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You Asked: Can I Force Them to Clean?

Dear Sugar,

I live with my boyfriend and his brother, mostly for financial reasons. If I had the money, I'd live just with my boyfriend. Kris, who is 26, just moved out from his mother's house. He's a very nice guy but he is the baby of the family. His mother always cleaned up after him, cooked for him often, did his laundry, cleaned his room on occasion, kept the kitchen clean, did his dishes, the works. Now that we all live together, I find that Kris doesn't do a very good job of cleaning up after himself. I'm not perfect, believe me, and neither is my boyfriend, but when the trash is full, I don't think that it's common sense, or very nice, to just pile things on top of the lid rather than take the trash five feet to the garage!

I am the only person in the house who puts my dishes in the dishwasher, turns it on when it's full, and empties it when they're clean. I've avoided doing it occasionally to see who will do it without my asking, and neither of them will step up to the plate. The dishes will pile in the sink while the dishwasher is full either with dirty or clean dishes. If I ask my boyfriend to do it, he'll complain about my "nagging." Finally, the kitchen will get so disgusting that Kris will call their mother and she'll drive the 20 miles to our place and clean it up for them.

The main problem is that I find it offensive that their mother, my potential mother-in-law, still babies them. I feel like this is our house, I live here too, and that the people who live here should take care of it and come to an agreement. I can't really put into words WHY I find it offensive that she cleans up after them, but in some ways I feel like she's looking down on me as a bad "woman" because I'm not doing a good enough job at keeping a clean house. My boyfriend thinks I'm crazy for feeling this way yet doesn't do anything to chip in. How can I convey to them how I feel? Am I really just acting crazy? Please help! — Living with Two Slobs Tommye

To see Dear Sugar's answer

Dear Living with Two Slobs Tommye —

When you share living space with someone, it's imperative to be respectful of your roommates, and it sounds like your boyfriend and his brother are just so used to someone picking up after them that they don't know the basic fundamentals of cohabitating. With that said, you need to lay down the law ASAP. Living together before marriage is a good way to get a glimpse into the future, so set your ground rules now before it's too late.

If I were you, I would call for a house meeting and suggest hiring a maid immediately. If you split the cost three ways, it can't be all that expensive and it will eliminate the "nagging" that your boyfriend feels and the frustration you feel about the boys being slobs. To maintain a clean house, I would also fairly assign chores and make sure they understand how important it is to respect each other's living space.

You are not crazy for feeling the way you do and I happen to think it's completely inappropriate that their mother still cleans up after them. She certainly isn't doing them any favors by continuing to baby them. Hopefully, once the maid comes on a weekly basis and everyone pitches in accordingly, you will be future mother-in-law free and living in a clean house before you know it. If they aren't willing to change their lazy ways, you're going to be better off living on your own. Good luck!


