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What do I do with my messy DH??

704 Views 15 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  marlee
I love my DH, but his messy ways drive me INSANE.

Right now I'm in the first trimester of pregnancy, feeling too sick to sick to do much, and spending a lot of time sitting on the couch. My DD gets out her toys, but it's a limited mess.

Yet somehow our house is covered in trash, dirty clothes, old mail, random clutter, etc. My DH leaves things everywhere, and since I've been too sick to pick up after him it's piling up.

For example, after enough nagging he now picks up his work clothes from the bathroom floor, but he almost never picks up his socks and boxers. He will leave a wet towel on the floor or on the bed or in the dirty clothes instead of hanging it up.

When he eats or drinks, he leaves cans and wrappers on the counter. I point them out to him and sometimes he throws it away, but never everything. Like the other day I made muffins. I came in to find the muffin papers from the ones he ate wadded up in little balls and laying all the way on the back of the stove. It must have taken more effort to toss them back there than it would to just throw them in the trash can less than 2 ft. away!

My DH gets the mail on his way in the door. He leaves all the ripped open envelopes on the piano, on the counter, in the stack of important papers waiting to be filed away, etc. Junk mail he sticks in random places like in the box of piano music, in the important papers, on top the book shelf, etc. If I don't search and destroy immediately, it just piles up until there is clutter all over the place, because he also never puts things there are comic books and DVD's and whatever else randomly laying all over the house. His tools are the worst, he will do a project and then leave the tools on the kitchen table and stuck in random places, then he can never find anything again.

I've tried explaining to him how much easier life is when you just immediately put something back where it goes when you're done with it. How there is nothing to clean up if you throw a food wrapper away instead of just laying it down. That he doesn't ever have any clean socks and underwear because they always get pushed under the bed or the couch or dresser or piano when they are left in the floor. (Our cats no doubt aid in that...) But he still doesn't seem to get it and I am losing my mind! I feel like all I do after he leaves for work is clean up after him, then when he gets home it just starts over. After his day off our house is trashed with crumbs and food and clothes and clutter.

Yesterday I folded a pile of clothes and laid them on the bed and had to go sit down because I felt too sick to put them away at the moment. An hour later I came back in the room and the clothes were gone. I was happy, until I noticed them wadded up and shoved on top of the tv, of all places. Instead of putting them in the dresser (which the tv sits on top of!) he had just dumped the whole pile on top of the tv, then laid down on the bed and took a nice afternoon nap.


Growing up my dad was always very neat and clean, and we were required to have everything organized and clean constantly. I'm ok with small messes here and there, like DD's toys spread out or whatever. My DH also lived in a clean house but his parents cleaned up behind him without a word and they have a maid....
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. The first tris were really tough for me.

Have you heard of the broken window syndrome?

from an article titled "Broken Windows" by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, which appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly (via wikipedia):

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.
I have found that this also applies to the orderliness of homes. When a home is messy, children and more messy adults feel less inhibited about indulging in their messy ways. I have consistently found it to be the case that it is less work for me to tidy up the house and be totally vigilant about keeping it tidy than it is to tidy up after letting things get out of control. Even when I get no help from my dh or children in doing it. Also, since I am the only tidy person in the home, the home has to get tidy and I have role model tidying up in order for my children to learn to appreciate order and what it takes to achieve it.

It sounds like some habits (some are from would be helpful for you:
  • 15 minutes a day of decluttering
  • having an adequate number of trash containers and emptying them promptly when needed
  • doing and putting away laundry every day
  • cleaning up dishes after every meal and snack
  • picking up and putting away all toys 3 x per day
  • establish a place to put every thing in your home
I know it sounds like a lot of work, esp when you are feeling rotten. But IME, it actually reduces the amount of work required in the home.

I know how frustrating it is to live with a messy dh, but it has helped me a lot to clean up my own act and get the home orderly and clean on a regular basis. Your dh's parents dropped the ball on teaching him orderliness, but IME it doesn't work too well when wives try to train their messy husbands -- it tends to lead to resentment on both sides, not improved habits. IME your best course of action is to do what you can to manage the situation and role model what you want your children to learn.

Probably not what you want to hear! Hope it helps though.

edited to add: if you can afford it, you could consider getting help from someone like a postpartum doula or a decluttering coach who could help you get on top of things in the short term. we want our husbands to help us, but when they can't or won't, it's reasonable to get support from outside. being pg in a chaotic home while caring for a little one is no picnic and you deserve some help. also, if you can get support from other local mothers it might be a good time to ask.
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No advice, sorry. Just some righteous flamin' for you. I was thinking at the beginning of your post it might be a good idea to just bite the bullet and put a laundry basket in every room that he sheds clothes in (bathroom, bedroom, wherever) plus a trash can in every room too. But reading further it looks like that won't do anything but clutter your house up with more baskets, sigh.

