA. But she has to meet plan too. From this letter, I can’t really what the case is.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 8, 2015, 4:47 pm

        By calling him a slob she is showing her lack of respect for him and the same for when she gives him orders. She is showing her arrogance and lack of respect for him and then complaining that he doesn’t show respect for her. It goes both ways and she chooses words ad phrases that show she doesn’t respect him.

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    • Just Max

      Just Max April 8, 2015, 3:42 pm

      I sort of agree with you, emily85.
      I also agree that a liveable, clean space means different things to different people.
      While I am no neat freak, I don’t like messy areas or having clutter (yeah, I left 1 pair of shoes by the door this morning. 1 pair. Not 3 or 4). And if a boyfriend was spending regular time in my house and just creating a mess, or not picking up after himself, I’d totally see it as disrespectful, because I like to keep my place in order and it makes me happy. Clutter gives me anxiety.
      *
      I dated a guy for a few months and one night he tore apart my bedroom; bed sheets off the bed, comforter twisted in knots, pillows all over, etc.. Looking for his boxers. That were by the door. Oh, and he didn’t think it was a big deal. He also was(is?) ok with having dirty and clean/folded laundry sitting on his bed for weeks at the time. “where/how do you sleep?” I’d ask. “On the side,” he said.
      One of the few reasons I MOA’ed.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope April 8, 2015, 11:09 am

    And by the way, the behavior comes from childhood and it’s very deeply rooted. My husband knows he associates someone picking up after him with love because his mother always did. He knows it, he knows it no longer serves him, he knows how much it bothers me but he still can’t stop. My friend’s husband’s mother was a hoarder and he’s a hoarder. It goes deep.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark April 8, 2015, 11:12 am

    PS — If constantly nagging and making what must be daily passive aggressive statements — “When you don’t use the mail holder, I feel sad and blah blah blah” isn’t DISTRESPECTFUL, I don’t know what is… 😉

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ April 8, 2015, 11:13 am

    My husband is a clutterer and pack rat and, as far as I know, has maybe cleaned a bathroom or mopped the floor once or twice in his life. His mother did all of the housework when he was growing up and he still just leaves his dishes in the sink when he’s at her house for her to put in the dishwasher. Making the bed is a waste of time to him and as long as the garbage isn’t falling out of the can, he doesn’t see the problem.
    .
    In contrast, I am a neat freak. Clutter drives me nuts and I cannot deal with dirty floors, bathrooms or piled up garbage. It skeeves me out to walk into a dirty house. We’ve lived together for 10 years and for the first 5, we didn’t have a cleaning service and I’d spend hours every Saturday deep cleaning our place (bathrooms, mopping, changing sheets, etc.) while he put things in the office area “away.” It drove me up the wall. We have managed to make it work by doing the following:
    .
    First, like Wendy suggested, we got a cleaning lady who comes every two weeks and that helps immensely since I no longer have to do all of the “heavy” cleaning. I can deal with a deep clean every two weeks instead of weekly.
    .
    Second, we made the spare bedroom his home office and we moved all of his clothes into that bedroom/office closet. (Including things that go in drawers.) That way, when he scatters his papers everywhere and throws his clothes and other stuff onto the floor, it stays in his office area and isn’t out in the living area or the bedroom. Basically, I can shut the door and not see it. And I never, ever clean it. If he doesn’t clean it up before the cleaning lady comes and she puts his stuff in random places, it’s on him to find it all and sort it out. It’s amazing what closing the door can do.
    .
    Third, he just had to learn to do the minimum to pick up after himself and contribute to cleaning in the common areas: the kitchen gets cleaned in a joint effort after dinner before we watch anything on TV; towels go in the dirty clothes hamper; if his clothes are not in the laundry hamper, they don’t get washed when I do regular laundry; he puts his own laundered clothes away; garbage jinga is not a thing that adults allow to happen, etc. I still do the daily tidying and bed making and all of that, but it only takes me about 15 minutes or so, which is fine.
    .
    So, this guy doesn’t have to change completely, per se, but he does need to be willing to make some strategic changes – including contributing to the cost of a cleaning lady if possible – and he does have to be willing to make some level of contribution to general tidiness of the shared living area. If he’s not willing to do that, then I’d MOA if I were the LW because life is too short to waste it either living in someone else’s mess or spending your time cleaning it up.

