How to get a partner to be less messy/less defensive about that fact
November 5, 2019 6:59 AM   Subscribe

My partner tends to dump anything they are holding or using onto the nearest flat surface and leave it there, this drives me crazy. There's no rhyme or reason to it, just whatever is convenient. When I confront them about this they tend to get defensive and turn the conversation into how I also am messy and therefore it's no ones fault. How do I defuse their attempt to redirect the conversation to my failings and get them to actually engage and improve. Further details below the fold.

Both my partner and I work nearly full time or more depending on the week. There's a significant pay disparity with them making more than I do. My job is more physical theirs is more office based. Because of this I try to do more around the house to help offset the fact that I can't contribute as much monetarily to the household. The main issue is while I don't mind cleaning they make it far harder than it needs to be. Dishes get left on tables, shoes are kicked anywhere, trash is left on counters even when there's a trashcan nearby. This eventually leads to me getting really frustrated because even something as simple as loading the dishwasher means going through every room of the house, hunting down dishes that have dried on mess and then pre-scrubbing them before washing. Vacuuming means finding a home for all the crap left on the ground before I can even start. For added difficulty I have ADD which means that disorganization of this type is even harder for me to deal with because it involves dealing with so many different types of mess/disorder at once.

Whenever I confront them on it they get defensive and bring up how I'm not good at deep cleaning (example: I let the shower or bathroom sink get grimy) or some other failing. This always devolves into an argument and we never can deal with the fact that their actions make my life infinitely harder. I think the defensiveness is a knee jerk reaction to criticism and that makes it harder to get around.

I've tried throwing their mess into their personal space so that they can deal with it and that just provokes arguments again, I've tried just cleaning and organizing everything they leave lying around but that makes me feel resentful which I do not want. Beyond this our relationship is good and ditching them is not at all a useful solution. What techniques are good for forcing someone who is extremely disorganized/messy to confront that fact and actually improve?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My husband and I are both messy in opposite ways, and we've had similar fights. I'm better at cleaning (i.e., dishes in the dishwasher each day, periodic sweeping/vacuuming etc.), and he's more into keeping things looking clear (i.e., if I leave clothes on the floor in the closet he will dump them all into the nearest clean or dirty receptacle). It's frustrating, and I 100% feel like he's making my life harder, because while something is "cleared," he hasn't actually put things where they belong.

Instead of fighting about this, I try to ask for very specific things as a request. "Husband, would you be able to clean up the kitchen tonight while I do laundry." And I've made it clear that "not tonight, I'm tired" is a perfectly acceptable answer. I also make sure to notice and compliment when he does clean up, even if he does it "wrong" (based on how I would do it). It was actually much, much more frustrating at first, but over time he's chipped in more and more.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:06 AM on November 5

Can you propose a one week experiment where everything is immediately washed or put away, no excuses? Often it is a good reminder that doing it for 5 seconds makes things a lot simpler.

You can't force someone to do a thing or change themselves. They have to want and enact the change. A lot of times my poor storage/messes are because of the wrong options for storage. I'm still working on how to fix this for good.

Try to frame it without attacking language. Not "Why do you leave out the dishes! You're so lazy!" but "When there are dishes out, I feel stressed and anxious. I feel like I have to do them and I don't feel appreciated like we're both working to have a beautiful home together." By phrasing it as how you feel, no one can say you don't feel that way! And if they do, that's... a big problem.

Also talk about your shared future. "I love you, and I want us to have this clean home and not to argue or have resentful feelings. Do you want that too? How can we work together to do that?" If they don't... well, I mean... it's your life, but I'd sure hope your partner would want to work for a reasonably calm, peaceful relationship. You're not patrolling around declaring any spot of dust apostate and that it must be cleansed. You seem to have reasonable wants.

I shouldn't assume genders, but if you're a woman and your partner is a man, this is unfortunately a very common thing I read about. There may be threads/posts here that could help to show your partner about disproportionate labor. Not that it can't go both ways.

Anyway, I have ADD as well and I remember recently thinking I'll sweep my floor and it spiraling into new task new task new task on top of each other until I'd cleaned most everything and THEN finally swept my floor 6 hours later. So yeah, if you need more info on talking about how your ADD affects task prioritization and noticing a new task all the time... feel free to memail me or have a mod ask. I find a task list is very good for this and when I live with my partner, maybe we will have one. Though we're quite collaborative so probably won't need it. But "do all dishes M/W/Sa" might be helpful.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:13 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]

I've tried throwing their mess into their personal space so that they can deal with it and that just provokes arguments

It takes two to argue. I’d just continue doing this, and when they protest, say “So put it away first time,” and walk away, repeat infinitely and just grey rock it, don’t engage if they try to turn the argument around onto you.