Have you ever asked him honestly why he prefers not to throw something away?
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I second the previous poster. It does seem like a heinous amount of work, but a) it's truly not, and b) I'm not "crazy" in my own home anymore.

The sad thing is, I do all of those things.

I have a home organization binder with meals and daily chores and a loose routine we follow. I declutter every night before bed or if I accidentally fall asleep I do it every morning for half an hour before doing anything else. I do the dishes every day, and I always pick up all the dishes after meals and scrap them off and rinse them and put them in the sink. And my DD loves to help. She scrapes off her dishes and puts them in the sink also, cleans up her toys when she's done usually, puts her own clothes in the hamper...

The problem is when I am not following directly behind him cleaning up, then I have a huge mess waiting for me.

Even having hampers and trash cans in every room doesn't help. He leaves trash on the counter above the trash can constantly and dirty clothes in the floor next to the hamper.

I wish I could just go back and time and re-train him. I know he's not doing it on purpose, he's just so used to his parents cleaning up behind him. When we lived with them he would leave dirty dishes on the couch and his dad would walk in and clean them up without a single word!
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Oh and I have asked him why he doesn't just throw things away and he always says he's sorry! It's as if he just does not realize, like it doesn't occur to him to throw trash away, I think because he grew up just leaving it wherever and it disappeared for him. I ask him why he just doesn't toss it in the trash and he says he doesn't know.

Recently he went away on a business trip for 7 days and MY HOUSE WAS SO CLEAN! It was amazing.
I cleaned it all up the day he left and then I had to spend just a few minutes a day putting away DD's toys and that was it. I didn't know what to do with myself.
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I think you DH is my fiance's missing twin brother your post had me laughing because that is how he is too and I am the way you are!!! It is not really funny but I had to laugh. I really think that for some people it is hard for them to grasp that it really is easier to clean as you go and my guy just cannot get that. He repairs game systems as a side job and will not clean as he goes so he has to spend an extra half hour cleaning it up YET I still have to pick a lot of it up when he is "done"
I really have to ride him about cleanliness I am a neat freak and he really I think at times is trying to send me to the nut house!!!!!!! I literally have to ask him if he put the top of the litter box back on more than once!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My Ds is 5 and cleans up better than him! My Ds also puts his dirty clothes down the laundry shoot when he changes his clothes!!! My ds wipes the counter int he bathroom if he get water all over it! Now if a 5 year old can do all that why in the world can't my fiance?? I really really want to know!!! Okay I have been no help at all just want you to know you are not alone
I remember when I was in my first trimester I was batty on him poor guy!! I still am but not as bad
I think??? sorry i ended up ranting!
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Oh man, A, that would drive me absolutely bonkers.

Part of me wants to just say, "screw it! Let him go without clothes for a while and FORCE him to pick things up" but then I know on the other hand that it would just make more work for YOU.

Have you tried giving HIM chores to do? Saying, "we're not going to bed/eating dinner/going out until xyz is done." It seems juvenile I know, but he may need it broken down in to the most basic steps.

At the height (or basement, depending on how you look at it) of my depressive states, doing something like leaving a wrapper laying on the counter wouldn't have even registered for me, because it was "just one." And yes, I could say that to myself 100 times a day. I'm not saying your DH is depressed, but it's very possible that he just doesn't see the big deal in having to pick up one wrapper, or one pair of socks, or one shredded envelope, nevermind the fact that it's 1xhowever many times a day he does it, kwim?

Would he respond to a chore chart? If you set something up in the home for you and he and R, with all of your chores broken down, would he follow through, you think?

I wish I had a way to make it all better!
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OP, it sounds like you're doing everything you can to make things run smoothly.

One thing that I've done with my dh is to do daily "family pick-ups". I've explained that it's very important for our children to experience clean-up as a fun, positive thing that everyone is a part of. Learning to pick up after oneself is a life skill that I want my children to have so I want to work together with my dh on helping them with that. I set a timer for 10 minutes and we all work together after dinner to pick things up. I haven't had the consistency to get the ball rolling and truly make it a routine but it sounds like you're better with followthrough than I am
. Your dh probably will never get it until he regularly starts picking up his own stuff and sees that it actually does take longer to pick up the wrapper after it's been left there and put it in the garbage, etc. My idea above is the only way that I've been able to get my dh to do picking up that hasn't resulted in resentment and problems.

