Dear Uncle Mat,
We are a young couple that moved in together. I came from living with my mom and he from his own place with two roommates. We are very happy and have decided that after a few months this was definitely the right decision and we are now engaged. There is only one small problem and we are hoping you can help us fix it. We are living in a shithole. It’s not that the apartment itself is horrible; it is your average old duplex in decent shape. The problem would be that neither of us is a good housekeeper and we are too poor to afford a maid. My room at my mom’s house was never neat and his last place was messy, but we just took that for granted, I guess. Now that it is just us, the dishes pile up, the vacuum might as well be alien technology, and our crap is everywhere. We are embarrassed to have company over. I have been taking my laundry home and sneaking his in with mine. My mom is a saint and has let it slide, but I am certain she won’t tolerate it forever. It doesn’t cause fights between us, but the humor of the situation aside, we know two respectable adults can’t live like this. We really want to get a dog for Christmas, but realize there is no way we can introduce another living creature into this habitat unless it cleans up after itself and preferably us. Is there a class we can take or can you tell us how to manage our home?
Living in Squalor
Maybe you are not two respectable adults and this is your natural environment? Basic hygiene is not for everyone and neither are floors in which you can see your reflection. Watch that show about people who hoard things. This should show you there are others like yourself or that you might live in a cleaner home than you think? Bust out that bell curve and stop comparing yourself to Martha Stewart.
If that reasoning doesn’t work, you might ask your gracious mother for some help. I do not mean ask her to clean your apartment, but for tips on how she has picked up after your ass all your life. At the very least, she can help decipher how the vacuum works and teach you how to do laundry. Make sure both you and your fiancé are present for this and any housekeeping lessons. You both will need to take some responsibility if you want to maintain the bliss and clean up. I don’t know of any classes in housekeeping, but there are entire TV channels and magazines dedicated to domestic lifestyles that might help.
I lived with three OCD queens for four years and then spent a year with a hurricane of a woman and learned how to keep a tidy house without a maid or therapy.
I believe that the first step to basic tidiness is having a place for everything. You may not always place items in their places, but if the places exist, it isn’t as hard a task. If you honestly have no place for something, it may not fit in your life. Do you need all of the crap you have? You may need to spend a little money, but laundry baskets, garbage cans, and Tupperware can change your life.
You also could post a list of what needs to be done organized by ideal frequency, such as daily, weekly, monthly, never. Place this list on the fridge or bathroom mirror. Play spin the bottle or flip coins and divide up the tasks once a week. You might add bonuses for completing hated tasks, like whoever washes the dishes this week also gets a backrub. Or lap dances every time someone completes a task. Keep the workload even as possible between you both to help prevent resentments. Work together if your schedules allow for it.
Don’t leave everything for one day. Especially your day off. Fifteen and 30 minutes a day is so much better than five hours on Sunday. It is easier to maintain a clean home than clean a dirty house.
Much love and sanitary living conditions,
Your Uncle Mat
PS Good call on addressing your housekeeping issues before getting a dog.
Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets and art. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, myspace.com/yourunclemat, or check out the Dear Uncle Mat Page on Facebook. Your true identity is safe with him.