I hate to clean
July 8, 2012 3:03 PM   Subscribe

I am a messy person who doesn't like to clean. Should I put more effort in being cleaner, or just accept this part of myself and get over the guilt? How? Or is this a psychological problem? Or maybe it's normal.

This is something that's been popping up in my head this days. For some reason, I really really dislike doing maintenance tasks. My room has always been messy (as in, clothes all over the floor, papers everywhere, nowhere left to sit or walk), I go weeks without doing laundry, when I do laundry, I often don't put it away, I leave dishes in the sink for days, and I don't even like showering. I can't seem to put things away. After coming home, I throw my things where ever and if I unwrap something, I'll drop the wrapper where I happen to be standing instead of throwing it away. So basically, I'm a huge mess creator and a horrible cleaner.

I tend to overlook slight messiness, but my messes always go beyond that. At some point, things get bad enough that I can't find anything, I'm stressed out, I'm embarrassed for others to see, and I'm too overwhelmed to get started so I tell myself I'll do it tomorrow (and then I don't). I wonder about whether I'm lazy and need to work harder, or this is just part of my personality that I should accept.

Every once in awhile, I like going on cleaning kicks where I scrub everything, reorganize everything, and make my whole place look amazing. I enjoy taking the time to fix things myself, DIY projects, painting my nails, doing my hair, etc. Since I am able to put the work in other maintenance activities, I don't think I'm lazy... I've also tried throughout the years to be cleaner. Whenever I clean, I tell myself that if I just put things away, it won't get so messy again. Easy enough. This never lasts though. I try to maintain a habit of making my bed, but this never became permanent. Also, slightly related-- I see myself more as the absent-minded professor messy type and not the sit on couch all day type.

My messiness has caused interpersonal conflicts, and I worry that it will continue to in the future. I've always been the messiest roommate. Most people I've dated are fairly clean and organized who say that would not like living with a messy partner. I don't like living with messy people either... I don't like other people's messes, and two messy people sounds like it'll end in disaster.

Right now, finances are tight and I don't have that much stuff anyway, but I'm starting to think when I get more settled, I will have no moral qualms about hiring maids and sending my laundry to get done. Seems like a win-win. However, there seems to be an opinion in society that people who do this are lazy. Currently, my roommates won't agree to hire cleaners due to the self-sufficiency argument (our mess, our job to clean). I don't agree with this, but it does bring a certain amount of shame. I think about what a bad example this would set for future children. Especially since I'm not rich nor really busy... I just believe that not cleaning is important enough to me that I am willing to budget that in. How do I explain this to people? I know I shouldn't care what people think, but it's embarrassing to when people just believe you are a lazy pig. Not that I plan on announcing this, but this is something that would come up with future roommates and potential live-in partners. I know a lot of this is hypothetical, but it's just stuff that's on my mind, and isn't unlikely to happen at some point.

TLDR; I hate routine maintenance tasks. Is my level of messiness normal? Am I lazy? Is this a personality flaw or psychological problem? Do I need to practice better habits? Is this inherent part of me, value neutral, and I should just accept that I will always need to hire people to clean for me? And how to get over the shame and explain to other people?
posted by lacedcoffee to Society & Culture (58 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
We're all lazy and no one really enjoys cleaning. But we do enjoy living in a clean environment and smelling good and wearing nice clothes.

I have a friend who's like you. When we lived together I'd be the one tidying and doing the weekly maintenance. When she'd get a wild hair up her ass to clean, she'd start by doing the shower with a toothbrush.

I suspect that you've got the same kind of perfectionistic streak. That if it can't be perfect and you can't devote the time to doing it all, then you don't do anything.

One thing that I liked was a system put on 3 X 5 cards. Break down tasks into something you can put on a card, and then segment them out into days.

Somethings need to be done daily, some a couple of times a week, some weekly, some monthly. Work out something you can live with.

File them in a card file and then every day, take out the cards and do what's on them. That will keep you moving forward on what needs to be done.

Keep one day for doing nothing.

As for personal hygeine. You simply must. Nobody likes BO, or any other nasty smells.

I like to do laundry at a laundromat all at one time. It's restful to watch everything rolling around in the machines as they wash and dry. Then I like folding it an putting it away. Days you do laundry, don't do anything else. If you do it right, it's two hours on Saturday and you're good for the week.

Being neat is better than being messy. You don't want to be one of those horder people do you? Of course not.

Take pride in yourself and your environment.

Remember, dirt breeds germs and sickness, cleanliness is healthy and good.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:17 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Your messiness is normal for you, and beyond that if you're not hoarding or having cockroaches crawl up your nose at night, don't get bent out of shape about it. As for hiring cleaners, you could make the decision to independently pay for a cleaner once or twice as month as part of your contribution to keeping your place clean. You are not a cleaner -- that's fine.

Onto the psychological issue at hand, American women have been socially conditioned since at least the 1950s to believe they are supposed to be cleaners. They believe they're supposed to care about how their dishes sparkle when they come out of the dishwasher, they believe they're supposed to be born knowing how to scrub and dust and organize. It's simply not true.

Now that most people, men and women, are in the workforce, we have no one in our homes whose job is to do the laundry and the dishes and the toilet scrubbing. Which is why it becomes more apparent that these are things that need to be done and we don't actually have any magical elves to do them for us.

Hire a cleaner. Send out your laundry. It doesn't make you lazy; it just means you have different priorities.
posted by brina at 3:19 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't think there's anything wrong at all with hiring people for cleaning.organization assistance.

I myself have lived much like you in the past. I was pretty quiet and something of a loner. When I did have social engagements, I went out to dinner or the like but never brought anyone home. I would have liked to have hosted a role-playing group but was too embarrassed by the mess.

At one point I had pyramids of dozens (maybe hundreds) of bottles and cans stacked on counters.

For me, a large part of it was depression. I just felt so overwhelmed and lethargic and non-caring, and nothing really mattered except life's essential (and even then, those seemed of questionable importance). I'm not saying you're depressed, but there is a ton of empirical evidence that clutter puts people at risk for depression and makes it harder to focus while in the cluttered environment.

