Can Messy Mates Clean Up Their Act?

Can Messy Mates Clean Up Their Act?

Should slobs be forced to straighten up, or should neatniks relax their standards? Judge Marilyn Milian from The People’s Court decides.

By Judge Marilyn Milian

Relationship case #5: “Help, my girlfriend is such a slob!”

Plaintiff: Anna, 29
Your honor, I love my girlfriend Marisa a lot, but she is just so messy. She’s the kind of person who enters the front door, throws off every piece of clothing wherever it lands, opens every cabinet door without closing it, wanders into every room and turns on the lights but then doesn’t turn them off. I sometimes want to grab her and say, “Why can’t you just make sure the toothpaste hits your toothbrush and not the sink?!” “Why can’t you just make sure that popcorn makes it to your mouth and not the floor?!” Another thing that bugs me: She doesn’t remove her makeup before going to bed. The result: Her mascara ruins my sheets. I don’t care what she does to her possessions, but I want her to respect mine—and my feelings!

Defendant: Marisa, 35
Your honor, I'll be the first one to admit that organization is not my top priority. But I already have one mother and don’t need another one. Anna and I just travel at different paces; she wants the dishes washed and dried as soon as we're finished eating dinner, and I'm like, “What's the rush?” Often Anna will nag me about not retrieving an offending piece of popcorn or kernel of rice before I've even had a chance to bend down and pick it up off the floor! I admit that there is room for improvement on my part, but lately when I'm at her place, I feel like she is just waiting for me to make a wrong move. Why can’t she relax and ease up a little?

Judge Marilyn weighs in:
Marisa is correct: People do travel at different paces. But Marisa is also a pig, or so it sounds like from Anna’s testimony. It’s one thing if Anna were truly poised with a vacuum near Marisa’s lap every time she’s eating popcorn—that’s anal-retentive. But leaving your clothes on the floor? Unacceptable. Not removing your makeup before bed? Gross! It takes mere seconds to toss your clothes in the hamper or to wash your face. This is not a question of “pace,” it’s a question of respecting someone else’s environment! You two may love each other, but what makes a relationship last is compatibility. And you’re not compatible if you drive each other crazy.

The verdict:
I rule in favor of the plaintiff. There is no evidence that Anna is obsessive or is being unreasonable with her requests. Neatness is a basic life skill, and when two people are mismatched in this way, it’s really up to the messy person to raise the bar. One thing Anna could do to help, since Marisa is not wired to be neat, is to put up small signs to remind her—one saying “rinse the sink after you brush” in the bathroom, or one saying “place clothes in hamper” wherever Marisa tends to undress. Once these signs are up, Marisa can no longer claim she “just didn’t think about it,” and Anna doesn’t have to hover around Marisa making sure she does them. It’s a win-win situation, and within a few weeks or months, these habits will become automatic so you can take the signs down.

I’m not saying those messy habits might not linger a bit. Here I am, after 12 years of marriage, and my husband still occasionally leaves his clothes on the floor—eight inches from the hamper. But he has improved, and Marisa can do the same. It’s one thing to relax and enjoy life, but in my opinion, that does not mean throwing your jeans on the floor. Case adjourned.

In 2001, Judge Marilyn Milian became the first female judge to preside over The People's Court (, the original court TV program now in its 20th year. She lives in Miami with her husband and three daughters.

Got a relationship problem you need Judge Marilyn to solve?
Send us both sides of your story, along with both of your names, ages, email addresses and phone numbers in case we have further questions about your case. We reserve the right to edit your case and feature it in a future issue of Happen.

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