I'm the 'Mess Maker' in My Relationship


Tasha Rae Photography

It’s true that people say opposites attract, but I’m pretty sure my partner would agree with me when I say this: The quality that differentiates us most is what he finds least attractive in me. My loving, wonderful, thoughtful man is the cleanest person I’ve ever met and I’m well ... not. I’m better described as organized chaos. And although I recognize how my chaos is what causes chaos in our relationship, I’ve yet to get a handle on my mess and clean up my act -- because I’m carrying the mental load of bigger picture things in our relationship and there aren’t enough hours in the day. So what’s the big deal if a few dishes are left until tomorrow or my shoes (and by one pair I mean three) are left by the door?

  • To be fair, the problem isn’t that just a few things are out of place on occasion.

    It’s that I really am the worst with cleaning, which is in direct contrast to my partner, who has a place for everything. And if something is out of place? He simply puts it away. So why is this something I struggle with? The short answer is that I have too much stuff for the tiny apartment we share. But in reality, that’s not an excuse.

    I think what it comes down to is that we prioritize our time differently. You hear the cliche arguments between couples with the wives yelling, “Am I the only one who sees this mess? Why do I have to point it out and tell you to do it?” Well that’s me and my partner, only he is the one getting frustrated while I get defensive. We typically don’t argue but if we do, it’s over the same thing: Why is he the only one taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom, and perfectly folding the laundry, with me only jumping in after I see him start instead of being the one to proactively do it?
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  • Despite what he thinks, I do see the mess. But I'm doing 15 other things for us that I think are more important.

    Sure, I love when things are clean and tidy but it doesn’t bother me the same way it does him -- if the reason I wasn’t able to clean is because I was accomplishing something else more important that needed to get done. If the laundry has to wait a day but the groceries for the week are purchased, the meals are all planned, his mom’s perfect birthday gift has been picked out, upcoming plans have been finalized, the schedules have been juggled, and so on, I feel accomplished. And that’s how I prioritize the endless tasks that hit me in a day. 

  • Another reason is I’m a completely ineffective cleaner.

    My cleaning style is "whirlwind" and I somehow never actually get things put away, even after hours of working. You see, whenever I do clean or organize, I unintentionally make a different mess so I can never catch up. If I start in the living room, somehow the bedroom becomes worse from me moving everything there to put away once I finish up the living room first. By the end, I have a sparkling clean living room and a sh-- show bedroom with new piles that need to be organized. And guess what happens when I go to clean the bedroom? Somehow that lovely clutter makes its way into a different room or spot. My mess seems to like a change of scenery and just moves from room to room instead of being masterfully organized once and for all.

  • The problem also comes down to the difference in our love languages.

    Of the five love languages, I would say that we are both acts of service but the acts we find more important or meaningful is what differentiates us. This was made blatantly clear during a recent holiday. A bit of background: my neat freak man and I share a desk in our space-challenged apartment. It’s mine by day since I work from home and his by night for all of his computer gaming escapades. Well, this prized oversized desk space was starting to form a bit of a mug collection over the course of a busy week I was having. Instead of putting my old mug away at the end of day, somehow I’d compiled at least five dirty mugs that were glaring at my love when he would get home. So by Friday morning, he asked me to clean them up. Should he have had to ask? No. Did I take care of it that day? Also no.

    Nope. Instead, I rushed to finish work and then break out the incredibly thoughtful gifts I’d purchased for him over the course of a few months to ensure they were wrapped -- complete with perfect ribbon -- and arranged with balloons and card for the ultimate impact when he came in.

  • At one point I looked at the mugs and thought about doing the dishes but I made a judgement call.

    I only had enough time to get the gifts arranged or the dishes clean before he got home and I went with what I thought was more important. The mugs could wait but having the element of surprise and everything put together for this holiday mattered more. It couldn’t be put off until later but the silly mugs definitely could. Well, I made the wrong call.

    Of course he loved everything I did for him, but I didn’t need to spend a single dime or stress about the most thoughtful card.

    If I had just put away those damn mugs, he would’ve been thrilled. But to me, I thought he’d never even notice that I didn’t, over seeing everything else I did do that day instead. 

  • So the moral of the story is I recognize that I don’t have time to do it all and I am terrible at containing my mess.

    This is a personal flaw or weakness that I need to work on because even if I don’t see the harm in putting off getting things tidy until another day, my partner does. And part of being in a relationship is recognizing what’s important to each other, respecting that, and working to honor it. So this year, I’m striving to do just that -- and when I do clean, to actually clean instead of just unintentionally moving the mess from room to room.