How to live with a neat freak?

I have a confession: I’m a recovering Neat Freak. Early in our marriage, my wife, Susan, helped me to understand that my neat freak tendencies made me more critical of her and our children who maybe weren’t so neat. Susan taught me the importance of valuing relationships more than making sure everything is “just right.” But it’s hard when I see things messy, when there should be “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

This is a tension we see popping up between couples. Sure, it can be on a spectrum. The Neat Freak might seem outright OCD, or just might be disciplined and gifted enough in tidiness and organization to have a naturally ordered environment. The non-Neat Freak might be a slob, or just someone who struggles to be organized where they live and work.

Regardless the degree to which the differences fall on the spectrum, it can cause a rub. If your spouse is a neat freak and you are not, here are some tips on how to cope, and keep the difference from causing division:

1. Appreciate their strengths, their positives. When I got married I thought Susan should be like me—all white shirts in a row, all slacks and jeans and ties organized, etc.. Such expectations create pressure, direct or indirect, from the Neat Freak. Attempting to understand and appreciate the strengths of a neat freak is vital and helpful: They have order, find things easily, and clear unnecessary clutter out of the home. These are the kinds of positives that can be appreciated.

2. Accept the frustrations, even weaknesses from your perspective, of your spouse…basically, accept them for who they are. Yes, your Neat Freak spouse has positives, but how they live that out can be super frustrating at times. If you stop trying to make them, or manipulate them, to be less “neat” you will find more peace. But this should go both ways. Both the Neat Freak and the not-so-neat spouse should both work on accepting the things that grate them the wrong way about the other regardless of a willingness or ability to adapt and change their behavior. We have to start with a basic commitment to their dignity and our love for them. If you see their Neat Freak tendencies negatively, check this post out for tips on dealing with those frustrations.

3. Accept yourself for who you are, for being different than your spouse. Stop beating yourself up for not being the Neat Freak. While being more patient and accepting of your Neat Freak spouse, you need to resist the temptation to label yourself as unacceptable or incompetent because you don’t have that Neat Freak tendency. Just because your spouse has that strength does not invalidate your own value and strengths. For example, as a Neat Freak I like to cut through the clutter in conversations with Susan, who excels at telling me details, thinking I need them to understand the issue. I’ve learned that she needs to know her tendency to details is not invalid or unimportant. I need to validate her input, in a way that doesn’t belittle her. One way I do this is to ask her to prioritize the issue on a scale of 1 to 10. Not everything can be a 10, and together we sort out the situation using our strengths, not focusing on the differences in a belittling way.

4. Avoid sarcastic reactions to the Neat Freak. Sarcasm, as noted in the prior blog, can be damaging and discouraging. Avoid using hyperbole and verbal barbs at each other that position their tendency as an issue to pick on, fight over, or “put up with.” For example, when the Neat Freak expresses frustration that a room isn’t picked up and organized, or suggests the kitchen should already be cleaned up, it doesn’t help to say “wow, I never thought of that,” or “I’m sure all our problems would be solved if only this room was neat and tidy,” or “Yes, your majesty…I’ll get on that right away.” It can be totally fair to push back or respond, but sarcasm isn’t constructive…it’s more like gas on a fire.

5. Encourage each other towards improvement. Over time, the differences in spouses can become less acute and painful when each spouse rubs off on the other. The less uptight spouse can help the Neat Freak spouse relax a bit. The Neat Freak spouse can help the other spouse become more tidy and organized. You might even ask the Neat Freak for help getting more organized.

6. Negotiate some personalized personal space that is Neat Freak free. If necessary, work with your Neat Freak spouse to allow for some space in the home that is yours to manage, without judgment. You may find that your Neat Freak spouse can be helpful with tips or ideas of how to use the space, but they should also allow you to manage that space without expectations to do it “their way.”

7. Negotiate a space that is kept extremely neat. With five children in the house, it was tough to keep every room tidy. So, Susan and I agreed that the dining room would be a place that would always be picked up and would be tidy and orderly.

Ultimately, grace and love must be more important than keeping perfect tidiness. I’m convinced that working on this very practical issue can be helpful to your marriage over time, giving you some wins together that help you tackle the even bigger issues bound to come. Share how you will work on this issue below.

1. You’re shamed for leaving the couch blanket in a heap on the couch AS IT SHOULD BE instead of neatly folded over the arm. “Don’t you love unfolding a crisply folded blanket?” my fiance asks, and I say, “No I don’t give a shit.”

2. No more eating in bed or in front of the TV. I have never spilled once! Name a time I spilled! Ok OTHER than yesterday.

3. You wake up to the loud rattling of cleaning products every weekend morning. Nothing like the toxic scent of Scrubbing Bubbles to rouse you from your slumber.

4. They don’t want you touching the pillows on the bed. What kind of idiot would put the big pillow in the front of the arrangement? You? Oh, OK stay out of the bedroom with your dumb messy self then.

5. Or really anything they own. What part of “You’re a messy idiot” don’t you understand?

6. You’ve become best friends with your Swiffer. Because it is the easiest way to keep your roommate off your back. You even added 10 minutes to your morning routine for a thorough mopping-up of your hair in the bathroom. You call it your Swiffer date. Sometimes you dip it as though you’re doing a sexy dance together. At least Swiffer loves your messes.

7. If you forget to clean up, you’re inundated with passive-aggressive notes. “Please PLEASE remember to wipe me down before you leave! I attract bugs if I’m not cleaned with bleach!” -Your Loving Countertop

8. And when you do clean, they criticize your cleaning techniques. The thing about paper towels is that they leave streak marks and I don’t give a fuck.

9. You have to change the sheets constantly like CONSTANTLY. After sex? Change the sheets. Woke up a little sweaty this morning? Change the sheets. Had a rough day at work? Change the sheets.

10. You’re forced to go halvsies on an expensive air purifier that you personally totally do not need. I would rather breathe black mold spores day and night than part with $150.

11. If they’re are having company on Saturday, Friday night will be devoted to cleaning. Pro tip: cope by turning your apartment into da club during your cleaning sesh (Beyonce, vodka Red Bulls, and a tequila shot for every task accomplished). Or just spend a reeeaallly long time on one thing.

12. You must leave the place in perfect condition when you leave for vacation, or suffer bitchy texts all weekend. Summary of your 43 unread texts: “u left the place a disaster, pls clean ASAP!!! :-)”

13. Bathroom garbages are PURE DECORATION. You’re not actually allowed to throw anything in there. Wrap that tampon up and take it to the kitchen, missy. This attractive wicker basket will not hold the wrath of your menstrual cycle. Even though it’s RIGHT NEXT TO THE TOILET.