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    • avatar

      Jane63 April 8, 2015, 11:24 am

      THIS!

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    • avatar

      Lucy April 8, 2015, 11:52 am

      This is exactly it. My husband and I were the same way. He was a messy pack rat but he learned to keep it in his lane and not spread it all over the common areas, and we had a cleaner so that there wasn’t a battle over chores.

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  • chief10

    chief10 April 8, 2015, 11:27 am

    Isn’t this one of the DW things everyone should be on the same page with before they move in together? If not it should be.

    You can’t change who someone is at their core, maybe a temporary course correction, but human nature will always correct their course back to their nature.

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    • Just Max

      Just Max April 8, 2015, 3:45 pm

      Agreed. I’d totally need to know this before moving in together with someone. I know it couldn’t work with a total slob or hoarder.

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  • avatar

    Anna April 8, 2015, 11:27 am

    I have dealt with this before when I lived with my ex. It was so frustrating. He kept everything in piles and thought it was ok because he never actually lost stuff (always knew which pile to look under). He even kept his clothes on a wrinkled pile in the corner of the bedroom, refused to fold his clothes and put them in his dresser or hang them in the closet. For my own sanity, I just took over the cleaning of most of the apartment with the exception of his bedroom pile and his end table where he piled mail and random car parts and stuff. Those two areas were losing battles so I just learned to live with them, and made the rest of the apartment as clean as I wanted.

    Now that I’ve been living alone for 3 years, I’m able to keep my place pretty clutter-free and I love going home to my nice clean apartment. It’s become so compulsive that I even put my clothes away, load and run the dishwasher, etc when I am drunk. I thought I lost my new dress a few weeks ago after a night of drunken Uber adventures. The next morning, I was looking for it and found it hanging in the closet. I didn’t even remember hanging it up. Lol

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    • avatar

      Lucy April 8, 2015, 11:53 am

      I love this comment because I am the same way. I came home tipsy the other night, took out the recycling, changed the cat box, and ran the dishwasher.

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    • avatar

      Heather April 8, 2015, 3:56 pm

      I’m such a serial drunk dish-doer. Things start to get blurry and my mind wanders to the sink. It’s crazy and my boyfriend teases me about it.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo April 8, 2015, 11:48 am

    LW, this could have been a dealbreaker for my wife and me. Yet, we’ve been together 26 years, and will be as long as we live. In short, she is order and I am chaos. In the beginning, she would get to the point of being stressed by some obvious (to her) breach of generally accepted household hygiene protocol, while I was not yet even aware that there was a problem. “Why can’t i leave my book on the coffee table?” “Why should I have to put all my guitar pedals and cables all the way away every time I use them, only to take them right back out again later in the day, when i want to play again?” “What’s the big deal if a cupboard door is left open?” This cognitive disconnect has actually been the biggest single stressor in our marriage. And for reference, I am not by a long shot the slobbiest person we know. Some people’s houses, we just shake our heads – “How can they LIVE like THIS?” But my threshold for noticing mess is far higher than hers. Look, if it’s just a dealbreaker, then walk away and stop terrorizing him. It’s a good enough reason to leave if you want it to be. If you want to make this work, then you need to realize a few things. First, this is HIS home (too). He shouldn’t be nagged and pressured constantly in his own home. You will never win anything that way, just hasten the demise of the relationship. Second, I feel like you expect to have a talk with him about “you know, just be neater, OK?” and just have him get it, once and for all. He won’t. He may not ever. I haven’t. Instead, have a discussion about what needs doing and what his part of that will be. If you want things YOUR WAY (because that is what this is about), then you are going to have to a take charge permanently of ensuring a good result for yourself. Set a task list that he agrees to, with a timeline that he agrees to. By Saturday, he’ll deal with the laundry and the bathrooms or vacuuming or whatever. but don’t expect him to jump right now just because you note something. Third, don’t assume that he will have the same standards for how these things get done as you. If you need him to meet a specific standard (dishes are to be dipped in bleach, then rinsed and dried, not left in a rack to dry, and then put away that night), then be clear about it and see IF HE AGREES with that standard. My wife cannot leave the house without all the dishes washed and the bed made. I couldn’t care less, and my respect for her doesn’t make me actually give a damn about the bed. I only do it to respect her. Lastly, pick a few battles and leave the rest. My music area and the top of my dresser are not commented on. Parts of the house which will ever be seen by guests are kept clear. Also, pick some duties for him that are completely his duties and then let him handle them to his standard. Despite the fact that we swore early on that we would never be defined by gender roles, my wife has never mowed the lawn, and I don’t do the garden. She has never cleaned the gutters and has dealt with the cat litter a half dozen times in the last 15 years. If repairs are needed or plumbers need to be called, i handle all that. I also do all the cooking, which is not cleaning but is a significant part of the household work, so i am doing my share. I think it is fair that he share the household duties relatively equally regardless of his student workload (no free passes), but he has a say in what NEEDS to be done. Why not give him the duties that suit his proclivities? Over the years, i have become neater (if not actually neat) and she has become more forgiving and compromising, so it has worked. These habits are deeply ingrained, so don’t expect change overnight. But bottom line, keep going the way you are and he is pretty likely to bail when he’s had enough.