If you do go the route of hiring domestic help, remember: you're helping yourself, you're not hurting anyone, and you're contributing to someone else's economic livelihood. There's nothing at all immoral about it unless you're taking advantage of an undocumented worker or something like that.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 3:20 PM on July 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

There have been some good previous threads about this - here's one

For me, the house being clean and my mental health are directly related. If I am getting a little down, I stop doing the dishes on time, which makes me feel like a loser, which makes me less likely to take care of stuff, which... etc. I don't have a surefire solution to that, but it does help me to recognize that it's a spiral and sometimes just taking the trash out can make me feel better about everything, which makes me more likely to mop the floor.

I have no problem with the idea of hiring a maid. I don't think it's a moral issue at all (you know, assuming you treat them and pay them like humans.) But I think living in a place you can feel good about inviting people into is a positive mental health thing, and you should have the tools to do that yourself.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:20 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Hiring a maid is not a moral failing, but if your roommates don't want to waste money on that, they shouldn't have to in order to live in a decently clean home.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:21 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Look, this is simply about the power of habit. I was once like you but due to the decluttering of two different moves in less than twelve months plus developing the right habits I now enjoy reasonably tidy quarters.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:21 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I go weeks without doing laundry, when I do laundry, I often don't put it away, I leave dishes in the sink for days, and I don't even like showering. I can't seem to put things away

I think lack of personal cleanliness is a sign of somethings amiss. You don't like yourself enough to shower?

And there's a lot of romance about the messy, chaotic artist life--you're so bohemian and creative that you can't be bothered to spend your valuable time straightening your sock drawer. Well, okay, but how about your art supplies?

The video Always Be Knolling really cleared that notion up for me. Tom Sachs' 10 Bullets make a lot of sense.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:23 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

It is possible you are kind of a visual-spatial thinker. If so, open storage or clear storage where you can see everything may see more use than whatever system you are currently using. It may help to arrange your life so that doing laundry once a week instead of daily is not a problem.

My oldest son was like this. He now does most of the housework and maintains a higher standard of cleanliness than I ever did. Having fewer possessions helps. But the type of storage and the way tasks are handled really made a difference.

In short, it may be possible to change how such tasks get addressed so that you are in your comfort zone in terms of how you operate while still not living in a pigsty. It may take some research and trial and error but it is very worth pursuing.
posted by Michele in California at 3:34 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You don't like yourself enough to shower?

Being neat is better than being messy.

Ahem, it seems that I am already being judged and that's precisely the thoughts I worry other people have about me. Being clean is so entrenched in society that many of us don't think twice before judging someone for it (like, being fat being your are lazy and eat too much). These are precisely the standards I am questioning; is there something wrong with me, or is society too judgmental? If it is society, how much effort do I put in to pass as a normal person?

Anyway, yes, I things clean but I don't always notice the mess. I actually pass as fairly kept up when I'm out, which is why many people are really shocked at how messy I am. I don't smell weird, and I like putting in the effort to look nice... maybe I don't like doing things that other people won't see anyway (kind of like how women don't shave their legs in the winter). I also don't hoard. I'm perfectly fine throwing stuff out. In fact, it's one of the things I enjoy most on my cleaning frenzies.

I just don't think to/don't like doing the same maintenance things everyday. Maybe I think it's boring. Maybe I don't even think to do it. I know few people enjoy it, but perhaps my dislike is stronger than normal?

I'm not sure what answer I'm looking for. Maybe I'm just looking for commentary about societal standards on personal habits. But thanks for the input so far, this is very interesting.
posted by lacedcoffee at 3:36 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am tidy. My roommate is a lot like you, from what you describe. I'm pretty sure there's nothing wrong with her, she's just not bothered by clutter the way I am. However, you mention getting "stressed out" once your mess exceeds a certain threshold. I guess the key might be doing just enough maintenance to prevent the mess from getting to that point. You don't have to become Martha Stewart or anything.

I don't think being neat is unequivocally better than being messy. Yes, it's better for me, but I'm certainly not going to tell you that you should become neater just because it's What People Do. I get a lot of satisfaction from organizing and cleaning, but it sounds like such tasks just make you feel miserable.

I was messier in high school and college. I've moved several times in the past few years, which has REALLY helped me to declutter. Not having stuff to make a mess with is kind of nice. Also, this is probably silly, but I watch Hoarders sometimes and it makes me never want to buy anything ever again.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 3:43 PM on July 8, 2012

You need to be able to see the boundary between Messy/Untidy and Dirty/Unsanitary. Messy is leaving your clean laundry unfolded/un-put-away until the pile is empty, or having a heap of paper mail for recycling sitting on the coffee table for two months until it falls over. Dirty is leaving a half-eaten pizza under the couch or having a carpet infested with your cat's assworms. The former is socially acceptable, the latter is decidedly not.
posted by elizardbits at 3:44 PM on July 8, 2012 [14 favorites]

More recently I've been trying to discover a version of "organized mess":
All of my clothes are folded, but shirts and pants and tank tops are layered and mixed together haphazardly in rows in a couple drawers.
All of my jewelry is thrown into a plastic box, and I scoop my "inspiration pieces" back into the box from the mess on the counter after I'm done getting dressed.
All of my important papers are in one drawer, in various folders.
All of my makeup is in a plastic bin (but I do try to keep my brushes in a bag together).
My DVDs are at least in a big binder, but they're scattered, even by season.

Etc. Have a place to toss your shit into after you use it. Don't worry about the exact "everything in its place" mantra. Just drop it in the box. It might take you longer to find that earring pair, or those socks, but hey at least you know they're in there somewhere.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:47 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think there's a Platonic ideal of cleanliness, if that's what you're asking, but I don't think that matters. The fact is, society has cleanliness standards. If you want to reject those standards, you're free to do so, but you're going to be judged just as you would be if you rejected any other social norm.

If you don't want to be judged, don't be a mess. If you don't care about being judged, it doesn't really matter, unless you get into conditions where it's unsanitary or you can't find shit you need and it's otherwise interfering with your life.

If you don't want to be a mess, take baby steps and make cleaning a habit.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:47 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dude you need to worry less about whether it's society's problem or yours, or if it's morally right. Society ain't gonna get over it, and if you want a) a serious romantic interest, b) have friends over for dinner c) not deal with the inevitable pestilence that will - sooner or later - arise out of having so much dirt around - then you need to accept to making some changes.

It doesn't matter how or why being clean is entrenched in society it is; and if you don't want to participate in this particular more you will be missing out on other stuff as well.

