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bookish1's avatar

Should I tell my friend...?

Asked by bookish1 (13069 points ) September 15th, 2012

I’ve got another question about friendship and balance. I’ve made a new friend recently. We get along very well, have similar personalities and many interests in common, and we’re already to the point of doing favors for each other, taking turns treating each other, etc.

The problem is that his apartment is so filthy that I really don’t want to hang out there. Not what I would call “bachelor messy,” I can deal with that, but filthy as in, cockroaches all over the apartment, the bathroom has never been cleaned and there might not be soap or TP, cat crap on the floor, etc. I think he might be coming out of a period of deep depression, or maybe this is just how he is and it doesn’t bother him to live like that.

We hang out at bars and clubs, and we’ve hung out at both of our apartments. But now that I know what his place is like, I really only want to invite him to my place or meet him in public. It’s not a problem in terms of transport since we both have cars. I am not a neat freak by any means, but I do believe in having the place presentable when I have people over. Do you think I should just go with my inclination and avoid going to his place without making a big deal of it, or should I speak up about my reasons? He’s a sensitive guy and I fear hurting his feelings.

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27 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

That’s beyond messy and is actually a bit of a mental health issue. I think it might need confrontation and professional advice.

gailcalled's avatar

I would mention it. He may be upset but so be it. Keep your language low-key, keep it short and keep on finding compromises that will promote the friendship without giving you bedbugs or something worse.

Is he personally clean and neat?

Coloma's avatar

Wow, tough call. I agree that a little clutter or dust is a non-issue, but cat crap on the floor and cockroaches? Shiver!
Yes, I agree with @zenvelo that this seems to be a red flag of some deeper issues. I don;t know what to say, it’s a very awkward situation. Could you maybe be honest but couch it with a little humur and perhaps offer to help them clean up the place?

Maybe say ” Ya know, I’d like to hang out at your place but, to tell you the truth—-little white lie maybe..—things being pretty messy really flares up my allergies, would you like some help getting your place clean and in order?
There is nothing wrong with telling them you enjoy their company but can;t handle the chaos of their place.

bookish1's avatar

@zenvelo: Yes, that had occurred to me. He has spoken of some mental health problems and is on medication for depression and anxiety. I am very sympathetic because I have been a life-long depressive, but I’ve never been that filthy even in the worst depths.

@gailcalled: Thank you for the advice. I have worried about getting sick at his place, when I had to crash drunk there a couple times. I have a pretty weak immune system and I really could get an infection there easily. I’d say he’s average clean and neat personally. His car isn’t filthy like that, just his apartment. I think part of the problem might be that he lives with his brother (they are both in their late 20s), and no one ever takes responsibility for cleaning anything.

@Coloma: That sounds like a good approach. Thank you. I’m kind of curious to see what his place looks like now, because he told me he had to “clean up” in preparation for an out of town lady visitor in whom he is very interested…If I kept my place like that, I would never expect to get laid…

This situation reminds me of one of my dearest friends in college. And she has some mental health problems as well. I always invited her to my dorm because hers was just a disaster. More messy than filthy, though, but it was pretty bad. I feared losing things there. But at least she realized that she was completely disorganized and kept trying to work at it. With this current friend, I get the sense that he doesn’t think the way he’s living is a problem…

SuperMouse's avatar

I think you have to say something. I wonder if there are times when these things build up slowly and those living in the environment don’t realize how bad it really is. Kind of like the proverbial lobster in the pot not noticing how hot the water is getting. You starting a dialog could be the impetus for him to work on the mess and the personal issues that might be behind it.

I do believe that you share your feelings in a kind and respectful way that shows you come from a place of caring for him and a concern for his well being, there is a good shot he will listen. Otherwise this budding friendship might have more baggage than that is worth taking on?

bookish1's avatar

@SuperMouse : Thank you for the advice. I certainly want to be kind and respectful. I think I’ll give it a try.

marinelife's avatar

I would only go to your place or meet him in public. If he asks you why, then tell him.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
serenade's avatar

I would speak the truth and give him time to process it. Either he will see his apartment with new eyes, or he will choose to keep his mess. In the latter case, your friendship can evolve into something more casual or something with modified boundaries that allow it to work or it may dissolve, which would indicate that he’s not ready or able to shift to your wavelength. I don’t think it would be offensive to say, and I think it more likely would be a catalyst for a healthy change on his part.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@bookish1 : This is a serious issue, and I believe you’ve got some good ideas from the thread. I agree that this behavior could be a symptom of something much larger. Mental illness springs to mind. Slack self care is a classic sign of depression in me. It may be so in this case.

