A newlywed needs help

marie26July 29, 2006

I know someone who is not yet 25 and a newlywed. She married a controlling person who thinks the house should be immaculate. She is not a neat person, to put it mildly. On the other hand, he is a neat freak. She said that if something drops, she doesn't even notice it. She can look past the mess in a room as though it isn't even there.

How can I help her to be more neat? The control issues are a different story and one that will have to be addressed. But for the time being how can you teach someone to notice a mess?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

These are some emotionally laden words, Marie. Is this your dd who married last fall? If so, I wouldn't stay out of it, but let's assume you were asked for help.

At almost 25, a young adult should have been taught to pick up after themselves. I think in most cases being messy is a learned behavior. If mom always came behind you and picked up, did your laundry, etc. there was no need to change your behavior. As far as controlling, the messy person is often as guilty as the neat person for controlling. How controlling is it to expect another person to walk over your mess? It's more passive, but still a controlling behavior. I don't buy that they don't see the mess, just that there are plenty of excuses such as they will get to it later. I've worked with ADD kids for twenty-five years and even they notice if they drop something. The brain doesn't always kick in with a solution, but they see it.

So some definitions are in order. Immaculate to me means absolutely spotless. Not a spot of dust. The floors are always spotless. Not a hair out of place. A home can be very neat and not be immaculate. I don't think too many of us want to put in the amount of time it takes to keep a home immaculate. Now, if the DH is demanding that level of clean at all times, then those issues are most likely going to have to be addressed in a counseling setting. I've never understood a marriage where two adults could be equally responsible, yet one was expected to work 40 hours a week as well as do all of the cleaning. On the other hand, the neat spouse has a right to live in a home which isn't a pig pen created by the messy spouse.

It doesn't take long to train your eye not to see a mess. Our house has unfinished remodeling projects and I don't even notice the bare lightbulbs hanging until someone comes over and mentions them. My eye is so use to seeing them, that they don't even register anymore.

If she is asking for help, I would direct her to something like Flylady. She will have to be motivated to change herself. Messies don't always realize that they are very stressful to live with. They prefer to think they are fun loving and spontanous, when they really keep the house in chaos and create a ton of work for everyone else. Sometimes they don't even realize how messy they are when mom is no longer there picking up after them. I'm grateful that my "neat" husband could usually overlook my former messiness.

To address the control issues, as you say, are something different. To me control issues with a couple are something like one spouse not allowing the other spouse access to money, transportation, things like that. To isolate them and manipulate them. If that is the case, the wife needs to be packing and head out the door. If the man is just truly tired of the mess, then it's time for the wife to at least stop leaving her stuff all over the kitchen, living room, dining rooms, etc. Just like husbands shouldn't expect a wife to pick up after them, the opposite is true.

One more thing to think about. If she is trying to be neater to avoid the spouse's wrath, then she would be trying to change for the wrong reasons. First it's housecleaning, then it's some weight gain, then it's money. The control will move from thing to thing (which is just emotional abuse) and by focusing on the messiness the problems in the marriage are just being given a bandaide. If this is really a troubled marriage, I wouldn't even pressure her to neaten up, but encourage them to seek the assistance they need.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 7:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Meant to say I "would" stay out of it.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 7:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

No, it's not my daughter who got married last year. Thank goodness, she is very happy.

This girl's marriage has a lot of issues. The girl has major medical chronic illnesses that she is trying desperately to deal with. She is in pain or is nauseous most days and takes medication to deal with that. Then she gets very tired.

Gloria, much of what you say is correct and along my line of thinking. It's just that when she said she doesn't notice the mess, it surprised me. I didn't think that was possible. When my house is a mess, I know it is.

When you wrote: Messies don't always realize that they are very stressful to live with. They prefer to think they are fun loving and spontanous, when they really keep the house in chaos and create a ton of work for everyone else. Sometimes they don't even realize how messy they are when mom is no longer there picking up after them. I'm grateful that my "neat" husband could usually overlook my former messiness." It was as if you knew her.

I think she owes it to the marriage to at least try not to be a messmaker. Then if the control issues continue, she'll have to make a decision whether or not to stay.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 9:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This girl's marriage has a lot of issues. The girl has major medical chronic illnesses that she is trying desperately to deal with. She is in pain or is nauseous most days and takes medication to deal with that. Then she gets very tired.

Gloria raises some questions which must be answered in addressing this. Is the husband involved (to a fair degree) in keeping house? Is he accounting for his wife's physical disabilities when he expresses his wish for an "immaculate" house? Is the wife's doctor aware of her reaction to her meds and can they be changed (or is there something she's doing that makes it necessary to medicate more often)? When she's tired, is the wife mentally capable of following procedures like Flylady's (my brother has bad MS and his short-term memory is shot; he couldn't do it)?

The control issues certainly need to be dealt with as part of this. As Gloria pointed out, it's not just the "neat freak" involved here; the wife's passive-aggressive behavior is a form of control as well. This couple really needs to discuss the issues behind these attempts to control each others' behavior and why neither seems to want to accommodate the other.

Sounds like they both have a lot to work on.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 12:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Whew! I'm so glad to hear this isn't your DD, because that was my very first thought.

The added situation of a medical condition puts a different spin on things, as Steve pointed out. Stress is also a big contributor in the lack of ability to function. For two years I had the boss from hell. It became so stressful that I could not process verbal information. I could hear you, but I could not process what to do. I ended up taking medical leave.

Maybe she could just work off of a daily list which you could help her create. Just simply checking off each thing would ensure that basics are taken care of.