Also, if you just want a chat about messiness/cleanliness this is _absolutely_ the wrong venue for it.
posted by smoke at 3:48 PM on July 8, 2012 [18 favorites]

I don't think there's a right or wrong here, as long as your space is sanitary and neat enough for you, which it sounds like it is.

In the past, I always had clothes all over the floor, and I decided that instead of having them all over the floor, I'd just keep them messy and unfolded in a clean laundry basket designated just for them. It honestly improved about 50% of the mess in my room. It's not perfect, but it's better than having them all across the floor, and it worked for me because I was willing to do it.

I also often have a messy desk with lots of papers on it, but just putting the papers into one (giant) stack makes it look a lot better. Again, not perfect, but an improvement I am willing to do.

(I'm also like you with the streaks of "must clean all the things!" I sometimes like to clean everything in my room and then just sit on my bed and *look* at my nice room. This fact to me tells me that having a tidy space is somewhat meaningful to me, even though I am nowhere near 100% tidy all the time.)
posted by shortyJBot at 3:49 PM on July 8, 2012

Real brief article about someone who always saw themselves as "messy" until they were taught that organizing things in a fashion that is intuitive for visual spatial types is perfectly acceptable:

I'm a piler not a filer

Intro to the visual spatial learner

Sorry my early reply was not more complete.
posted by Michele in California at 3:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

I just don't think to/don't like doing the same maintenance things everyday. Maybe I think it's boring. Maybe I don't even think to do it. I know few people enjoy it, but perhaps my dislike is stronger than normal?

I think you're right that most people don't love to do the maintenance things every day. (There's nothing more boring than washing dishes.) But I think a lot of people do them anyway because 1, it's easier than doing the occasional massive cleaning-of-everything, and mostly 2, because living in the messy state feels actively worse to them than cleaning. I'm pretty far on the clean/neat side of this - not a clean freak, I've never washed a shower with a toothbrush - but if things are messy I am literally not able to function as well as I can when they're neat. It just bugs me, like something is "off," and until I fix it it's a constant, though minor, distraction. So I wonder if, for you, the messiness is comforting and neatness gives you that same "off," uncomfortable feeling that messiness gives me.

Which wouldn't be a problem except, as you said, it bothers you and can cause conflicts with other people. If you always lived alone and really enjoyed it being this way, I think it wouldn't matter. Because it causes problems for you and others, it does matter.

Re: maids, I wouldn't want one but couldn't care less if someone else does. If you can afford it, what's it to me? Though I think you're right about children. I would never judge someone who chooses to have a maid. But someone who raises a child who's not capable of doing basic tasks like laundry, etc, if they have to, because the maid's always done it for them? That I would judge.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:54 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

To echo - nothing wrong with hiring help (although after reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed I would want to attempt to ensure that I was paying a 'fair' wage).

As to whether this is a part of you that you should just accept, I would say that as long as you aren't hitting any health risks (the above mentioned cockroaches!) then emphatically yes you should accept it. Personally much as I like showers I quite like the freedom of not having to shower or shave everyday on a weekend. Ditto with the washing up. I think that it is ok to find a level of effort/pay off that suits you.

Also worth realising that there are different attitudes to this, not just one standard we should all strive towards. My wife and I have very different attitudes - I don't mind if the house isn't ever 100% clean but quite like things to be away in their place, she doesn't mind things being all over the place 6 days a week but 1 day a week will tidy and clean everything to 100% perfection.
posted by Albondiga at 4:01 PM on July 8, 2012

Every once in awhile, I like going on cleaning kicks where I scrub everything, reorganize everything, and make my whole place look amazing.

Great. This is the point you hire someone to come and clean for 2 hours once a week. If you are like me, you keep things between visits at socially acceptable levels so you're not embarrassed in front of the nice person who is kind enough to clean your house.

I will have no moral qualms about hiring maids and sending my laundry to get done. Seems like a win-win. However, there seems to be an opinion in society that people who do this are lazy.

Who the hell has that opinion? Everyone I know is insanely jealous I have a cleaning lady. The only people not insanely jealous are... people with cleaning ladies.

I have had someone to clean my home since I was 28 years old. I am now 40. I have always prioritised having this kind of help, even when I've paid for it instead of Christmas presents or groceries. I am not lazy; I am desperate. I am busy, I am easily overwhelmed, and I am eternally distracted.

By the way, the woman who cleans my house now has been with us for six years. She's not actually very good. But she serves an organisational purpose in my life, she is totally non-judgemental, and she is doing a better job than the one I am not doing. I am so glad to have her.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:02 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Look, you are not a bad person if you want to hire a maid. However, keep in mind - you have to maintain a certain level of cleanness for the maid to be effective. Unless you are going to hire someone to declutter AND clean, they are going to expect surfaces to be clear of things that don't belong there and so forth in order to clean properly.

This fact is actually a positive, becuase I am a piler, and I live with a piler, and I'm also trained to be very upset with messiness and grime. We have two cats, and we both have jobs and run a side biz. So cleaning is low on the list. I literally have decided that there is no way what little time I have to do what I want should be spent on doing things I don't like. So the fact that the cleaning ladies are coming motivates me to make sure there are clean sheets for them to put on the bed, that my clothes are put away, and so forth. The fact that I'm paying for it helps. You may find the same. There are deals for cleaning all the time in my metro area on Groupon, Living Social, Google Deals, etc -- perhaps look for those, and try it, to see if it will work for you. Seriously, there is nothing wrong with this.

Again, if you don't want to do laundry, ditto. If you live somewhere with TaskRabbit, you can decide what that's worth to you and ask them to do it. I'm sure there are other services that will do the same, as well as drycleaning (pick up and drop off!).

You may find that taking some of the "big" things off your personal plate (beyond writing a check) makes it easier to do the small things like loading a dishwasher or putting trash where it belongs before you're wading through it. As far as being judgy - if you want to live in a pile of papers, that is totally up to you. It wouldn't be my choice. But I also live with probably 4x as much cat hair as the normal person is willing to live with, so who the fuck am I? Just seriously, some messiness is actually DIRTY. As in, germ containing, and smelly, and actually unhealthful. That's the only thing I'd worry about, and if you were my friend and I knew you were living in filth (because that's what I define the actual unhealthful level of dirt as), I'd be worried.

