How do I bring this up to my finace without sounding bitchy?

I love my fiance. And, when I graduate in December, we are planning to live together. There’s only one small hitch: his house is a mess.

I’m not talking totally messed up disgusting messy, but cluttered. He’s got a shitload of stuff that takes up damn near all the space in the house. There’s an empty room, but it’s one room. The bedroom/living room/kitchen/bathroom/closets are full of his stuff, and the basement is mostly full. Again, this isn’t extreme; it isn’t what you see with obsessive compulsive disorder; it’s just that he has a LOT of stuff.

I also have stuff. I don’t really have a lot a lot, per se, but I have enough that it is going to require some space. Most of this stuff that I have consists of clothing and books. I also would like to bring in a dresser, which seems damn near impossible as there is NO space in the bedroom.

I’m not unreasonable in my space needs; I lived in a quad last year with two individuals who were exceedingly messy (and Shadez, who is cool). However, if I am going to live in that house with my finacee–and be paying half the cost–I am going to insist that I have space for my things, and not contained solely within the one empty room (because that smacks of being a guest and not somone living there). In other words, if I am going to move in, he/we are going to have to get rid of some things and rearrange things so it can be our house, not his house. And this is damned near non-negotiable.

The problem is, I don’t know how to bring it up without sounding like a total bitch. He hates cleaning, and, while I am willing to help, I’m not going to do it FOR him, as I don’t think it’s right for me to be the one sorting through his stuff. And I know the exact argument I’m going to get (the “I don’t have enough time” argument, though I’m fairly certain he does, as it wouldn’t take more than one or two weekends of both of us working). I just can’t think of any way to bring this up without it sounding like an ultimatum or exceedingly bitchy. So, naturally, I turn to my doper friends for help (mostly because he doesn’t read here).

How do I bring this up in a reasonable manner? And, to the unslanted eye, what would a reasonable compromise (if any) be? Thanks!

Not to rain on your happiness…but if he refuses to clean NOW…it isn’t going to change if and when you get married and/or live together.

You say that you are willing to help him clean but not do it for him…sounds to me like you might end up either having to A) live in a messy house or B) clean it for him.

If cleanliness is a big deal to you then you most certainly want to talk to him before you move in.

I would suggest sitting down and asking him in a polite manner where does he expect you to fit in your things once you move in?

It could be that he has already given it thought and is just stuck on how to get started.

Maybe the both of you could go through your things and decide what you can live without and make a big pile for your local Salvation Army or other charitable organization.

Any relationship is going to be give and take. He will have to give up some things. You will have to give up some things.

If he isn’t willing to open up his home to you so it can become a home for both of you then you are going to have a problem on down the line IMHO.


Best of luck!

What Aries said. You also might look into a storage locker (if he can afford it) if he’s one of those guys who can’t give stuff up easily.

My husband has a bunch of clothes from the 60s in the catch-all junk room upstairs. He’ll never wear them again, but he won’t let me get rid of them.

For the sanity of both of you, try your very best to get to a mutual understanding about this before you move in. I’ve been married for over 30 years. I am not a tidy person. I am well-organized; I can find anything in the house if I know when I last had it (last week? must be near the top.) I hate to clean and I don’t do it well. It has to get really, really bad before it bothers me. My husband, on the other hand, grew up being used to his mother, who is a cleaning freak. He likes clean and tidy, and when he puts his efforts in that direction can get much better results than I can. But he does not make it his primary concern on a day-to-day basis, even now that he is retired.

I was SURE that I had made this plain before we got married. He does not recall it. It has been the major, and I mean MAJOR source of arguments and irriation between us all these decades.

Assuming that you’re both in approximately your early 20s, it’s remotely possible that one or the other of you could modify either your expectations or your behavior, IMHO, but it will not be easy. It seems like a nearly trivial issue, but it is one of those things that will grate on one’s mind every day and cause underlying tension, unless both of you work on a compromise of some sort and live up to it.

I second what Aries said: You are most likely to have to either deal with him as he is and learn to live with the clutter, or you will have to be prepared to do a lot of tidying up for him.