14. It is unacceptable for window shades not to be evenly raised. What kind of message do messy shades send to the neighbors?

15. Guests are always horrified that your eat stuff off the floor. Five second rule? More like the 20 second rule. At the risk of looking like a slovenly bottom-feeder, this one’s actually kind of a pro.

16. Sinks, aka containers for water, cannot stay wet. They must be wiped dry. 1. Water evaporates. 2. This specific receptacle was literally made to be wet. 3. I hate you.

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Photo credit: Sony Pictures

Emma Barker Features Editor Emma Baker is an Editorial Intern and graduate student in NYU’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism program.

My husband used to be a compulsive cleaner. When we first started dating, he vacuumed twice a week, made his bed daily, and never left a dish in the sink (unless it resulted from an after-midnight drunken snack). Then he met me.

My mother-in-law still rues the day.

I’m the type of person whose decor can be described as “piles of mail, which doubles as art.” I’m not filthy, or likely to be ambushed by Hoarders cameras, but I’ve been known step over a wet towel on the bedroom floor — and then leave it there for a few days.

You see, I have ADD and have become accustomed to living in semi-functional anarchy. My daily exercise involves running around the entire house searching for my keys, my phone, my other shoe, that sweater I want to wear, my concealer, that bill I need to pay because I just got sent my third scary red notice and I can’t find the other two scary red notices…you get the picture.

My husband, on the other hand, is completely Type A and organizes his bills by due date, then makes reminders on his phone. He doesn’t have piles of dry cleaning spilling out of his closet or 16 nearly-empty bottles of shampoo constantly slipping off the edges of our shower, or a list of doctors offices he’s been expelled from for no call/no shows.

When I moved into my husband’s (then-boyfriend’s) place, his zen bedroom became an eruption of my clothes. Our kitchen, a war-zone of sacrilege disorder. Our entryway, an obstacle course of unopened mail and mismatched shoes. The basement, an abyss of “some day” projects.

Things haven’t changed. Now, my husband passive-agressively retaliates with snarky comments. I simply close the door when I don’t want to confront the piles of “creativity” dominating my “office.”

About once a week, he snaps. He starts hyperactive rage-cleaning and rants about how I am completely content to live like a “filthy, disgusting slob who’s going to put us on the news.” He starts making giant piles of my various collections: papers, shoes, clothes – whatever – stuffing them into closets and drawers. He vacuums, steam cleans – the whole nine yards. Meanwhile, I am hopping around behind him, shrieking that he’s making things more disorganized by tossing my belongings any old place, without any semblance of order. Thus, I start dismantling his piles under the guise that I am “organizing.” Of course, those new piles pile up.

Recently, my husband’s frustration hit a naggy apex, and the situation exploded into an even more enormous argument than usual. Truth is, the errant piece of mail that caused this clutter avalanche emerged due to unrelated stress: We’re remodeling our kitchen and my work load has increased. We’ve both gotten lethargic, but when I reach lethargy it means I simply put the dirty pots and pans in the oven and then avoid the oven.

But as they say, breakdowns pave the way for breakthroughs. Our big blowout forced us to sit-down and think about how the lack of household structure was effecting us individually and as a couple. I tend to let apathy breed apathy. Even though I function better in an organized environment, I completely fall off the clean-up wagon. My husband then feels like an unfair burden of maintaining the house has been placed on him.

Step one in our plan was purchasing a giant calendar to manage all of our upcoming appointments, including a cleaning schedule to give us direction on which chores need to be done daily and weekly. We also figured out which tasks we each like the most and the least.

The main thing I’ve learned throughout this whole process is that I need to be more conscious of my husband’s desire not to have a home with a decor theme of “Natural Disaster Aftermath Chic.” Similarly, he’s recognized that he needs to relax his standards — and also stop playing martyr of cleaning saviors.

The biggest change, however, is practicing “domestic diplomacy” – learning that respecting one another’s domestic desires was synonymous with respecting each other. It’s taken some time to get into that routine, but simply being more conscientious of each other’s feelings and needs has carried over into other aspects of our marriage: It’s made us better communicators, partners, and a stronger team.

Now, we’re much happier with one pile of laundry in a single laundry basket, and a freshly-made bed (after all – romance is sexier when you’re not shoving wet towels off the duvet cover!).

Mary McClelland Mary McClelland is a reality TV and pop culture blogger from WV.

I’m not married or even on my way down the aisle, but the problem that ails me is about my boyfriend of 6-ish months.

To start, he and I share many things in common (both enjoy working out, eating healthy, reading, taste in TV/movies, etc.) and he’s probably the most compatible man I’ve dated… and yet I have found one large problem that I continually revisit in my head, and has come up often in our conversations about the future.

He is considerably more messy than me. Let me elaborate. Every open surface in his house — dining room table, coffee table, kitchen counter tops — covered in stuff (he recently did a mass exodus of those areas)! Books, work papers, food (usually unopened), recent purchases, mail, supplements, laundry, etc. There is little to no organization in his house, and in fact, he still has boxes that he has yet to unpack from his move about a year ago. Yes, he is very busy (lawyer) and has limited free time but I’m reaching the end of my rope. I broke down recently and told him that the disarray was more than I could handle and was causing me to be distracted and anxious when we were together. He wanted to have sex and all I could think about the clutter all around me.

Being a 29 year old single female (never married), this issue concerns me, as this relationship has long-term potential. We spend quite a bit of time at his house and I’m seeing how he prefers to live and function. I am very tidy and want to have a clean, organized and well put together home. I live at home with my parents (going back to school) and so should he and I cohabitate it would be most likely be in his house.

I’m at the end of my rope and we don’t even live together. I’ve tried talking to him about it and some strides are being made in the right direction, however, I fear this will always be a Big Deal and something that will come between us. His reaction when I mentioned my needs in this area (general organization/working on home projects together/cleaning) is that he tends to get defensive, claims that I dislike his house and that he (sarcastically) is a slob. He has lived with two other women previously, both of which didn’t mind the mess and/or were even messier. He tells me that I’m very important to him and that we are in a serious relationship that could ultimately lead to marriage.

