Is It Better to Be With a Slob Who Tries or Another Neatnik Who Disagrees With You?

a mop and bucket
Image by Phil Parker / CC BY

I’ve always been pretty laid back about chores, organization, and the state of a home.

do have a point where I tap out. I don’t like living in squalor. Once upon a time, this tipping point was something I think of as “the tripping point,” i.e., the point at which there’s no clear pathway through a room.

And having no clean dishes to eat off. That was another thing. They didn’t all have to be clean, mind you. Just enough to eat something.

Otherwise, I was miserable.

And I would start cleaning to rectify either issue. Rather than asking the other person to take care of it.

This was when left to my own devices — when I was living on my own or with someone messier than I was.

This didn’t happen all the time. And when I was the messier partner, I would instead clean according to relationship harmony. I would try to do chores to whatever level ensured I had a good, happy, healthy connection with the other person.

You can think of me as a slob who tries.

Therefore, it was interesting when I lived alone for some months in a house that I was showing for sale. I had it professionally cleaned at the onset and then diligently picked up after myself, trying my hardest to leave absolutely no trace. Only walking around in stocking feet. Making the bed the moment I got out of it.

Largely empty of possessions, the house echoed whenever I spoke in it, which wasn’t as often as normal as my partner and pets were hundreds of miles away.

But I kept it pristine. It didn’t feel like my home anymore, but a sales deal waiting to happen, particularly as I’d also renovated and painted a number of rooms in the process.

I Often Wonder If My Partner Would Be Happier With Someone Who Sees Mess in a Similar Way

Even now, I have certain habits I’ve picked up from that time. I typically make the bed right when I get out of it. I started being able to notice small messes when I moved into the new place and therefore to pick them up more proactively. While they had been formerly invisible to me, things like that had always jumped out to my much tidier partner. Dirt seriously perturbs him in a way that sometimes seems like primal fear and other times seems like a moral affront — to me, standing outside of it.

The new place was built in the 1990s. I’m told this is old for Dallas, where sometimes it seems like practically everything is brand new construction. But it’s brand spanking new to me, having just sold a 97-year-old house in the Cleveland suburbs.

The layout is so much more modern. And it’s so much easier to clean a 20-year-old home than one that’s nearly 100. The finishings reflect dirt better and are in much better shape.

I’m told by my partner that I’m a much better housekeeper than I was before I sold the house. That the experience changed me. And we both agree that this home is an easier charge than the last one.

I noted recently, with great surprise, when I returned from staying in a hotel that my home was actually cleaner than the room I’d been staying in (and it was at a fairly nice hotel). And this is with me doing the hog’s share of the cleaning here. A surreal moment.

And yet… I still can’t shake the lingering sense of insecurity that comes from a history of always being the messy one.

No matter how hard I try to compensate for being the “slob,” part of me is sad that it doesn’t come naturally to me. That I have to think about it and make conscious plans. That I don’t have that emotional disgusted reaction that has seemed so natural to many other people I know when they encounter clutter or mess.

Part of me always wonders if my partner would be happier to be with someone else who saw the world in similar terms. Who would be driven to do things like detail the car before he even notices it’s messy.

Is It Better to Be With a Slob Who Tries or Another Neatnik Who Disagrees With You?

When I share this with my partner, he laughs. “Just what I would need, someone else with OCD tendencies, but has ones slightly different than mine.”

It’s an interesting perspective. And one I don’t consider very often. When you’re used to nearly always being in the “slob” position, especially when you’re berated by parents for it (as I was), you’re used to internalizing that criticism, feeling insecure about how you keep a home. Always afraid that you’re not doing enough and the right things. Especially because so many people who are tidy are positively moralistic about cleaning. They tend to frame clean and dirty as right and wrong. Not preferences. Not tendencies. Or differing styles.

But right and wrong.

This means that I’ve spent a lot of my life considering myself automatically in the wrong when it comes to any conflicts over chores and house maintenance. And it also means that my task has never been determining what the best way to structure a household as far as chores and cleaning is but responding to the other person’s framework and adapting, even if it is radically different than the last neatnik I adapted to.

I can’t imagine stepping into a situation with someone who has strong opinions about housekeeping and arguing with them based on my own equally strong opinions about housekeeping.

I just can’t.

It’s far easier to imagine a neater wife for my partner who would just view things in the exact same way that he does and do it before he even realizes they need to be done.

But that’s probably not what would happen. Instead, they’d probably war, have a clash of wills that turns into an effort where neither of them wants to end up “the slob.”

I’m not a neatnik, so I’ll likely never know for sure, but it does make me wonder: When you’re a neatnik, is it better to be with a slob who tries (and tries hard) than it is to be with another neatnik who disagrees with you about how things should be done?

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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