Sorry to be pessimistic. Like I said, however, we’ve managed to survive with each other’s irritating characteristics for over 30 years. Somebody said the secret to a happy marriage is finding someone whose faults you can live with – and then live with them. After all, you probably will have one or two traits or characteristics that he finds difficult also.


Thanks MLS, now I feel like not such a loser. My hubby and I have the same problem. He does a heck of a lot of housework, though, but we just have different standards of cleanliness, and I feel like if his standard is higher, then it’s up to him to maintain that standard. However, I do try to work on cleanliness habits that he specifically requests.

I should start a thread about that…


Angel, the two of you WILL have to come to some concensus, of course. I doubt it will ever be fully to your satisfaction or fully to his. Is it a possibility to get a new place together? That way, you will have picked it out together and that should make you feel more like it’s your place, too. It would also give the opportunity for you to say: well, since you’re moving, maybe it’s time to take stock of all your stuff (maybe get at least some of it in storage or a garage).

I agree with the bottom line of most of these, and that is that you’re going to have to be willing to deal to some extent of his pack-rattedness–it’s highly doubtful that he will completely change.

I disagree with Aries. You CAN become cleaner. I did. I’m far, far better at this sort of thing than I was before Mrs. RickJay and I started living together.

If you approach this from the perspective of helping him be cleaner, I think you will find things go smoother. Don’t complain about the mess; help him figure out how to make it cleaner. Nobody prefers a messy house, they just either don’t care or (more often) find it hard to keep it clean.

In my experience, the way to clean a messy, cluttered house is to approach it like Genghis Khan; have absolutely no mercy. Throw out as much as you can. Anything that does not have immediate value or use and isn’t a sentimental thing must be destroyed! Arrrrr! Take an aggressive but helpful approach.

Just to make this clear: I’m not a neat freak, and cleanliness isn’t that big of a deal for me, so long as I can walk through and there aren’t any funky smells. I don’t care if things are a bit messy, and I’m fine at doing maintenance cleaning (dishes, vacuuming, tidying up). I’m more concerned with being able to get some of my stuff in the house.

Per what the others said you had best get this issue out in the open ASAP. It is obvious you are concerned about pissing him off, but this is something that needs to handled sooner rather than later and if it becomes a significant source of irritation could quite easily lead to you breaking up. For some odd reason women seem to have an endless and often unfounded degree of optimism about a man’s ability to change his ingrained lifestyle habits post marriage.

The reality is that he’s a slob and he is quite comfortable being a slob. You’re not a slob and perpetual clutter and mess will eventually drive you bats.

Now either:

1: He is going to take a pro-active stance on not being such a slob and will work with you to be neater or

2: Will feel that this is his chosen lifestyle and if you love him and want to be with him you’d better get used to it or

3: Will make vague noises about being more tidy but in reality you will wind up doing all the cleaning.

This is going to be a lifelong issue if you intend on marrying him. I will be frank with you that unless you can some to a concrete accommodation about the mess and clutter level, or you are willing to take on the majority of the household cleaning burden that this issue will be a lot bigger realtiosnhip deal breaker than other things you might consider more weighty.

Start making a mental inventory of the stuff you intend to bring with you, and of the stuff you’d like to bring but don’t really have to have. Then ask him where he think it would be a good idea to put things like the dresser, or this bookcase, and does he think this picture you have would look nice over the couch, etc. Tell him you’re willing to do most of the actual cleaning/decluttering and rearranging, but you don’t want to redo the whole house without his input. (They like it when we pretend to listen to their opinions. :smiley: ) He can’t very well claim to not have time to discuss it with you, now can he?

Also, if there’s currently a spare room, you might consider making it into your den/library/workroom. It really helps when you both have your own personal prviate space, as well as your shared space. Having someone right there every time you turn around can be truly wonderful, but it can really get annoying sometimes, trust me. It’s also nice to have a place to keep the things you love but your partner hates. Things like stuffed animals, pictures or figurines, or god-awful tacky swinging-hips Elvis clocks.

You should definitely discuss this before you move in and get married. It’s going to be a struggle if you can’t learn to live with each other’s messiness levels and come to something like an agreement. My personal opinion is that the neater person should get to live like he/she likes, unless of course there’s a serious problem or the neatnik isn’t willing to do part of the work.