Then, when you hired a cleaner, I'd be relieved. So try hiring the cleaner.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:03 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am probably in the top five percent of laziest people on earth. It's so bad that if there isn't any food to eat in the house that is ready-to-eat, I will go hungry until my husband comes home and makes me something. Seriously, SO LAZY. If we had the money, I would never clean anything besides my own body again. I would outsource all of it gladly. However, we don't, so I have to do laundy and my husband has to clean.

These are precisely the standards I am questioning; is there something wrong with me, or is society too judgmental? If it is society, how much effort do I put in to pass as a normal person?

You have to make sure your body and your clothes are clean if you are going to interact with other people. It's not cool to go out in the world stinking, even though it appears that many of our fellow humans don't seem to feel the same way.
posted by crankylex at 4:11 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think part of your resistance is that you see cleanliness as next to submissiveness. I also wonder if you're questioning whether "society" is right about this or whether you really are asking whether the individuals in your life who claim to be affected by this have any defensible right to do so.

Messiness can be a way of taking the dominant role in a relationship and if that's what you want, you need to own that and resolve not to care what effect it is having on other people - and to a lesser extent yourself, since you're the one in full control of how messy anything gets. It won't be fair to roommates who weren't expecting this, but if you really stand by the idea that your messiness is essential to living life on a higher plane you, by definition, shouldn't care what The Masses think anyway. If this still seems more unfair than you want to be then the solution is to live on your own without roommates. Other relationships may still suffer, but you will be in full control and living life on your own terms, which others will have to accept in order to be in your life.
posted by tel3path at 4:17 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am not a messy person, but I can relate to a lot of what you've said. I, too, hate routine maintenance tasks -- especially things that seem "stupid" to me like making the bed (it's just gonna be messy again the next day!), dusting (who cares if the fan blades are dirty? nobody looks up there anyway!), and cleaning the bathroom (especially the toilet and showers; yuk!). I often feel like I could be doing something better with my time and resent the fact that I have to perform these stupid routine tasks.

One thing that helped me get over this feeling of resentment was the realization that there's nothing wrong with hating to do stuff I feel is stupid or a waste of time; that's just how I feel. I don't enjoy golf either; is that wrong? Of course not. If you'd rather pay someone else to do something for you so that you can spend more free time doing the things you do enjoy, that's completely acceptable. You should not feel guilty nor feel the need to make excuses or apologize to anyone for your choices.

Next problem: are you lazy? It's not helpful to label yourself this way, so why not rephrase that question into a problem that you need to solve logically?
Problem: I hate living in a messy environment, but I also hate to clean. How can I solve this?

1) Take a good long look at your surroundings. Where are you messiest? What chores do you despise most? Garbage on the floor? Buy more wastebaskets and put one in every room. Get in the habit of mentally stopping yourself every time you start to throw garbage onto the floor; remind yourself that there's a wastebasket right over there. After a while this will become second nature and you won't even have to think about it. Same thing with clothes: buy more hampers or, even better, when you're about to undress, stand right in front of the hamper and put your clothes directly into it. Every. single. time. You'll soon develop new non-messy habits, but for these habits to form, you've got to make it easy on yourself in the beginning. If that means having a separate can of cleanser, window cleaner, and sponges under each sink of your house/apt, so be it. Oftentimes, I find that "laziness" is merely inconvenience; if the stuff is right there so I can clean while I'm on the phone or listening to music, I'll do it just to kill time. If, however, I have to go aaaaallllllll the way down the hall or to another room to grab supplies (wah!), I'll think "Nah; I'll get to it later."

2) Minimize wherever you can. If your laundry seems an impossible task sometimes, maybe you have too many clothes. Try restricting yourself to a week's worth of clothes and see what happens. You don't have to use everything in your closet; this is especially true for work clothes. Nobody cares. Really. As long as you are clean and presentable, you're be fine.

3) Hire someone to do the jobs you really detest and do not feel one ounce of guilt about it. It's your money; use it in ways that make you feel good.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:21 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I used to have a lot of similar tendencies as you. Two things that helped me a lot:

- Ritualizing showering/hygiene tasks. In my case it was very definitely a depression-related thing, where I think I thought that taking the time to 'indulge' in daily showering wouldn't make a noticeable difference (in how I felt, in how others saw me, whatever). Then I had an extended illness where I had to spend a lot of time in steamy environments, and my doctor recommended laying on the floor of the shower for as long as I could handle it. The month or so I spent doing that, sometimes multiple times a day, made me realize that the physical pleasure of bathing/being warm/being around nice smelling things was actually pretty awesome. I already set aside all this time just 'doing my thing'; after that point I began spending an hour or so every day 'doing my thing' in the shower. Now I feel really off my game/not right if I don't have my daily shower time.

- Having an accurate understanding of how long it takes to complete tasks. Around the same time as I was enjoying that extended illness, my roommate had developed the highest expression of his hatred of doing the dishes, enough so that our kitchen looked like an episode of Hoarders on a regular basis. He was going through his own shit at the time, and the months of stand offs over who was going to clean the kitchen got really irrelevant one morning when I wanted some oatmeal and there wasn't a single dish or pan clean to make it. I was too tired to yell, plus I felt like an asshole since I hadn't been able to do much myself for a month, but I needed to eat. The more I thought about it, the (h)angrier I got, and I ended up cleaning the entire kitchen in an effort to keep myself from throwing the dirty plates at his bedroom door. When I was done I checked the clock and realized I'd only spent 15 minutes, total, on the process. This was a shock because when I'd looked at the mess it just seemed like hours and hours of drudgery. Now, when I see a mess that looks impossible, I queue up some aggressive/bouncy music, set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, and just do as much of it as I can in that time frame. I try to do this at least once a day, but sometimes I forget, but other times I end up going way over my timer and getting way into it. I don't give myself shit if I don't finish, I just pick up where I left off the next day.

Small fires create larger fires. These days (~2 years on from the worst of my messy tendencies), I'm way neater and cleaner than I thought I'd ever be.
posted by par court at 4:22 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Only going to comment on logistics: cleaning is way, way easier if you do routine maintenance. It might take all day to clean the bathroom if you haven't done it in six months, but if you wipe down the sink every other day and do the shower and floor every week it turns into maybe 20 minutes a week, tops, spent keeping the bathroom in good shape. And it's never a very strenuous 20 minutes, just wiping things down and maybe putting baking soda / vinegar down the drain versus getting out the toothbrush and scrubbing the mold from the grout with harsh chemicals.

