General Question

arcoarena's avatar

How do I bring up topics about housekeeping and cleanliness to my SO without being accused of nagging?

Asked by arcoarena (692points) May 27th, 2009

I have been living with my gf for a little over 3 months now and while I am definitely not a “clean freak”, I think that I am slightly more concerned about the cleanliness of the apartment than she is.

Last night I brought up the fact that she will often leave the sponges in the dirty sink filled with nasty dish water after washing a dish and asked her if she could try to remember to rinse it and leave it out of the sink and one other thing and I really didn’t think I was asking it in a rude way and she got really mad and accused me of nagging and I told her I wasn’t trying to nag but was just asking and it was the first time i’ve ever brought this kind of situation up.

I do, not all, but in my opinion, most of the cleaning in the apt. and after doing all the dishes in the sink today wanted to just ask her to make sure she wipes her plate into the trash before she puts it in the sink because our sink was so discusting with big pieces of lettuce and some sort of cheese substance but I want to do this where she doesn’t get upset and think I’m trying to make her mad. Any suggestions?

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27 Answers

Les's avatar

First, I have to nag you. Punctuation is a fabulous thing, you should try it sometime.

Now, on to your question. It sounds like you weren’t nagging her, but she just took it that way. If you ask her something again, and she accuses you of nagging, calmly tell her that you aren’t. Something like: “I’m really not trying to nag. It is probably just my own personal deal with cleanliness, but could you just do me this favor? I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I would really appreciate it if you would.”

Ivan's avatar

Nevermind. Don’t mean to be rude.

TheWeedMan's avatar

Ask her nicely :)

Ivan's avatar

And…...this thread just disintegrated.

casheroo's avatar

I’m interested in the responses to this. This is the biggest struggle I have in my marriage (thank god its just cleaning!) but it can cause some nasty arguments.
We’ve tried delegating who does what, but then someone doesn’t do it..the other person gets pissed. It’s a vicious cycle.
People have suggested we set up a white board, and check off what we have cleaned, and what needs to be done. Pretty much assign chores.

Response moderated
RedPowerLady's avatar

Having a discussion at a time when it is not bothering you or when there is nothing wrong is the preferable way to deal with these types of situations. Otherwise statements seem accusatory or as if they are nagging.

It is better to get together and talk about what your expectations are around cleanliness when all is well and there is nothing that needs to be done immediately. And find some sort of compromise during that discussion. When you have the discussion do not say “I hate it when you do this” or “I want you to do this”. Instead try to make statements like “It makes it easier for me to do dishes when there is no food on the plate”. If she starts defending herself then take a break and assure her you aren’t directing it at her, you just want to talk in general. It won’t get anywhere if she is at the point of defending herself. And make sure you ask her what she would like as well. Perhaps a day when you don’t say anything about cleanliness (like Sunday) and you can both just relax and forget about it.

One thing I would suggest not doing is letting it go to the point where it builds up and just becomes difficult to deal with. Cleanliness issues can tear a relationship, of any sort, apart. It is probably one of the most common roommate scenarios.

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RedPowerLady's avatar

@casheroo I’m interested too in seeing what is said. Balancing chores is an interesting part of a relationship.

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MacBean's avatar

Well, this is fun.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I think I missed something…

But, you have to ask her. Just bring it up and say, “hey if you don’t mind doing this, it would make it easier come time to clean up a bit”. And it is good to say something like “This isn’t nagging, I just don’t want this to continue to get out of control in the kitchen area”.

There are plenty of reasons for good sanitation, keeping any bad odors out of the kitchen, avoid attracting bugs and insects, and it’s always easier to clean up, if it isn’t already a mess later.

I live with my younger brother, and he is notorious for not rinsing his dishes, or if he does, just leaving stagnant water in it for days. I probably come across as a jerk to him, because it’s my intention, but he usually does as I say. If it were a Significant Other, I would nicely ask, and just remind her, it’s just going to make it easier for both of you.

Harp's avatar

[mod says] Flame off and stay on topic, please.

carebare's avatar

I understand where your coming from. That would drive me crazy, there is no easy way to ask a slob to clean up after themselves without sounding nagging. Why would someone wash dishes and then not drain the water afterwords, it kind of defeats the whole purpose. My suggestion is to not clean up after her, just leave things the way they are, she leaves it that way because she knows that you will clean up after her, she’s taking you for granted.