Look at the library in the cleaning/organization section; I have found a book or two that addresses how to get your partner on board with a neatening project with tact. Also, in my recent campaign to become a more organized and cleaner person, I have found helpful information at these sites. Take what you like and leave the rest!

Also, does your bf have anything that resembles storage? Shelves, boxes, containers? Or is it all over the place? You may find that with some shelves, closet organizers, and boxes, his stuff shrinks amazingly.

And I agree with the idea of getting a new place for you together.

I have no experience with marriage, love, or tidiness. Yet, since you asked, I’m going to assert that however you do it, you need to get this cleared up right away, i.e. before/when you move in with him. Personally, I see the move in as the time to establish “moral authority” in this situation. If you move in with the mess, then you’re beginning your new life together with a mess, and any attempt to change will be an attempt to change the status quo. However, if you make sure that getting the mess out and making room for your life as well as his, as well as decluttering the place, an integral part of beginning your new life together, then you’re beginning this phase of your relationship with a clean, uncluttered home, and now you have a stronger “right” to claim cleanliness as the way to do business.

This may not be trivial. He may be more tolerant to a mess than you, or he may have issues to work out. (E.g., someone with ADD might be very messy for ADD reasons and not personal preference reasons.

If I may, I would suggest finding someone else to take the hit. Does he live close enough for your parents to visit? Have they seen his place? If they don’t mind being the bad guys, you could have them hire a professional organizer as a gift to the two of you. They could say that they know that you guys have two apartments worth of stuff, but only one apartment to put it in, so they thought they’d get an impartial professional to come in and knock some heads.

They may get some ill will from your fiance, i.e. he may suspect that they thought that he is a slob and wanted to change his slovenly ways, but they’re not in love with and engaged to him. While it would be a bad idea to start a pattern of deceit and avoidance to your problems, I can see this being a potentially major issue if you really don’t like living in a messy, cluttered house.

Alternatively, you could state that as part of beginning your new life, you are going to hire a professional organizer to help make the painful process of straightening out his and your stuff go more easily and quickly, and decisively.

I’ve got a really good ADD organizational book on my desk, because I need it, called “ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life”. It lists two sources for finding professional organizers:[ul][li]National Association of Professional Organizers, 512.454.8626,, and National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, 916.926.6227,[/ul][/li]Keep us posted.

From the heart, my advice would be RUN AWAY! Run away!!!

But that doesn’t address your OP – how to bring this up without sounding bitchy.

Pick a neutral place, like a diner or bar, and ask for his expectations and then lay out yours (having some room). Work out a plan. Be a total dork and write down the plan. Try to make it look like you are giving as much as you are asking. (Or really do that, if you’re not a bitter bitch like me!) Then make sure you both stick to the plan.

If at all possible, try to find a middle ground. You need space. He might have things that are just not acceptable (no soaking period panties in the bathroom sink, perhaps). Find out what he thinks. Make sure he knows what you think. Work very hard to make this a “We” need to do things this way plan from the get go.

Good Luck.

Ask him for an appointment to talk

Say to him: “I feel uncomfortable with the clutter” (use nice words, talk about your feelings as much as possible, try not to insult him, try not to tell him what he does or doesn’t do.)

Say to him “I want______________ (whatever it is you want, be specific)”

Say to him: “Can we please _____________ (insert whatever specific actions you want done, be specific)”
If you want him to do something, that’s another matter. Don’t accept excuses. If he’s “too busy right now” then ask him to give you a time by which he will have certain things done.

If he’s too busy ever, and will never be able to get things done, ask if you can make the changes you want, maybe even tell him what you will be doing to make yourself at home. $10 says he helps you anyway.

you may have to give up the fantasy that he’s going to do what you think he should.

Remember, you’re the one that wants the change, ask nicely.

At the same time, you need to have a good sense of what you need in order to make the relationship work, and if it comes to that you should be able to say " I need X,Y, and Z in order to live here."

They say men marry women hoping they stay the same & women marry men hoping to change them. A guy who doesn’t clean in my opinion, either has some weird quirk about it or expects his mother to clean for him (Guess who that is now?)…

I’d just get my own place & tell the guy I would come stay with him only when he cleans his place. The argument that he doesn’t have time to clean it is dumb cause he has time to make it dirty!