I used to be really gross. It didn't feel gross at the time but eventually I decided to be cleaner which required building habits. It took a couple of months of forcing myself to do dishes even though I really didn't want to and now it's so much easier, my brain doesn't rebel anymore.

Also: sounds like you rent but if you ever own a home keeping the place clean has economic incentives: when you get into the habit of maintaining your stuff, it doesn't require harsh chemicals to clean, and your surfaces stay nice and your faucets don't corrode and etc. Thus, you will have to replace things less often if you clean.

Your priorities are up to you, so no judgement if you get a cleaning service or whatever, but the basic idea I am advocating is that daily maintenance, in aggregate, is way less work/expense than more sporadic and intense cleaning episodes.
posted by newg at 4:23 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dude you need to worry less about whether it's society's problem or yours.

When you're told that you're supposed to be a certain way your entire life, and you can't seem to change despite the effort, you feel pretty horrible about yourself, which is why I'm asking. I think there is comfort in believing that cleanliness standards are constructed or personal to an individual. Instead of feeling like a failure of a human being, I can think "well, this is only your preference, not mine, but I will conform to this because I would prefer to live in harmony". It's also relevant when others (such as roommates) present their preference as a universal law, full of should's and judgement. Another reason I wonder is whether it's worth the effort to change myself, when it's not something I can change (I can only work around it ie through having big see through bins or something).

Thanks for the tips; will definitely keep them in mind. It's good to know most people don't judge when people hire help.
posted by lacedcoffee at 4:39 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

My definition of "clean enough" is that it should only take about half an hour to get the place ready for company. I don't always succeed, but here's some of the things that worked for me when I was trying to get control of my space:

- Two open topped dirty-washing hampers positioned where I generally get undressed. Open topped because I am too slack to open a lid. One for lights, the other for darks. That way, when one was full I could just take it through and dump the whole thing in the washing machine without having to sort it. For some reason I find sorting to be a huge imposition.
- A washing basket on top of my chest of drawers for clean (and to be reworn) clothes. Like you, I couldn't be bothered putting clothes away, so I just left them in the washing basket which I would then top up with clean clothes. This meant I had three recepticles in my room for clothes, and some very empty drawers, but at least they were off the floor.
- An inbox for papers. I chuck everything that I want to save in a basket, and every year about tax time I clear it out and file everything.

Similar idea to DisriputableDog. Make it as easy as possible for yourself and don't require perfection. See it as a problem solving exercise in which your personality and habits are the major considerations, not what you "should" do.

One of the best pieces of advice I read somewhere on Metafilter was "be kind to your future self".
posted by kjs4 at 4:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

you can't seem to change despite the effort... a failure of a human being... it's not something I can change

This sounds like it's a lot bigger than cleanliness, to be honest. Lots of people are grubby and do not feel like failures as human beings, and lots of people - including you - can, and do change. This sounds like a bit of a narrative you've built up about yourself, it's the kind of self-defeating thinking I see depressed/low self-esteem people do, and - with kindness - it's also needlessly dramatic. Tidying up as you go for a few times a week is not a herculean labour; it's a habit that needs engraining is all.

My partner is much neater than I am. Living successfully with her involved compromise on both our sides to meet in the middle.

I would feel guiltless about hiring a cleaner if I were you, but additionally, I think rather than looking outwards at "society" or roommates, I would look inside as to why you believe change would be so hard (hint: there are almost no tidy children; everyone learns at some stage), why the messiness/cleanliness thing is tied up so tightly with your self-identity, and whether that level of intimacy is ultimately healthy for you, or the attitudes around it healthy.
posted by smoke at 4:56 PM on July 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

I haven't seen anyone mention this yet, but I only skimmed, so please excuse me if this has already come up...

is it possible that you have ADHD? I do, and this sounds very very much like me before I got diagnosed and went on meds (and it's me again, now that I'm without insurance and therefore not medicated). The routine tasks are BORING, and without delving into the scientific why of it all, because of the way my brain works, I have a harder time than the average bear at just buckling down and making myself do things that are dull and boring.

If you definitely don't have ADHD, or that's just not a road you want to go down right now, that's cool -- but maybe reading a book on organization for ADHD-type people might help you find new ways to get this stuff done. This page has some good tips, but I'd also recommend doing a Google search for "adhd cleaning tips" or similar, so that you can find more info that will fit your needs.
posted by palomar at 5:23 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

ADHD? For some people, especially those with ADHD and and especially those with "inattentiveness" as a feature of it (there is also impulsiveness and hyperactivity among the major -- somewhat arbitrary -- categories, which can overlap and have infinite permutations, BTW), it is possible to "disorganize" without even being completely aware that it is happening until it's happened and out of hand. If that's your situation, all the social pressures and advice for how to keep it together and judgy-ness and explanations of why it matters and negative feedback and to-do lists and exasperation of friends and family members and helpful suggestions in the world won't help. And some of that kind of thing can really hurt. There are some good books, such as Driven to Distraction, although I can't remember the author's name at the moment. You might be able to start getting some insight, at least, by doing some reading on the topic.
posted by isogloss at 5:28 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think there is comfort in believing that cleanliness standards are constructed or personal to an individual.

This is true for housekeeping, it just isn't true for hygiene. You can live in messy chaos if it doesn't bother you as long as the only person that impacts is you. You cannot go to work without showering, wearing non-sweaty clothing, or brushing your teeth because that is unpleasant for other people. As long as you get that and are conscientious about acting accordingly, it's all good. These are less standards of cleanliness and more standards of politeness, and that's important to understand.

But you are absolutely right that there is nothing inherently wrong with non-hoarder level mess. I hired someone to clean my house not because chaos bothers me on an intellectual level, but because a messy house is bad for my personal mental health. Domestic chaos makes me feel incapable and overwhelmed, and that leaks into other parts of my life and thus begins the Downward Fail Spiral. If that's not you, that's great!

