It's gradually dawned on me that a clean, neat living space is vital to my happiness. I don't think most people would consider me a neat freak. My idea of "clean" is that the bathroom and kitchen get scrubbed once in a while, dishes don't pile up, floors get swept and carpets vacuumed, and horizontal surfaces stay free of clutter unless it's stuff that's actively being used.
The problem is that my girlfriend, with whom I've been living for three years, does not share these views. She'll sometimes do the dishes, but never undertakes any other kind of cleaning unless I really badger her about it (which is a Pyrrhic victory for me since we both end up angry).
I want her to change. I want her to be somebody who actively helps me keep the house presentable, to the point that I wouldn't be embarrassed to have company over at any random moment. Clutter is a big part of the problem: She has the habit of just leaving things on the table, or the couch, or the coffee table, or the floor. Clothes, shoes, unopened mail, half-finished projects, empty food containers on the kitchen counter, stacks of empty boxes filled with packing material left over from online shopping escapades. If I want to sit down at the table to eat breakfast, I have to first clear out a swath of space. About once a month, I snap and throw all of this junk into boxes, which are then deposited in her bedroom. This makes her angry because now she can't find anything, which in turn makes me (already in a bad mood) really angry because once again I've cleaned up all this junk and now I'm getting flak about it. And, of course, I've inevitably recycled some important scrap of paper that was being stored on the floor, so I get in trouble for that as well.
So, MetaFilter, help me brainwash my girlfriend. How can I get her to change her behavior? How can I get her to appreciate living in a clean place, and to do her part of the housework? Did you or someone you know go from being a slob to being neat, and how did it happen? I'm kind of desperate here... it's a stupid reason to end a relationship that's really good in a lot of other ways, but she's talking about marriage more and more and the thought of this situation continuing indefinitely fills me with despair. (and, since somebody will ask: I'm 30, she's 25). We're both grad students, so a housekeeper is probably too expensive.
I've tried, with little success:
* Pathetic entreaties: "Please, please, please, help me with this...". Result: Says she will, in good faith, but doesn't follow through.
* Increased storage space (shelves, etc) where clutter accumulates. Result: New storage quickly overwhelmed.
* Making her "own" the responsibility by engaging her in a dialog about how we should keep the house clean, and trying to reach a mutual understanding of each others' expectations. Result: Total failure. (see how boring that sentence was?)
* Containment: "These two rooms are yours. Keep them as messy as you want. But the common areas of the house stay clean, okay?" Result: No change, because the clutter inevitably builds up in the areas we spend time in, which are the common areas.
* Sucking it up and doing all the cleaning myself. Result: Palpable resentment on my part. Not sustainable.
* Watching "Hoarders" together. I don't think she made the connection about why
we were watching Hoarders. And to be fair, she's nowhere near as bad as any of the people on that show.
I have not
tried "the ultimatum" (AKA the nuclear option), and I'm not going to.
(There are some related questions but their circumstances differ)