Clutter Will Tear Us Apart

by Jenn on October 2, 2012

When I was younger my bedroom was a war zone. I had no problem not seeing my floor. It was an ugly wooden thing. I’d rather look at coloring books, yesterday’s lunch leftovers, my gym clothes, and Barbie’s missing mermaid tail. My idea of cleaning was shoving as much as I could underneath my bed or in my closet.

It got so bad that my mom would send my grandmother over armed with garbage bags to help clean up. She would make me start four piles: keep, maybe, give away, burn throw out. Needless to say the keep pile was always the largest because at that age I was convinced that I’d need everything for all of time.

Over time something changed and I became pretty much the opposite of my younger self. Now I am constantly cleaning and purging. Clutter gives me hives. Everything has its place — no seriously, I can tell you where anything is down to the inch. Just ask Dan. If he needs batteries, I’ll tell him “they’re in the last drawer by the backdoor in a small cup, probably the third one back, but before the sewing kit and next to the scissors.” Not just “in the kitchen drawer.” Oh yeah, I even organize the junk drawer.

When things are out-of-order, then I don’t know where they are and I feel like my entire being is off-kilter. Moving is terrible. Seeing my apartment in disarray just pains me, which is why I unpack and get settled with a quickness. Inevitably I find things that I don’t need and quickly get rid of them. There’s no limbo in this apartment. You either serve a purpose or get out. (Exceptions: gifts, items that I’ve developed a strange attachment to, cats.)

When Dan moved in, it was really hard to adjust to his stuff and his routines. I knew I would have to compromise a lot of my crazy, but fortunately we’ve been able to make it work. The only thing we’ve had a hard time agreeing on is the definition of relaxing. I find it relaxing to clean, to put things in order. I don’t mind if he’s playing video games or watching TV. For me, cleaning is something I look forward to doing. But my super cleaning makes him feel lazy.

He’ll mention many times that he wishes I would just relax, but I try to make him see that I AM relaxed. Cleaning relaxes me. I don’t do much during the week (unless you count cleaning up after dinner as too much), but weekends are another story. I have two cats and wood floors; you do the math. The apartment needs to be swept and dusted regularly. I usually save the bathroom for him because I find it disgusting even though 80 percent of the hair on the floor is mine. But sometimes I know that I can get it done faster (I’m scary efficient).

I know I have a cleaning problem. Sometimes I’ll clean your apartment and you won’t even know it. “How’d those dishes get put away?” Well, don’t leave me in your kitchen unattended. I figured this would be a good thing. He can do the manly stuff (i.e. killing centipedes, fixing broken stuff, eating leftovers I’ll never eat) and I’ll handle the cleaning since it’s my “thing.” And by “thing” I mean neurosis/security blanket.

I guess I could try going two weeks without cleaning, but I seriously think that might drive me to drink more.


I have too much junk, but I really do hate it when our house looks cluttered! I am definitely compulsive about putting stuff away. 


I am the exact same way. Cleaning makes me feel calm, and a dirty home makes me crazy (and I used to be the opposite as a kid too!) It's so hard to find the right rhythm when you first move in with someone. 


Tell Dan that cleaning is lethargic.


My boyfriend just moved in too, temporarily until we move into OUR new place in a month (as opposed to me in his or him in mine) and I'm dealing with a lot of the same issues. Not cleaning necessarily, but the place we're in now is so small that everything actually *must* be in its right place or else we can't move. It's been frustrating getting used to each other's routines, which are completely different and annoying even though they make us wind up in the same place. I mostly wish he would just do things the way I do them, but then I realize that most of the reason we even work together is because we pick up each other's slack, and if that weren't the case we'd probably be even MORE frustrated and useless. Anyway, I'm glad to hear you're going through much of the same. Also, I used to be a total pack rat too and have reformed. I think it's from all the moving, I just got tired of taking so many things from place to place! 

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jennifer beese
jennifer beese moderator

 @jessostroff I often think about how this is "my" space. Although he was a little involved in the search, I got back to Chicago eight months before he did and so this became my home, then our home. I've considered the benefits of a neutral space. I wonder if I would have had an easier time adjusting if we were both starting fresh. As much as I don't want another move, it's something we're keeping in the back of our minds while we ride out our lease. I guess we'll see! Good luck to you and your boyfriend!

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