But then I’m single, so....

I would also add that this seems grossly unfair -

There's a significant pay disparity with them making more than I do ... Because of this I try to do more around the house to help offset the fact that I can't contribute as much monetarily to the household.

Unless you’re actually working fewer hours than your partner, it’s irrelevant how much you’re paid, you should both be putting in equal time/effort towards household duties.
posted by penguin pie at 7:28 AM on November 5 [77 favorites]

My job is more physical theirs is more office based. Because of this I try to do more around the house to help offset the fact that I can't contribute as much monetarily to the household.

You both work an entire job, yet you're doing a disproportionate amount of the physical labor at home? Even if society doesn't value your time and effort equally, your partner should.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:31 AM on November 5 [70 favorites]

jinx, penguin pie
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:31 AM on November 5 [5 favorites]

I've tried throwing their mess into their personal space so that they can deal with it and that just provokes arguments again

I came to say what penguin pie above said. If you have an argument either way, choose the path that makes your own life easier. If they don't like it, they'll figure out a way to change.

But then again, I also live alone for a reason.
posted by rpfields at 7:33 AM on November 5 [5 favorites]

When I lived with housemates like this, we made up a box for everyone, and whatever they didn't deal with that was theirs got put into the box. Including dishes, keys, shoes, etc. If you don't want it kicking around in there, you put it where it goes.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:43 AM on November 5 [9 favorites]

How about something along the lines of, "I love you and I'm glad I live with you, but there's one thing I'd really like you to try doing differently. I bet you can guess what it is. I would really like you to try not to leave things lying around in places where they don't belong. I know there are things you'd like me to do differently too, and I'm willing to try. Can you tell me what one thing you'd most like me to work on changing? I'd work on that if you'd work on picking up after yourself. Are you willing to do that for me?"

If they start getting into how your failings are way worse than theirs, just redirect back to your original question. "I get that some of my habits are problems for you too. Like I said, I'm willing to work on that. Are you willing to work on the big thing that bothers me?"

If they give reasons why keeping things picked up is going to be difficult, say, "I know it might not be easy. It might not be easy for me to change my habits either, but I'm willing to try. Are you willing to try picking up after yourself more?"

Of course, agreeing to it is one thing, actually doing it is another. If they agree and then don't do it, you'll have to have another conversation where you talk about why it was hard for them and what could make it easier or motivate them more. How that conversation goes may depend on how well you did at changing the thing you were working on. If you both struggled, you'll be able to be more sympathetic with each other. If you really changed and your partner didn't, you'll have the moral high ground, which may or may not help.
posted by Redstart at 7:51 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]

Have you ever actually explicitly sat down and worked out what is fair between you? As others have said, I'm not sure why your earning less means you should be cleaning more? Not just day to day--why is all the deep cleaning your job? 'Cause it sounds an awful lot like your partner has decided as a result of your behaving as if you are obligated to do a disproportionate amount of the labor that you are the maid. I don't want to presume the gender of your partner, but that men do this a lot is one of the reasons I live by myself. If your partner is a man, as long as he conceives of you this way, his behavior isn't going to change. In fact, it may never change. I've seen maybe two whole men in my life ever realize how disgraceful and shameful this behavior pattern is.
posted by praemunire at 7:53 AM on November 5 [9 favorites]

Can you try picking one thing every week or two to ask them to focus on? My partner is messier than me and I do more of the organizing and cleaning. Lately for little things that bother me I bring it up like "if you've been up before me I have to move the coffee filters out of the way to make tea and pack lunch, could you try to put them back where they go?", and he does. Once that is entrenched I make next request "could you try to put your indoor shoes under the shoe rack so we're not walking on them?"
He is just inattentive, not an asshole so getting him to work on one new routine is effective, ymmv. When I tidy or vaccuum I put his stuff away or put them in a bin or put his clothes on his clotheschair, but he doesn't get upset when I do that as long as he can find what he left out when he needs it.