It’s obviously weighing on your mind, and you shouldn’t have to shoulder that mental burden. As others have mentioned above, talk to him in a kind and respectful way. Point out the health hazards. Ask him about his state of mind and his feelings about his environment. That’s the kind of thing that friends do.

bkcunningham's avatar

It is like telling an obese person they are fat. He knows his place is nasty. If he doesn’t know it, then telling him – even in a polite manner – will be futile, inconsiderate and rude, IMHO. I would never in a million years tell a friend that there place is dirty or unsanitary. I’d avoid going there at all costs though. Unless your friend is stupid, they will get the message. If you continue going, you are likely to carry roaches or fleas or some other type of varmint to your home.

SuperMouse's avatar

@bkcunningham so it is ok to use the passive aggressive approach of refusing to visit the house, but not ok to come right out and discuss the situation?

bkcunningham's avatar

What would you say, @SuperMouse if the new friend asked you to come over to their house before going out? I can’t imagine a conversation that would be appropriate without hurting their feelings or stating the obvious. So, yes, I would be passive aggressive if that is what you want to call it. I call it having manners and consideration for someone’s feelings. Especially since it is a new friend.

nikipedia's avatar

Are you comfortable offering your help? There has been a lot of good advice on this thread suggesting how you can bring it up, but I think lending a hand could go a long way. He might feel overwhelmed and like he doesn’t even know where/how to start.

SuperMouse's avatar

@bkcunningham, being very careful to use “I” statements, I would come right out and tell the person that I am uncomfortable spending time at their house. I would use my best manners and lots of consideration to explain that the mess in the house made me feel uneasy and suggest that we meet somewhere else. Now that she has mentioned it, I would probably also take @nikipedia‘s suggestion and ask if there was any way I could help with the clean up.

bkcunningham's avatar

@bookish1, please let us know “clean” it was after the clean-up for the lady friend. It is a tough situation and I feel confident you’ll handle it appropriately.

Earthgirl's avatar

I know I am probably in the minority here but I lean towards @bkcunningham ‘s approach. I think that when someone lives this way it’s not out of ignorance or lack of resources to change. I am torn, because I totally agree with some of the suggestions to offer to help clean up, yet on the other hand, I think that would only make the person who needs the help feel shamed and embarrassed. It’s a difficult situation for sure. It needs to be handled with sensitivity. So I think the best approach is to avoid throwing it in their face and to avoid suggesting that they need help. Maybe I’m wrong, but to be honest, that would be my approach. I don’t consider it passive aggressive in the least. I consider it discreet. I trust that when someone is ready to receive help they will voice their distress, I would suggest hanging at my place and avoid going to theirs. If they asked why, I would be honest about it. When they can drop their facade and trust enough to ask for help, then they are ready to receive it. Before then, I feel it is aggressive to suggest they need help. With an older friend it’s different. Then you can cut to the chase. Trust needs to be earned.

nikipedia's avatar

@SuperMouse, usually I’m all for “I” statements, but I almost think in this situation they might not be the way to go. “I feel uncomfortable in your house” is something that would hurt me a lot to hear. It may be easier to just point things out the way @bookish1 did here in this post—“Hey man, you mentioned you wanted to keep your apartment in better shape for that girl, it looks like a big job. Can I help you get it together? I’ll bring over some beers and pizza, we can put on some music and make a night of it.”

bookish1's avatar

Wow, I really appreciate @bkcunningham and @Earthgirl‘s added perspectives. I wasn’t thinking like that. Hence why I posted this question!

I definitely do not want to come off as aggressive, or shame him, either. That’s something I’m very sensitive to, as there are some class differences between us. We came from very different sorts of families, and I have sensed that he is kind of uncomfortable/intimidated because he did not go to college, and I am in grad school and younger than him. I care about him and he’s a sweet guy and has been a very good friend so far, so I really do not want to alienate him or hurt him. And, @Earthgirl , you are absolutely right that this is a different matter than if he were an old friend.

