How to blend two schools of thought about cleaning under one roof

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Lacey writes

I was reading some old posts about how to keep your place clean which is a battle I am always fighting.

My husband and I have different philosophies on cleaning. I would rather do a little cleaning every day and he would rather take a weekend and clean everything at once. He hates me nagging him to do chores and I get overwhelmed when the place it too messy.

I try to do daily cleaning until I get behind and overwhelmed. Then he will take a weekend and do a massive cleaning. We both end up feeling like the other one never does any cleaning. How can we find a better compromise?

Oh, the cleaning battle. I know it well.

My husband and I found that the root to our different cleaning styles could be solved by streamlining the house. If your house is getting terribly messy pretty quickly, it might be because it’s hard to keep clean. I believe constant messiness in some area means that it’s not fulfilling its designated need very well. If our foyer is always covered in shoes and ice melt, it’s probably because there isn’t a convenient place to keep whatever we’re keeping there. Maybe it’s a hassle to put your shoes away. Maybe there’s nowhere to sit so you just go into the house with your shoes on, only to abandon them elsewhere.

What if you get a couple beers and have a casual house meeting and agree on the messiest area in the house? Figure out where the kink in the hose is (“Our bedroom always has clothes on the floor because I need a place to put not-clean but not-dirty clothes, and I don’t have one.”) Basically have an OH BASKETS! discussion.

Once you’ve sussed out the problem, see what you can do to fix it. Maybe it means you need to buy a dish drying rack for the sink because otherwise the dishes never get washed, or maybe it means you’ll flip your bedroom so his dresser’s on the other side.

There isn’t one big compromise you can make to land on the same page on housekeeping, but identifying problems and solving them together will, over time, get you to an agreement. That doesn’t mean that your cleaning philosophies won’t still cause friction, but you married this dude, so you have time.

Anyone else? How have you meshed two very different cleaning styles into one peaceful home?

Comments on How to blend two schools of thought about cleaning under one roof

  1. Oh boy! I can’t wait to read the ideas about cleaning! My husband is constantly asking me to “clean up after yourself” or “why is this not in it’s place.” Usually, I just didn’t remember or notice that somethin was out of place. Or I meant to go back to the table and finish my tea, but I got distracted. so… that’s why the dirty plate with the half eaten toast is there… oops. I like to just go over the whole house later too see what I missed. Sometimes, I still miss stuff, and get asked. It’s actually kind of stressfull because even if I THINK I’ve got everything, I know there will be another thing I forgot about. or I’ll fall asleep early and miss a LOT.

    My husband insists that if I just can learn to do things his way, then everythign will be fine… Like it’s that easy! he keeps telling me it is. ha! If I suggest he read this article, (or any other) he will say “No, you just have to clean up after yourself.” sigh…

    • This is exactly how my fiance is. He’s always getting after me to pick up after myself and do the dishes more often. His mom is a total neat freak so he always had things spotless growing up and that’s how he always expects things to be. I’ve tried explaining that I’m not his mother but he just doesn’t understand my point of view. Cleaning stresses me out.

      • My husband is like this because he comes from a family of messy hoarders. It’s interesting how our upbringing affects us. He is very efficeint with cleaning as well. He can go into a room and have it all organized, and I’m still analyzing my shoe rack or something inane…
        I’m actually a lot better than he is at “deep cleaning” He doesn’t get into nooks and crannies. I wash the floors on my hands and knees to make sure it’s really clean!

        • My husband and I have the same dynamic, and for a while, we would resent each other’s cleaning styles: He thought I didn’t get enough done and I thought he wasn’t thorough enough.

          Then we had an “AHA!” moment. Now, he does his amazing whirlwind cleaning/tidying to get the room livable, then I can focus on the areas that need the detailed attention (i.e. filing paper, scrubbing floors, dusting shelves, etc.)

    • This is my life! I’ve discovered it’s mostly personality differences that are our problem – I’m like you! I leave something and forget it/don’t notice it until later (sometimes days….) and he hates “clutter” and it really bothers him for things to be messy.