Your partner sounds too defensive and it's not cool that they bring up you not deep cleaning when you're walking around the house collecting the dishes they're too thoughtless to bring to the kitchen. My 8 year old does that if I don't remind him and I'm not ok with that being the state of things longterm so we're working on it, and you shouldn't be either from a grown-adult! You are not their servant! You clean the house because you enjoy a clean home and you want to contribute, they should be willing to put some minimal effort in too. It sounds like if you stopped cleaning the house would go into disarray pretty fast, and if I were you I'd be tempted to let that happen and when they complain, I'd say "yes, I only do dishes that are brought into the kitchen before they're dried out, feel free to soak them in the sink and put them in the dishwasher", or "I think it's time to hire a housekeeper, because I can't keep up with all of the work that needs to be done around the house, as you've noticed I can't seem to keep up with the bathroom and the dishes". Ask for a robot vaccuum for the holidays and remind them it can only work if the floors are clear. If they don't like your boundaries that's tough. I've heard that hiring a cleaner can save a relationship but most cleaners expect surfaces to be clear so they can get to work, I would keep putting that on your partner to fix however they want to, but they can't entirely opt out of picking up after themself and expect you to pick up the slack.
posted by lafemma at 8:09 AM on November 5

bring up how I'm not good at deep cleaning (example: I let the shower or bathroom sink get grimy) or some other failing

My husband tried that once on me and my response was "if it was grimy enough to notice, why didn't you clean it?" I do try and balance our chores (he walks the dog more, does outside chores etc, so I do more inside) BUT at the end of the day, we both work 8 hours. We have kids, and are quite busy with them. And we are both entitled to have down time that is approximately equal. I protect my time fiercely and if that means the house is untidy because I did my fair share and he didn't, so be it.

Just because you make less, does not mean you are the automatic house cleaner. That's complete bullshit. There's a reasonable level of tidying up and then there's someone else being lazy. Call that out.
posted by Ftsqg at 8:10 AM on November 5 [40 favorites]

Your partner is not treating you with even basic respect. The messiness is one thing, but the refusal to listen to you and turn your complaints to blame on you is a whole other issue. This is not a small problem, it’s a big one, and it’s appropriate to treat it like a big one.

There's a significant pay disparity with them making more than I do. . . . Because of this I try to do more around the house to help offset the fact that I can't contribute as much monetarily to the household.

Is this something you and your partner have discussed? I can’t imagine a partner of mine saying this to me and me agreeing—this is not a fair system.

You should be especially careful to the extent this pattern plays into gender stereotypes.
posted by sallybrown at 8:18 AM on November 5 [13 favorites]

bring up how I'm not good at deep cleaning (example: I let the shower or bathroom sink get grimy) or some other failing

This is a really bad relationship conflict tactic (diverting a discussion by bringing up a separate grievance) and you should not engage with it. It may be that deep cleaning needs to a be a separate discussion at another time, but it's not fair for your partner to try to wriggle out of the initial conversation with it. I would recommend saying calmly, "I'm happy to talk about that another time, but right now I need us to focus on this." If your partner isn't able to have a productive, focused, nondefensive conversation then I think that's a big issue going forward (much more so than tidiness).
posted by Bebo at 8:19 AM on November 5 [15 favorites]

I am the "dumper" in my house and my wife gets to call a ten-minute cleanup whenever where we go through the house and put away the things that are left out. She is also free to dump my stuff into my designated corner/room if she doesn't like where I left it. I think it's been a good compromise so far?

If your partner isn't even willing to do a good faith ten minute cleanup each day, I think you have a bigger problem.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:26 AM on November 5 [9 favorites]

You are both a team working against the messy house and not against each other. Calmly ask them to work on solutions with you to make the house more livable. Acknowledge you are not perfect but you both deserve a nice place and you both need to work towards that goal. You can have different ideas of how to reach it. If they won't agree to that, it may be time for more counseling. If they do, these would be my priorities:

Garbage is non negotiable - they should be throwing it away as soon as they get up from the activity that generated the garbage. Maybe the household needs more wastebaskets around to make this easier.

Dirty dishes are also not to be left anywhere but the kitchen. Whoever does the dishes gets to say where they are left in the kitchen.

Other clutter is less of a problem, but still gets in the way of cleaning tasks. So, what do they want you to do with it? Leave it there is not an option if they want you to vacuum. Maybe a landing pad is the answer here, where you designate a place for each of you to dump the stuff you come with (purse, keys, wallet) and then you always know where it is. If you need to remember to bring something with you the next day, you put it there so you see it in the morning.

