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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Marriage Interview 6: Blind to Clutter

Uploaded: Apr 28, 2015
Mandy and Sam met in college in 1988 and began dating a year later. They waited 15 years before getting married, and now have been married for 13 years.

One of their biggest problems is that Sam is "clutter-blind." I know a lot of you have the same issue in your relationship because I hear about this often in my couple's practice. One person wants the house cleaner than the other. The desire of each person can range from perfectly spic-and-span to messy and cluttered.

Rather than dig deeply into the potential psychological issues of not noticing clutter, Sam and Mandy went the practical route: they hired a maid/cleaning lady to organize in addition to clean.

At times in couples therapy we need to look for the important nature/nurture components in the ways couples interact. Other times we need to hire a maid!

It is possible that they each grew up in a family where the amount of picked-up vs. cluttered was quite different. It's also possible that the expectations of females and males were different in relation to cleaning up.

My husband's mom was a feminist, so all the boys learned housekeeping. But the truth is that after our housekeeper starting coming, I said with enthusiasm, "Our house looks so much better, doesn't it?" He admitted he didn't really notice, but was glad it was better for me, and he would not feel so guilty about not doing more housework than he was! And that's good enough for me.

It is optimal, though, to remember that what is important to your beloved be important to you as well. And there are many solutions to a given problem. Be creative!

Mandy's tip for other couples is:
Always find the time to get away and reconnect with each other no matter how busy you are.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Two sense ...., a resident of Gemello,
on May 1, 2015 at 4:00 pm

That's pretty lazy that you cannot clean up your own house/mess/clutter. Americans are so lazy and I can see why the rest of the world despises our ways. I'm sure your maid makes like $100 a week and some way you justify that you're doing her a favor. Just my .02.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on May 1, 2015 at 10:09 pm

When we hire a cleaning service, we end up working more ourselves, to be sure to get the most out of it, then work at tidying up the yard while they're inside. We make sure to thank the service, and tip nice. We don't have a fancy house, it's just a way to make sure things are up to a better level, and only do this occasionally. I don't think this increases hatred of Americans, in spite of what Two sense may say, especially since maids are far more common in many other countries. A good attitude goes further. It's good advice, Chandrama. :)


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 2, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

We have a strong international community here, with people from many countries, so I'm not sure whether the couple hiring a maid/organizer is "American." Happy couples make for happy kids. And kids are our future. So if a housecleaner helps, why not?


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Priveledged, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 2, 2015 at 9:01 pm

My husband was a feminist, until we had kids. Then he decided to stop doing his share.

And despite my great tech job, we can't really afford a housekeeper. His career has been up and down since we married, and is currently down. Not everyone around here can buy their way out of some marital problems. So I get to work full time, take care of the kids mostly by myself, and do housekeeping. Yeah me.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jen, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on May 3, 2015 at 12:35 pm

It's not just men who are blind to clutter. I really don't notice clutter and have to make a concerted effort to keep on top of things. I wish I could afford a maid on a regular basis but I have to settle for maid service every few months. Why don't I notice clutter? I don't know. I grew up in a very clean and tidy home and even as a child, my clutter annoyed my mother. I have made peace with it and no longer worry about it. As long as my family is happy, that's what's most important.
BTW--it is not laziness.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sean DiZzLe mr 2sense, a resident of Castro City,
on May 3, 2015 at 6:05 pm

It is simply easier to live life with clutter. it takes less effort. staying ahead of clutter is hard work (physically and mentally). and one reason that you live with clutter in your life is because you have chosen it.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Thanks for everyone's comments. Privileged, I hope you will try again to talk with your husband, as it sounds like you have resentment building, and that can lead to marriage difficulties. Jen, you're right that it's not only men who are blind to clutter. Both genders struggle with this -- or their partners do. Some people's "clutter" is actually "hoarding" which falls into a different category. The woman who owned our house for 37 years before we got it had so much stuff that parts of the kitchen had not been painted because no one could get to it. Cleaning up after ourselves is a value that can come out the door into our community. See what works in your couple, and what values you want to teach your kids. My son's birthday is in June, so twice a year we'd sort through his toys and clothes, keeping down the clutter.


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