Do you have any advice in a new relationship in encouraging a partner to clean up after himself and keeping his house in better shape, without being a total nag/invasive of his home and environment? I’m an avid reader of your blog and I see that women struggle with similar issues with their husbands, and I’m concerned this will only get worse should we ever move in together/get married. He wants a large family as well and I don’t think I could manage it all by myself without falling apart completely. I want this relationship to work and also want him to be happy. I’m at a loss for how to navigate this situation delicately and with a positive outcome at the end.

For the first couple of weeks, he said he didn’t want to go out for dinner because he wanted to “be alone” with me. (“Alone” = coming to my house every night and eating the food I’d bought.) Then I went to his house to dine. In his enormous living room was one crappy-looking, moth-eaten sofa. His bedspread was an old sleeping bag. He has no cell phone, answering machine, or even cordless phone. Forget high-speed Internet or cable (he says they’re “not worth it,” though he watches my cable the instant he sets foot in the door). His car is 16 years old. His T-shirts are freebies from drug companies. And what did he make for dinner? Triscuits and hummus. For my birthday, he gave me a stainless steel trash can!!

I’ve repeatedly tried talking to him about the pleasures in life that are worth paying for, but he won’t budge. Am I wrong? Am I too much of a hedonist? I’m contemplating marrying this man. If I say “I do,” will I have to make my own clothes out of burlap potato sacks and eat Triscuits forever?—Not Old Mother Hubbard

Hubbard, you adorable glutton: I lurve Triscuits, and I’ve always believed that happiness can come from spending less, not more, money. But dang! Your Scrooge McDorkweed—poor guy!—is a petty little prune who thinks nothing of tossing the grandest joys (including you) into a trash can to save $3.33 a month. I feel bad for him, but unless he changes, as a husband he’d be a joke; as a father—what am I saying? He probably wouldn’t spend the sperm to make such a thing possible. Unless you want to live the classic “unlived life,” ruuuunnnnnnnn!

This letter is from the Ask E. Jean Archive, 1993-2017. Send questions to E. Jean at [email protected]

E. Jean I write the ASK E.

How To Live With A Messy Partner & Not Lose Your Mind

Why is the laundry not folded?

Why are the breakfast dishes still in the sink at dinner time?

Why are all of the jars open?

Living with a messy partner can be one of the most frustrating things about your spouse. Sometimes it can seem like you just can’t get through to them. But messy and clean “odd couples” can work out, it just takes some work from both parties.

1. Be Very Specific About What Bothers You

Not only do you need to use “I” language with a messy partner — but you also need to explain things clearly.

Most messy partners truly can’t see the mess that they’re leaving around.

The reason they can be messy is because the clutter simply doesn’t bother them. So when you ask them to do something to fix it, it’s harder for them; they just don’t have the visceral reaction you do.

Try to outline things for them from a functional standpoint: “I prefer it if you wash the dishes immediately, because otherwise it will attract ants or cockroaches.”

2. Distribute the Chores Fairly Rather than Equally

Try not to get too caught up in what’s “equal”, try to focus on what’s “fair”.

Your partner may want to take turns doing the laundry or turns doing the dishes, because that’s “balanced.” In truth, though, there are some chores that people just hate and other chores that people enjoy. Distribute the chores fairly based on what’s easiest for the individual.

If someone enjoys yard work but hates laundry, it makes more sense to distribute the yard work to them. Likewise, if someone absolutely hates dishes, they may need to take up a couple smaller chores to make up for never doing the dishes. The important thing is that no one is doing significantly more work that they loathe.

3. Try Not to Get Irritated

As long as your partner is genuinely trying to help out, getting irritated is only going to cause animosity.

Rather than getting irritated when a chore isn’t done or a mess is made, treat it as a mistake and request that they fix it. Too often couples begin to treat their partner’s mistakes as intentional acts of aggression; with a messy partner, it very likely isn’t intentional at all. Instead, they simply cannot see the same mess that you do. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with it, but taking it in a more positive direction can help your mood as well.

4. Get Rid of the Excess

You can’t have clutter if you don’t own clutter, right?

One of the best ways to limit the amount of messes that a partner can make is simply to eliminate unnecessary items in your home. Dishes are a great example of this. If you constantly find that dishes aren’t getting done, one way to get into the habit of doing them is to put all dishes away except for a few that you use. This forces you to wash dishes on a regular basis because you simply don’t have enough of them to keep cycling through.

5. Create Positive Reminders

Some tasks, such as taking out the trash at the end of the night, can simply be forgotten. Setting alarms on smartphones and other devices is a good way to remind yourself and your partner that it has to be done before you to go bed that night. You can even set up a system for alternating chores, so there’s never an argument regarding who is supposed to do something next.

6. Work With Them Rather than Against Them

Try to think from your partner’s point of view. Sometimes with someone who is absent-minded, it isn’t a matter of not wanting to do something; it’s a matter of forgetting altogether.

Often you can eliminate problems simply by altering the environment. For instance, if your partner tends to leave clothes on the bathroom floor, you might be able to resolve the problem by putting a hamper in the bathroom instead of the bedroom. Providing organizational tools can feel like a defeat, but as long as you aren’t “parenting” your partner in other emotionally exhausting ways, it may just be one of those little things done for the health of a relationship. That being said…

7. Try to Avoid Parenting Your Spouse

When you’re sick of tidying up after your spouse, you may end up parenting them instead of treating them as a partner.

Parenting occurs when you start feeling that they’re so irresponsible that they need to be taken through things step by step, and when you assume they are doing things incorrectly intentionally because they are lazy.

Remember: for the most part being messy isn’t some inadequacy; it’s a minor incompatibility. People live in different ways and grow up with different tolerances for mess. By approaching it with them rather than against them you can turn it into an exercise in bonding rather than a constant fight.

8. Teach your Children to Clean Up After Themselves

Dealing with children on top of a messy partner can be a hair-pulling level of frustration, but it can be somewhat mitigated by teaching kids to clean up after themselves. Agree early on deciding the types of chores that you’ll teach children (such as picking up their toys, or bringing their cups and dishes into the kitchen), and make sure that you teach them these skills consistently. That way, even if you still have a messy partner, you don’t have messy kids.

9. Learn to Make Some Concessions

Acceptance can be a huge step if you can concede: my partner is disorganized, and I’m going to have to live with it. There may be some small concessions you have to make, such as letting them keep their personal office in disarray, or allowing them to leave their own clothes unfolded in their drawers. There are some things that truly just don’t bother messy people, and where it doesn’t directly impact you, you may just have to leave them be.