I leave my clothes around the house, but every few days, I try to pick them up and sort the dirties from the once-worn but still usables. I have to do this once a week at least so I can do the laundry.
posted by soelo at 8:42 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]

My partner is a dumper. I have two designated places of his that I drop all the items to. Then occasionally ask him to process these areas. He complained once because I put a can of pineapples in one of these drop zones and I said well, you didn't put it away you just put it on the counter and that's irritating so I moved it to the area that collects stuff you need to put away.

In my experience with the defensive partner actions cause less friction. I just move things or if I'm really frustrated send a photo of his flotsam and say it's going on your pillow if you don't address it when you get home. He can't necessarily help leaving trails (maybe) but he can still be responsible for correcting them. Not my problem. I'm fighting that leisure gap baby.
posted by crunchy potato at 8:54 AM on November 5 [8 favorites]

What if instead of confronting them, you approach them to collaborate on a shared problem? "Hey, partner, I'm really interested in our space feeling different, and I think there are things we both can do to make it better. I have some thoughts, and I'm interested in hearing yours, too, and then maybe we can work together to come up with some systems and infrastructure that help. What do you think?"
posted by spindrifter at 9:43 AM on November 5

A lot of the comments are running with your assumption that tidy house = good and messy house = bad, but I disagree. Some people don't like their houses tidy and some do. (I'm taking you at your word that this is general messiness/spreading stuff out, not hoarding or squalor.) Let me be clear, getting defensive the way your partner does is a really crappy and hurtful thing to do to someone you love, and they should not be doing it. But the reason they're doing it is because you've made them feel like their preference for what their living space is like is wrong. Home and the sense of feeling at home is really personal for a lot of people, and you've basically told them you want to force them change what makes them feel at home. You've done it right here (bolding mine):

What techniques are good for forcing someone who is extremely disorganized/messy to confront that fact and actually improve?

You can't frame this as them "improving" and have this be a productive conversation. The reframe is that you have two different preferences and need to come to a compromise. E.g. you could decide as a couple that you (OP) clean less often, and your partner helps by tidying things when you clean. Or you could decide as a couple that e.g. dirty dishes always go immediately into the sink but it's okay to kick shoes around the house. Or you could designate certain areas in the house as your partner's stuff dumping zones, like maybe they get to dump stuff on the side table but not the coffee table.

Also yeah, it's not great that the person who does hard physical labor all day comes home and has to do all the hard physical labor.
posted by capricorn at 9:45 AM on November 5 [5 favorites]

(And just to make it clear where I'm coming from: I'm all the way to the extreme tidy end of the spectrum. The first thing I do when I come home every day is put everything away in its ~proper place~, or else I can't concentrate. But I've started to understand the idea of someone feeling like they can't relax and spread out with their stuff around them and are constantly policing their use of space in their own home.)
posted by capricorn at 9:50 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]

I don't believe the partner thinks there shouldnt be improvement, since they commented on the dirty shower. But maybe there is a distinction between messy and dirty here. But if that's true, why are they leaving dirty dishes around?
posted by agregoli at 9:52 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]

Make sure discussions stay within the issue of tidiness; it's easy for other resentments to slide in and make it hard to resolve a specific issue. Resolving the other issues is worth doing, but that wasn't the question.

Make sure you tell Partner This is a behavior of yours that really bothers me and I am requesting that you address it, just because I'm asking. Partners are allowed to ask stuff. You being messy in other ways doesn't mean you shouldn't have clean surfaces. Of course, just as you want Partner to listen to you, you should listen to Partner.

Do Partner's keys, phone charger, laptop bag, stuff have a place to be put? It's easier to be tidy when things have a place. Apartment Therapy recommends a location near the door, calling it a landing zone, for the stuff that tends to get dumped in random places, which is also the stuff one tends to really need when leaving the house. An attractive dish, tray, bowl, key hook, basket of mittens and gloves, whatever.

Consider a basket in each of the rooms where this happens. Stray objects, regardless of owner, go in basket. Once a week or so, you retrieve your stuff, any stuff of Partner's goes on Partner's desk or wherever. This unfortunately gives you responsibility for cleaning the surfaces.