Well, I will keep thinking on this, and let you all know what I decide. Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful input. This is why I love Fluther !

jordym84's avatar

I’m also of the opinion that telling him about it might not be the best approach for some of the reasons that the OP has mentioned throughout the thread: he’s sensitive, he might be coming out of a low period in his life, and, most importantly, this is a new friendship. Even though the OP would just be trying to help, he might take it as criticism and the budding friendship could take a turn for the worst. Who’s to say someone else hasn’t already pointed this out to him? You never know…
As someone else suggested above, wait until he’s cleaned up the place for the lady friend and find a subtle way of suggesting that he keep it up as it’ll be easier than having to clean up every time she comes around.

Best of luck! :)

Bellatrix's avatar

The danger is you could lose your new friend. I think if it is that bad and you can’t go there because of the mess, you have to be honest (but kindly). “I love you mate, but you are not exactly a domestic goddess and I find it a bit uncomfortable to be at your place. Is everything okay? I find I lose interest in housekeeping when I am depressed”. I totally agree with @nikipedia though. Offer to help clean up (if you feel you can do that). If he is depressed, that chances are he just doesn’t have the energy or the capacity to know where to start.

I hope it works out. Be prepared to give him some time to process what you have said and that he may at least initially (and possibly permanently) be too embarrassed or offended to respond well.

6rant6's avatar

You could offer to help him clean it some time.

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Buttonstc's avatar

I think the aftermath of the upcoming visit from the lady friend will give you much more information as to how best to proceed. Girls tend to notice things that guys can gloss over more easily.

No matter how well he may have cleaned up, unless he hired an exterminator, there will still be the cockroaches you mentioned. I have a difficult time imagining any woman being willing to stay in a place with roaches. Plus, if the cat has gotten in the habit of routinely crapping on the floor, thats not going to magically disappear either. Habits are Habits after all. He may clean up he old stuff, but kitty could decide to leave a fresh deposit at any time. Training a cat out of bad habits is far more than a one day deal.

Why not wait till after her visit and see what he tells you about it. If she decided not to stay due to either the cat craps or the roaches and he tells you about if, that would indicate to you that he trusts you enough to tell you the truth. That may provide the perfect opening for you to voice your concerns.

But if not, then I would tend more towards what others have advised about not raising the issue. If this were an old longstanding friendship, I might advise differently but its not.

I think your best bet would be to follow his lead. If his conversation presents an opening to raise the issue then take it. If not, best to bite your tongue until such time as he asks you why you never come over to his place. At some point in time, it will become obvious to him that this is the pattern. When hes ready, he will say something to you about. Since hes asking, then you should be as gentle but honest as possible.

But I honestly cant imagine the likelihood of any woman being willing to stay at his place with roaches. Ugh. Let us know how that situation turns out.

Wats_up's avatar

Well ! I think that if he is your good friend then he should definitely understand your words. You just calmly tell those things and ask why he is living like this ..also suggest that you are a good friend of him and should always suggest the right thing . I think he will definitely understand and change the way of living.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Oh I would have said wait and just keep meeting him in public and at yours until maybe he says something about why things are the way they are in that respect, or you drop it into a conversation in passing, but when I read about cat crap on the floor and all that nasty stuff…..oh hell no. That guy needs help.
You hang out at bars and clubs. Does he give you the impression that he might be someone on the way out of a bout of depression? I was depressed for a whole year and I was never that messy in my own flat. There is a difference between being depressed and just being…well….lazy. If you don’t mind me saying (sorry if you do).
I don’t understand how anyone could possibly bring themselves to live in that sort of condition. It’s hardly grounds for a healthy living is it, good lord.
Out of curiosity, and since this is a two week old thread, I’m wondering if you’ve actually resolved this as of yet or not?

bookish1's avatar

Here’s an update. We haven’t gotten together much recently; the last time, I just picked him up from his place and we went out to eat. I got enough of a glance inside to see that he cleared some clutter out of there, but he hasn’t really cleaned. I can’t understand anyone wanting to spend the night at such a place, but apparently things went well with that girl from the way he’s talking. (And she is a girl… 20 and still living at home. I think that might have something to do with how she could put up with staying at his place…) Frankly, I think his situation has resulted from a combination of depression, laziness, and not-giving-a-shit bachelor life.

In the interest of being kind and not throwing a wrench into our friendship before it’s really solid, I’m just going to hang back and not say anything unless it comes up.

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