Different Definitions of Clean

Before we got married, my husband and I had to attend a pre cana class at our church. In the class we had to discuss potential large relationship issues like finances, children, sick parents, etc. As I believe every serious couple should, we had already discussed all of these items prior to getting engaged. Unfortunately, the pre cana missed an item that has caused huge amounts of problems in our marriage: different definitions of clean.

Now, I can’t exactly blame the church for not forcing us to have this conversation, but at the same time, I’ve never met a couple that didn’t have this problem. You’d think such a wide-spread problem would be something to discuss, but I guess not.

It took my husband and me quite some time to figure out why we continually fought about cleaning (or not cleaning). Eventually, we determined it boiled down to different definitions of clean. If you ask my husband, he will tell you that I am a slob and I will disagree. If you ask me, I will tell you that my husband is a neat freak and he will disagree.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t much in the way of middle ground here. With my husband being a neat freak (I’m going to stick with this term, even though he disagrees), cleanliness is all or nothing. A room is either perfectly clean with everything in place, dusted, etc. or a complete mess. I, on the other hand, think clean is more of a spectrum and a little bit of dust or a few things out of place, still qualifies it as clean. You can see how this might cause a problem.

After quite a bit of arguing (I mean communication), my husband and I finally came up with a system that mostly works: calendar events. Since my definition of clean is messier than my husband’s, we set up calendar events for big chores that need to be done regularly and detailed all the items that are included in that chore. For example, at the beginning of each month, I clean the bathrooms. The event lists all of the items that need to be completed for my husband to consider the bathrooms cleaned (this even includes wiping the baseboards). 

In addition to big chore items, we also set up calendar events for smaller chores that need to be done. Things like emptying the vacuum or cleaning out the fridge get put on the calendar. These are chores that I simply won’t notice until they fall into my definition of messy. 

We got A LOT of grief about this system. Most people think it’s ridiculous that my husband puts together a chore list for me and expects me to do them. But you know what? It works for us. My husband spent a lot of years feeling like he was working full time and doing all of the household chores while I was home all day. That’s not even close to an fair split. Now, we have an almost fool-proof system for keeping the house clean without repeated arguments and sometimes, it’s even clean enough for my neat freak husband 😉

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