Another things that I would advise is to organize your home in an ADD-friendly way. I'm not implying that your dh has that, but a lot of the advice in books like that works for all sorts of people, not just ADD types. For example, don't have garbages with lids or hidden in cupboards -- same with recycling. Have hampers with no cover, etc. With some people, it has to be *super* easy to put things away. I'm not saying that will solve the problem because it certain won't, but it could help by 10% if you're not already doing that.
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My DH would leave stuff lying around as well, and it drove me nuts. I started calling him into the room to clean up his mess, and I explained that his actions were disrespectful to me and all the work I do trying to keep the house clean. It didn't fix things perfectly, but it gave him greater awareness and he's better about picking up things.

Oh, I also don't put DH's laundry away. It goes on top of his dresser and he deals with it. If he wants to wear dusty and wrinkled clothes because he's too lazy to clean up, that's fine with me.
My DH is like this too. My family has OCD tendencies and his has what I call "slapdash" tendencies.

One thing that has helped with my DH is to (nicely) explain to him that when he leaves a mess somewhere and then goes off to work I'm the one with the "natural consequence." Your trash on the stove example is a good one. He left the trash there, no problem for him. You can't turn on the stove until it's cleaned up. Unfortunately, my DH hasn't generalized this yet. He does better on the specific example I give him, but doesn't think, "OH, I should put OTHER things away when I"m done with them."

Another thing that helps is labeling. I HATE having @#$ labels all over my house, but he'll put the coats on the right hooks if they're labeled. He'll put the toys in the right bins if they're labeled (why he can't just look at the bin and see that's where the cars go is a mystery to me). In your DH's case I'd be tempted to put TRASH and RECYCLING labels on their respective containers and then point them out while trying to keep a straight face.

I've also occasionally just let things pile up until he notices and it is AMAZING how much clutter it takes to bother him. But it was a helpful exercise to me because I see how much lower my threshold is. He's never going to be bothered before I am. So I have to be proactive or just decide what I'm willing to live with and what I'm not.

Good luck!

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This is a great discussion. It's something we've been trying to hash out at our house for awhile now. I have much different standards and expectations than she does. But I hate having to do it all. We're trying to reach some kind of middle ground where since it's important to me I put the effort in that I find necessary, but she's also trying to step up more as a way to bless me. I suspect it's something that will never really be solved though. Thank you for sharing your stories and thoughts on it.
Some really big, brightly colored trash cans might help. Maybe.
It takes 21 days to build a habit. Guess he's going to just have to live with you reminding him about every piece of trash or clothing for 3 weeks straight.

Originally Posted by lara1828 View Post
I've also occasionally just let things pile up until he notices and it is AMAZING how much clutter it takes to bother him. But it was a helpful exercise to me because I see how much lower my threshold is. He's never going to be bothered before I am. So I have to be proactive or just decide what I'm willing to live with and what I'm not.
What I've found with my dh is that he not *consciously* bothered by the clutter and will not take action on anything no matter how bad it gets. Even if an entire work surface or room becomes unusable. But if *I* declutter and clean up an area, he'll be the first one to gravitate towards it. I know this because I've been shifting the clutter around the apartment
and he's been migrating and following the peaceful spots with his laptop in tow.


Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post
It takes 21 days to build a habit. Guess he's going to just have to live with you reminding him about every piece of trash or clothing for 3 weeks straight.
That's great if the guy wants to change, but that wouldn't work for my situation. That would be seen as nagging by my dh and that has been totally ineffective -- I've stopped doing it completely because it does more harm than good in our case.

Doing it as a family thing has been the only thing that has gotten any traction with dh.
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Hugs to you! I swear my first trimester was the worst ever. The house was a mess and dh and I were mad at each other all the time

Me for him not helping more and our house being a disaster. Him mad that he had to do something if he wanted a cleaner house.

The long term outcomes of this terribly difficult time. Dh got rid of the TV
he blamed that on the house not being clean.
And I have a cleaning lady come once a week

I also understand him a tiny bit better. Same situation as your dh his mom and sister did everything for him and he lived in a home where no mess was tolerated. I think he feels let down if I don't clean the house to his liking and he is resentful if he has to do it. The more he 'has' to do like as in pregnancy, new baby, bedrest, etc. the crankier he is. If the house is messy he says that 'we' are such slobs. This is an improvement too as I used to be the slob. He also never has lived alone and I don't believe he has any idea how to clean a house and keep it clean. But then again when he 'has' to do a lot of house work he says the same about me.

I'm learning to live with messy and not feel it's a character flaw. Sometimes it really upsets me when I want a clean house but it's just not going to work to clean. For example this week a baby who needs to be right beside me all day long. This is tiring for me so nap time I try to recharge instead of clean and hope for a chance to catch up later, or maybe even some help. As I just can't do it all and also have time for sleep and leisure time.

All the best. The changes have been tiny over the years and it's still a problem for both of us.
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