Facade's avatar

Who cares if you sound like you’re nagging. Some people need to be nagged. Just tell her that she needs to pick up after herself, be neater, etc.

A_Beaverhausen's avatar

just stop cleaning. soon she will realize how messy she is and how much you do for her.

Clair's avatar

thank god we don’t have this problem! the only thing i can say is tell her how you feel and why you feel this way. you both have to live there and i’m sure she doesn’t want to live in a pigsty either. i’m a clean freak and my bf is too. and i agree with facade, nag if you have too. but in my experience, stopping all cleaning to ‘teach her a lesson’ doesn’t work. just communicate. living together is a group effort.

hearkat's avatar

If this was the first time you brought it up and she got so defensive, it sounds like there may be some old baggage attached to this issue. If she’s that touchy about it, your challenge is greater than most.

I came here to get advice because even though I am single, I have been known to nag in the past. Plus, I’m no Martha Stewart myself!

Like others have said, I suggest you bring it up at another time, and address it as a health concern. If you think it will help, do a web search for “kitchen sponge bacteria” and let her read the articles.

Good luck!

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

My mother has never in her life seen the reason and neato-ness of having a clean kitchen sink, some things people just don’t and won’t bother with. My response has been to clean up after her to my satisfaction and leave some other chore for her to do that I don’t bother with, in our home it’s the mopping of the floors. Have a talk and explain you’re fussier for some reason in that area and ask if she doesn’t mind taking the bigger responsibility for a different chore. Tell the truth and say you don’t enjoy to nag but you also don’t want something like cleaning to become a spot of bitterness and the truth is, it will.

MissAusten's avatar

Try taking the approach that her adjusting in small ways to your preferences would make you happy. Make it clear that you also would be willing to make small changes in living habits for her. Maybe there’s something you do that drives her crazy, but she just puts up with it to keep the peace. Ask her how she feels the two of you living together is working out, and try to be patient. Changing habits is sometimes hard.

My husband is certainly much less of a slob than I am. There are things I do just to make him happy, because he gets all stressed and tense if things are cluttered. He isn’t unreasonable about it, and he reciprocates by loading the dishwasher MY way, cleaning his hairs out of the sink after he shaves (yuck), etc. It’s all about give and take—you’re not asking her to change her entire life or her personality. It’s just sponge for crying out loud (just don’t say that to her).

hug_of_war's avatar

I get this, because cleaning isn’t high on my priority list, and I live with someone whose it is. Don’t turn it into sounding like your way is right or her way is wrong, just put the emphasis on when you live with someone elsse you have to make compromises. It’s good not just for cleaningness’ sake, but for your relationship, to fifnd a solution you can both agree on without either feeling attacked or nagged.

galileogirl's avatar

Lifestyle issues like spending or cleaning are the relationship killers. What is it about this girl that makes you want to invest more time into the relationship. At 3 mos it is usually looks and/or sex. If you are going to be arguing and nagging it won’t be long before the bloom is off the rose. Weigh your options. If her standards are not the same as yours either clean up without complaining or end the relationship before things get nasty.

BTW you should rotate sponges for different activities and when you do the laundry, toss in all the sponges.

arcoarena's avatar

Thanks everyone! I am going to try to bring it up at a time when we are both relaxed and not when it seems like it’s a pressing issue. I do want to keep my cool but while calming asserting my point. I also think that the compromising advice is also particularly helpful as well.

@MissAusten I also have a slight tendency to leave my shaving hairs in the sink since it clogs which she has expressed her concern about before that maybe we can make a compromise there as well.

Thanks again! any other advice is welcome for future reference though too!

Darwin's avatar

Sponges aren’t expensive – buy a bunch and simply throw the icky ones away.

You can also do what my mother and I do. If the folks around us won’t change, we just develop odd little habits, such as sponging off the counter anytime we are in the kitchen, rinsing and wringing out the sponge when we find it floating belly up in the bottom of the sink, putting the cap back on the toothpaste and so on.

It doesn’t take much time or energy and it makes life run so much more smoothly.

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