Join The Conversation
bangs bangs 9 years
Jesus , this reminds me so much of my life..I have to do everything when it comes to cleaning, he just throws everything on the floor, and I just cant take it, I shout, I scream and that's always the reason we fight.And its been a long time since I live with my boyfriend but nothing changed and I cant think of anything else to try...I ll think seriously about marrying him :P
Phunkometry Phunkometry 9 years
I don't understand mothers like that. My boyfriend's mom is ALWAYS complaining about how she has to clean the whole house and do all the laundry and cook and iron the clothes all by herself... and yet, she has never forced either of her two kids (not to mention her husband, who does absolutely NOTHING all day) to do a damn thing around the house. When my boyfriend got an apartment awhile back (which unfortunately he had to move out of and go back home), I was the one to teach him how to do laundry, and I had to teach him how to clean a bathroom properly, and guess who taught him how to keep his papers and things in order? I did. Luckily, he was really good about washing dishes. But what are parents for, really? Aren't they the ones who are supposed to instill values in their children, and teach them how to become successful people? So how can you even begin fooling yourself into thinking that your son (or daughter) will be fine on her own when you're coming over to clean his/her house once a month? Sounds like you really have to be careful about how you approach this mother situation. Seems like she'd be one of those "complain but never lay down the law" women, who just enjoy being martyrs. I dunno. Just tell your boyfriend to stop calling her! If you have to play "mother" to them, be the right kind of mom and teach them how to fend for their damn selves, and if they don't, give them some type of ultimatum. Sorry, this was maybe all over the place and not totally related with your problem, but I hope it helps anyway.
herjoiedevivre herjoiedevivre 9 years
oh & by "kids never helping her clean" I meant the ones still in the house. my boyfriend's done moved out and lives 45 mins away. lol.
herjoiedevivre herjoiedevivre 9 years
not only is the maid going to not teach him anything, but...I'm pretty sure the mother would take EXTREME offense to that. and it would cause a huge blow-up fight. I tried to do that for my boyfriend's mom- her kids never really help her clean and her house is pretty big. my boyfriend always gives her a hard time about cleaning it, so we decided for christmas we'd go over there and make it sparkle! unfortunately that insulted her, and I totally didn't mean it in a bad way, we wanted to do something nice for her. :( careful with that idea. if you get REALLY fed up, just take the dishes out of the sink, put em in a garbage bag, & toss em. hahaha. okay, that's bad advice. why don't you just talk to the mom about it? "It really stinks that you have to do all of their dishes. I mean, are their arms broken?"
PJ-PJ-PJ PJ-PJ-PJ 9 years
Can you say Mama's Boys? Two grown men that are more than happy to call their mother & get her to come clean up after them are not going to change now. The mother is not going to change, either. She probably enjoys being needed by her boys. It's a win-win situation for all three of them. I know you said it was the brother that called, but it sounds like your boyfriend is more than happy to allow it. You need to worry less about conveying your feelings to them (come on, they already know how you feel) & decide if you will be able to live with it forever. I'm sure it is just one of many things they think their mommy, or you, should be happy to do for them. I'm surprised she doesn't do their laundry also, when she is called to come & clean.
ClassicsDiva ClassicsDiva 9 years
I agree the best plan is to talk to your boyfriend and his brother first. But, if that fails, you can always be really super passive-aggressive. It might not work for everybody, but it helped with my younger siblings, and it even helped (in a much more toned-down form) with my roommates last year. Only (and I mean only) take care of yourself and what is yours. Don't cook for them. Cook for yourself and make sure you have no leftovers. Wash only the dishes you use, and then when they are clean hide them and lock them up so your boyfriend and his brother can't use them. If their dirty dishes get in your way, put them in a garbage bag and tie it up, or put them places they often frequent, like the sofa, the computer desk, or even their beds. Grocery shop only for yourself, and clearly label your food, and cuss them out or charge them for it if they eat some of it. Keep your dirty laundry separate from theirs, and only wash your own things. Again, hide or lock up your towels so that they can't use them, and if their laundry gets in your way, put it in places where it will inconvenience them. If you share a bed with your boyfriend, either kick him out or refuse to sleep with him and sleep on the sofa until he starts changing the sheets. Only vacuum, dust, and sweep the areas of the house you use most. If you have more than one bathroom, ban them from ever using it and keep them out. If you have to share a bathroom, keep it clean. You really can't compromise here. If you're really vicious and gross, you can try things like putting used cleaning supplies or hair clogs in their personal space, but even I'm not that vicious, and it's hard to live with a gross bathroom. Like I said, passive aggression doesn't work for everybody, and if you do go this route, make sure you make it absolutely clear that this is a direct consequence of their lack of contribution, and will end when they start pulling their own weight. Some people just really don't learn until they are confronted with their filth in their most intimate spaces. A week's worth of dirty dishes in her bed showed my sister just how disgusting she was, and just how pissed I was about it. If nothing works, he doesn't respect you, and it might be in your best interests to leave him.
