My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years and living together for the past two. From what he has told me, he grew up in a house that was a disaster, which became a way of life for him. There were dishes and clothes everywhere and dirt all over the house — nobody cared to clean and he grew comfortable with that.
I, on the other hand, come from a family of neat freaks. I grew up vacuuming and dusting nearly every single day. My mom was very strict about how we kept our bedrooms and as a young adult, I adopted some habits of my mother's compulsive cleanliness. I'm by no means as harsh as she was but I like the common areas of our apartment to be clean. I like when trash goes in the trash can, paperwork is on the table (not the floor), and food isn't spread all over the countertops.
My boyfriend and I have had numerous, calm discussions about keeping things clean and he's agreed to help, but that hasn't happened. I find myself frustrated to the point where I end up throwing a fit about his disgusting living habits. I am at the point where I'm about to move out. I'm tired of acting like a slave and feeling unappreciated for keeping things tidy. What should I do? I still want to live with him because I love him, but I'm tired of being the maid!
— Clean and Tidy Cate
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Dear Clean and Tidy Cate,
Cleanliness is a huge factor when it comes to being able to live with someone harmoniously, especially if that someone is your significant other. Obviously you've tried discussing this with your boyfriend to no avail but before you pack your bags, try bringing it to his attention again, this time with a clear set of instructions.
Write out a list of the things that need to be done every day and then another list for things that need to be done each week. Be fair — you may have to make some sacrifices, too, so only list the things that really matter to you. Sit down with your boyfriend and break the list in half, working together to divvy up the chores. Get in the habit of cleaning together to make sure things are completed. It seems juvenile, but I do think that cleaning can be learned over time.
When you do sit down and talk to him, don't be afraid to tell him that you're at your wits end. He may need to really hear that you're planning on moving out if things don't change. Likewise, keep in mind that he was raised in a completely different lifestyle than you — he might not even know how to clean! — and just as you're stuck in your ways, he is too. Be patient with each other and be ready to compromise.