“what mess?”

by Janelle Hanchett

You knew this one was coming. This is the post where I complain about my husband’s cleaning habits. Or lack thereof. Allow me to clarify for a moment that I know men exist on this planet who are neat and tidy and generally interested in hygeine and order, but, as I said this post (but in reference to my son), I don’t have one of those. I have a husband who, wonderful as he is (and he is), falls more in line with the stereotypical dude who “cleans” a room for 30 minutes yet somehow manages to leave it looking oddly similar to the way it looked before.

This used to bother me.

Ah, shit. Let’s be honest. It still bothers me. But I’ve found some peace with it, or I’ve resigned myself. Either way, I don’t flip out about it any more as often. My new perspective came in the form of a conversation with my midwife. By the way, undoubtedly one of the finest features of having a homebirth is the visiting that occurs during pregnancy. It’s simply magnificent. A midwife comes to your house and listens to you bitch for at least one hour.  She measures your belly and does the pee-in-a-cup thing and listens to the baby’s heartbeat, etc., but then she just talks with you – not  about more tests or the 75,000 things that could go wrong at this point, or how you’ve gained too much weight or your belly is 1/8 of an inch too small or whatever…but just chats. And if she’s like mine, this woman will be strong and straight-forward, wise and maternal in an earthy, connected way – not frivolous or sappy, not old but not young – grounded and real. She’s a badass who’s seen it all and knows it all without knowing it all (if you know what I mean) . This is obviously another blog post. Forgive me, my mind is like a lost puppy on steroids.

Back on topic.

So Tosi (the midwife) and I were sitting on my couch chatting and as usual I commence whining about how my husband must have some sort of mental defect because he appears incapable of cleaning. What an ass that man…he doesn’t respect my wishes and he obviously doesn’t care about me at all because I come home from work and I’m pregnant and need help but the living room is thrashed and he’s just kickin’ it all happy and calm with the kids. Blahdeeblahblahh. She listened and then said something so profound it floored me: “Yeah, some men are funny that way – they see things differently. You know, Mac isn’t looking at the mess and thinking ‘you know what? I’m not cleaning that. I’m leaving it for Janelle.’ He’s looking at the mess and thinking ‘that looks fine.’”

Unbelievable. She delivers babies and saves marriages.

So I tested it out. One night we were sitting in the aforementioned living room and there was crap everywhere (including, but not limited to: toys, folded laundry, dirty laundry, shoes, books, school papers, shopping bags, blankets, books, socks, dishes, bugs, bark, rocks – when I say ‘crap everywhere’ I actually mean it) and I’m crawling out of my skin and about to FLIP the hell out – yet somehow he’s so calm he looks like he could be sitting in a Zen meditation room. So I ask him: “Honey. Okay. Seriously. Right now, sitting here in this room, does this mess bother you at all?” And he looks around a little confused. Then asks “what mess?”

Sweet Jesus. I couldn’t make this up.

And I realized that Tosi was right. He’s not mean and selfish. He has an inborn vision problem that causes him to see messes as neatness. Poor guys deserves compassion. (Unless there’s a recovery group for that sort of problem – Slobs Anonymous perhaps? – People for the Ethical Treatment of Housing?). Okay. Anyway.  

So now I know that I have to give specific tasks and explain very carefully what needs to be done around the house, making sure I don’t leave anything up for interpretation and, even more importantly, making sure I don’t assume that something is so obvious there’s no reason to mention it…I recall somebody telling me once that she instructed her husband to move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. So he did. She didn’t say “turn it on.” And my sister-in-law told me recently that she had to explain to her boyfriend that after he takes the trash out, it’s critical that he insert a new bag.

Whoa. Deep stuff.

But now I kind of just laugh at my husband’s creative techniques. Kind of. In between fits of hysteria. Recently I’ve noticed that right outside our bedroom door, in the hallway but still kind of right at the threshold, there’s this pile of clothing that never seems to move. Well, I move it. But then it comes back. Pretty much every day it comes right back, not unlike my children. So I inspect the pile one day and see that they appear to be Mac’s running clothes. (yeah, he decides he’s getting “fat” so he runs for 2 weeks, at which time he ceases, because he’s already lost 18 pounds and an entire waist size. UNCOOL.). So I ask him, actually chuckling, “sweet angel heart love kitten, why do you put your running clothes in our doorway every day?”

And he responds “well, since I run at 5 in the morning and it’s dark, I didn’t want to wake you up by turning on the bedroom light and finding my clothes.”