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    • avatar

      ktfran April 8, 2015, 1:30 pm

      Mom? Dan? Is that you?
      .
      Kidding, of course. My dad isn’t musically inclined and my mom definitely does not garden, but the rest sounds similar to what I saw growing up in my parents house.

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      • avatar

        ktfran April 8, 2015, 1:30 pm

        Dad? Not Dan.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo April 8, 2015, 4:16 pm

        ktfran, I am almost 100% certain I am not your dad. And my name is Don, not Dan. as in Don Diablo. Arriba!

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    • avatar

      csp April 8, 2015, 2:42 pm

      This is a great answer. LW, there will be many disagreements about this and it works. One question, is the mail holder in a convenient place? I find that those kinds of things only work if they are in an easy place. Like I have a hook right by the back door for my purse. That way I always put it where it belongs because that is the door I enter the house 99% of the time. I also found that both my husband and I upped our game when we thought of our place as a home. If you talk to him about having a place that you are proud of and a place that you can express who you are. That changed a lot for us.

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  • avatar

    Jahaafincher April 8, 2015, 12:12 pm

    I am the messier person and I knew my BF’s idea of clean was different then me. I read this awesome book Organizing From the Inside Out which made me realize that there is usually a psychological reason I was messy and resisted changing. Basically, i want to give my neat freak mom the middle finger. And I realized I could stay this way-and i was ashamed at how messy I was- or I could slowly work towards changing it. I could mentally realize I am being clean for my future and for myself. My mom can suck it. I am an adult and she has no say in my life. She doesnt “win” if I clean up- I do. I win by having a happy relationship, clean house, and I feel better about the fact people can walk in to my house without my having to clean last minute.

    When he is less stressed I really recommend the Organizing from the Inside Out book. But, he has to make it a priority because he is fighting his nature. But you have to realize its a slow process and you have to be able to see ANY progress. It has taken me 5 years to just be manageable and I still have a long way to go. He can only change if he sees his messiness as a problem.

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  • avatar

    karenwalker April 8, 2015, 12:21 pm

    Is the fact that I completely cleaned my apartment this morning coincidence or a sign that this LW and are I soulmates? Is it sad that I send updates to my boyfriend at work letting him know exactly what I did? I hate when I do a big cleaning, and it doesn’t get acknowledged!