Also, it might help you to consider if you don't like taking showers or if you just don't like getting into the shower. (I know it seems weird but several people on MeFi have mentioned this distnction over the years. It's a... thing.) I have a real aversion to getting into the shower until I actually get in there, and then it's fine to amazing. Knowing that I don't actually hate it when I get in there motivates me to get the fuck over myself and get in there like a motherfucking grownup.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:29 PM on July 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

What palomar said. (Stupid trying to participate via my crappy phone.)
posted by isogloss at 5:31 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your place sounds exactly like mine until a few months ago. I'm not sure exactly why or how, but at some point I lost the bug up my ass that spurred cleaning marathons. Pure slob was the only thing left. I hired two people to come clean out my place. To keep it up after that I set an egg timer for 10 minutes every day to tidy. It works pretty well. I can do anything for 10 minutes.
posted by space_cookie at 5:32 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think that this:

I don't like living with messy people either... I don't like other people's messes

Answers this:

is society too judgmental?

You should learn to keep your mess from effecting other people. There is absolutely nothing wrong with work arounds (clear plastic boxes, cleaners), if that's what works best for you. As you develop better tidiness/cleaning habits you might not need to use the work arounds as much.
posted by kjs4 at 5:35 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can relate big time.. I have an extremely high tolerance for chaos, and can't be bothered to clean, pick up, as it does not bother me. But I cannot imagine living with someone like me, it would drive me nuts. I live alone. I also prefer it neat and organized, and have had cleaners come ever couple of weeks, but am not keen on being a boss. If I lived with someone though, I would definitely hire a cleaner. Friends of mine who could not afford a cleaner organized a few friends and they would clean each other's apartment.

Imo, you need someone to look after you, paid or another arrangement, if you want to keep a clean place. That way you do not have to be embarrassed about your mess. Getting someone else to clean for you is fine, no need to feel weird about it.
posted by snaparapans at 5:37 PM on July 8, 2012

It's okay to be messy only if you (can afford to) live alone. Nobody cares right now if I have craft projects strewn over 3/4 of the furniture in my living room--but if someone came to visit, then dear god, there'd be drama. As long as you live with other people, you are pretty much going to have to conform to either their standards or a bare minimum of mess, or only keep your mess in your bedroom, or something. It's all about living with other people's standards when it comes to tidiness.

And I'm not gonna lie: it'll probably be even worse with romantic partners, especially if you are the female partnering with a male. Because then you're not only dealing with human drama, but (a) the person is in your bedroom and "keep your mess to yourself" isn't going to happen, and (b) you're going up against the 1950's stereotype of "woman be clean, man expect woman to do chores for him" with some people. I don't know what it is about me (other than being unlucky enough to be born with the vagina in the relationship), but god knows I have been surprised by dudes suddenly expecting me to act wifely when we weren't even shacking up--if we lived together, oh lord.

I don't know if you're ever going to live alone or not, but for most of your life, you are probably going to have to suck it up and conform to someone else's standards of cleanliness, or at least negotiate a minimum level of tidiness that the both of you can stand.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:46 PM on July 8, 2012

Cleaning, ugh. I don't like it either, so I hired someone to clean my place every 2 weeks. It feels GREAT to come home to a clean place on cleaning day.

Added bonus: before the cleaners come I am forced to tidy up all my papers, wash the dishes, put things away, etc, so they can just clean without having to sift through all my junk.

As far as what others think, I have a bunch of friends who would never have considered hiring a cleaner - they are neither for nor against cleaning, but it just wasn't on anybody's radar.

However, after seeing my fresh, clean place, five of them were so amazed that they actually hired the same cleaner.
posted by lulu68 at 6:18 PM on July 8, 2012

I could have written this! I've been a slob all my life and I would look at people who could keep things clean and envy them and wonder how they could do it.

I can't keep my house or my car clean, but I am great at maximizing the potential of rental properties, have a good eye for rehabs, and can market apartments and pick good tenants. So I run a profitable property management company, and I hire people to clean my house, do my laundry, and keep my car and yard clean.

It's possible that I could learn to be clean and tidy, but since I'm good at something I really enjoy that is profitable, I concentrate on that.

Plus I am providing employment for people who are good at cleaning and organizing.
posted by Melsky at 6:32 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that there is a societal "standard" of cleanliness or orderliness in America. I think a lot of it has to do with advertising - we are bombarded constantly with ideas and images designed to make us be cleaner, fresher, happier, better people. It's easy to internalize this idea. No, you are not a bad person, but people do judge your messy habits (roommates, hypothetical partners, etc). . .For some, a tidy house is synonymous with responsibility and taking care of oneself mentally. I know this because I am a notorious stickler for cleanliness! I think it's because I was raised in an extremely clean, minimalist house, and although I hated cleaning then (to a degree), now I hate living in chaos more. Many of my roommates have been fed up with me, and eventually I started living alone just so I didn't have to deal with it. Then I got married, and we spent a while navigating this issue.

So... if you're actually a responsible, mentally balanced individual, then there's nothing wrong with you - but a little bit of effort might save your roommates' sanity.
posted by seachange at 6:32 PM on July 8, 2012

I am basically you. I am F5ing this thread like crazy.

I will say though, as someone who leaves clean laundry in the basket (or the dryer), and as someone who lets all her dishes pile up and leaves the dishwasher full of clean stuff and just gets out forks/plates when she needs it, I amazed myself this morning by doing a simple thing.

I was reheating some leftovers for breakfast, and I put them in the microwave and set it for 1:30. And then, I felt guilty about standing around just waiting for it to get done, so I unloaded the top rack of the dishwasher. And it took exactly 1:30. If I'd set it for 2:00 I probably could have gotten the silverware rack done too.

In my head, like others have said, cleaning takes FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR and ughhhh. But top rack of the dishwasher took 90 seconds.

(Later in the day I took a bunch of mail lying around and sorted it and put it in the filing cabinet - the filing cabinet is in the mess but it's a CLOSED BOX so no one can see the mess, yay!). Took me maybe 5 minutes and I got to sit the whole time.
posted by agress at 6:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to change, check out flylady. If you don't want to change and can afford it, hire somebody to do it for you.

But creating a mess that affects other people - not cool. I think that's the only thing that someone can validly judge you for. There's no such thing as an absolute standard of cleanliness but you know what they say -- "your right to swing your fist ends at my jaw."
posted by selfmedicating at 7:26 PM on July 8, 2012

I realized after posting that I guess I DO think there's such a thing as "normal" levels of cleanliness. There is the "levels of squalor" scale if you want to quantify it. I personally think you can live however you like on your own but it's unfair to ask roommates or pets to live with anything beyond first degree squalor. If you're married or living with someone, you absolutely must agree on what level of cleanliness you can both live with, or else you are going to be miserable.

