Updates: “Living with a Slob” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Living with a Slob” who was a neat freak living with a messy boyfriend. She wrote: “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. 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?” Keep reading to see what they’ve decided to do.

First of all, thank you for replying; your advice was spot on. My boyfriend and I really try to communicate about anything and everything, especially if it has potential to become a problem, and we’ve talked a LOT about this issue, since we knew it was going to be a major source of tension. The solutions you suggested were very much in line with some of the things we’ve talked about doing, which was really encouraging.

And thanks to everyone for their comments. I read all of them, and it was really helpful hearing about other people having the same issues. It was also funny that the mail holder became like a symbol for the issue. It was just an example of a small “rule”/system we’d tried to implement. There was a lot of discussion about cleanliness/messiness being subjective, and I totally agree. In general, that’s been the hardest part about drawing a line, which we definitely have discussed. I come from a family of near-hoarders, whereas his mom was extremely obsessive about cleaning. We both have a “life’s too short” philosophy, but with opposite views: I feel that life is too short to be constantly cleaning up big messes when I can just have a system and clean along the way, while he feels . . . well, the exact opposite.

To answer your first question (re: if I have adjusted my own habits to meet him halfway), yes, I do think I’ve made an effort to be more relaxed about the level of cleanliness that’s acceptable on a daily basis. When I lived alone (and with other roommates), my apartments were so clean, you could eat off the floors. Now, living with my boyfriend, it’s ok that the counters aren’t always wiped down/floors aren’t swept/dirty clothes are on the floor/etc.–we’re just too busy to pay that much attention to everything. That’s why the idea of hiring household help is really great. I graduate and start a great job in a couple of weeks, so we’re going to see if we can budget for housecleaning and try it out. This will alleviate some of the issues that tend to pile up and get overwhelming for me.

We’ve also decided–like you suggested–to turn one of the catch-all spaces in our house into his office so he doesn’t feel pressure to be tidy, and I can just close the door on his messes. I think this will be the most helpful solution. I don’t care about it as long as I can’t see it.

And finally, perhaps the biggest step I’m taking is seeing a counselor. I realized that everything in my professional life was overwhelming my personal life, and vice versa; not being able to relax in my own home because of the messes was contributing to that feedback loop. For example, cleaning out a garage (that had none of my stuff in it–I moved into the house he lived in) in my free time was just adding to the stress in a way that wasn’t healthy because I wasn’t able to relax pretty much at all. I think I would benefit from learning how to manage the stress and be a supportive partner, which is the goal.

Thank you again!!

Sounds like all positive changes that will likely improve your situation and relationship a lot. Good luck!


If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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  1. I like reading happy updates. It makes me feel good. 🙂

  2. Nice update! Also, idk if it was mentioned in the previous thread but a professional organizer might be particularly helpful in your situation. They can help you pare down your stuff and establish easier patterns for keeping things clean.

    1. That’s a great thought, then it wouldn’t feel like either person’s “system” and instead feel more like maintaining or adapting what has been given by a third party. They would just have to agree on maintenance.

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