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Messy House is Depressing!

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Household Management > Messy House is Depressing!



Feb. 2004

In the scope of things this is pretty insignificant yet it bothers me quite a bit. I grew up in a household with three other females and a father who was well trained by his mother and being in the military. Between the five of us our house was always clean. I actually LOVED to clean when I was young (nothing better than getting in the tub and scrubbing the tiles!) and I stayed in this mode until a few years into my current 12 year marriage. My husband is not a slob but he's also not into cleaning at all. We had many many arguments early on about cleaning the house, to the point where I got tired of arguing and gradually I've sunk to the lowest common denominator and the house now gets really dirty before I'm motivated to clean it. We can't afford a house cleaner. I understand that he works very long hours (without bringing home much income, but that's another story) and doesn't want to clean on days off, but it's depressing to me and in my stubborness, resentment and sense of futility I've become someone I don't recognize in this regard. My son, newly out of the house, is also not a cleaning fanatic. I also work outside the home and cleaning up after males has never been my idea of fun. How do other couple deal with this? anon


I have done Flylady and it has helped a lot. I don't espouse every one of her views, but I get what I need (a routine, what to clean, etc.) and leave the rest. www.flylady.net Good luck. Laurel
You sound just like me. My fiance and I have been living together for about three years. We were best friends for YEARS before and silly me - I knew he was a slob. He can barely put a cap back on anything he opens – mayonnaise, soda, shaving cream (nothing). When my family calls and asks what I’m doing I almost always say that I am cleaning up. My grandmother finally says - you guys have a little house (typical Berkeley bungalow) ''WHAT are you always cleaning.'' We have no kids and one dog.

He works F/T and goes to school F/T so he complains about the long hours and having to get fussed at by me as soon as he gets home too. Lord knows how this will change when we do have kids. House keeper is also not an option. How do we deal with this? There’s three sides to every story.

1. When I get completely fed up I yell. I tell him I am not strong enough to do my work and his work too and something has to change or I will snap – and then I break into tears. (this happens once a month – hormones).

2. I clean up. I bought a box and his stuff goes in the box. If the box fills up it goes in his closet and I make another one. But I keep on cleaning. I add it into part of my routine and clean clean clean. I clean when I get up (he stays up late studying and snacking.) I clean when I get home – the bathroom, his clothes from the morning and whatever he ate. I clean before I go to bed. (My grandmother says it’s a woman’s work and I better find a routine now before it gets out of control. Yeah, yeah I thought it was antiquated also until I realized somebody has to clean this house and it will never be him). Luckily, I don’t do any of the cooking so I justify it as the trade off.

3.&nb! sp;When in doubt I call my girls and they let me share my fantasies (having enough money for a housekeeper, coming home to a man that cleans, kicking him out so I can have some sanity again) and before I go to far they chuckle and tell me it will be alright.

Was any of this the concrete advice you were looking for? I don’t think so. But I hope you find solace in knowing that you are not alone. There are many men and women that are stuck with a slob for a partner. My grandmother is a domestic goddess. Worked every day of her adult life and to this day at 80+ keeps an immaculate home (with a messy husband). I’m just not strong enough. My grandkids will not be able to say the same of my home.

If my fiance could clean I would think differently but I’ve seen him try to clean. He can’t stay focused on one task at a time and ends up with twelve started and unfinished projects lying around the house. My only option is to get rid of the fiancé and recapture a clean home because my fiancé just doesn’t have what it takes to be a clean guy. Since I don’t want to get rid of him I also learn to live at the lowest common denominator. Some people call it settling. I call it getting past my expectations and dealing with the reality of my life. anon


I know you said you couldn't afford a housecleaner, but what about once a month? (or even every-other month?) My once-a-month cleaner costs me $68 ($17/hr x 4 hrs.) to clean about 2,000 sq. ft. Once-a-month cleaning means that if I never clean, the house still gets done, and if I want the house cleaned more, I just clean a l! ittle. In short, i probably vacuum once a month (but not always!), and clean a few sinks and toilets once a month. But I never bother scrubbing showers, tubs, etc. and rarely dust. I don't recommend cleaning services -- they overcharge you and underpay their people. Just find an individual.

That said, can you possibly get your husband to take responsibility for one small job? Maybe cleaning a half-bath, if you have one, which just means sink, toilet and floor?? It's about 20 minutes of work... Or could he vacuum, if you're willing to do all the pick-up and other rooms?

I've heard putting mats outside and inside all your doors reduces dirt tracked in the house. A shoes-off policy is even better. Cuts down on the need to vacuum. Also, maybe assess the problem. Too much clutter? That's picking up, not cleaning and calls for different solutions. (Find better storage solutions and picking up regularly.) Good luck.