Are you living with a messy partner and need to vent? Tell us your craziest stories!

7 Ways to Handle a Messy Wife or Husband

You have the same sense of humor and taste in music, but, chances are, you and your spouse have your share of differences, too—especially when it comes to keeping your humble abode, well, clean and humble. While differences in organization habits and cleanliness are common among any two roommates, it seems to be a topic of dispute particularly among couples. In a nationwide survey of 300,000 couples conducted by Lasting, the nation’s number-one couples counseling app, the two most common sources of conflict expressed were “how exactly cleaning gets done” and “what ‘clean’ looks like.” In fact, 76 percent of married people asked for help around the house last week! Here’s why this matters: cleaning as a team can help build your emotional connection.

Try to see things from your partner’s point of view

It’s so easy to get wrapped up into how a messy spouse affects your day-to-day life without stopping to think about the potential reasons why he or she may not be living up to your expectations. For example, maybe she works night shifts and needs to spend the majority of her days off catching up on rest and social obligations. “When I work with couples I encourage them to try to see things for the others point of view and look at ‘their way’ as not wrong, but different,” says Julienne Derichs, a licensed clinical professional counselor based in Chicago. Her best advice? Decrease the judgment. “It just might be possible that your S.O. doesn’t see the mess that you do, so try not to take this personally.”

Write down a list of the things that really bother you

Maybe your messy husband’s terrible folding skills frustrate you, but can you live with it so long as he can handle other chores? Or perhaps you hate that your messy wife never empties the dishwasher, but she is a pro at other tasks? Think in terms of what you absolutely cannot tolerate and certain things that you can either live with or seek out help for (i.e. using a laundry service). “You two are sharing a space and the cycle will continue if you expect the ‘messy level’ of your home to be on your terms only,” says Derichs. In other words, your partner’s opinion matters—whether you are the “neatnik” or the “total slob.” The real question is whether or not you can you both work together to set up “mess free” areas of your home.

Schedule a weekly or monthly couples meeting

At first this might sound pointless, especially when you already live together and spend most of your time alongside each other. However, experts point out that a scheduled time each week or month to go over how things are working for the both of you and express, in a calm manner, what you’d like to see change can be far more beneficial than letting your feelings out in a fit of rage when she leaves the dishes in the sink again. Liz Colizza, head of therapy for Lasting, suggests asking your partner how you can make cleaning a positive experience in both of your lives.

“Oftentimes, there are miscommunications and unmet expectations without creating a bit of structure around cleaning,” says Kat Van Kirk, Psy.D., licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist. “Focus on who has what strengths and chores work with fluctuating schedules instead of letting assumptions build resentments on both sides.”

Establish a process of negotiation

Compromising will never be a one-time incident—you will have to work together and reframe each scenario on a consistent basis to reach situations that are satisfactory to both of you. “If you keep calmly negotiating, bickering doesn’t have to escalate,” says Dr. Van Kirk. “It also sets you up to be able to discuss other more challenging topics later on.” Derichs suggests asking your partner to set alarms on his or her smartphone as a reminder to do the chores he or she has agreed to take on. “This way, you don’t have to be the ‘reminder-in-chief’ of your relationship,” she says.

Don’t forget to praise each other

Remember that this is a work-in-progress. The fact that your messy wife or messy husband is making an effort to become better in any capacity is a step in the right direction—and one that deserves praise. “If expectations are too high, the spouse may not be praising their partner enough and therefore there’s positive reinforcement for creating a new behavior pattern,” Dr. Van Kirk points out. “Praise and acknowledgement helps build goodwill and shows that you value each other’s needs.” In other words, a short, little “Thank you, hun, for getting those dishes done,” goes a long way!

Consider seeking out help

Many couples resist the idea of a housekeeper at first, but, if you can afford it, it might be one of the best things you can do for your roommate relationship. “New couples tend to be especially eager to prove that they can take care of everything in their household,” notes Dr. Van Kirk. She recommends a housekeeper, even one who comes once a month, to help with the bigger-item areas like dusting and cleaning the shower. “It doesn’t have to be weekly—it could be once a month or just for bigger cleaning jobs,” she says. Figure out what works for you both and consider the resources available.

Dig deeper

Dr. Van Kirk suggests looking at the bigger reasons behind these habits, starting with your own inclinations. Were you raised to stress out if there were ever dishes in the sink? Does your partner avoid cleaning because his or her parents were too high strung about it? “This can help you build compassion for one another,” she says. Also, there can be gender differences. “Due to more or less integration between both hemispheres of the brain, male brains don’t see the detail of needed cleaning whereas female brains notice every speck of dirt,” she adds. “In addition there are culturally assumed roles of what housework men versus women do.” Make this a part of the conversation and get explicit with what the bare minimum of cleanliness should be and follow a chore list need be.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.

Living Together When Your Significant Other Is the ‘Messy One’

Are you and your significant other ready to move in together? Take the quiz and find out!

Ah, the joys of living with a messy significant other. No matter how many times you ask them to stop leaving empty water glasses all over the house, they never, ever stop– and neither do the ensuing arguments. It seems like such a minute issue in the big scheme of relationships, but the truth is, the conflict is rooted in something deeper.

To a clean person, the mess their significant other generates feels like a lack of respect. Messy people aren’t messy on purpose, though, and the nagging can make them feel belittled and misunderstood. Unfortunately, there’s one universal truth about relationships of any nature: You can’t change people– even when they want to change for you.

The good news? You can make a tough situation a whole lot better for both of you. Here’s how:

Communicate

Your single best tool in relationship issues is communication, and the clean vs. messy debacle is no different. Even when you feel like your frustration (or the task you’d like them to complete) is blatantly obvious, it might not be. Everyone has his or her own tendency to be clean or messy, and these tendencies run very deep.

Things that bother you, like clothing strewn on the floor or dirty dishes in the sink, might be more than untroubling to a messy person– they may be completely unnoticeable.

So start at the beginning: Sit your partner down, and let him or her know that keeping a neat house is important to you and that you don’t really feel they’re contributing. Bringing up examples can be constructive, so long as you don’t do so aggressively.

A good way to go about it? “I noticed you don’t hang up your towel after you take a shower. To me, that means the towels won’t dry properly, will need to be cleaned more frequently and won’t last us as long.” This way your partner understands why cleanliness is important to you– not just that it is.