I am so with you on this one.

My dad was a clean-freak, so our house was always spotless. Even though my room could be disorganised, it had to maintain a certain level of acceptance.

As an adult, I am no neat-nik but there has to be a certain level of organisation and cleanliness.

Unfortunately, my MIL has the opposite idea of organisation and cleanliness as I do. As long as there is room on a gritty counter to make a cup of tea and she can tottle to the toilet fairly safely, she is fine. Me, I’m disgusted by the state she allows her home to become.

I’ve made hints to her, and asked my husband to hint to her about the house. Nowt gets done. Hubby will do quite a lot of cleaning, for which I am ever grateful, but there are times I just want to start throwing crap out the front door, scream and shout and have a major tantrum until she realises how disrespectful and inconsiderate to me she is in this regard.

When I spend hours cleaning and organising, it goes completely unappreciated. In fact, moans and complaints are what I get for my efforts.

My advice… Make sure your fiance understands how inportant this is to you and definitely come to a compromise as to the state the house will be expected to be in.

It may be a small niggle but, like a splinter, will fester until the poison causes some real damage to the relationship.

Best of luck :slight_smile:

Washte, just a nitpick: Whose house is it, yours or hers? Or are you talking about when you visit her?

MLS, technically it is her house. Due to her being disabled we live with her to help care for her so she doesn’t have to have home health care come in.

It is an interesting situation to say the least.

My suggestion would be to have him move with you into a space that is both of yours.

My husband moved into my house with me. It had all of my stuff in it. It was decorated to my taste.

We’d been married almost three years and together five when we built and moved into “our” house. This is the point at which my husband feels like he became something other than an accessory in my life, with space of his own.

I had a spare room in my house and turned it over to him. And we made room for another dresser in the bedroom. But he still felt like an afterthought in my space.

If that is not possible, talk to him about this and work together to redecorate his house from the ground up. Which means taking all his stuff out, along with your stuff, and deciding what goes back, what goes into storage, what goes to charity and what gets tossed. While you have everything out of the room - paint it (paint is cheap) a color you both agree on to give it “your couple” personality. If you can afford it - toss a couple of big items and buy new (or second hand) things you choose together - for instance, a different couch.

Another possiblity is there’s no need to over-analyze this situation. Angel said she and her fiancee apparently share a common level of desire for neatness. The problem is her fiancee’s house is full of his property and there’s no space for her to bring her property in to.

It may well be the reason that he has all this stuff there is simply because he had the room for it. Maybe all that’s needed is for Angel to say “I’m bringing a lot of things over here. Where should I put them?”

Hmmmm. I walked into this thread because I’m currently in the midst of dealing with an issue with my bf that I also didn’t want to be a “bitch” about bringing up to him and thought maybe it had something to do with THAT (I was considering starting my own thread on it, but figured when I saw this one, “maybe I don’t have to.”) I might have to, though, because the issue of “neatnik vs. slob” isn’t an issue in MY relationship, as BOTH of us are “slobs.” His being a pack rat doesn’t bother me and the fact that I almost never do housework beyond the “barest essentials,” i.e., washing dishes, doing laundry and taking out the garbage doesn’t bother him either – next to him, I’m Martha Stewart in fact!

But even though I still might have to start my own thread concerning OUR “issue,” I have to say that the point several posters have made here (and I’m paraphrasing) about how certain kinds of differences between SO’s can fester and cause resentment in one or both partners, although some level of compromise and “working it out” can and does help is very interesting and I’m hoping to see if some of this advice (which has occurred to me on my own, but it’s nice to see others giving it too) will work for the issue I’m presently dealing with (trying to decide if it’s a “love it or leave it” issue, and if I can live with it, how to make it work).

I also liked the mention of the idea that the OP and her fiance move into a new place and make it “theirs.” A friend of mine did just that. When she got engaged, her fiance moved into her apartment. Just before they got married, they moved into another apartment with the result that they now lived in THEIR place, not HER place which he just happened to move into, and both of them are VERY happy about it.