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guide to living with your boyfriend

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I live with a neat freak. He’s my little neat freak and I love him, but my, oh, my, is he particular about tidiness. I had to slowly train myself to be tidier for almost a year before we moved in together. I knew that if I didn’t, there was no way the relationship would survive. Living together can be hard on a couple and we didn’t need one more obstacle. And I’ll admit that I used to be quite messy. There was a lot of room for improvement. But I don’t think that anybody could possibly live up to my boyfriend’s standards for cleanliness. I’d swear, if I didn’t know somebody lived in his apartment when I first started dating him, I wouldn’t think anybody lived there. There was no sign of life. It looked like a model apartment—ready for showing to prospective renters, at any given moment.


I have to hand it to him for being so clean, but I do wish he’d realize that he is the one who goes against the norm, and not me. Look, I don’t let dishes sit for more than a few hours, but my rule of thumb is to do them right after eating. I do a quick pass around the apartment to put things away before bed. I make my bed nicely most mornings, and decently other mornings. I’m no slob. I don’t live with a pile of clothes permanently on a chair or floor. Most people would say that I’m a pretty tidy person! But, not my boyfriend. He’s on a whole other level.


You can’t really reason with a neat freak. They’re used to having things a certain way, and anything less, for them, feels like falling from Grace. I simply can’t be as tidy as he is—it’s not going to happen—and he simply can’t accept that, so we squabble. Here are fights you’ll have if you live with a neat freak.


Tables are for things

“There are things all over the coffee table” or “There are things on the desk!” my boyfriend will say. Yes. There is a remote control and a book and some mail on the coffee table. Tables are for things. Tables are surfaces we use to put things on. I understand he doesn’t want a mess but it’s also not unreasonable to have a thing or two out on a table at any given time.


I need to put things down when I walk in

We live in a shoe-free house, and I have a little dog I take with me most places. So when I walk in the door from, say, the grocery store and pharmacy, I need to put down my bags and my jacket and my purse on the couch while I take off my shoes and take the dog’s leash off and quickly pee because I’ve been holding it for an hour. But my boyfriend hates when I dump my things on the couch—even if I’ll pick them up in literally five minutes.


I’m eating; I can’t clean right now

My boyfriend will come in and give me this look when I’m eating because I have my entrée dish, salad bowl, cup, napkins, condiments, and things sprawled out over the table. “Can you clean this up?” He asks. “Um, yes, when I’m done eating. I’m kind of like in the middle of literally eating off of these things as we speak.”


Yes, I make a mess when I cook

My boyfriend isn’t big on cooking. He buys a premade soup and heats it up. He buys a premade sandwich, eats that over the sink, and throws out the box. So he doesn’t understand that when people (like me) cook, they will…use a pan and a mixing bowl and a cutting board. And these things will probably remain out until the meal is complete.


And I create crumbs when I eat

Honestly, I don’t know how he remains so tidy when he eats. If I’m going to eat a sandwich or something like that, I understand that some crumbs will fly around the table. And I will wipe those off when the meal is done. My boyfriend gets anxiety watching me create crumbs, and will start wiping them away while I’m still eating. What is the point? I’m about to make more crumbs!


Yes we need this essential item

Tidy individuals tend to be minimalists. My boyfriend doesn’t like to have what he calls “excess” things in the house. But those “excess” things are usually actually necessary things. For example, he didn’t think we needed water glasses because, as he put it, “We can put water in our coffee mugs.”


It’s not normal you have so few clothes

My clothes require a full closet and a dresser. My boyfriend feels that my clothes are spilling out from all surfaces and cabinets in our home. Meanwhile, he owns maybe four pairs of pants, a few t-shirts, and two button-down shirts. He doesn’t realize that it’s not normal for him to have so few clothes.


Doing laundry is messy

I try to just do laundry on days my partner won’t be home, because he loses it at the sight of laundry. But doing laundry is messy! You have to dump the load of clean, dry stuff on the bed so you can use that empty basket to bring more dirty stuff to the machines. Then it takes a while to fold all the stuff on the bed. But he hates the sight of the clean laundry piles.


You make a mess to clean the place

In general, you have to make a mess to clean a mess. If I vacuum, I need to lift up trashcans and floor lamps and rugs and put them on odd surfaces. If I Swiffer I need to move furniture around. There will likely be cleaning products all over the place. My boyfriend will chastise me for the mess I make while cleaning.


I will be late if I do these dishes right now

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had this argument: I finish a meal just in time to rush off to an appointment, not having time to do my dishes, but knowing I’ll be back in an hour. My boyfriend gets so upset that the dishes will sit for an hour, but I explain that if I take the 10 minutes to do them now, I will be late to my appointment.


Stop throwing away all my stuff!

Sometimes, my boyfriend will just decide that I don’t need something anymore because he doesn’t know what it is or hasn’t seen me use it. So I’ll just find that, for example, the spray I use to clean up if our dog has an accident has been thrown out. “You hadn’t used it for a year!” my boyfriend will say. Uh, yes, because we don’t need it often but when we need it we need it


Do we have to fold throw blankets?

I don’t feel that throw blankets on couches and chairs need to be perfectly folded at all times. My boyfriend will fold a throw blanket if I get up from the couch to walk the dog for ten minutes, knowing I will be right back in that same blanket very soon. But he shakes his head if I get up and don’t fold that little blanket.


The dog will not organize her toys

My boyfriend will walk around our apartment, picking up our dog’s toys, putting them all in one place, asking, “Why do these get everywhere? Can’t we keep these in one place!” Um, our dog doesn’t know how to pick up her toys and put them away. She will continue to put them all over the place it’s what dogs do.


Where did you put all my things?

Sometimes, when he’s in a tidying frenzy, my guy will just start taking my things that I had in a specific place for a reason, and putting them where he thinks they should go. Then, I can’t find my…shoes, keys, laptop charger, dog leash…anything! I tell him that if he’s going to reorganize my things he’s going to need to draw me a map.


You tidy, but do you ever clean?

We fall on two sides of cleanliness: he loves to tidy but rarely cleans, I love to clean, but perhaps don’t tidy enough. But can I just say that sweeping and mopping and vacuuming and scrubbing takes a lot of work, and it all gets overlooked because I left a mug on the coffee table.

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