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Filth-Pig's Keeper

Dear Miss SmartyPants,

How filthy is too filthy? I've been married for several years, and our apartment is filthy. It looks like a mail truck crashed into a laundromat, one where everybody had just finished eating a TV dinner and was eating cookies at the time of the crash. I'm not a naturally tidy person; when I lived alone my cleanliness standard was "cluttered but sanitary," enough to be able to tidy up for guests on short notice if they didn't mind a few magazines on the floor. Dirty clothes would be out of sight, any dishes would be clean or in the dishwasher, and floors would have been vacuumed or mopped recently enough.

But my beloved is a huge filth-pig and no amount of marital negotiation has changed that (believe me, I've tried everything). His excuse? "I'm a guy." There are enough good things (he shows me a lot of affection, holds down a good job, has the exact same politics as I do, bed is good) that I've decided to stay, despite qualms over the filth and my husband's TV habit. I work slightly longer hours than he does, and I'm not willing to clean up after a grown man no matter how much I love him. The most effort I make is to throw away food wrappers and boxes, and move the dirty dishes into the kitchen where I may wash them someday. Bizarrely, I rarely see bugs.

I'm just wondering if it's dangerous to live in so much filth. I may be losing perspective. I go to other people's places and they say, "Oh, I'm sorry it's so messy" because there is a coffee mug sitting out, or there is supposedly some (invisible) cat hair lying around, or a couple of kids' toys are not put away. Needless to say nobody ever comes to our place. I'd like to have friends over, but not under these circumstances. I worry because we are trying to have kids and there's no way a kid could live in that environment. Is filth alone grounds for divorce?

Filth-Pig's Keeper

Dear Keeper,

It's certainly grounds for hiring a housekeeper. And for the days between visits, have containers handy (hampers, giant sealable tubs) into which you can chuck the day's detritus so 1. you don't have to look at it, and 2. you can hand the full ones to Filth-Pig once a week and say, "Please wash these, thanks." I know that's dangerously close to cleaning up after him, but with the handy-receptacle plan, you'll cut your daily investment to about 5-10 minutes of bin-filling. Which sounds like a worthy investment to me, unless he refuses to help out even once a week.

You may get to the point where you really resent the amount of extra work that results from a grown man who just refuses to pick up after himself, and that your respect for him completely erodes away. If you just met him now for the first time at this point in your life and saw how he lives, would you want to keep dating him?

Worst case scenario: Replace your dishware with disposables. Disposable plates, utensils, and cups. It won't make him cleaner but it will make it easier to keep the place clean. My inner environmentalist wants to cry at this solution.

Another thought: You might want to do some more thinking before you have kids with F-P. If you think your house looks bad now, wait until you have a couple of kids and an incredible amount of new stuff to keep clean and picked up. And it doesn't sound as if you can expect any help with the increased domestic workload. And when your kids get older and want to have friends over, then what? You might be able to afford a cleaning service, but that's money that could be spent on your kids or other things if only F-P would pick up after himself. Not to mention how hard it is to train kids to pick up after themselves when Daddy sets such a stellar example. Sorry! Good luck. I mean it.

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