The prosecution: Dave
My girlfriend is so messy, and I can’t bear her slapdash ways – lids left off and nothing put away
I knew from the off we were quite different. Issues that seem small to Abby wind me up and cause me anxiety. I’m super tidy and for me everything has its place, while Abby is the opposite. She leaves the lids off toothpaste, food and drink, and it baffles me – I don’t understand why you wouldn’t put them straight back on as it keeps things fresh.
We’ve been together for 18 months and moved in together two months ago. I feel I have to check up on what she is doing, and tidy up after her. She also leaves wet towels on beds after a shower, clothes in suitcases after returning from a trip, and doesn’t put things like the washing away immediately.
Before meeting Abby I lived in my own apartment. I like being in control of my space and would consider myself a perfectionist. I’ve always liked coordinating my things: an even number of mugs and cups; Tupperware and foods categorised according to type (carbs, dairy, say); and everything facing the front so you can see the labels.
I also ensure that my wardrobe is colour-coordinated with all the items hanging in order (jackets, trousers ) and that my desk drawers are sparse and neat. It means I don’t lose anything and I don’t have to live among clutter.
Abby hoards crap, and constantly misplaces her stuff or mine; she has a drawer where she keeps all her makeup and it’s such a mess I have to stop myself looking in it or I get stressed. I can’t comprehend why someone would live like this.
Before we moved in together, we did a test run whereby I lived at Abby’s for a month when I was between places. Then we lived in the same building but in different apartments for a few months – that was fun. But now we’re bickering over tidiness. I live my life in a very routined way. I know I am a bit extreme, but wouldn’t it be better if Abby adjusted her habits and became more like me rather than the other way around?
The defence: Abby
So things sometimes don’t go straight back in the drawer – it’s not the end of the world
Leaving lids off things isn’t something I do consciously. Sometimes it backfires on me and I spill a drink or misplace the top belonging to something important but, really, I don’t lose much sleep over it. Dave can’t stand it because he’s incredibly tidy, but when I tell him that I don’t do it intentionally he asks me to try harder. Sometimes I feel a bit caged and controlled if I’m honest.
Dave likes everything to go back exactly where it was as soon as we’re done using it. I admit that it makes life easier if things are always in the right place, but if I’m in a rush, the clothes will just have to stay where they are for a little while longer instead of going straight back in the drawer. It’s not the end of the world.
Dave says I hoard things, but he is the opposite and I think that’s worse. He bins perfectly good clothes just to keep things in even numbers, and has thrown away glasses so the rest are symmetrical in our cupboards. One time he threw away a perfectly good spice jar because it was a different brand from the others. His shoes have to be in a single line organised by colour – black white, black white; instead of cleaning them he just throws them out when they get dirty and buys an identical pair.
In the bathroom there’s a storage box in a cupboard containing toiletries that I can’t access as it’s not easy to get to. But Dave keeps putting the box back there because he prefers how it looks in that part of the bathroom. I keep taking the box out and he keeps putting it back. It is frustrating as it’s becoming tit for tat. But the box needs to go where I can access it.
Dave had two weeks of living by himself in our apartment before I moved in, so maybe it felt like me moving into his space, even though it’s ours. We had talked in advance about what living together would look like but there was a bit of a clash right away. I am messier than he is – I find it liberating not to feel too restricted by the small stuff. Dave needs order and routine to feel like he has control over his life. That’s not my vibe.
The jury of Guardian readers
I’m very particular and empathise with Dave. But such a fastidious lifestyle becomes its own kind of clutter, and feeds more anxiety and a greater desire for control. Perhaps he and Abby can make periodic tidying and organising into shared ritual – and find a balance where comfort and harmony don’t depend on unremitting perfection.
Dave’s habits are unreasonable, wasteful and extreme, in sharp contrast to Abby’s unmaterialistic values. Abby will be made to feel increasingly guilty just for being herself. Dave should move out (and get help).
Abby is irresponsible, but Dave’s obsession with tidiness and controlling her behaviour is more troubling. You can’t end up spending more time organising life than actually living it.
Dave, you chose to move in together, so presumably you knew something about Abby. Weren’t you just a bit attracted to her relaxed spontaneity? Ultimately, we can only change ourselves, not others.
It’s sad that Abby feels “caged and controlled”, but with Dave checking up on her it’s no wonder! There must be a compromise. Perhaps they should pick a couple of things that cause him most anxiety and Abby can work on these while Dave seeks help to manage his anxiety around the smaller stuff.
You be the judge
So now you can be the judge, click on the poll below to tell us: should Abby try to become tidier?
We’ll share the results on next week’s You be the judge.
The poll closes on Thursday 21 October at 9am BST
Last week’s result
We asked if Fabio should stop exercising on the front porch, as it bothers his landlord, Felix.
89% of you said no – Fabio is innocent
11% of you said yes – Fabio is guilty