Most of all, use gentle behavior modification and praise Partner for picking stuff up. I love it when I see your keys in the landing zone bowl, Look at that clean coffee table, thanks.
posted by theora55 at 10:09 AM on November 5

you say "confront" three times in your post. i know it's probably just word choice, but "confront" is a really aggressive word and it implies argumentative/hostile intent. that's not what should be happening here, because if you go at partner aggressively, of course it's going to turn into an argument and partner will be defensive.

you need to talk to them about it, not confront them about it. approach it as a problem you both need to solve together, not partner is the problem and you want to fix it.

some people have different thresholds of cleanliness and tidiness, and compromise might be the best solution. but you need to talk about it.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:21 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]

Whenever I confront them on it they get defensive and bring up how I'm not good at deep cleaning (example: I let the shower or bathroom sink get grimy) or some other failing.

"If your stuff wasn't in the way it'd be easier for me to deep-clean things."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:31 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]

The fact that your partner believes, and has somehow conned you into believing, that their job is somehow harder than yours simply because they make more money than you do, is appalling. Your free time is just as valuable as theirs is. I honestly don't know how to go about making them care about this because it's so alien to me that the actions you describe are how an adult human in a relationship with another adult human would choose to behave and then angrily defend.

You "let" the sink and shower get grimy? Does your partner not bathe or wash their hands in your home ever? Do they think these things somehow have nothing to do with them and the choices they make to see something correctable and decide to ignore any measures they might take to correct it and instead shame you? They leave food encrusted plates all over your home like a literal child and it's supposedly not only okay for them to do that but also to blame you for not immediately picking up after them like a servant? Not even like a servant because at least a servant gets PAID.

can't believe i'm spending my middle age solely screaming WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY but here we are
posted by poffin boffin at 10:41 AM on November 5 [29 favorites]

I wonder what would happen if you just stopped picking up partner's mess for a week or two. You know, as a science experiment. I realize it would probably be personally aggravating to you, but this is Science we're doing here.

It may be that partner would scarcely notice. Or that partner would eventually break down and start picking stuff up.

If partner doesn't notice, then you'll learn that you're cleaning up to satisfy your own need for a clean house, and they just don't care that much. If they do start picking up, you'll learn that they do care. Once you've got that information, you can figure out what your next steps should be.
posted by adamrice at 10:54 AM on November 5 [5 favorites]

I agree with everybody who said the defensiveness and the attempt at distracting you onto a different issue are big problems, and I think you will need to work on them at some point.

However, for a quicker resolution to your original problem, might I suggest: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage? It's basically about using behavior modification techniques to get the result you want.
posted by tuesdayschild at 11:05 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]

This thread is like deja vu. I swear I've posted the same topic and posted the same link about Shamu in past Mefi posts.

I've come to believe that different brain strategies are at play. I clean stuff away and create clear, empty spaces because my brain works better that way. I find it hard to relax when there's clutter on countertops, much less use them for anything. My partner tends to want to fill up empty space, they spam any open area with their stuff. It's a semi-constant negotiation between my desire to have empty/spare/clean and their desire to have populated and full areas. Don't get me started on our refrigerator.

Anyhoos, I wonder if it's somehow related to introversion/extroversion or if there some axis of behavior at play in how people use and organize in their living space. It's taken us a long time to reach some form of successful accommodation which include less spamming and less reactive cleaning of stuff with areas that are off limits to each other to keep sane, plus more shelves.
posted by diode at 11:44 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]

I am the ADHD partner in the marriage, which feeds into why I am also the Dumper of Clutter. I also make less money than my husband does, and if he even once suggested that I should take on more work in the house to make up for the discrepancy in income, I would seriously re-examine our relationship. The house is OUR house and taking care of it is OUR job, and who, exactly, is paying more has nothing to do with it.

Now about the clutter. My husband actually comes up with ideas to help contain it. He noticed that I dump my bag and whatever I bring home from work on the kitchen table, and thought what to do to stop it, instead of just saying "Please stop that." The solution he came up with was to take a console table we had in the living room and put it beside the garage door. Now I dump my bag and the stuff I bring home from work there, and that is The Bag's Proper Place and we're both happy.

A second idea was my socks: I really have to get my socks off my feet as soon as I get home, and the bedroom is all the way at the other end of the house from where I have collapsed to take my socks off. So they end up piling up on the floor in the media room (which is closest to the door). We got a small basket we call the Sock Trap, and I put my socks there when I take them off. They're contained now, and periodically they whole mess can be carried back and put into the dirty clothes hamper. (Or, more usually, taken straight to the washing machine, unless we have people coming over.)