It sounds like the interpersonal conflicts around messiness have devolved into judgement and "should" statements, which is no fun. Really it is best if everybody can just chill and figure out something everyone can live with.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:51 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a messy person, too.
Right now, I'm trying to get into the habit of clearing the kitchen sink once a day. Ideally, I'll start cleaning up as I go along, but right now the "go to bed with the sink empty" works most of the time.
posted by luckynerd at 9:29 PM on July 8, 2012

Well, yep, you're lazy. But also most houses are kind of poorly designed for this kind of stuff. With a little effort up front, you can clean smarter, not harder. Basically, figure out the things you want done and make them easier to do. If you make them easy enough, you'll actually do them. (For things which just can't be made easy, yeah, hire someone.)

For example, several trash cans, one near any place that you spend time or generate trash (maybe one next to your bed and one next to your desk, even if they're in the same room). Make them large enough that they don't need to be emptied too frequently and so that you can fit the things you actually throw out in them (pizza boxes, perhaps?). In my case, this means I have the enormous white kitchen trash bags. Splurge for the trash bags with the built in pull strings, put extra bags in the bottom of the bin so you don't need to find the next bag when you take out the old one.

If the hamper is still full of clean laundry then my dirty laundry ends up on the floor. Solution, buy an extra hamper! (Again, a BIG one, plenty of room for everything, I like the pop up kind since they're self contained and I can just leave it in the middle of the room when I don't have company.) Also getting rid of some clothes gave me some extra drawer space, which means that the rest of my clothes fit in easily even if they're not really folded. On a side note, if you move, don't consider any place with an inconveniently located washing machine. The washing machine should ideally be on the same floor as the bedroom(s). (Similarly, don't consider any place with a lot of carpeting if you can avoid it--although this may be impossible in a reasonable price range. Who decided this was a good idea?)

Paper... I hate throwing out papers (what if I need it?). I throw out the obvious trash (junk mail and most receipts), put obviously important stuff in a safe place, and "file" the rest in a mesh milk crate. There is a whole lot less paper when it's all stacked up rather than spread out, I can get to it if I really need it (twice in about four years), and it becomes an anonymous box under the desk when I have company.

Anyway, I'm sure there's more stuff which is specific to your space. Just pick something that bothers you and think about it for a while, and maybe try several things until you hit on something that works.

P.S. I also hate getting in the shower. It disrupts whatever else I was planning on doing. If I need to shave my legs, that takes for-ev-er. And that's just in the summer, forget about winter. All I can say is that I just power through it because it has to be done. I pared my routine down to a minimum of hair washing and shaving and so on, and now I just suck it up.
posted by anaelith at 9:53 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your untidiness affects your ability to live your life. You're clearly happier and more productive when things are picked up & organized. I think you'll be happier if you make it enough of a priority to spend 15 minutes daily, and an hour weekly, picking up. Instead of thinking of tidiness as an obligation to others, think of it as a way of keeping your life running smoothly; something you do for you. Other people don't have to see your home; they're guests, and if they don't like your chaos, tough.

Cleanliness is different. People don't want to be around someone who doesn't smell good, or who wears dirty clothes, etc. There is a social obligation to smell and look okay. If taking laundry out to be done will work, by all means, do it. Are you good at dropping off/picking up errands? If you resist showering, make sure you have lots of hot water, clean towels, nice soap and shampoo, etc. I hate the initial feeling of water on me, but once I'm in it, I love to shower, and love the feeling of clean body & hair. Give yourself a little extra time to enjoy your shower and cleanliness routine.

Some people who are quite untidy have attention deficit disorder, some are depressed. Worth checking out, and developing any coping skills needed.
posted by theora55 at 10:09 PM on July 8, 2012

Perhaps start by separating the merely messy from the truly filthy. Filth is where people get really judgmental, and if you don't like being judged then you need to adapt:

Leaving dirty dishes in the sink for days = borderline filthy
Leaving dirty dishes anywhere else for days = filthy
Not showering to the point that others comment on your smell = filthy
Putting on clothes that smell bad or are visibly dirty = filthy
Leaving garbage strewn about:
Food waste or other things that decompose or attract insects = filthy
Inert things like packaging = messy

Everything else? Merely messy. Prioritize.

As for hiring a maid, it's not a moral failing. Explain to your roommate that you are experimenting with the novel principle that currency can be exchanged for goods and services.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:21 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hire a regular cleaning person. When you feel overwhelmed by what to clean, and don't want to do any of it, look around and note the things that your regular cleaning person will take care of, and don't clean those. Bask in the warm glow of knowing you only have to do the other stuff, as you do the other stuff.

On the one hand, you are an adult, and you have to do adult things you don't like, such as laundry and dishes and taxes and general house-cleaning. On the other hand, you are an adult, and you are allowed to pay people to do things you don't like to do, such as laundry and dishes and taxes and general house-cleaning. So don't feel bad.

However, do recognize that you can only outsource some of it, and you're going to have to get into the habit of dealing with the rest. Even as you let go of any shame about hiring a cleaner, try to embrace your own self-efficacy by setting up and following a daily routine to hit one of those other areas each day, and only one, so that you're not overwhelmed.

Good luck!
posted by davejay at 10:49 PM on July 8, 2012

I think that it is probably down to one of the following:
1. You do dislike cleaning more than most people do
2. You are more of a perfectionist than most people, so you don't bother doing minimal daily cleaning, because it wouldn't meet the super-clean standards you set as "properly clean" anyway (like what you have after one of your cleaning frenzies) and you'd rather do nothing than do a half-assed job.
3. You have never cleaned regularly enough that it becomes part of the background noise - a habit you do without even noticing you do it, and so you do notice, and you do hate it.

It might be a combination of those.

For me, 3 is really true. I don't notice I am cleaning. When I walk through a room, I pick up any things on my way that belong in the room I am going to. I straighten the cushions on the couch when I walk past it. When I clean my teeth, I wipe out the sink afterwards. While I wait for the kettle to boil or the microwave to ping, I wipe down the bench top. I don't even notice I'm doing it, and so I have no emotional feelings about it. If you start doing these sorts of things regularly enough, I'm sure you will stop noticing too.
posted by lollusc at 12:37 AM on July 9, 2012

I am like you; I don't enjoy cleaning, so I do the following, which has really helped to keep my house relatively tidy and clean:

(1) I've gotten rid of a lot of stuff, or put them away in storage. Having less possessions makes life so much easier when you don't like cleaning, but conversely don't like mess.