My Spouse Doesn't Clean Either


Check out www.flylady.net. I've been using the routines and zone cleaning ideas for about a month and my house is much cleaner and organized with (what seems like) a lot less effort. - fluttering
My husband sounds similar to yours and its taken me years to convince him to take responsibility for a couple straight forward everyday tasks (namely emptying the dishwasher and taking out the garbage). Those are the only two things he does without me explicitly asking and any other request is met with opposition. But I just started something about a month ago that is actually working out pretty well. I have a nine-year- old daughter, too. So I introduced the idea of us all (at the same time) spending 1 hour of our weekend on cleaning. I put pieces of paper in a bowl with different items on them, like ''Pick a Bedroom'', ''Pick a Bathroom'', ''Kitchen'' and ''Frontroom''. Each of us picks a piece of paper. There's a short period of trades, where I basically let them take mine, if they'd rather. Then we set the kitchen timer fo! r 30 minutes and each goes to their selected room and cleans. Then we come back and take a second ''turn.'' I'm actually pretty amazed at how well this has worked. Neither of them have complained (yet) and, although we don't get all the rooms done every week, we're bound to get them done every other week. And 1 hour doesn't seem too terribly overwhelming to anyone. Often I go in and do a thing or two more in the rooms they cleaned, but it's so much easier than doing the whole thing myself that I don't mind at all. Cathy
Hi, I am sure you will get a ton of people recommending this website to you... but that is because it is WONDERFUL!!! www.flylady.net Try it and you'll be thrilled! Michelle
My best advice is to re-think the affordability of a housecleaner. It may be less expensive than you think, and if I had to pinch pennies, there are a great many things I'd give up long before the housecleaner. (Cable TV comes immediately to mind.)

The other possible solution is, rather than trying to get your husband to do his share of the cleaning, you could make a conscious ''trade''. You'll clean, because it's important to you, and he'll do some other task or tasks that matter more to him -- car or yard maintenance, perhaps, or the grocery shopping. In fact, the division of labor in your household may already be more fair than you think it is. (Or, if it isn't, perhaps your husband would be more open to discussing it if you were proposing something other than him doing more cleaning.) Hasn't Cleaned a Bathtub in Years


Yes, this issue can be a killer! My husband and I spent a long time fighting about housecleaning (we can't afford a cleaner either) until we reached a compromise. Two things work great- first, instead of nagging him all weekend to please do something around the house, ! he has one weekly chore that he does with the understanding that he must do it every weekend and I won't nag or mention it. His chore, we decided, it to vacuum the whole house. Second, I swear by www.flylady.net. Her system of daily maintenence, decluttering and weekly chores will keep your house spic and span. Yes, you get a million e- mails, but I think its worth it. The key is really to do a little bit every day instead of letting it overwhelm and depress you. Will you do more work than your husband? Yes. But its more important to you (I am convinced that left to his own devices my husband would live in complete squalor) and once your house is beautiful again, I doubt you'll care. Once you are able to let go of your resentment, you'll be amazed at the happy (and even sometimes productive) husband and marriage and house that emerge.&nb! sp; Sounds simplistic, but I speak with experience! Good luck! Rebecca
I'd start limiting their sphere of influence. Let your husband make a total mess on his side of the bed, and beat him around the head and shoulders if he messes up the rest of the house (ahem. figuratively speaking, of course). This type of ''training,'' should take about three years, of course. In the meantime, this is obviously getting you down, so I'd start flylady. www.flylady.com good flying!
I didn't read the original post; but take it from someone who’s had a weekly cleaner and who’s had to fight the battle of a messy house for years anyway. Until recently, when I decided to really organize my house.

I started with the kitchen and bath cabinets and eventually moved onto my husbands office and daughter's room. I found all sorts of neat and inexpensive draw and shelf organizers, door hooks, etc at the hardware store that really helped. And I threw away and donated tons of stuff. With the piles of stuff off all the surfaces, I 'm able to display some nice things that have been buried in all our junk.

The main ''work'' --getting started with the kitchen took a few days; but once I got on a role, this cleaning process built up its own momentum.! My husband even pitched in, taking pride in his contributions. The organization has been contagious! My family has Started being much neater because the house looks so much better. And I'm on considering getting rid of our house cleaner because the house looks almost as good before she comes as after she leaves! Deborah


Being pregnant and at my wit's end with our messy house and lack of energy to clean, I started a new schedule. I've broken down the components of our house which need to be cleaned into 10 individual jobs (e.g., one room at a time, floors, etc.) I then calendar each job once over a two week period. I am able to find the time and energy to clean on this basis. The tasks that take more time and/or energy I calendar for days that have little else going on. I've also picked a couple of things I really don't like and have assig! ned them to my husband (oven/stove, master bath, mowing the lawn). I feel like it is a fair trade and it feels very doable. Hope it helps. -- Can't afford a house cleaner either!
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