Help dealing with cleaning and garbage

Hello All:

Unlike what seems to be the majority, I'm a male non-ADD spouse of a female ADD person.

We've got a great marriage in every other respect, and she is on meds, etc. Generally the meds and treatment seem to be enough to keep her functional in her job and as a mom, but there's one thing that's still driving me to distraction and I find myself becoming increasingly resentful. I should say that in every other way she's a wonderful, loving, caring person, and the last thing I want to do is anything that would put our relationship in jeopardy.

The issue is that of cleanliness. The basic issue is that she's basically incapable of picking up after herself, including garbage. We have a nice if small house, and I work very hard to pay our mortgage. Aware of the ADD issue, I try to do as much of the cleaning as I can, but my job has me working sometimes 50-60 hours a week, so weeks can go by when I'm not able to do very much. During those weeks, the house becomes, quite literally, a garbage dump: food wrappers, spilled food, junk mail, toys, etc., scrap paper of every kind, etc. litter the living and dining room to the point that the clutter and trash literally cover the entire floor, ankle deep. She insists every day that she's about to clean it up, but that insistence goes on every day for literally months. She tends also to become very resentful when I do clean, as though my act of cleaning is also a moral judgment about her (I really just want to pick up the trash!) By the time I get to it, it often takes me several days to dig out (sometimes literally with a shovel), but often 48 hours later you can't tell I did anything, which I have a hard time not taking as a complete slap in the face. She's not a "hoarder" in the sense of not being able to get rid of things--it's just that she seems to literally forget about anything the second it leaves her attention: if she gets a takeout sandwich, for instance, the minute she's done eating the wrappings and leavings just leave her consciousness and fall to the floor.  She's even well aware of flylady and other resources--but essentially just spends hours reading those resources online and talking about how she's going to implement them--but then never actually doing anything. She seems to be able to tune out the mess to a great degree, sitting in the middle of it, television on, wrapped up in her laptop.

Right now, I'm reduced to essentially living in one room of the house I'm paying for--my study--which is the only room over which I have enough control to keep tidy. I literally feel imprisoned within this one room of my home. I know the mess is bad for all of us, and its teaching our daughter terrible habits. But fifteen years worth of treatment, meds, every kind of positive cajoling I can think of, and biting my tongue every time I enter a room, hasn't helped and everything's worse than ever on that front.

I'm getting to the point of wondering if I'm going to have to decide to live like this my whole life, or if the only option left to me, as good as the rest of our relationship is, is to offer an extreme ultimatum (the mess goes or I do).

One idea I've had has been to hire some kind of professional organizer to at least dig us out--but I'm concerned about the expense, and also concerned that no professional organizer would want to take on our embarrassing mess.

Has anyone else dealt successfully with this? Any ideas? I'm losing my mind!

Thanks in advance for any insight you might have.

Step 1


Would you feel okay if your wife were to read this post?  What I get out of this is:  She's incapable of of cleaning the house you pay for up to your standards and doesn't mind living in a garbage dump.  You say those things and wonder why she thinks the issue is a moral judgment against her, and yet you feel a slap in the face when she doesn't keep your house clean.

Out of curiosity, and be honest with yourself because anything you post on an internet board doesn't matter.- REALLY, how many times have you used a shovel to clean the house?  REALLY, how often does she leave fast food wrappers on the floor?  REALLY, how often is then entire floor one-hundred percent covered up to your ankles?

As far as cleaning:   Your internal perception of "clean" is not a target anyone else can hit.  All it takes is a couple times where she put a huge effort into cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, and dining room; and you arrive home to comment that the living room looks like a garbage dump.  I lived through that with me ex.  Ummm, NO, it does not look like a garbage dump! Whichever parent of yours put that into your vocabulary should have just scribbled "I'm a jerkhole" on your forehead with a Sharpie.   Identify specific tasks that are important, then discuss and agree to them, one at a time.  Comment positively on what IS done, and not what isn't.  

By now, I can promise you that she has no idea where to focus her time cleaning because her perception is that, no matter what she does, you'll find something else you don't like.  

Messy house

Dad, 2 ex(es), son, daughter, sister -- all ADHD and have various levels of inability to keep things neat or clean. This is one problem that I truly don't believe they can help. I still remember one year after shopping with my sis, she opened a package after shopping and just dropped all the plastic wrapping directly on the floor where she was standing! And now, with some PTSD after an abusive relationship, I'm experience some of the same problems with attention and lack of motivation in myself.

I have noticed that they (and I) can do things if someone else is helping -- to kind of keep the momentum going. Exes and son were fine working on the car, fixing things, painting, even helping to clean the house if we did it together as a joint project.

I'd suggest setting up a regular time(s) for cleaning -- something like, clean the kitchen Monday nights after dinner and laundry Wednesdays  -- and make it a joint project. Put it on a calendar or write it on the mirror with dry markers in advance. That way, you can build up "energy" and also guide the projects for her and keep everything on track. It could actually become a pleasant team effort that will bring you closer together if you really work closely together. Your daughter could even join in the game. Maybe a single additional EASY task could be set out for your wife to do the next day.