Discussing your expectations is equally important. If you two have different benchmarks for cleanliness, they might not be obvious. If your partner doesn’t even notice when the furniture gets dusty, he or she won’t think to clean it.

Try Not to Make Assumptions

This goes back to the inherent differences between the brain of a clean person and the brain of a messy person. Many neat people assume that messy folks are leaving out bowls and cups in hopes that someone will clean up after them, for example, or that they simply don’t care how the neat person feels, but that’s almost never the case.

People who aren’t bothered by messes don’t even notice the clutter, and they generally don’t leave messes sitting around intentionally.

Pick the Right Time

That said, it’s definitely important to address the issue if it bothers you. After all, you two coexist, and living comfortably is something both parties have a right to. When you bring up the problem is just as important as what you say during it.

Times to avoid talking about cleanliness: when you’re angry, frustrated or about to leave the house. When you’re feeling relatively calm, sit your partner down (when you both have plenty of time) and address the issue in the most constructive way possible.

It’s easy to walk into a conversation like this with expectations for how the other person will respond (who wouldn’t?), but it’s important to realize it may not go quite as you planned– remember, the other person processes this particular issue differently. They may bring up behaviors of yours that bothers them, too, and that’s OK. As long as both parties are willing to listen, the conversation will do a world of good!

Get to the Bottom of It

Many times, the problem goes back to the environment a person experienced growing up. Sometimes, messiness can signify a larger issue, and if your significant other grew up in a household with depressed or absent parents, they may equate a lack of neatness as a lack of care.

The same goes in reverse– many disorderly homes are happy ones, too, and a cluttered home may seem more relaxed and comfortable to a messy person.

Come Up With a Compromise

After all the talking comes the important part: creating a system that works for both of you. Asking a messy person to be as neat as you is unfair and unlikely to work, while a messy person should make a concerted effort to help keep a clean house.

A good solution can include a number of things, from dividing chores based on what’s natural or enjoyable for both of you, or promising not to jump to conclusions next time your S.O. leaves the cereal out.

Don’t Expect a Radical Change

We said it before and we’ll say it again: For better or worse, you cannot change people, and it’s unlikely they will wake up tomorrow and see the world through your eyes. Inherently messy people will probably never prioritize or understand neatness, and neat people will always want to take meticulous care of the homes they live in.

That’s why communication is usually the most effective solution to relationship problems — the more you understand your significant other’s real intentions (and not what his or her actions would mean if you did them), the less you resent them for being the way they are.

The solution? Sorry, folks– there may not be one. There’s something to be said for accepting what you cannot change, though, and there’s a whole lot to say for telling your partner what’s on your mind, even when it might seem obvious. And if that doesn’t work, well, there’s always a cleaning service.

I would love to see a post about how to make it work as a couple when the tolerance for mess/disorder is quite different! I’ve googled it and it seems to be a ‘thing’, as we rarely seem to pair up with someone with the exact same quirks and tidiness habits! If you have any tips for how to keep your sanity in this situation it would be so helpful!”

Now, as I commented to Sasha on that post, I’m actually not sure how much help I can be here, because this is my life, basically:

On the left, Terry’s desk; on the right, mine. Nothing was added or removed from either desk before this photo was taken: I literally just walked into the office one morning, and realised that our desks had managed to perfectly illustrate our respective personalities, and that it just HAD to be photographed.

(It’s worse now, btw. This is an old photo, and, to be totally honest, when I dug it out of the archive, my first thought was, “Hmmm, that actually looks quite neat to me now.” In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of that stuff is STILL there, just buried under a heap of MOAR STUFF. Send help – and also wine…)

I should probably say, before I go any further here, that there’s no value judgement implied in Terry being the “messy” one and me being the “neat” one: it’s not that I think I’m somehow better than him, or vice-versa – it’s just that we’re polar opposites in our approach to how we like to live, and I’m pretty sure that, at this point, neither of us is going to change. And, I mean, like most messy people I know, it’s not that Terry’s lazy, or that he doesn’t care (He might be untidy in many respects, but he can also be super-anal about some stuff. Like how to correctly load the dishwasher, say. Or making sure the recycling is correctly categorised…): it’s that he genuinely doesn’t seem to see the mess – it just doesn’t register with him. Like, if I go to put something into the laundry basket, and find that it’s already full, I’ll empty it and put on a wash: if Terry finds the laundry basket full, on the other hand, he’ll just cram something else into it, Tetris-style.

As for me, meanwhile, well, I’m probably not going to change all that much either, really. And, when I started writing this post, I was a little worried that it would encourage people to criticise Terry for his messiness, but I actually think it’s more likely to be the other way around. I’ve written about this before, but I get quite a bit of flack for being a so-called “neat freak” – I think being messy is often seen as the default, or “normal” way to be, so, when you like things neat, you get a lot of snide comments about how you don’t have your priorities straight, or must have too much time on your hands (I even had a reader Internet-diagnose me with Asperger’s Syndrome a few weeks ago, purely because I’m an introvert with a tidy house…), but, for me, I just feel more comfortable when my surroundings are relatively neat: always have, probably always will.

I don’t think that makes me better or worse than someone like Terry, who’s the complete opposite: we’re just different… and I’m sure those differences make life just as difficult for him as they do me, because they mean we both have to compromise, if we want to stay married. Terry has to be a little bit tidier than he would be on his own, and as for me… well, I have to choose my battles, basically. This, for instance?

This is not my battle. If it was, I’d be straight-up insane by now, because this is the very definition of a losing battle. I mean, he DOES occasionally tidy it, and once even managed to KEEP it tidy for an entire month, just to prove he could do it. Sooner or later, though, it always ends up like this again, and I’ve basically had to accept that this is the way things are going to be, and develop a kind of selective blindness to this corner of the room. Honestly, I just try not to look at it. Sometimes I fail at that, and throw myself to the floor, fists flailing, as I scream, “WHHHY, GOD, WHHHHYYYY”?!” (And by, “sometimes,” I mean, “This very week, actually…”), but, well, I’m working on not doing that so much. Mostly because of Max, actually: since he’s been here, I’ve not only had to accept that there’s going to be a certain level of mess now, I’ve also found myself thinking more about my own behaviour, and how it could affect him. And, while I don’t particularly want him to grow up to be messy, or inconsiderate to the people he has to share space with, I also don’t want him to grow up feeling like he can’t ever relax and just, you know, live, without his mum having a nervous breakdown, you know?

