Cleaning the mess

Good morning.

I love it when we get "My boyfriend doesn't clean!" letters. I'm still waiting for my first "My girlfriend doesn't clean!" letter. Maybe someday ...

Hi Meredith:

I've been dating my boyfriend for a little over three years and it's been great (I'm 30 and he's 32). We moved in together last August into a condo we both really liked and he immediately purchased. We've never lived together before so it was exciting in the beginning, working together to decorate the interior and create a space that is all our own. Our relationship in a nutshell is Jack Sprat -- he's the Ying to my Yang. I'm all over the place, extremely creative, love to learn new things, volunteer, run, and play sports while he's a little more introverted, likes to stay home, think things through, and has a good head on his shoulders. We're both alike in that we enjoy playing and watching sports, eating out, and playing with our newly rescued dog!

I'm pretty handy around the house and try to be clean /organized but it's really not something I enjoy so I often request my BF's help. He's reluctant to help and prefers watching sports (GO CELTICS) or playing online poker or basically anything else. I get it, but it doesn't help when I'm doing most all the cleaning and he's sitting around not helping. So I end up waiting, and then nagging, and nagging some more until he gets it. I don't want to nag, but I feel like if I don't, it really will never get done or I'll be so disgusted I'll do it myself and then harbor feelings of resentment.

He has a list of places he's supposed to keep clean but he doesn't follow through with it. I've also threatened charging him hourly to clean up the place but that hasn't worked either. I feel like we go through a cycle, every couple of months I get to the end of my rope and am fed up and then we have a fight about it and make up with him apologizing and promising he'll keep it clean. I feel like he's reactive and I'm proactive about cleaning the house. I really don't want to play this nagging mother role but I don't know what else to do. I want our relationship to be what it was, Boyfriend/Girlfriend. Can you help to offer advise on how to make cleaning/organizing the house a team effort?

– Clean House, Watertown

First of all, CH, your relationship isn't what it was. Vacationing in Bermuda is one thing. Living in Bermuda and paying an electric bill there is another. As soon as something becomes your daily reality, it's different -- for better or worse.

You mentioned that he has a list of places he's supposed to clean. You have to get more specific than that. Cleaning the living room probably means something different to him than it does to you. You might have to say, "Swiffer floor, dust shelves, wipe coffee table …" Don't assume he knows the specifics.

Also, cleaning isn't everything. It's just one part of maintaining a happy home. Some people are terrible at cleaning but bring other good things to a living situation. Perhaps he's the one who makes sure the bills are paid on time. Perhaps he's the one who remembers to set the DVR to tape your favorite shows. Before you go into crazy resentment mode, take time to consider all of the things he does to improve your living arrangement and decide whether the cleaning actually does have to be 50-50.

You mentioned in one of the first lines of your letter that your boyfriend bought this condo. It's worth talking to him about whether that ownership makes him feel entitled to do what he wants, when he wants. Maybe he's not as stressed about the cleaning because it's his place. It's important to remind him that even though the condo is in his name, you're his partner in this living situation.

Readers? Anything I missed? Am I jumping to conclusions about the condo ownership? What do people bring to a living situation besides the ability to clean? Will she ever feel "Boyfriend/Girlfriend" about her relationship again? Discuss. And thank you for putting up with my kidney during yesterday's chat.

– Meredith