I sit outside with whoever offers to fix my car and hand tools to them, bring them drinks, etc. All the while commenting on how much I appreciate how much they are helping me. Ex and I had a laundry day and watched TV on the couch while we folded. I had a hard time cooking, so I would ask him to come help me cook -- I think mainly to just have some company. If I go to my father's house to clean, I notice that when I start up, he will get the vacuum out and try to help.

I'm not sure an organizer would help -- the problem is usually mustering up the drive and motivation to get things done. A part-time house keeper once a week would probably be a better investment.

It sounds like you already work a lot of hours, but I don't think you're going to be able to motivate her to do things differently unless you make it interesting/fun for her. Not fair, but it may be the only way you get to live in a comfortable environment. Just be sure you are doing this in the spirit of cooperation, not making it a way to treat her like a child or show her how incompetent she is.


Good tips


And I agree that an organizer wouldn't help.  At all.  On a personal note, my ADHD version of a clean house means: Every single thing is put away where it should be so that I can find it again.  If there is any doubt I will forget where something should be, then get out the Brother Ptouch label maker.  If something does not have an official, proper, and labelled place to be put away then set it somewhere in the line of sight so I don't lose it.  If it needs to be used in the next 2-3 days set it out as an additional reminder.   Then wipe away any obvious crud on the counters, floors, and bathroom surfaces.  That's clean to me.  I can lay my head down and sleep without staying up until 3am wondering where the pack of spare batteries is.

My ex's version of clean:  Everything put out of sight, jammed in a drawer, shoved in a closet, tossed down the basement steps. Then spend four hours scrubbing grout with a toothbrush.  When I looked at her version of a sparkling clean house, I saw chaos so terrifying that I'd get spasms in my shoulders.  I had no idea where anything was!  How was I going to get through a day!

The point is that whether it's a housekeeper, or a professional organizer- make sure the house works for both people.

And take words like "unmotivated" out of your vocabulary.  



I understand what you

I understand what you mean...I often feel if I did not pick up after everyone in my house every day it would be a cluttered mess. I pick up mugs, beer bottles, dinner plates, wrappers, etc. every day that were left on the floor, counter and any other flat surface, and not left there by me. My H will make lunch for himself and then just leave everything out on the counter, can't say how many times i had to throw food away becuase it was left out overnight.  It doesn't get as bad as you describe but i believe its only because i always pick it up, on the few occasions that i simply refused to continue picking up the mess that i did not create it just got so unbearable to me that i could not find a clean spot on the counter that i gave up and just cleaned.  In the past I have hired a cleaning person to come in weekly to pick up and clean the house when i just didn't have time or was just plain sick of it, and that did help me a lot. I canceled the service due to the expense but i have been thinking about it again because the sanity it gives me is worth it. My ADD mother could never keep her house clean, still doesn't, it drove me crazy growing up, I was embarassed to have friends over, she didn't work, and i never understood what she actually did all day because the house was never clean. Now I understand, she doesn't like to clean, and therefore its really hard to just do it, when there are so many other more interesting things she would rather be doing.  She is still this way today, when i visit there is food in the fridge from who knows when, magazines on the floor that are two years old, i can tell the house hasn't been dusted or vacumed in months. It doesn't bother her so why change.   If you can't live like you are and she can't seem to change, hire someone.  I also do have some success when we clean together. if i ask that the people in my house pick up their mess it doesn't get done, and it also seems they just don't SEE the mess like its invisible, but if i say lets do it together it does help.

Same old


I have similar issues with my wife.  The "Twister sequels" have visited our one -bedroom apartment numerous times.  When she stated that she wanted to move into a house, I immediately knew that she just wanted more space to collect more things.  My mother taught me to keep the kitchen clean when I was growing up so it's easy for me to have a "sick pleasure" at seeing a pristinely gleaming kitchen after Wal-E "vomited" his scraps into it.  Yet, now that we have two babies, the fly-infested diapers never seem to find another home.  It's the "drop-it-wherever-I-want-and-forget-about-it" approach that I don't quite understand.  Because I'm religious, I have convictions about being a servant to my wife, dying to my own wants and desires, yet, practically speaking, a normal human being has emotions and if something doesn't line up with his expectations, negative emotions will ensue.

As a man, my natural inclination is to solve problems.  So, the first thing I did when I noticed this clutter problem is to determine it's source and spread out the healing from there.  Finding a methodical approach that seemed to make sense to any old person was my focus.  If you use something, you're not done with it when you've fed your appetite but when you've placed it into its "home location."  Where does everything belong?  Where do YOU belong?  So, scan your environment - whatever doesn't have a home, give it a home, whatever is not at home, give it a ride as you're always the designated driver if you've used something.

Anyway, that's my take on it.  I think the issue is the hundreds of thoughts that try to steal her attention and intrude upon her will.  If she can be a "thought ninja"and start kicking some a$$, then things may get better.