So, like I say, you have to compromise, and you have to learn to pick your battles. Terry’s desk is not my battle. (Well, not ALL of the time, anyway.) Neither is Terry’s cupboard (I offered to go through it and colour-code all his clothes. He said no.), his chest of drawers, or selected other corners of the house that I’ve long since ceded control over.

This, on the other hand?

This is my battle. Or it WAS my battle. For an entire week, in fact: because that’s how long this box, plus its contents, remained on the kitchen table, before I decided it was time to take action, and posted a photo of it on Instagram Stories. Honestly, I should have just left it – partly because I was genuinely curious to know how long it would have stayed there (Which was why I didn’t just move the damn thing myself…), but mostly because, the next morning, Terry hit back – and hit where he knew it would hurt:

Yeah, he gave that box a face.

A FACE, PEOPLE.

And then it got worse:

By the time that damn box left the building, I was the one begging for it to stay. And this, my friends, is why my next tip is this:

BE YE NOT SO PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE.

JUST ASK WHEN YOU WANT SOMETHING MOVED.

SERIOUSLY, THO.

(Also, I know you’re all thinking, “FFS, Amber, it’s just a single box in an otherwise immaculate kitchen: would you just let the man live a little!” I mean, that’s certainly what I suspect TERRY was thinking. This is the kind of battle you run into when you’re a tidy person cohabiting with a messy person, though: some things are just the final straw, and while you COULD say it’s just a box on a table, you could ALSO say, “But how hard is it REALLY to just pick it up and take it to the shed?” I sense I’m losing my audience here, though, so, moving on…)

I try my best not to interfere with the areas of the house designated as “Terry’s domain,” but, when it comes to communal areas, like the kitchen and living room, I think the best thing you can do is to agree some basic ground rules, like picking things up before bed, say, or not leaving boxes on tables for so long that they start to develop their own personalities. (This works both ways, by the way: as I said, Terry is untidy, but he’s meticulous about things like recycling and kitchen hygiene, and I’m constantly falling foul of some rule or other about how the kitchen should be managed. So it’s not like I’m some kind of household dictator, joylessly sucking the fun out of life, while Terry cowers in the corner, afraid of incurring my wrath. Even although that whole “box” thing HAS totally made it sound like that, obviously…)

My other tip here is to make sure you have adequate storage in those communal areas, so it’s as easy as possible to keep them tidy. We, for instance, now have this in our living room:

This gorgeous Scandinavian-style sideboard was c/o Zurleys, and has so far proven to be the solution to our ever-growing “stuff” problem. Now that Max is here, you see, the kitchen and living room are in a near-constant state of chaos, with toys, bibs, burp clothes, and various other baby-related detritus littering every surface. I’ve been doing my best to try to tidy it all up every night before bed, but the problem was, we didn’t really have anywhere for it all to GO, so it would end up piled on the coffee table or stuffed into various kitchen cupboards. When it comes to keeping things tidy, I’m a big believer in the, “a place for everything,” philosophy: it’s just not possible to keep a house tidy if you don’t have decent storage, and, until this arrived, we didn’t have any storage at all in the living room, so while I’m not saying it’s changed our lives, or saved our relationship, I also totally AM saying that, because lookit how much storage it gives us!

One of Terry’s main excuses for untidiness has always been lack of storage, so our latest acquisition solves that problem, and has also given me a really excellent excuse to buy a few new sets of my beloved IKEA Skubb boxes, so that’s good, too.

As for my final tip, meanwhile, it’s simply this:

Play to your strengths.

Because Terry and I have such different ideas about what constitutes a “tidy” house, we realised a long time ago that we’d have to divide the household labour in a way that worked for both of us. Terry might not be particularly tidy, for instance, but he’s a GREAT cook, AND he enjoys it. (Well, most of the time, anyway.) Me, on the other hand? Er, not so much, really. I mean, I CAN cook, obviously (Because if you can read, you can cook, right?), but I don’t enjoy it, and I’m just not enough of a foodie to be interested in it: seriously, if it was left to me, we’d basically eat Pot Noodle all the time – other than when we were eating toast, obviously. If I was feeling particularly fancy, we might have Pot Noodle AND toast, but, I mean, that would have to be for a very special occasion, because my philosophy here is that if it takes longer to cook it than it takes to eat it, I’m out.

(I will obviously not be applying this philosophy to food I prepare for Max, settle down…)

So, in our house, I do all the cleaning and laundry, Terry does all the cooking and DIY. A lot of people are absolutely horrified by this arrangement, and start clutching frantically at their pearls when they hear that I don’t cook a hearty meal for my man every night, but luckily it’s not 1941 any more, and while it might not work for everyone, this is the arrangement that works for us. As well as making sure the house remains habitable, and we’re all fed, and wearing clean clothes, it also means that nobody has to feel guilty about not pulling their weight: seriously, though, all table-boxes aside, it would be pretty tricky for me to pull some kind of martyr act about the paintbrushes that sat in the kitchen sink for two weeks straight, when the reason they were there was because the poor guy was working his butt off in the garden every spare second, right? I mean, I could TRY, but it would make me a bit of an asshole, really, and I try to only be an asshole on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so, yeah.

You have to look at the bigger picture, is what I’m saying, rather than focusing on the paintbrushes in the sink, or the box on the table. (Or, OK, the hosepipe in the bath, but, in my defence, that one was REALLY freaking annoying…) Terry is probably never going to be tidy, but he makes up for it in a million and one other ways, and I for one could definitely do with trying to remember that a little more often.

So!

01. Compromise.

02. Choose your battles.

03. Set basic groundrules.

04. Make tidying as easy as possible.

05. Play to your strengths with the division of labour.

06. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Anything else you’d like to add?

DR. Joshua Coleman

They say that you should write about what you know, and I know all about being a lazy husband. My laziness once stretched like the British Empire, from the small villages of my children’s toys and bottles, to the teeming civilizations of dirty laundry, food to be prepared, kids to be played with, and kitchens to be cleaned. I developed advanced techniques to avoid work and prided myself in their execution. I feigned exhaustion when the grass began to grow so wild that my children could hide in the yard and the fire department couldn’t find them. I developed allergies to all household cleaning agents, especially anything that could ever be used on a toilet, run through a washing machine, or poured on a kitchen floor. My laziness was a work of art, a lifestyle happening, an inspiration to all of my (male) friends.