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  • Portia

    Portia April 8, 2015, 1:13 pm

    Oh boy, this all sounds so, so familiar… I’m a clutterer who doesn’t see the mess, Bassanio can’t stand when things are cluttered and there’s things to be dealt with “immediately” (sometimes that means when I’m still eating, no joke). And Bassanio was pretty naggy for a while and the combo would lead to some epic fights, but I think we’ve mostly dealt with both sides of the equation at this point. Wendy gives some good options above (getting a cleaning service has been amazing for us), and there are some excellent tips in the comments. But most importantly, you have to find a way to actually live with it, not demand that the other agree with your way of doing things (no one is “right”). Plus, the cleanliness disagreement is a roommate issue, but how you deal with it is a relationship issue (that came from Bassanio), so first and foremost you need to find a way to talk about it in a constructive manner if you www l haven’t decided to MOA. Maybe he even has some ideas of how best to work with his brain and habits around this (I know I was much more open to problem solving once it was not a source of constant nagging) while you can start to prioritize these things and actually accept that they won’t be 100%. But please, if you’re interested in working on your relationship, stop telling him exactly what to do and when to do it. That’s a relationship killer if I’ve ever seen one.

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    • Portia

      Portia April 8, 2015, 1:21 pm

      Btw we are both a weird mix of what we care about and don’t care about in “cleaning” – I don’t care about clutter, but toothpaste in the sink and used floss in the shower are nails on chalkboard. Bassanio is super focused on cleaning dishes, but I’m the one that is anal about dividing silverware in the drawer. I fold clothes and he doesn’t care, he loves a made bed and I don’t care. We mostly live with setting reasonable deadlines and negotiating expectations, plus the cleaning service, and it works.

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    • Portia

      Portia April 8, 2015, 5:16 pm

      Oh, I think someone else mentioned this, but they’re are too many comments… The one thing that helped most with the clutter has been bins where clutter can be thrown in to get it out of sight. I’m particularly bad about not really worn clothes clutter, so I have a bin/basket that goes on my side of the bed. I have another for my knitting, a few more for other things, placed strategically.

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  • ScrambledMegss

    ScrambledMegss April 8, 2015, 1:24 pm

    LW, is your boyfriend into gaming at all? If so, I HIGHLY suggest ChoreWars.
    My guy is a slob. The slobbiest of slobs. It’s been a huge issue for us (and I will admit I am not the cleanest person in the world either). He doesn’t see the mess and I agree with others who say it’s rooted in childhood. He is a fantastic guy otherwise but has been doted on his entire life by his mother, grandmother and aunts and never really learned the whole household chore thing. We’ve tried chore charts, we’ve tried setting aside a day to clean together, I’ve tried giving him lists but they only work for so long – mainly because of our schedules. I’m a 9-5er and he does shiftwork, often overnights with a chaotic sleep schedule and it’s hard to make them mesh. Positive reinforcement has helped but I especially noticed if there was some sort of reward tied to chores, he was even more receptive which may be childish but what they hey, it’s working. Enter ChoreWars (www.chorewars.com). It mirrors a game he plays and loves and I can add all of the tasks/chores we do and set experience points and treasure, etc. He loves this shit. Honestly, he eats it up. I’ll often get texts at work when he’s home asking me to set a quest for him so he can get more points. We upped the ante even more by deciding that the end of each month, whoever has the most points gets a prize (dinner out, item under X$, etc.).
    If your bf is at all competitive, maybe some variation of this will work for you?

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph April 8, 2015, 2:04 pm

      Oh my god I would have the cleanest house in all the land if I played that. I’m a total junkie for competitive games (see also: me walking laps around my house last night to beat my friends in Fitbit) and I would totally clean things just to win.

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      • ScrambledMegss

        ScrambledMegss April 8, 2015, 2:54 pm

        I do the exact same thing w/ my FitBit!