telewyo telewyo 9 years
I had quite a few roommates through college both guys and girls and everyone leaves a mess sometimes but to never do the dishes is unacceptable. Do they think that they get done magically?! You aren't their maid and I think it's a lazy waste of money to hire one when you're living together because you're broke. Tell them to clean up their own messes! The last two years of college I lived in a house with three guys downstairs and three girls upstairs. When we were cleaning to move out, one of the guys came upstairs and asked me where the vacuum was...I said, "Um, in the same closet it has been in for the last two years." He hadn't vacuumed in TWO YEARS! Eeeew.
Dawnie86 Dawnie86 9 years
i know what you feel like. I live with a sister like that. But the idea with the maid? It would be an answer for the mess now, but they never learn it that way and when you live with you boyfriend alone one day you just had the same problems all over again. Its not perfect, and you maybe hate the idea, but maybe you could just talk to there mother? Tell her that your not a maid and the are old enough to clean there mess alone. That she should just stay out of it and let them do it alone. Its not a nice way i say it now, but is real: the mother is not ever around. Someday they have to learn it. But when you find a compromise with the mother of them, and talk to both of them, tell them that you not there maid and its not a big of a problem to put the dish in the dishwasher. Its not perfect. And when the mother is not on your side you have really bad carts. I know what i said is not really helping you, but maybe a talk with all of them would help. Or you could say that you don't do it like that anymore and move out, or threat with it anyway. i don't think you boyfriend would like that your moving out, so perhaps the talks with his brother. Hope you find something that helps you and your situation :)
DeviousMuse DeviousMuse 9 years
This is why I'm thankful my bf moved away from his folks and out on his own (in another state) when he went off to college. He learned to do things for himself, because he had to. Now, at 30 (I'm almost 27), he knows how to cook and clean for himself, and doesn't have to be asked. We also have the agreement, that whoever cooks, doesn't have to clean. If we both cook, then we both clean. Plus, cleaning together means more time hanging out and chatting. This makes me forgive him for not knowing how to turn an iron on. :)
citizenkane citizenkane 9 years
Well said, nikodarling!!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
#1 question I would ask is if you knew he was messy before you moved in. That’s what I was asked when I complained about my husband being a slob. The truth is, I did know he was, when I would go over to his place he was very messy, but I overlooked it. I am very clean, I make lists but I have been like that my whole life. His mother did everything for him, and he just wasn’t in the habit of being Proactive or taking the initiative to clean up, it doesn’t bother him the way it bothers me. What I have done, is to first stop nagging the poor guy, secondly we have a “clean up” day where we both clean up at the same time. The rest of the week I make sure that I clean up the clutter, scoop the litter box, and he takes out the garbage. We both do the dishes together. Bit by bit he is getting “in the habit” of doing the cleaning without me there or prompting him. Sometimes he even does the “clean up” day by himself and lets me take a break! This is coming from a guy that didn’t see his own bedroom floor for 10 years!!
sparklestar sparklestar 9 years
Talk to their mother! Remind her that they moved out and they'll never learn if she doesn't stop cleaning up after them! What would they do if she didn't come round? I mean you even have a dishwasher for christs sakes! So speak to the mother, or leave him.
nicachica nicachica 9 years
i'm kinda surprised at Dear's response here! I agree with all the posters above. Don't think this behavior will change if you marry this guy!!! What you see is what you get and you need to have a real discussion with him or you need to find a new living situation ( is a lifesaver!).
nikodarling nikodarling 9 years
I'd like to give some advice to all women with sons out there. Ladies teach your boys to cook and to clean up after themselves. You do them no favors taking care of them and babying them into adulthood. Nothing sadder than grown men who doesn't know how to clean up after themselves, or won't take the responsibility. You could try to change these two big babies but wouldn't it have been nice if their mother had taught them how to be self sufficient adults in the first place. Pathetic. I think I will call my mother in law and thank her for making her sons clean when they were growing up. What a difference it makes.
TheMissus TheMissus 9 years
Don't hire a maid. Sit down and talk to your boyfriend about the issue first. Then you uys can approach the brother. Bottom line, everyone in the house needs to help keep it somewhat clean on a daily basis. It takes maybe 10 minutes of cleaning a day to keep things livable. 10 MINUTES! And don't feel bad about being offended by the mother's behavior. I would be offended too. She should have done a better job setting an example with her kids when they are growing up. Cleaning up is EVERYONE'S job in the house.. Not jus the mother's. If you sit down with the boyfriend, and he doesn't like the idea, the leave him. It's a sign he's not mature enough for you.
lemassabielle lemassabielle 9 years