And then, over time, something terrible happened. My wife began to change. Not as in screaming, crying, guilt-tripping, change. But, as in, “Okay, Jack, game is over. I am no longer pulling my weight and yours in this household.” I was concerned. So I tested her limits just the way the raptors did in the first Jurassic Park movie by hurling themselves against the side of the cage. She didn’t flinch.
I tried acute, hysterical sensory loss such as
Memory failure: “I never agreed to take out the garbage every week!”
Hearing failure: “You never said I should change their diapers more than once a day!” and
Loss of vision: “Actually, I don’t see any dust balls.”

It took a while for me to realize that my lazy days were drawing to a close, and that a new era of greater participation was setting in. My wife was becoming someone that I couldn’t shrug off, scare off, or bug off. She was someone that I had to reckon with.

**

As a psychologist and self-help author, I often receive desperate pleas from mothers wanting to know how to get their husbands to be more involved with the housework and children. Some women are on the verge of divorce, while others are still struggling to comprehend why her partner acts like a 50’s-style uninvolved guy when he promised to share 50 percent of the parenting and housework before the children came on the scene.

I believe that the onus is on men to do the changing. However, I don’t think they’re going to be in any rush because the current system works so well for them. After all, would women be rushing to change if men, in addition to doing the majority of housework and parenting, also worked outside of the home the way most women do these days? Probably not. So unfortunately, if we’re going to get your husband to do his fair share, you’re going to have to lead the charge here, and that’s what this book is about. 1 I could write a book like this for men, detailing all of the ways that they should pitch in more equitably, and touting the benefits that they’d gain, but I prefer to write books that will be read. If I wrote a book like this for men, it would be the wives who would buy it for their husbands, and that would only worsen the problem because it would sit unopened alongside books like Parenting During Your Infant’s First Year, How You Can Save Your Marriage, and Let’s Talk About Feelings. In other words, women will have to lead the charge on this because men won’t.
However, while this book is written to women, they’re not the only ones who will benefit by it. Your husband and children will also gain from making your house a place where everything doesn’t get dumped on you. For example, consider the following facts from social science research:

  • Women with partners who are actively involved in parenting and housework are happier and more satisfied with their marriages.
  • Women who do the majority of housework and childcare in a family are more prone to physical illness and more likely to become depressed.
  • Children score higher on academic tests in homes where dad is more involved.
  • When children are raised in homes where dad isn’t involved in housework, boys are often more anxious at three-and-a-half, and girls are less warm and less task-oriented.
  • School age children who do housework with their fathers have more friends at school, and are more likely to get along well with others. They’re also less likely to disobey teachers.
  • Women are far more likely to think about divorce when they’re married to men who neglect the house and kid.
  • Men who regularly do housework are associated with wives who are more interested in sex.
  • Children who do housework with fathers are less likely to be socially withdrawn or suffer from depression.

Why should you read The Lazy Husband ?
This book was inspired by the mothers in my practice, conversations with my women friends and colleagues, my own marriage, and the letters I receive on a regular basis from stressed-out moms. The ideas found here are based on my clinical experience, as well as my readings in the areas of psychology, sociology, anthropology, women’s studies, and economics. My central goal in writing The Lazy Husband is to help you understand how to motivate your mate to be a better partner to you, and a better father to your children.

Since the book is written to you, we’ll look at what you may have to change in yourself in order to enact changes in your partner. We’ll discuss how society’s messages about being a woman and mother may inhibit your bargaining power or position of authority in the household. As a way to understand how your belief systems affects you and your partner, we’ll examine traditional marriages, egalitarian marriages, and marriages that are somewhere in-between. We’ll see how your experiences in childhood helped or hindered your capacity to be sufficiently entitled and assertive with your husband, how children changed your marriage for better and for worse, and how understanding those changes can prepare you to create a better reality . We’’ll look at different types of husbands and wives as a way to gain insight into the successes and obstacles that each personality types produce. We’ll explore common differences between the sexes and see how those play out in your relationship. Finally, we’ll give your husband his very own chapter for how he can contribute to your happiness, and increase the peace in the household. In other words, this book will take a big, bold look at how you can do less by getting your husband to do more.

DGLimages / iStock

Surprise my sister on any random day of the week, and her house is, without exception, pristine. Her husband is a neat freak, her live-in mother-in-law is a neat freak, her two older girls have been trained to be neat freaks, and the baby changes his own diapers. Just kidding about that last one, probably. My sister is a self-proclaimed former slob, but she says her husband inspired her to change her ways. Her family of six is like a troupe of dancers fluttering gracefully through the house in a choreographed ballet of tidiness, each doing his or her part to rid the home of unsightly clutter. Pretty sure my baby nephew crawls around with mop attachments affixed to his hands and knees.

My house is the exact opposite of this, and I’m jealous as shit.

I’ve always liked for my things to be organized, clean, and aesthetically pleasing. I’m a minimalist at heart; clutter makes me anxious. Growing up, I always dreamed of having a home that would “rise up to greet me,” as Oprah used to say, and I don’t mean tripping over a pair of shoes and having the floor rise up to greet my face.

The catch is, I refuse to clean up anyone else’s mess.

My husband is a great guy who works long hours and does a lot around the house in terms of general maintenance, but he is, indisputably, a slob. There is no malice behind it — he’s just wholly and hopelessly oblivious to the trail of socks, receipts, and coffee mugs he leaves in his wake. In the early years of our marriage, I tried to train him, but that has been an epic, ongoing failure. Our kids are slobs too, as kids tend to be, and I don’t begrudge them for it; I know I have to teach them. And I’m trying to keep up with it all, really, I am. But without sacrificing my entire day to picking up messes I didn’t make, my house goes straight to shit.

I’ve gone back and forth with this, at times surrendering and thinking, This is my life now. I must accept it, reluctantly resolving to let my family’s mess float beneath my awareness like water under a bridge. I read articles advising not to try to change your spouse and am momentarily assured that ignoring the clutter is the right thing to do. I see the quirky wall prints that say, “Excuse the mess. We live here,” and pat myself on the back for being so mindful and progressive.

But then I’ll visit my sister or binge-watch a season of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, and suddenly I’ll get a burst of “If we work as a team, we can do this!” I’ll don my imaginary battle armor and storm into the wreckage brandishing my broom-sword, gesticulating wildly for my family to “PICK THIS UP! AND THAT! AND THAT! AND THOSE! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!”

And when I nag and point and scream and helicopter and act generally insane, they do pick up their shit. So, I can have a clean house, as long as I maintain constant hypervigilance over everyone at all times.