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  • Lyra

    Lyra April 8, 2015, 1:29 pm

    Ok, so I can see both sides here. My brother is the type who is a slob. He just doesn’t care. His apartment that he lived in up until he bought his house last year was positively disgusting. Basically he never cleans. I won’t go into details, but I made sure to purchase rubber gloves before I helped him clean once when I was visiting (I wanted to cook and didn’t have ANY clean dishes PLUS the sink had a lot of grossness. Part of it may be because he’s never really had to live with anyone else, plus he has basically been single his entire life…NOT that a guy needs a girlfriend to motivate him to clean up, but I can’t help but think my brother needs that kind of positive influence. If your boyfriend is as extreme as my brother, LW, then YES you have every right to expect a clean living space. There are definitely health hazards when your space isn’t physically clean. I can’t even believe my bro was living in his apartment as it was when I saw it before he moved. He has a bit better with his house, fortunately!
    .
    On the other hand, there are people like me who though I do a thorough clean every week, I tend to leave clutter around my apartment. The floors are vacuumed or swept, sinks bleached, toilet clean, shower clean…but at times there are definitely papers and other clutter on the floor, on the table, etc. I take care of clutter on weekends, but sometimes the week just gets so busy that I don’t have time to pick EVERYTHING up. It’s funny because my fiance is actually more of a neat freak than I am…I attribute that to his time spent in the military… If you’re freaking out about a few piles of clutter, but he’s been good at cleaning or helping to clean your living space, then you need to find a compromise and/or decide if this is your deal breaker.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra April 8, 2015, 1:34 pm

      Also, this is who he is. You have to assume he won’t change, because it sounds like he hasn’t changed up to this point despite you talking to him about it and the follow-up reminders.

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  • Portia

    Portia April 8, 2015, 5:11 pm

    About mail holders: I bought what ended up being an aspirational mail holder. There is no mail. Good thing it’s a combo mail holder and key hook because at least the key part gets used. Poor mail holder… Sometimes I put something in there if I want to make sure I grab it on the way out the door. Now I feel all sad for my mail holder.

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    • Portia

      Portia April 8, 2015, 5:12 pm

      *there is no mail in it, because the mail ends up elsewhere.

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  • avatar

    HD April 8, 2015, 6:53 pm

    This might be unpopular, but I really feel that if both halves of a couple are working full time (or the equivalent workload, as is the case with the OP) the household work should be split in half as much as possible. It shouldn’t be a matter of “helping” from the male partner, but instead “sharing” of basic household tasks. Sure, maybe this woman is a neat freak and maybe she needs to relax a bit, but it seems that so often, I see women really just wanting their partner to pitch in equally and minimizing that desire by blaming themselves and saying “oh, well it matters more to me, so I’ll do more of the work.” In truth, most people want to live in a basically clean home but a lot of men did not grow up with the expectation of being an equal partner in making that happen (though it is changing). Anyway, just my two cents. It sounded to me like she’s been pretty up front about her needs and he isn’t really meeting her halfway. But of course, it’s hard to tell from a letter…I could be wrong!

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    • Lyra

      Lyra April 8, 2015, 7:20 pm

      I do agree with you in a way. At the same time however, if she is focused on all these systems for cleaning/organizing, and she is the one who is bothered by this, then yes, she should take on more of the cleaning chores. The fact remains that she knew about his cleaning/organizing habits coming into this. At this point, unfortunately, I seriously doubt he will change his cleaning habits.

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    • avatar

      snoopy128 April 9, 2015, 1:21 am

      I have to kind of disagree here. After living with several housemates and visiting homes of people of different genders, I think there is a wide variation in what people consider ‘clean’.

      I consider my bathroom ‘dirty’ if the shower/tub/counters are not sparkling white. Others, I have noticed, are totally fine with grime on the sinks/showers. My level of “clean” is different from others. In this case, when I live with people who don’t care/notice some grime in the bathroom, it IS a matter of me saying “I care more, so I do more” if the grime is outside of the agreed upon cleaning schedule.

      Same with floors. I already mentioned it, but I hate crumbs. My housemate and I agree to sweep once a week. If there are crumbs outside of that, I sweep more because I care more about the crumbs on the floor.