(2) I budget for a monthly cleaner. She does a thorough clean, which makes it easier for me to maintain things to acceptable levels of tidiness between her visits. Some people have been judge-y with me about this, but whatever: it's my home, and my money.

(3) I try to minimise dirtiness. So, I take off my shoes as soon as I come into the house. Guests are also asked to do the same. I live alone so use only one plate, one bowl, and set of cutlery. Instead of allowing many of them to pile up, I just wash them up and use them again and again.

(4) I am assiduous about getting rid of food waste promptly.

But all of this works because I live alone! When I lived with people, part of the deal that came with living in a really nice, big house was that we set aside Saturday mornings for cleaning. You mentioned in your last paragraph that you had roommates. As soon as you live with other people, I'm afraid you give up your right to be as messy as you wish. When you have a communal area that you share, you need to contribute to the cleaning of it; and while you might argue that your room doesn't count as communal, if you're leaving, say, food waste around there, any pest issues that result from that are going to inevitably spread to the rest of the house as well, and not stay confined in your house. This is not fair to other people. You say yourself you don't like other people's messes. If it's really important to you to be able to clean on your schedule and not somebody else's, I suggest you move into a place by yourself.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:03 AM on July 9, 2012

not stay confined in your house

Ahem, confined in your room, sorry.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:04 AM on July 9, 2012

My husband and I both loathe cleaning so our house used to be permanently in "second degree squalor". I finally got fed up and hired a cleaning service to come once every two weeks. It was the best decision I ever made. Now I don't have to do the big cleaning jobs, and it's easy to maintain when everything is clean to start with. Also the cleaners need to be able to clean, which means that clutter gets picked up and put away every two weeks, so it never has a chance to get truly overwhelming.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:46 AM on July 9, 2012

Forgive me if I'm reading into it too much, but in your last response, you seem to be extremely defensive that your roommates would demand that you clean to their level of cleanliness. You seem to want to believe that because there's some subjectivity in cleaning levels, you are just as morally justified in being messy as they are in being clean. This really isn't the case. Your messiness is affecting them adversely, their cleanliness is not affecting you in the same way.

Think of it like noise. It's as if you're playing music really loud, day and night, annoying and distracting your roommates. And when they ask you to turn it down, you tell them that they should just get used to a certain level of noise, that being quiet has no more moral justification as constant background noise.

Not liking to clean isn't a moral failing. And being a paid cleaner isn't a menial job. No one likes to clean. But we all come with different levels of filth we can deal with, so some people learn quicker than others to clean up after themselves.

Also, as a Certified Southern Debutante, I can tell you, there's no global society-wide disapproval of hiring a cleaning service. But to expect your roommates to chip in on paying for someone to clean just because you don't like doing it? That's not really going to work. They've already performed the cost-benefit analysis in their head, and it's not worth hiring someone. Whether or not they claim it's about some moral issue of paying others to clean, for most people, until they make a lot of money (at least enough to not need roommates) it's just not worth it.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 9:10 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't like living with messy people either... I don't like other people's messes...

I think this is the key phrase - why do you get to hold other people to a higher standard than you hold yourself? Some level of cleanliness is socially constructed - ie clean clothes in a pile vs in a drawer, but other's are pretty universal - ie not having garbage around. It seems like you have a mix of both, as you also leave food wrappers around. I actually don't think that is the true problem, as you expect your roommates to not be messy.

If your roommates are keeping the common areas free of mess/clutter, they don't need to chip in for a cleaning service, since they are paying with their time. If you don't want to contribute with your time, you can contribute financially by hiring cleaning service (though you said money is tight, it might be more feasible than paying for your own apartment).

I think you're really fixed on cleanliness being an artificial social construct in order to deflect attention from your own role in your life. I don't think you're a failure at all, but since this is causing you so much distress, and you are still unable to change your actions you might want to look into contacting a mental health provider/ life organizer to see if there is anything else at the root of your unhappiness.
posted by fermezporte at 10:17 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Haven't read all of the answers, but:

1) You are an adult and can use your money for anything you want. Why not hire cleaners if you like?

2) Being messy might be the sign of other issues that are having an impact on your life that you don't realize. Think about that, do some reading, see if your opinions change.

3) Your roommates have the right to expect some minimum standard in common areas and where your mess interacts with their lives. If their standards are not compatible with you, find more compatible roommates.
posted by 3491again at 11:55 AM on July 9, 2012

Correction: The book I referenced above is actually titled Delivered from Distraction, and the authors are Hallowell and Ratey. (I mistakenly reported it as Driven to Distraction, although that is probably a better description of my everyday existence.)
posted by isogloss at 2:36 PM on July 9, 2012

That squalor survivals website was an eye opener which I will also endorse although I only looked at it for twenty minutes. I am at squalor level one, sort of. My mother's family all think that I am a complete pig and I would be embarrassed if any of them older than me saw my piles and stuff, but I am also not yet to squalor level one, sort of, because anybody else is welcome to come in any time and I would not be even mildly embarrassed.

So I agree a little with the concept that cleanliness is highly subjective. The highest compliment in my mother's family for years was "she is an excellent housekeeper". I personally know people who equate my living conditions which are perfectly legal and healthy to having rat harborage and a methamphetamine lab.
posted by bukvich at 3:27 PM on July 9, 2012

Dull People Have Immaculate Homes
(hangs next to the fridge in my kitchen)
posted by dancestoblue at 4:09 PM on July 13, 2012

When you're told that you're supposed to be a certain way your entire life, and you can't seem to change despite the effort, you feel pretty horrible about yourself, which is why I'm asking.

To a certain extent, the cleanliness that is advertised and marketed is an artificial construction. For example, some people have reported success of giving up soap and shampoo. There's also an NYT article on people who don't shower very often or use deodorant. However, these people do not clean less or stop cleaning because they can't. It sounds like their reasons had more to do with preventing skin damage from harsh chemicals, keeping a more natural balance on their skin, or just as an experiment to see what would happen rather than they can't keep up with the regimen.
posted by FJT at 8:54 AM on July 16, 2012

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