This blog post is brought to you by the good people at relationshipcounseling.com. *
After 14 months of cohabitating with my saint of a girlfriend, I have many questions about two people surviving a longterm relationship when they have opposite cleaning habits. Most people seem to keep their homes in order by one of two methods:
- Clean as you go – Meaning you’re constantly picking up after yourself throughout the day so that the place stays mostly clean and tidy.
- Create a replica of the TV show Hoarders and then do one major disaster recovery effort – Meaning you don’t pick up after yourself for the better part of a month and then spend an entire weekend cleaning every square inch of your house.
I guess the first obvious question is whether two people can live together if one is always cleaning up and the other is always dirtying up. They say opposites attract so am I to believe that the majority of couples who live together have opposing views of how a house should be cleaned?
Is it perfectly fair for each member of the relationship to continue with his or her preference of cleanliness? Or is a compromise the only way to survive this philosophical divide?
Look to the kitchen if you want a micro example of these differing methods. I’ve been asking friends and family about this dilemma recently, and there seems to be an even split between people who clean up after each step of their cooking process (as if covering their tracks after a gruesome murder), and people who make one simple meal and the result is a kitchen that looks like this:
If that’s the case, are the aggressive daily cleaners just getting boned left and right? I say yes because their two options are to either live in a controlled filth that their partner is not bothered by, or clean up after that partner.
And when I talk about the messy person, I’m not suggesting it’s someone who never cleans. That would be grounds for immediate expulsion from the house and the relationship. I’m talking about the person who cleans very infrequently, but when she does, she makes it a deep clean…putting all of her possessions in the right spot, scrubbing bathtubs, toilets, stovetops, etc. But during the weeks in between the cleanings, you’re likely to find her clothes in every nook and cranny of the house, her work materials somehow end up in the garbage disposal and a week’s worth of her mail surprisingly covers every inch of your 800 square foot apartment.
What’s a neat freak to do?
Or is the bigger problem that one member of the relationship is usually a controlling, neurotic, OCD-denying asshole? And maybe that person just needs to lighten up and let the flour land where it may, even if it somehow ends up in the bedroom.
I’m afraid I might be looking for a solution that doesn’t exist. Maybe there’s nothing the daily cleaner can do besides roll his eyes and cringe every time his partner tries on a piece of clothing or takes food out of the fridge (because there’s no way that stuff is going immediately back into its right spot).
And maybe all the once-a-month cleaner can do is sit back and watch her partner constantly stress and pick up her possessions.
But I’ll reiterate…if that’s the case, it really seems like the neurotic person is getting the shaft big time.
*There is no real website called relationshipcounseling.com. And even if there was, my girlfriend and I wouldn’t need it because I just thought of a new way to compromise about this whole situation. She’s welcome to leave any possession she wants in the wrong place, but I’m allowed to give it to my dog as an acceptable chew toy.