See what I mean? Wonderful. How do you get mad at that? It’s so damn cute. And thoughtful. He’s always been a much kinder person than I am. I probably would have flipped on the light purposely and crashed around a bit just to wake him up so he can see how hard I’m working.

So I gave him a kiss and suggested that perhaps he keep them in the same drawer, so he can just open it and grab the contents in the morning. No light required.

He seemed impressed by my ingenuity. But now there’s an ironing board in the hallway where the clothes used to be.

Oh well. One thing at a time I guess.

thinking about his clean house. no, definitely thinking about something else.

11 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | March 18, 2011
  • julie

    It’s like the pile of dirty clothes that sits next to the dirty clothes basket…. why not move that extra 6 inches and put them IN the basket???? This is a discussion that’s been going on for over 35 years… the script is in stone…and nothing changes… I keep hoping for a surprise ending.

    • renegademama

      Ugh. Yes. That is the worst….glad to hear that things won’t ever change…so I can prepare myself. 🙂

  • Erika

    My father is a clean freak. My mother is so OCD that she hangs the laundry out to dry in sections.
    Believe me, I would have rather had it otherwise.
    My mother and my father telling me to clean my room at two different times when I just finished re-cleaning my room was insane.
    My father when something was bothering him: The house wasn’t clean enough (even if it was, but who am I to say since I’m a total slob) so he would wash all the dishes, clean the kitchen (including detailing the stove), dust, vacuum, and clean the bathroom within an inch of its life. This often occurred around 10pm, or at 2am just before he had to get ready to go to work.

    Me? I’m blind to most messes.
    Bugs the heck out of my parents, but if I’m not in the frame of mind to notice the stuff, I really don’t notice it.
    I don’t know how my parents have kept from killing me. I’m thankful for it, but I know that my inability to see the mess that trails behind me is a contstant irritation. I keep hoping that some day I will learn to be organized and clean up after myself, but I’m almost 30, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope for it. At this point, I think that if my neatness gene ever did kick in, my parents would probably die of shock.

    You know, I’ve done some research into communicating with men, not that I have many in my life at the moment, but there are times when communication with men comes in handy. Turns out that men process the female voice the same as they would approach complex math problems. Their brains actually have to process what we say. It was suggested that if there is a problem with communicating things, women should write down what they want to say, and use small words/sentences. Sounds mean, but it actually works!

    • renegademama

      Erika I almost fell over laughing when I read the “use small words” part. I don’t know why but I found that hysterical. Perfect.

  • Maia

    So Justin reads the paper every morning and I keep finding rubber bands in the living room or Marly would find them. I asked him if he could please throw those away because rubber bands are not the best thing for babies to eat. A month or two later I noticed that are drive way had a growing number of rubber bands on it. I asked him why there was so many rubber bands on the drive way. He replied with ” you did not want them in the house so I leave them out side.”

    • renegademama

      Maia this made me laugh out loud. Freaking awesome. It’s so silly it’s cute…mostly. 🙂

  • Jess

    “what mess”.

    Those words are epic. Freaking epitomizes everything about my husband that is SO WRONG. But he’s hot, and he buys me camera lenses for no reason, plus he puts the kids to bed every night. So I’m keeping him.

    • renegademama

      I LOVE your comments. They kill me. You have a way with words and crack me up for real (out loud)….”so i’m keeping him.” awesome.

  • Christina

    So I have been a little out of touch and missed you oh so much.

    Thanks for the perspective actually because I just thought my husband was either a little retarded or just did not give a shit. I mean I know he is a good person and not doing things to be mean but I always ask why doesnt he go out of his way to help out on the things that he knows drive me crazy just to ease my mind. I’m saying, is that really to much to ask for. So he does it like a sacrifice mostly just to appease the volcano. But just hearing that its hard for him to even see the mess kind of makes me feel slightly less volatile.

  • Jesika from @6degreeslove

    Oh, this had me laughing and commiserating so hard I had tears as I read it, in my cubicle at work.
    Can’t live with them.
    Definitely no fun without them.


  • Cait

    This post is such an eye opener. I couldn’t figure out why Hubz, after almost 4 months now, was not putting away the baby bath tub after our sons bath, just simply draining the water. After reading this it hit me, that’s all I asked him to do. I specifically remember saying “babe, make sure you drain the water after you take the baby out,” but never actually included the phrase “and then put it away.” Duh. I added that tonight, and TADA!!! Drained AND put where it belongs. Genius.