      What has really helped us is I’ve tried to develop “routines” for myself throughout the day to put away these little messes. But also, he has to realize that it’s part of who you are!

      It’s a long road, but we’re making progress.

      Since I’m the “mess”, I’ve found what helps me is to have plenty of baskets/containers/whatever so I can put things in, though for a “messy” person, these can accumulate random crap rather quickly if you let it! Hah. Good luck!

    • I don’t know you, and I’m not a Doctor, so it’s not my place to hand out diagnoses, but what you are describing sounds very familiar to me, so I’m just going put this out there: Is it possible you might have ADHD?

      If this seems like a possibility, then perhaps you might want to take the test over at

  2. Same with the BF and me – we set up rules on who does what and with which intervals, which works rather well (I got the day-to-day tasks like cooking and laundry, he got the big weekend tasks (vacuuming, mopping, carrying heavy groceries), and for some things we flip a coin). Every now and again we revise the rules and see if it works for both of us, so that no one feels overwhelmed or underappreciated, and of course the rules are not set in stone… occasionally one will help the other out. I find that these things work better if everybody knows what is expected of them.

  3. We have a chore list, with all of the housecleaning tasks that would take place in a “major house cleaning” divided up over the month between the two of us (some things happen more often than once a month, like vacuuming the living room, and other happen less frequently, like washing the living room windows). We each have about 5 “chores” for the week, and the rule is that we have to get them done by Sunday night — during the week or on the weekend, it doesn’t matter, and we don’t nag the other about it. I like to try to do mine during the week, although that doesn’t always happen, but he’s a weekender like you’re husband. I don’t know if that would work for you, but it’s been great for us.

    • Oh, this sounds like a great agreement!

      My hustband and I will be moving into our new house in a couple of months, and well, the house will need cleaning. We already have trouble cleaning our tiny 2-room apartment, so I’ve been worried about how we’ll do in a 6-room house.
      I like to have a plan and do something every day, but he’s not much of a fixed-schedule person, so he’d have more trouble with that.

      I like your idea of having everything done until sunday night, but that everyone can choose to do the chores whenever he wants to during the week.

      Thanks! 😉

  4. We do a little bit of both. I do certain things every day (he chips in on the nightly dishes and kitchen cleanup) and then one day a week we both work together for an hour or two to clean the house together. I’m a pretty messy person (he’s not, but doesn’t care) so I find that if I’m picking up after myself as I go along rather than slinging crap everywhere – this works well for us.

  5. My husband and I have totally different cleaning philosophies too. The trick for us is to not nag each other and do our best. Absolutely no nagging. We’re lucky that we’re both mostly on the same page when our home gets too messy for the both of us (which doesn’t happen often). I have chores that I don’t mind doing, and he has chores that he doesn’t mind doing, and we let each other finish those chores whenever we feel like it. Sometimes he gets “crazy eyes”, which is when I know that the apartment is too messy for his taste. In those instances I tell him to clean up whatever is bothering him because his cleaning anxiety has nothing to do with me (although I usually help him by putting my stuff away so he can have his own personal cleaning freak out). We’re both fairly clean human beings to begin with, so there aren’t too many “crazy eyes” situations. But I’m a serious believer in splitting up duties according to what you actually enjoy/don’t mind doing. Because I swear, if I was in charge of doing laundry, it would get done maybe, MAYBE once a month (luckily he does it twice a week for us). And if I didn’t clean all the pots and pans (he’ll do dishes, but he’ll leave the pots and pans), we wouldn’t be able to ever cook.

    • I completely understand “crazy eyes”. It always happens when I’m trying to find something that we both use like nail clippers or the remote. All I can see is mess. I know where I last put it but I don’t know his hiding places yet. It’s difficult to check myself before I begin the “we have too much crap on the floor” rant, but I’m learning.

      • “Crazy eyes” usually starts off for him the same way. But I have to admit, I too sometimes have “crazy eyes”. When we have “crazy eyes” at the same time, woo-boy, it’s pretty special.

  6. THIS IS US! Our chores are split sort of, but the house is just overall messy. I never thought about it in terms of dysfunctional and function. I think when I get home I will label different baskets and bins for clean, dirty, and worn once, then I need to get some bowls and small baskets to keep shelves organized.