But *takes a deep cleansing breath* if I look away for even a couple of hours, the whole fucking operation goes right to hell. Last weekend I was up against a deadline and needed to hole up in my office for the day. When I emerged, the kitchen counters were piled with dirty plates, aluminum foil, mugs, and napkins; shoes and helmets lined the hallway; toys and art projects cluttered the living room and kitchen table; and several unidentified sticky spots had appeared at various intervals along the floor. I burst into tears — snotty, incoherent, ugly-cry blubbering.

I looked away for one day, people.

One day.

I am so tired of looking around at the piles of discarded clothes, papers, Nerf darts, and dirty dishes, and realizing that none of it is mine. I am so over grabbing the vacuum and realizing that in order to complete that chore, I have to pick up a bunch of other people’s crap first. I want to go on strike. I want to say, “I won’t vacuum until you pick up your shit!” But if I do that, I have to hover until that task is done, because I know if I dare walk away, that shit’s not getting finished.

I’m not begging for anyone’s kidney, here. I just want my family to put their fucking clothes in the hamper and their dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I want to be able to say, “Yo, clean the living room,” and have it actually happen. Why is this so impossible? Why can’t my family be like my sister’s — synchronized in our quest for order? I so desperately want my family to give a shit.

But they don’t.

And so I, a neat freak among slobs, am faced with a choice: Do I turn a blind eye to the chaos and hate my environment, or do I nag my family relentlessly and end up hating both myself and them?

No, seriously, I’m asking: What would you do? Because I’m fighting a losing battle here, and I am fucking exhausted.

Our house is so messy my husband’s threatening to leave

Dear Cary,

My husband, two young children and I live in a small split-level house. My kids and I live upstairs; my husband lives downstairs. I’ve always been a slob. I like a clean house, but I work full-time and attend to the needs of the kids, and I have neither the time nor the energy to devote to housecleaning. My husband also works full-time and also hates cleaning. He never cleans upstairs (or downstairs, for that matter). He has issued an ultimatum: Let’s clean up the house, or I’m leaving. However, I still can’t bring myself to clean.

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I believe one of the following must be true: A) I am a truly hopeless slob and no consequence is serious enough to motivate me to clean; B) I’m suffering from clinical depression and am incapable of completing simple tasks; C) I’m filled with resentment because my husband believes that any mess the children make is my responsibility to clean; D) I keep “my” part of the house unpleasant for him to be in because I’m exhausted by work and the kids, and I don’t want to attend to someone else’s needs; E) All of the above.

The house really does get quite dirty sometimes. (Not “health-hazard” nasty — just “oppressively cluttered and unpleasant to live in” dirty.) My husband truly believes the dirty house is the root of our problems. I think it may be a symptom of something larger, and I believe we need some kind of counseling. What do you think? Am I just lazy, or is something more going on here? Is this just my problem, or do we need to do some troubleshooting? Thanks for the perspective.

Not a Neat Freak

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Dear Not a Neat Freak,

Here is one way this could go:

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That’s one way you could go with this. Or you could clean the house.

You could schedule two hours a week to clean the house together.

Or if you don’t have two hours a week each to spare but you do have $50 or $100 a week to spare, you could hire somebody to clean the house. One or the other. If you’ve got the money to hire somebody, hire somebody. If you don’t, schedule two hours a week to clean the house together.

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I know it’s hard. I’m not a neat freak either. I know how maddening it can be. To live in a messy, dirty, disorganized house day after day can feel absolutely mind-blowingly devastatingly depressing and hopeless, plus itchy and sneezy.

It won’t go away on its own. It will just make your relationship worse.

The need for control over space leads to the need for control over a person. You see that person as an obstacle to your need for space. Get out of my chair. Take that magazine. You left this on my table. What is this doing here? You forget that this is a person you love, that you like to be with.

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I personally love that question: What is this doing here? How can you answer a question like that?

And how can we speak more honestly about what’s going on with us and our irritation? You sit down on a chair and the table in front of you is covered with magazines and you want to brush all the magazines to the floor. That would feel really good. But what are you feeling right there? You are feeling frustration, irritation. What if we were to say, Wah, I’m feeling frustration and irritation! Wah! Then you’re just naming what you’re feeling. You’re not battling with anybody.

That sounds a little silly, like therapy-speak. But what I’m saying is our irritation over space can easily spill over into irritation with another human being without our realizing it.

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Basically, you and he need to clean the house. Either schedule a cleaning person to come or schedule you and your husband to do it. As to the questions you ask, and so forth, it all could be true. But until you clean the house you won’t really know.

We do it Saturday mornings. Every Saturday morning we clean the house for two hours. And now the house is clean. Amazing. You just get up in the morning and get a bucket or broom or whatever and start in. It’s easier to clean first thing in the morning. Like you’re not breaking off from another activity; it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. And you know it’s on the schedule so it’s just like going to work or something. And also it’s both of us doing it so there’s not one person going grrr, I’m cleaning and she’s not, or vice versa. We’re both doing it.

But your house itself may present obstacles. For instance, our house is an old 1920s house and the interior paint and flooring were in very bad shape. It was dirty. It was dirty even when it was clean. You could clean it but it was still dirty. And there were carpets that were disgusting. So when you would clean you would get allergies. It would stir things up. You couldn’t clean the place. Cleaning was useless. We either had to move or remodel the house. So we remodeled. It was expensive and difficult but now at least it’s possible to clean the house.

That is, admittedly, an extreme solution. And yet it worked. The lesson for you is that you may find you can’t clean because you need work done on the house; you may need painting; you may need the floors done; you may need storage units for your stuff; you may need to approach it as a wholesale organizational project. But it is worth it. I actually sort of enjoy cleaning the house now. Before, it was like I was mad at the house and the house was mad at me. Like the house didn’t deserve to be cleaned. Like the house was spitting in my face. It was laughing at me. But then we got carpenters in to tear out the walls and sort of intimidated the house into submission. We battled the house and won. Now it meekly submits to regular cleaning.

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The main thing is you have to begin. Keep at it. Make it regular. And don’t get divorced over this. If you’re going to get divorced, get divorced over something really good. Like if you find out he is secretly supporting triplets he fathered with a Russian countess, or if you decide to run away with a rodeo cowboy, then get divorced. Don’t get divorced over the housecleaning. Just clean the house.

Feeling dirty and disorganized? Here, have a nice clean book!


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