Dear Vered,

How do I tell my loving boyfriend that I hate his apartment? He’s a great guy in so many ways — if a little rough around the edges — but his place is disgusting. It isn’t just the milk crates for furniture, it’s filthy. The one time I slept over, I didn’t even want to take my coat off. We live far enough away from each other that it’s becoming an issue that we always stay over at my place, and I’m running out of excuses for why. I want this to work out, and I’d hate for this to be the dealbreaker.

Pigpen’s Girlfriend


Dear Reader,

Only you can decide what constitutes a dealbreaker, and from your pained description, it sounds like you already have, and his disgusting apartment is it. So your question becomes, what are some reasonable solutions to my intolerance of his messy apartment? That’s a question I can help you with. First, though, I encourage you to take stock of what his mess is. Are we talking clutter everywhere (piles of magazines and mail, dishes in the sink, mountains of shoes and clothes) or are we talking actual dirt and bacteria (moldy dishes, green shower grout, visible grime)?

It’s a lot easier to handle a guy living alone when his problem is clutter. Unless you are the queen of clean, clutter doesn’t need to be a dealbreaker. Lots of people, guys included, just get these piles, keep adding to the piles, don’t have an organized system in their homes for closets and baskets, and don’t see the mess. Since it clearly bothers you, you don’t have anything to lose by suggesting that you spend a day busting clutter together at his apartment. Take a deep breath, and say, “Honey, the honest reason I prefer you staying at my place instead of the other way around is because I love how clean my apartment is and I always worry about stepping on something at your place or walking through a pile. I can’t relax.”

Check out or one of the helpful motivational clutter-buster websites out there. Pick a day, get together at his place, set a timer for 15 minutes, and spend 15 minutes on one specific task like picking up paper recyclables and putting them in the bin. When the timer goes off, switch to another task for another 15 minutes. Put on some music. If you have a future with this guy that could involve cohabiting one day, keep in mind that these cleaning sessions may need to become a regular event. If he gets defensive about your suggestion to have a cleaning day, well, that’s the dealbreaker, not the mess.

Now, if he’s actually dirty, well, I’m trying to wrap my head around how that’s not a dealbreaker. If you want a future with this man that could include cohabiting, and he doesn’t see anything wrong with moldy dishes and dust bunnies that scare off burglars, your options are to learn to love the pigsty or learn to love cleaning up after him forever. Neither really sounds so great, so be honest with yourself if this is his problem. You may not be a match, no matter how sweet he is.