  7. What about you pick up as you go, and he does more of the proper cleaning at regular intervals? That way you’re still splitting the work, and each focusing on the one that matters more to you.

  8. Generally my FH and I get along pretty well as far as keeping the place neat and tidy, but we have one major disagreement – FH thinks that things don’t need to be cleaned unless they LOOK dirty, and yes this goes for toilets and sinks. We each have our “own” bathrooms and I clean mine once a week but I noticed that his was generally always disgusting. After 6 months I asked him when he last cleaned his bathroom and he said “I haven’t, it’s not dirty.” WHAAAAT?!?!? I can’t change his mind about it so now I find myself cleaning both bathrooms, and the kitchen, by myself. He said he would help out but I clean “too often” and he refuses to spend that much time cleaning. It causes a major strain and I’m pretty much furious at him the entire day when I have to clean his bathroom.

    When we got engaged, the wife of one of his co-workers said to us, “I have three words of advice for you – Get A Maid.”

  9. We’re still figuring this out. Neither one of us is a neat freak but we still end up at odds. I took over doing dishes because he was less picky about how clean was “clean.” He is in charge of changing garbages. We still occasionally disagree on when the other should be performing their task but overall we just kind of go with it. I may leave dishes in the living room, but he won’t scrape his plates off. The bathroom I will clean because he never will, the bedroom gets overtaken by my clothes (I do need a “not quite dirty yet” place for my clothes).
    It also depends on the time of year. Hubby is in school so if he’s stressing about assignments he will ignore any household cleaning. I’m trying to be a bit more go-with-the-flow but we need to find some tasks he’s okay doing and a bit of a schedule (a chore in itself since my dude is the anti-planner and planned/scheduled things can stress him out more).

    • My “not quite dirty yet” place is hanging clothes back up on hangers on one side of my closet (when I live somewhere with a big enough closet) or on a garment hook on the outside of my closet door. The outside of the door isn’t as neat as I’d like because you can still see the clothes, but it’s much better than having them on the floor!

      • Maybe a good “not so dirty” place for clothes would be their regular place in the closet, but have the hanger facing the other way, with the hook facing out.

  10. We are going to start some sort of schedule so that I don’t feel like I am always doing everything. I’m by no means a neat freak, but his standards of cleanliness are much lower than mine. Mostly what drives me crazy is that he doesn’t pick up after himself and doesn’t even notice when I do it, like he thinks we have magical cleaning fairies that always put everything away. Another major issue is that he isn’t proactive so he’ll never do anything without being asked, but then gets annoyed that I nag (I try not to, but I’m so sick of cleaning up after him! And when I ask him to do stuff he says he’ll do it later, then doesn’t). Hopefully some sort of chore calendar would help us out and do the nagging for me, lol.

  11. Oh, the magical fairies… I know them well. I spend most of my day dealing with clutter — we have a very “attached (read: wants to be held all the time) baby, which makes even simple tasks take a while. My husband gets home, leaves his stuff in a trail all over the house, tears up junk mail and leaves it on the kitchen counter (why not in the kitchen garbage?! why?!) leaves glasses and plates around, etc. Then he wonders why
    I don’t get to stuff like sweeping up the dog hair or cleaning bathrooms. I can’t sweep a floor that has his crap on it!

    I think it has very much to do with the way we were raised. My parents are huge slobs, and while I actually like a clutter free (or at least low-clutter) house, I resent spending all my
    time cleaning. His mom is a major neat freak — we’re visiting for the holidays now and when I woke up this morning our toothbrushes had been moved from the toothbrush holder in the bathroom and placed in a ziplock bag in our suitcase). He grew up with her following him around with a mop, essentially.

  12. …I love the fact that there are so many ‘neat freak’ men out there!

    My boyfriend and I struggle with this a lot – its amazing how heated and personal a fight about bathroom cleaning can be.

