Should I pick that up? I think the better question is… Why should I pick that up?
My new husband of one year started as a dream. He’s kind, respectful and a lot of fun to be around. But I recently found his fatal flaw. He’s a slob! Not a pigsty slob, but he doesn’t pick up after himself. It’s infuriating!
It started small. He left coins and mail on the kitchen counter, magazines on the coffee table and left his lap top everywhere. But now it seems like every flat surface in our house is his dustbin for anything and everything that comes out of his pockets or lands in his hands. His nightstand, his vanity, the end tables, the countertops, the coffee table… they all have stuff on them and it’s driving me crazy.
I should have known when it took him a month to put away his suitcase from our honeymoon. I accidentally kicked it five times. I reminded him the first week, then the second week, then daily for the next week, but there it sat. Finally, I shuffled into his small closet. He didn’t even notice.
Thankfully, he puts away his clothes most of the time, but everything else is habitual. I’m not a neat freak or anything, but everything has its place. Why do we have closets, cabinets and drawers if we put nothing away? When we were dating, we either went out or to my place, since he lived in a cramped apartment with a few other guys. I never knew. I can’t resolve if he’s absent-minded, untidy or just completely oblivious.
It’s been a tug of wills for months. He leaves things around. I wait a few days, and then gently remind him -but nothing. And every day I look at the mess seething with pent up rage. Finally, when I’m about to burst like Krakatau or when we have people over, whichever comes first, I tidy it up. I’ll put everything in drawers beneath or nearby wherever things land.
Frankly, I’m at my wit’s end. I’ve tried to help make him organized. I bought him separators for his drawers so he can easily put everything in them. I got magazine holders for his magazines, labeled them and put them on the shelf. I even got a new end table for the living room with a cabinet for his laptop. When I showed him how easy it was, he thanked me and said they were great. Still, they remain empty.
I even got a little passive aggressive once and took all his things and put them in a box to teach him a lesson. I figured if he couldn’t find anything he needed, he would learn the reason you put things away is so you can find them. At first he didn’t even notice, but when he was blindly looking around for his things, I caved and told him I took them and gave them back. And he just thanked me!
Is this my life—to be Cinderella and pick up after him constantly or live in a hoarder house, embarrassed to have anyone I know come in? Is that fair? I work too; we’re supposed to split the chores. And what happens when we have kids? If they’re like him and follow his example, I will spend my life in servitude up to my eyeballs in stuff.
On a recent trip to his mother’s house out of state, the clouds cleared, and I got some clarity. It took me a few days to notice, but I realized she followed him around, picking up his clothes and folding them on the bed, taking his dishes from him, and each morning we found things he left around neatly stacked near the bed. And as soon as we got out of the bed, it was magically made. Aha!
He never had to pick anything up his whole life, so he never learned that’s what he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t think this is any different. But it is.
That’s it! Now I’m going to have to break him of this mommy-coddling habit right away. Maybe I’ll take a page from Pavlov’s book.
Now I’m wondering what other habits I’ll have to break. I hope Pavlov’s theory works on husbands too.
© Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2021