Cleaning Up After Your Spouse – Do You Feel Like a Maid?

What is more delightful than walking into the bathroom (or bedroom, kitchen and living room) only to find other people’s crap lying all over the place? So much so that it becomes difficult to do anything, without first having to clean up something (that isn’t even yours) first? When you have to move someone else’s tissue, toothpaste, razors or makeup in order to simply brush your own teeth it is easy to become frustrated – no matter who you are. Plus, no one wants to walk into the kitchen to find that his or her spouse just made a sandwich (just for them) and left behind the breadcrumbs or forgot to put the mayo away. After all, how difficult really is it to clean up after yourself?

As adults and parents, we are constantly harping on children to clean up their mess but what happens when you constantly find yourself cleaning up after your spouse? Is that just part of marriage, perhaps what the preacher meant when he said, ‘“For better or worse?’” Or is it something more?

The first thing to realize is that ALL people have a totally different idea of clean.

For some, more anal types, everything has a place and there is a place for everything. These folks tend to come unnerved just to see a shoe out of place and likely for good reason. They are probably the ones who have taken the time to organize the house into neat and tidy little sections that make life easier. And the truth is that an organized space helps couples and families move around more efficiently with less frustration. So, to the organized spouse, all it takes to keep thing running smoothly is a few extra seconds of time from everyone to have the ‘courtesy’’ to put things back where they belong and leave rooms as neat as they found them in the first place. In order for the ‘‘organized house’’ to work EVERYONE has to take part and it is frustrating to see someone else, especially an adult, not pull his or her weight. So seeing shoes at the front door (when there is a shoe closet), bill strewn about the kitchen counters (when there is a bill file), and items left all over the bathroom sink (when there is storage a few inches away) is maddening.

However, there are also ‘spouses’’ (both men and women) who tend not to think very much of a little mess. They have a lazy streak, are always in a rush, and have the best intentions of tidying up’.later! They believe that the house should be lived in, and don’t mind stepping over toys. To them, doing the dishes right after dinner is simply a waste of time, especially since there will only be more to do after breakfast in the morning. They see nothing wrong with letting a little dirt (or baked in barbecue sauce) sit for a while. These are the kind of folks that would rather spend – in theory, one entire day cleaning EVERYTHING and happily shove things under the bed or throw stuff in closets in the meantime. No big deal, right? Unless of course they live with a neat nick.

Household expectations – as they pertain to clean and messy, are quite simply one of those things that couples don’t think about until after they get married. And normally, the whole issue doesn’t come to a head until neat spouse throws all of messy spouse’s things in tote boxes or the garage in a cleaning rage. Truth be told, it can cause issues. But there are a few things that couples can do to help ward off the war.

First of all, have a discussion. Talk about what you expect, what you want and most importantly why! You wont see eye to eye, but will at least gain an understanding. Chances are that ‘pigpen’’ otherwise known as the messy spouse, has probably been riding the coattails of Mr. (Or Mrs.) Anal for quite a while. And although Pigpen enjoys the order and neat-ness, they just assume that Mr. Anal will handle it for them. And why not, he always does. On the flip side, Pigpen may not see the need to alphabetize the pantry and doesn’t think that leaving her hairbrush, hairdryer, and makeup IN the bathroom sink is something to get upset about. To her, it’s not a mess and she doesn’t even expect her husband to clean up after her (even though he always does), so she sees it more as HIS problem than hers.

After the discussion (which probably won’t go very far without some name-calling and serious disagreement), it is time to find middle ground.

If you are the one cleaning up after your spouse ALL the time, you have to stop. Otherwise, you are just enabling the behavior. Decide you will not do another thing for the course of a week that pertains to cleaning up after your messy partner. And don’t. Then at the end of the week, they will be able to see just how much you do, and just how messy they are. Plus, when they cannot find a pair of shoes that match and realize the toilet is covered with dirty laundry they might just find their way over to the neat side of life. By the same token, YOU the cleaner have to NOT get mad, frustrated, or become unglued at the site of a mess left behind by your partner. This means no tote boxes and no wiping the counter every time you see a crumb.