    What helps keep the peace is focusing on the end goal (going out, relaxing, spending time together, etc) rather than things neglected or done poorly. Likewise, I’m convinced that the magic words are ‘I need help.’ He doesn’t have an ounce of instinct when it comes to cleaning, but he DOES believe in protecting me – especially from myself. If I make it clear that I can’t physically do it all alone, he’s waaay more likely to pitch in.

  13. My bf and I constantly butt heads about this…I get distracted very easy, and, as such, usually leave stuff in random places. However, I do clean regularly–my space is cluttered, but never dirty. My bf controls clutter, but thinks that organizing stuff is the same as cleaning. We’ve been living apart for the first time in years because I’m going to school out of state, and everything that we used to bicker about is amplified. I spent two hours cleaning the bathroom at his place just so I could take a shower! He blames his roommates and states that he won’t clean up after people, but his place is so dirty that I won’t go barefoot in it. I’ll take my clutter over that any day.

  14. My husband and I are like that too. What has worked for us is doing what we need to do for the house to feel comfortable for us while not worrying about what the other person is doing.

    So while I do a little cleaning every day, I don’t get upset while he’s not.

    And while he’s all, “clean all the things!” for a weekend he doesn’t get upset with me for Facebooking while he’s cleaning.

  15. Ooh! While I’m thinking about it, check out the book “Organizing for Your Brain Type” by Lanna NaKone!!!! She also has “Every Child Has a Thinking Style” and it is AMAZING.

    My mom read “Every Child Has a Thinking Style” and it made us cry — she finally realized that she wasn’t a faulty parent and I wasn’t a difficult child, we just have literally opposite ways of thinking. Our brains reach conclusions completely differently than each other’s.

    The books are about more than just organizing. They’re amazing and I highly recommend them to everyone in the whole entire world. Omg. Read them.


  16. This was the major point of contention for the first year of our marriage. We had several long talks about it and worked out a system… but we also truly have rubbed off on each other. We’ve found a happy medium.

    I have to say how INCREDIBLY important it is to appreciate what the other person does, and to verbally tell him or her that you do (I remember when Ariel posted her “I appreciate you” video, I was practically pumping my fist in agreement!). We thank each other constantly. It feels weird at first to thank someone for doing what is his or her assigned task anyway, but it really helps so much.

    What we did to split things up was this: I wrote out everything that needs done on a regular basis on small slips of paper. Chores, paying bills, going grocery shopping, cooking, etc. We then looked them over and compromised on how often each thing needed done. That helped a lot. For example, I came from a laundry-every-other-week kind of house, and he always did laundry two to three times a week. Simply recognizing that we had different opinions mattered a lot.

    Then we took turns drawing slips. This way we each got things we didn’t mind doing so much. For the last few slips that none of us wanted (cleaning the litterboxes for example) we agreed to rotate months.

    So now I’m happy doing the cooking, grocery shopping, folding clothes, etc–and he’s happy doing the sweeping, dusting, and cleaning up after dinner. And again, we’re BOTH happy because we are getting constant thanks and appreciation for things we do!

    • yes, appreciation for what each other does is wonderful! i feel like jumping up and down with happiness every time my husband’s face lights up after I clean the bathroom and he thanks me. (and I thank him when he takes care of the stinky garbage/recycling/composting.)

  17. I am a huge fan of the golden rule when it comes to living with someone else. I expect my partner not to leave a mess for me to clean up, and I try to do the same for him.

  18. I am bothered by clutter, although I’m not an especially neat person. (I have lots of things in random places around the house, but the piles are all very tidy and I always know where to find things.) I sometimes resent that I’m doing lots of chores while my husband isn’t, but it’s in part my problem because I’m not good at asking for help. I also had a revelation a few months ago: if I say “I need to clean up the kitchen”, I’ve claimed the chore. If I say, “The kitchen needs cleaning,” then go off to do something else, sometimes the kitchen will be cleaned. Being aware of language helps a lot.