      I guess to me, the work out a schedule for cleaning that works for both of them, and she deals with what she can’t handle outside of that schedule. if she starts to find she’s doing a bunch more work, then maybe they need to rethink the schedule. The issues is, she needs to point out concrete things, because levels of acceptable cleanliness vary between people.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph April 9, 2015, 9:15 am

        Yeah I agree. I think that if you survey 100 people on the street Family Feud style, and say “do you want to live in a basically clean home” they would all say yes. But if you ask “What does basically clean mean?” you get 100 different answers. I think most people would agree that absence of rotting food, mold, bugs probably qualifies. But some people would say “no clothes on the floor” or “beds made every morning” or “mail in the mail holder” and others wouldn’t.
        And I don’t think it’s always the woman who has that cleaner streak. For example, my husband is not really bothered by clutter but hates unmade beds. While I can’t stand clutter, but routinely rolled out of bed without making it when I lived alone. Everyone has their *thing,* regardless of gender.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph April 9, 2015, 9:24 am

    I do want to say that to a certain extent I agree with the LW that cleaning up after yourself is a matter of respect for the other person, especially if you know the other person is more bothered by lack of cleanliness.
    Anyone ever see the movie “The Break-up” with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn? It’s not a great movie, but it does contain my absolute favorite scene to describe relationships. They have a big blowout over the dishes and she yells “I want you to want to do the dishes!” and he shoots back “Nobody wants to do the dishes!”
    The LW and her bf should watch that scene. I feel like it encapsulates their exact problem. It’s true that nobody wants to clean, and especially don’t want to clean a thing that it isn’t important to them to have clean. (I love having a clean bathroom, but lord do I hate scrubbing the shower!) But at the same time, you know it bothers the other person that it’s dirty, then you want them to just sometimes want to make you happy more than they don’t want to do the chore.
    When my husband empties the dishwasher, I take it as an act of love. Like he is showing love by, rather than ignoring the clean dishwasher that he doesn’t really care about, doing a chore that he knows is important to me. If he came home from work and sat on the couch with a sink full of dirty dishes with nowhere to go because the dishwasher was full and clean, then I would feel disrespected. Like he values his free time more than mine.

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  • muchachaenlaventana

    muchachaenlaventana April 9, 2015, 10:27 am

    I feel like people were kind of harsh on this LW, to me if you are the messier partner in a relationship you should work to help accommodate the other person’s level of cleanliness within reason for the sole reason that things being clean don’t bother you but things being messy can really impact a clean person. So that makes sense to me, its not about “not seeing the mess” its about giving a shit for the person you are in a relationship with. Yeah naturally maybe things laying around or dirt doesn’t bother you but if someone has expressed to you that it bothers them and you still do nothing about it and create messes, don’t clean up after yourself and don’t even work to accommodate them, that is a huge inconsideration. I don’t see how this isn’t a respect thing. I am a messy person but clean as in bathrooms, kitchens, being dirty is not acceptable but do I leave shoes around and not make my bed and take a few days to put away my clothing-yes absolutely. My boyfriend is the opposite, he isn’t dirty but dirty messes don’t bother him as much as things out of their place. We have already talked about if/when we move in together how we will both work really hard to meet in the middle on this. Knowing how much he hates things laying out- if I just left shit laying out, that would be incredibly rude/disrespectful just like if he left messes in the sink or didn’t sweep the kitchen floor ever. I feel like all this LW is asking for is her partner to meet her in the middle and a lot of people have chewed her out over one thing- the mail holder which honestly I am a complete space cadet with my mail but the idea of a mail holder so its all in one place is appealing and doesn’t seem like the most anal thing in the world.

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    • muchachaenlaventana

      muchachaenlaventana April 9, 2015, 10:29 am

      And I will say with my current roommate I gladly do the majority of the share of the deep cleaning because dirty things don’t bother her, but the key here is she doesn’t go out of her way to create messes and is really respectful of the fact I do like things to be more clean-so does her dishes, and tries to tidy up after herself. That is how it should be, even in relationships and people cohabiting.