What should happen is that the two of you will be able to reach middle ground. The cleaner upper may gain appreciation for the relaxed nature of the messy spouse, while the messy spouse may finally appreciate all the cleaner upper does to keep the home comfortable and clean. Or maybe not!The trick is finding the right amount of making a mess and cleaning up after somebody that you can handle and learning to somehow live with the rest.

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13 Responses

  1. I understand this article is under marriage advice however, how would this work if children were involved? My husband makes a mess in the bathroom with beer bottles, bits of toilet paper, cigarette ash and boxes, dirty clothing, facial hair, spilled beer to name a few but having children that need to use the bathroom as well will not allow me to just leave his mess so he can see how messy he truly is.

  2. Nice article.
    I have been with my husband 23 years and nothing has helped. I have left his messes, he doesn’t care. I have offered suggestions, I have help him organize, to no avail. Now he says he going to do something and instead he thinks of everything he can to deter him from the task at hand then low and behold the day is over and there is no time left. Thats when I get the promises he will finish the next day which of course he doesn’t do.I have gotten mad, I have cried and cried but all I get are empty promises of “wait, you’ll see how I am going to make it better” NOTHING WORKS. I am so stressed and so tired of trying

  3. My spouse works the night and is always tired. Which I can understand. However, I wish he would lift his finger to clean the dirt he leaves by the door and do a couple of dishes. I wish he would stop saying your just a stay-at-home mom you have time. “You do it” I cook, dust, vacuum, mop, do laundry, dishes, clean the bathroom, change linens, tidy messes, meal plan & take care of our child. I think we women are all stressed out by all we have to do. It never ends. Men don’t want to help. I just need to rant sometimes !

    1. Not true! Women can be just as messy and inconsiderate. I know first hand because my wife is the messy one who will not put anything away when she’s done with it and has the audacity to complain about the mess. If I don’t clean it for her she loses her mind that everything is messy. It’s. All. Her. Stuff.

  4. Yeah…what if his standards are run down gas station bathroom where meth heads would look for a nicer spot? I have “left the bathroom” for longer than a week. Several in fact. Ask me if he cared…very occasionally he will help. Usually it is AFTER I’m stressing out because ppl are coming over. I have thrown his shoes out into the yard because his highness didn’t like using the only storage I had available and couldn’t just “walk in and oit of his shoes”. No changeI had to say “okay here is a corner behind where the other shoes are use that don’t leave them in front of the door”. He says pretty things like “I don’t want you to have to deal woth anything gross that you don’t want to… (Conveniently unrealistic and not pragmatic)” then proceeds to stop cleaning the 2 litter boxes that 6 cats are using. You see I’m back from visiting family and it can now be “dropped from his radar”. Oh I still want him to handle that 1 task consistently?…just remind him. He has actually made a point to thank me for all the hard work I do to make the house nice…and that’s it. No real offer to help consistently. He will fold laundry but only after it’s on the couch. Won’t take initiative to gather, wash, dry and if that chore isn’t needed that day doesn’t look for anything that could be done. And no he’s not a long haul trucker, or working the graveyard shift…he a remote 9-5 but sometimes he does have to get up at 6…the poor dear.

  5. I’m going through this. I’m at my wits end. I spend hours on my days off wiping pee off toilet rim, shaved hairs on vanity, toilet etc. Wiping dry food residue off counters, feeding animals, cleaning litter, mopping, washing walls, cleaning furniture cause off food drop etc. He starts 1 load of laundry a week and tosses n dryer for me to fold/ hang. He won’t hang up clothes and at this point, he doesn’t work. Rare for him to cook. He lately occasionally does some vacuuming, dishes n dusting. Not only do I want a comfy house for my family but anyone who may come by. He is on his phone or gaming too much. We’ve discussed it so many times it’s pointless. I made a chore list. I work full time and I handle bills, grocery etc. I feel alone n disrespected. I’m over it!

  6. I used to go through this with my husband. I would do the dishes, everything is clean, stove wiped off..etc. and even before I step out of the kitchen….he wanted me to make him something to eat. This drives me crazy…it makes you ask yourself, “why did even bother doing the dishes?”