Such as:

dishwasher loaded
counters wiped
pick up items from the floor of living room
hang up any clothing
clear off tables

Even a list that simple would help a house not appear so disorganized.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 4:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I've tried to teach my boys the basic "do it now" rules:
**If you open it, close it.
**If you drop it, pick it up.
**If you spill it, wipe it up.
**If you take it out, put it back.

However, I don't think it's realistic to expect someone with daily pain and nausea and fatigue to keep an immaculate house. I know when I'm sick, I tend to concentrate on the basics (like breathing and walking) and don't notice the messes until I'm feeling better (my first clue that I'm on the road to recovery is that the condition of the house bothers me).

Sounds to me the best bet is to hire a cleaning service to come in a couple times a week. If she doesn't feel good, housekeeping is not her primary concern.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 6:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, this girl sure sure has a set of problems-health issues, domineering husband, and she's a Messie. I would stay out of it. MYOB, as Dear Abby used to say. Be a good friend and offer help and a sympathetic ear. Don't be surprised if that marriage fails.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

she could also simply start by having 3 time periods a day when she takes an empty laundry basket and walks around the house, sweeping stuff off surfaces into the basket, and picking stuff up off the floor and putting it in the basket.

Then, she empties the basket immediately, one item at a time.

The basket can be a control method for her, and external imposition of order--EVERYTHING goes in it, and EVERYTHING gets put away right away. She doesn't have to "notice" anything; she just puts everything in the basket. And then it gets put away, RIGHT away.

After a few weeks of doing that, she may start to notice on her own when something is "out" that shouldn't be.

And she'll find that less is out each time. Because she just did that basket thing a few hours ago, there won't be that much out.

And eventually, I bet she'll find that stuff that's out will annoy her--she'll notice it, because there are only a very few things out.

I'm projecting based on my experience w/ learning to make my bed. For 40 years, I didn't make my bed on a daily basis. My mother never insisted,a nd I didn't care. Then I noticed that I was making my bed each evening in order to have a clear surface to fold clothes onto, or to spread out paperwork. I decided that if I made my bed in the morning, I'd have that work surface all day. So I started, mostly from a practical point of view. Now, it bothers me if the bed is rumpled--I have to make it or I can't stand it.

She may find that she's trained her eye to notice it, if she comes up with some OTHER rule that makes her DO it without needing her to "notice" it. She just picks everything up 3x a day, no matter what; then she may find other habits or preferences developing.

Also, one area you CAN help her in, even if you're MYOBing (if she's asked, and you can suggest it I think), is to help her pare down the stuff she owns--not just the stuff that's out, but the stuff that's inside the cabinets, drawers, etc.

I find that stuff is often out because the spot I *would* put it in is full of something it shouldn't have. And that I maybe shouldn't own.

It's so much easier to be tidy when you don't have as many things. It just means there are fewer objects to move around, and therefore it's just plain easier.

Another thing about hiring someone to come clean--I did that a while ago, partly so my home would be clean, but also because then I'd have a reason to PICK UP. I didn't "clean for the cleaning lady," by sweeping, dusting, whatever. That's what I was going to pay her to do. But I *TIDIED* for the cleaning lady--I picked up the papers from the DR table, I made the kids put away the toys, I took care of the clutter--because I sure wasn't going to pay her to do that! And I didn't want her to decide where to put things, and then I wouldn't be able to find them.

That might be another tactic she can use to force herself to pick up whether she "notices" stuff or not.

i found, back when i had the cleaning lady, that I was better at "doing it now"--it was a bit like deciding to make the bed everyday. I knew I was going to have to pick that thing up in the very immediate future--so I picked it up now.

Were you hear on the site back when Rabbit and I were "haunting" each other? I couldn't go to bed w/ the DR table uncleared, because I thought of Rabbit, and some of the other folks, and so I got back OUT of bed and picked it up.

Maybe you could agree to "haunt" her? Of course, that creates another "mom" figure, which is not where she wants to be.

But the best would be for her to create some "authority figure" that can gradually morph into being HER--like her own laundry baskets, or something.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You've gotten some great suggestions. The only thing I can add is that it might help if she can focus on the areas that really bother him.

For example I know that a dirty floor bugs my mother to no end, keep the floor swept so she can walk barefoot and she'll think you're a great housekeeper even if you aren't.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 3:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If she really has medical problems, have they thought about hiring a housekeeper?? Or if money is an issue, I'm sure her church could help out.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 6:38PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Large closet advice
I'm turning a spare bedroom into a dressing room and...
What to do with hundreds of CDs
I have nice storage boxes filled with hundreds of CDs...
Where to donate a 15yo nebulizer
Years ago, when my now-17-y-o was a little one, he...
How do you let go of stuff that's worth money?
On the "share your success" thread, taft...
Why I look in the box before tossing
One of the boxes I recently sorted through was marked...
Sponsored Products
Black p848bl Undermount AstraGranite Sink
La Vista Rug 8' x 10' - LIGHT GREY
$4,699.00 | Horchow
Adeco 2-piece 100-percent Natural Bamboo 0.5-inch Thick Cutting Board Set
Trend Lighting BF5539 Threads Floor Lamp - BF5539
$270.00 | Hayneedle
Christopher Knight Home Abigail Leather Storage Ottoman
Comfort Mats: Matsinc. Safety Supplies Black 3 ft. x 4 ft. Rubber Anti Fatigue
$74.97 | Home Depot
Dale Tiffany Lamps 8.5 in. Morgan Favrile Clear Accent Lamp AA12131
Home Depot
Gray Sunburst Jacquard Tablecloth
$14.99 | zulily
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™