This could all be easily fixed. Get your boyfriend and his brother in a room together and explain how it's inconsiderate of them to not clean up their own mess. Explain that the least they can do it start the dish washer when it's full and take the trash out! It wouldn't kill them. You could even make it a fun competition. My mom once made a chart and the person who cleaned the most every week got a little prize. I'm sure you could find something to make it fun for them. The mom is just babying them to death. I would be extremely annoyed if I had to deal with her. It was also really mean of your boyfriend to call her and make her clean! Didn't he think it might make her think your incompetent? I would be so upset. Do you really want to be with this man if he can't contribute in the smallest way? you have a lot of thinking to do.
cubadog cubadog 9 years
I agree hiring a maid is not going to fix the problem. Your boyfriend needs to grow up and start taking some responsibility for himself. You need to have a come to Jesus with him and lay down your expectations for what you expect out of him. Give him a month to change his ways and if things do not improve it is time to find a new roommate situation. It is insane that you have to live like this.
Random2 Random2 9 years
Make a chore wheel. Divide the main living spaces into three sections (ie: living room, kitchen, and bathroom), and rotate each week who has to clean it. Set a date for the major cleaning to be done by (say, Sunday) and make sure everyone keeps their 'areas' fairly neat for the rest of the week. It sounds corny, but my boyfriend is doing this with his room mates, and it's working really well so far. It divides the work evenly, and makes sure everyone is chipping in.
gsteinhauser gsteinhauser 9 years
Get used to it or leave him. They aren't going to change and believe it or not, some girl (who's probably not as pretty as you so she feels like she has to) will clean up after them, and it seems like that's what he wants. So unless you want to be a mother to him and your futur children, get out while you can and find someone with some maturity.
loralei loralei 9 years
They won't change their ways. If you want to stick with your boyfriend, get used to having to pick up after him like you're his mother. He's been conditioned to live this way. Luckily my husband is pretty tidy, but when he had roommates, we would hide extra sets of plates and silverware because the sinks would pile up with stuff. They resorted to buying disposable plates, which isn't the best, but at least it was a temporary fix for the dishes. Who wants to attract bugs? Yick.
gossipqueen gossipqueen 9 years
and you REALLY want this to be your future family???? It'll never end...if he already thinks that you're "nagging" when you're simply asking him to be clean...what would he do with bigger issues???? His mother "fixing" his life will be a constant... and the mom thing....why would he give up on a good thing??? he has a FREE maid service...if you try to change that she'll prob turn crazy..."my kids NEED me" sorta take that away from her she'll probably turn into a lion! and the "hire a maid"...advice....bad, bad....
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
I don't think hiring a maid is a good idea, as others have stated. He will learn nothing from it. Moreover, the post seemed to make it pretty clear that these folks are strapped for cash! I think it's totally unreasonable for them to expect you and their mom to clean up after them. I seriously think that this is deal breaker material, not because being messy is a deal breaker, but because he seems totally unwilling to own up to having any responsibility for his space, AND he calls you a nag when you try to discuss it with him. I would sit him down and say that you're not about to spend the rest of your life being someone's mom, cleaning up after him. Tell him that he needs to start carrying his own weight, and to that end, he needs to pick X chores that he's responsible for every week. Then tell him that you know he hates nagging so much that he's just going to do the chores without reminders because your relationship should be like a boyfriend and a girlfriend not like a son and his parent. If that doesn't work, if he agrees and then totally ignores it after a week, then I would worry. At that point I think you'd need to ask yourself if you could put up with that for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. If the answer is no, then you know what you have to do. Good luck.
AtlantaNoleGirl AtlantaNoleGirl 9 years
Oh my gosh! I don't live with my boyfriend, but honestly, I practically do because I'm there every day. He has a roommate as well. I help clean because I'm around so much and they are not total slobs... but mainly what got me here was the Mom comment. My boyfriend's mom comes and cleans about once a month. She also takes all my boyfriends work clothes and cleans and presses them for him. He is 26. I think it's a bit ridiculous. But I also know she loves to do it for him. We've invited her to come to lunch with us and she says no, she'd rather just come clean. So I'm afraid to take away that role she enjoys having as a mother. It's very weird and complicated if you ask me.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I have to agree with citizenkane. I mean a maid? This really teaches him nothing except that he doesn't have to grow up and take responsibilty for himself and his living area. I mean c'mon, do you think this will really teach him a lesson? No, and imagine marrying this guy and having to deal with it then. For sanitary reasons you would think he would step up to the plate a little. I think you need to go on strike and teach them a lesson.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Oooo I feel bad for you...I dunno what to say because my bf is pretty good with AT LEAST cleanign up after himself. And when I cook dinner, he'll even help me clean after and I don't even have to ask...
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