    His excuse was, “I didn’t want to get in your way, or I waited until you weren’t so busy.” So, I explained it to him like this….it’s like I’m washing the kitchen floor…and you’re standing right outside the door…with muddy shoes…then you wait till I get done and then walk across the floor leaving mud and saying “I didn’t want to get in your way.”

    So, my solution was this…before I do the dishes, I ask him if he wants anything to eat…because I’m only going to do these stupid dishes once. Plus, I only do the dishes once a day (or I would be doing them 5 times a day) and that’s a waste of water.

    Maybe some women think the solution is for your husband to do the dishes….yeah, well unless he’s professional dishwasher….you probably know what kind of dishes your going to end up with in the dish rack and what your glassware looks like. Trust me, save your sanity …. do your dishes only once a day.

  7. After 30 yrs of doing it all I finally have thrown in the towel . I have in the past tried the ole I won’t clean , cook , grocery shop , do laundry for a week strike in the past multiple times but it never worked ,he would just buy new clothes if all his clothes were dirty ” he in his entitled mind was too good to do his own laundry ” let alone clean a thing . I put up with this for 30 yrs mostly for the kids I didn’t want them to grown up in a dirty home and I prefer a clean home …the kids are now grown and they are not slobs . The entitled pig I married is now living life wallowing in filth , I refuse to touch or clean anything in the house …I simply don’t see it anymore just like he did for 30 yrs. I don’t give a sheet ! Now the tables have turned , now he cleans ! The pig it seems doesn’t actually like to wallow in filth . I may leave his sorry rump , I don’t want or need a selfish ,inconsiderate pigish man .This pig I married doesn’t even put a sheet on his bed , we have twin beds pushed together . I’m not his mother or his maid …no wife wants to get physical with a man she feels like she has to mother let alone a 55 yr old man who is to lazy to put a sheet on his filthy side of the bed .He can cook his own food , laundry ECT …he is an able bodied person . I am totally done and happy I reached this milestone . The only way I’m ever cleaning a space is when I live alone .

    1. We are having the mom/ child intimacy problem. We have been married for 10 years and he wonders why I don’t want to touch him when he’s my third child. To top it all off, his brother is living with us since October. His wife left him. I don’t even wonder why. But I have ended up with FOUR kids instead of two. I don’t work full-time and he makes decent money so I put up with it for now but I don’t know what will happen when the kids are gone.

    2. I am the opposite to these stories here. I have a husband who prefers to cook and do dishes more than anything else. Gawd I wish he would stay the eff out of the kitchen and learn a skill that would help him relate to men. He only relates to women and I struggle to have a conversation with any woman when he’s around as he dominates the room with his cooking and recipes.
      BTW he refuses to put the toilet seat cover down he says it’s only me that complains about that. He will not hang up his clothes until I bitch
      He also cannot wash dishes clean. I find food on them after they have been put away.. however I don’t want to complain as people will jump on my back telling me how good I have it but everyone’s level of tolerance is different

  8. I feel the ladies who commented. Same issues here! Hubby just doesn’t see or care when he makes a mess. Last night he had juice & this morning I see he spilled some on the counter, the floor & the coffee table & did not clean it up. I am so tired of cleaning after him. It takes 5 seconds to grab a paper towel & cleaning spray & wipe up that mess. He says I act like his mommy. I always tell him, then stop acting like a 2 year old & clean up after yourself! 😡😡😡😡 it’s not that hard to do.

  9. I’m the husband and we been married for three years nothing has worked for me. We have a toilet that you have to hold on down for it to flush all the way after repeatedly asking her for over two years to make sure she flushes it all the way she still doesn’t. I actually do the laundry, mop, sweep, pick up, clean toilets, take out the trash you name it. The only thing she contributes is making dinner, and leaving the kitchen a mess. Anytime I ask her to clean her mess or something I always get the same response “I’ll do it later” and when I ask why she didn’t do it “I forgot”. I can ask it in the nicest way and she’ll get angry and defensive. I’m at the boiling point which happens pretty often. I’ve done the going on strike thing not cleaning before I think it’s time to do it again and for longer

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