  19. I don’t even try to mix two different cleaning styles. I just do all the cleaning =D
    Seriously though, while we both have jobs, I make less money and spend more time at home, so it just seems natural to do more of the cleaning. I’d say I do about 90% of all the household stuff, including yard-work. I don’t expect my boyfriend to do any chores, so when he makes dinner or does laundry or whatever on a whim, I’m thankful. The I way see it, he’s such a great guy, that if I have to pick his boxers off the bedroom floor, I’m just going to be happy because it means he’s with me =D

  20. I’ll admit it, I’m the husband from the original story! First I have to thank my wonderful wife for putting this in unbiased terms, which is very hard to admit “We both end up feeling like the other one never does any cleaning”.

    Admittedly I just don’t do my “massive weekend of cleaning” often enough, but the clash of styles is all too true. I really like what one of the commenters said about appreciation. If she tidies up in small amounts each day it must be easy to feel resentful when I don’t, and if I take 8 hours on a Saturday to clean, it’s easy for me to feel resentful if she only cleans for 1 hour, but it averages out.

    The large problem stems from the fact that in general we are both kind of messy, so our combined efforts still aren’t enough, and something that the poster hinted at which is just inefficiencies in how we live. Having a tiny kitchen, going to a laundromat, and living in an apartment makes space a premium, and anywhere we can streamline makes a world of difference.

    After a year in a half in our apartment, we finally cleaned our bedroom closet of moving boxes from silly things like ice skates and winter clothes and I made an effort to hang all my clothes up. Suddenly it’s that much easier to keep our bedroom floor visible instead of layered with clothes. We’ll definitely be looking for other places to do the same around the house.

    We have taken to doing what another commenter said and try to do chores we like most. While it does seem to help, we can’t apply that strategy to everything, as some things just never get done that way. Thanks for all the replys and the post!

  21. My husband and I have split up our chores. We each vacuum clean on a specific weekday, clean our own bathroom once a week, take turns doing the dishes, I do the laundry, he puts it up to dry. The schedule works, so we’re fine, right? Well, partly. We still have different ideas of how clean something needs to be. He tends to get distracted, so he leaves stuff sitting around. And he simply does not “see” dirt, while I do, so it’s usually me doing extra or in depth cleaning. So I sometimes get upset about me doing all the extra cleaning. However, he does all the cooking. I keep having to remind myself that he does a lot of work I never do. When I find some mess, I just have to keep telling myself “I do extra cleaning, he does all the cooking, so it’s OKAY”.

  22. First, I would like to say that I am glad that I am not the only one with the not clean, but not dirty clothes problem. My FH and I havent exactly melded well together since we moved in together six months ago. We have a lot of stuff in a much smaller space. Second, I am of the do a total clean every three days but ignore everything until that day comes school. My FH does what he refers to as daily cleaning but really… its more like moving things around. We are still working on it.

  23. We try to share as many chores as possible – going food shopping together or taking turns picking dry cleaning, etc. We take turns cooking and cleaning dishes, but when it comes to CLEANING it is harder. I don’t like clutter and things need to be away, so our home always looks tidy. However, neither one of us really likes to clean the bathroom or the kitchen floor. Once we moved into an apartment we really love and feel proud to call our home we’ve done better. Having a group over for dinner is a serious motivator to clean.

  24. The hubby and I have come up with a new system:
    We made a list of all chores then created a formula, difficulty on a scale of 1-10 multiplied by minutes it takes to complete the task multiplied by the amount of times we do it a month. Once all chores have a final score we looked to see who does what currently then saw how our individual scores added up. Then we were able to adjust our individual tasks a bit more so that we were more equal.

    It does sound a bit rigid of a system but it has really been working out. Since we really saw how much the other does we are much more appreciative and also know when we could step up and help the other out, even if it is as disgusting as cleaning the hairy drain or the stinky litter boxes.

  25. DUDE! I just had a HUGE baskets moment. You can have a PLACE that is SPECIFICALLY FOR not-clean but not-dirty clothes! I must create such a place. My bedroom is covered in those clothes. Serious revelation over here. Thank you!

    • I’m in control over my massive amount of not-clean-but-not-dirty clothes by having a hamper with a lid- that stuff goes on top. Depending on the item/how many times it’s been worn, some things will stay on top of the hamper until laundry day. Some stuff will only be there if worn once & then will go straight into the hamper after the second time.

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