He also never says "Your stuff is everywhere, please pick it up," which I am thankful for because it doesn't make me feel like a child being chastized. He says "We need to declutter the house," and then he helps me so I don't get overwhelmed and quit and so my ADHD-related lack of impulse control doesn't mean I get distracted by something and wander off. Or if he's doing something else he'll go "Can you pick up the media room while I clean the kitchen?"

It's a compromise--he gets the things contained in a smaller area, I don't have to completely change my habits.
posted by telophase at 12:17 PM on November 5 [21 favorites]

Also! I read this book about organizing for ADHD about a decade ago, and the concept that stuck with me is: if something is constantly getting left out instead of being put away in its proper place, then that isn't its proper place. Things should be stored close to where they're being left out.

We now have a small bookcase in the media room because I constantly leave books that I'm reading for various projects there. Instead of taking them and my laptop, if I have it out, back to my office every time I finish--which will never ever happen, let's face it--I now have a place to store the stuff close to where I'm actually using it. It's much less of a chore to put the stack on the shelf that is right there than it is to take the stuff 30 feet to my office.

I can't explain why taking the stuff 30 feet further away is such a huge fucking barrier that it doesn't happen (because that's upset me for years that I can't do it), but that's why ADHD is a disorder and not just a personality type.
posted by telophase at 12:31 PM on November 5 [11 favorites]

Our landing zone is a large bookcase right near our front door. Shoes get kicked off onto the bottom shelf. Eye level shelves hold handbag, and device charging equipment. Hooks on one side for keys. One shelf for dogwalking equipment, including leash, hat, etc. He has one other landing zone, a pretty box at the end of the kitchen counter, where receipts and other shit end up. With hobbies, designated spaces. My art gear is in a set of drawers with wheels. My sewing adventures sometimes end up in a laundry basket until I get inspired to put all the shit away properly. We only eat in the combined living/kitchen area, so plates and cups are closer to the dishwasher.

But we negotiated these strategies as the issues arose. So I would also ask for a sitdown but relaxed chat at a time when it's not making you feel bad, and ask for ideas as a team to make household chores less stressful for both of you. "Hon, love you very much so I hate it when I nag you or get crabby with you. I've noticed this happens most when we talk about chores. Can we work out some processes in our housekeeping to avoid this? One of the ideas I read about is to have a 'landing zone' where we put stuff when we get home from work. (More details about landing zone). What do you think of that idea? (Discuss). What other things might help? (Discuss). Hon, I get really frustrated about food that is stuck to dishes. Do you think if we kept a square bucket with soapy water near the sink, that dishes could go in there until one of us is ready to run the dishwasher, is workable? No? What do you think we can do to solve this one?"

Good luck. I'd love to know how this goes for you.
posted by b33j at 4:24 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]

They make more money? Fantastic! They can pay for the cleaner to clean their 50% of disgusting filthy crap. Right now they’re treating you like a maid and you’re letting them. The fact that they make more doesn’t mean they have more power over you, it says they have the solution to fix it if they can’t be bothered doing it themselves and that solution isn’t you.

Also, I dealt with a similar problem by simply picking up the trail of dirty clothes snaking through the house, caked on dishes, piles of paperwork etc and dumping them in my partner’s study. If he wanted to make a mess, at least he could confine it to his personal area instead of inflicting it on all of us. He cleaned it when he got around to it and I never went in there. With the exception of laundry, he stopped doing it pretty quickly!
posted by Jubey at 6:21 PM on November 5 [11 favorites]

Also, I should add that I had a conversation with him about it beforehand that went along the lines of, when you dump your stuff all over the house, you put me in a position where I either live in filth, or I become your mother who has to clean up after you or the nagging wife. It’s unfair of you to put me in either of these positions. Also, if you put me in the role of your mother, I’ll view you as a child incapable of doing anything for themselves and there goes our sex life. So for the sake of our relationship, I’m putting your junk in your room. Deal with it.
posted by Jubey at 6:51 PM on November 5 [13 favorites]

I'm messy and I have tried to change and I can't. I have really, really tried. What I CAN do though is tidy up once a week without being sour about it. When my partner cleans the kitchen, I can be the one who runs around the house finding all the dishes. And we both thank each other for the cleaning that gets done, because why should that shit be thankless? It's nice to be thanked.
posted by purple_bird at 1:19 PM on November 6

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