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  • avatar

    Clementine April 9, 2015, 11:36 am

    So many responses, I had to stop reading… I know I’m repeating someone else, so just consider this emphasis.
    -Set priorities. Decide on fewer than 5 very specific things you really and truly need him to do: keep the counters crumb free, make sure laundry makes it to the hamper, wipe up bathroom aim mishaps, keep one side of the sink empty so you have room to rinse…
    -He’s going to fail. Get ok with that. Forgive him. Start over. Wash, rinse, repeat.
    -Establish a spot/bucket/corner to throw his clutter when you can’t stand it anymore.
    -Don’t take it personally. Some of us just don’t see the mess because we were raised in a more relaxed home. Some of us have adult ADHD that takes us from one task to another before completion. He’s not doing this to disrespect you. Help him understand that when he DOES clean something, you feel so loved and cared for. Make it a big deal about how he is taking good care of you because it’s so good for your psyche to come home to clean counter/bathroom/coffee table. When he realizes that to you, a clean room is an act of love, it will become a gift, not a task.

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  • avatar

    Geopact February 12, 2017, 5:36 pm

    Ok I know I’m a man and you can tell by the fact that I just want an answer and don’t want to have to read all the comments above to get it.
    I’m 39 and moved in with my GF of 2 years, accepting that it would not be a bed of roses, I knew it would be hard to take on a new family, she has a pre-teen girl and a male toddler, I get on well enough with both and have the relationship I expected with them, they are atypical children making a mess and being adorable and frustrating. But I can accept and enjoy that.
    What I did not expect was the did-organised mess my GF would turn into once we were under the same roof, I have to wake her up in the morning or she’s late for work, get up an hour early to make sure she is ready and the kids are prepped and awake for school/nursery. I knew she was a bit slap dash but this seems excessive.
    I clean, do the laundry and generally take care of the house including the installation of a CCTV system to confuse people who might see that she has left the front door not only unlocked but open on her way to work… There is more like her spending less time with me now than when we lived apart and how she seems to take an hour to drive 8 miles when I can do the same in 10mins but I guess I’m just looking for faults at times, or I just see them because they are there

    I guess my question is; after only 4 months I’m tired of keeping house and not seeing her or having her take some pride or care of the house. Is this something she is likely to continue doing? or just her testing the water?

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    • avatar

      Kate February 12, 2017, 7:10 pm

      Interesting. How did she get to work and the kids get to school and daycare before you moved in together? When you went to her place before, was it a gross mess? Did they have clean clothes? If you saw signs of this previously and / or didn’t discuss things like division of household labor before you moved in together, that was a mistake.

      But if she was holding it together before and she’s not now, it could be she’s happy to just let you do all the great stuff you’re doing. The more you do, the less she’s going to feel like she has to do anything. She could be taking it for granted or even taking advantage.

      You don’t mention having talked to her. You need to. Yes, it will keep up like this or get worse if you don’t talk it out. This thing about her taking an hour to drive 8 miles is weird too, do you think she’s seeing someone else?

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom February 12, 2017, 10:03 pm

      I don’t think anything will change. What you see is what you get. Quit saving her from her own actions. Let her oversleep. Let the kids get around late. Let her suffer the consequences. I’d also quit doing her laundry. It may pile up for a while until there is absolutely nothing for her to wear before she does it but don’t save her from herself. She obviously doesn’t mind dumping all of this on you. I’d feed the kids because it isn’t okay to let kids go hungry but I personally wouldn’t take over parenting for her. She needs to be there for her kids and that means she puts meals on the table and washes dishes after. It means she does their laundry and she makes sure they go to bed on time and get up on time and leave the house on time. It’s okay to do these things together as partners and to split them in a way that is fair but she needs to be there doing her share and she needs to be a dependable parent.

      Personally I don’t think it will get better and you either like life as it is or you move on. I hope you didn’t move her into your home because that makes it much more difficult to break up. She will have no incentive to move out. She could very easily see another man while leaving you at home taking care of her kids if the time for the drive is you thinking she’s seeing another man.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover February 13, 2017, 10:15 am

      I was considering responding, but your first sentence turned me right off. If you want help from women, maybe don’t start out with a roundabout insult?

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  • avatar

    usa2elsewhere October 2, 2017, 10:09 pm

    I’m too intelligent to do a stupid thing like accept someone doing almost nothing when the person should be doing half. BTW, I have no degree. I don’t need one to be fair to myself.

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