DEAR AMY: I am ashamed to say that my husband and I keep an extremely messy and dirty home. My husband was raised by a hoarder and I was raised by a neat freak, our apartment seems to fall closer to the hoarder side. Our apartment is disgustingly dirty. My husband works full time (plus overtime) and I work full time and go to school full time, between this and our three pets there is just no leftover time or energy to clean the house. Clutter is the biggest problem overall. Junk will be piled on every surface. I do my best to keep garbage and food waste out of the picture but our pets will pull out garbage and hide it in the clutter. We usually run out of clean dishes after a week or two and then one of us binge cleans the dishes and the cycle starts all over again. In the past year my home has been spotless maybe four or five days. This always happens the day we are expecting family or the landlord to come over. It takes me half a day to power-clean the apartment and it is beautiful — but then within a week it becomes a disgusting mess again. Recently, my father surprised us with a visit. He didn’t say anything to my face, but I heard from my brother that he was disgusted and ashamed of me because he raised me better that this. I am just at my wits’ end. We’ve tried allocating chores and making flexible schedules, but there is always an excuse why something can’t be cleaned. Some nights I don’t even have time to feed myself or shower, let alone tidy the living room and put away the groceries. I don’t want my parents to have this view of me. I want them to see me as an adult who can keep a clean home.
DEAR HELP: One way to cope with this is to hire a bi-weekly cleaner. You will power-clean before the cleaner’s first visit, and pre-clean and deal with accumulation before subsequent visits. You can get to the point where a few minutes each day will help to keep things in order. Living in filth is not good for any member of the household, including your pets.
This might always be something of a struggle because of what you are like, how busy you are and the presence of your pets. But if you want to change, you can change.
There are many resources teaching people how to tidy up, but my favorite is the Flylady. Check out flylady.net for practical tips (“BabySteps”) on how to get started when you are overwhelmed, and how to establish new habits.
Flylady suggests that people start with the sink. That’s where you should start, too.
This is one of the most ambitious and life-changing efforts you can make, and it is transformative.
DEAR AMY: My fiancee and I are planning to be married after we graduate from college this month. She was away on an internship this past semester and I have just learned that she has been having an affair during this time with an employee where she interned. I confronted her and at first she angrily denied it, then broke down and admitted it. She claims she still loves me and wants to go ahead with the wedding and that it was a one-time only, stupid mistake that will never happen again. I do love her and want to believe her, but I am hurt, angry and confused. It appears that she and ‘this guy’ acted like a couple all fall — going out together to movies, concerts, etc. This hurts almost more than the sex. What should I do?
— Angry, Confused and in Love
DEAR ANGRY: Even though you seem to have a definite plan to marry, you should postpone your plans long enough to work on this together. I strongly believe that all marrying couples should pursue pre-marital counseling; you two now have an excellent reason to enter into therapy together. You can move forward successfully, but this is important. Don’t sweep it under the rug.
DEAR AMY: I liked your advice to the letter from “Diabetic,” whose husband was sabotaging her efforts to stay away from sweets. I wish you had recommended Overeaters Anonymous. Attending OA meetings transformed my life.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Scores of readers sang the praises of Overeaters Anonymous. And I agree. Find a meeting at oa.org