Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

How to handle cleanliness issues


#1

I live with my boyfriend and our roommate, who has SZ. I learned early on that problems with neatness and hygiene are common symptoms. None of us are exactly neat to begin with, so I don’t really care if she leaves books or clothes or things laying around. But the one effort I always make on my part is to never leave food, dirty dishes, or food trash sitting for more than a day. My boyfriend follows this as well. Our roommate, as you might imagine, doesn’t.

I’ve struggled with this issue for a long time, since reminding her every day to rinse out her dishes and throw out her trash doesn’t seem to work. I used to get mad because I felt like she wasn’t pulling her weight. I finally learned to do away with that feeling, and it’s much easier for me to deal with now that I focus only on the really important stuff, and just clean up the rest myself, allowing that her condition makes it difficult for her.

But this morning, a cockroach ran across my foot while I was in the bathroom (and had my glasses off, which already makes me paranoid and skittish). That is absolutely the line for me. I feel sure that we wouldn’t have roaches if she didn’t leave ice cream tubs and yogurt containers in her room.

So now, the issue is not about her putting in effort, or me feeling hard-done-by. This is a practical issue, and one way or another we need to deal with it.

My vague plan for now is to get the apartment as clean as possible, and let her know that we’re going to be calling in pest control and she needs to throw out anything that could be attracting roaches. Then, keep an eye on her room for a couple weeks. Since we’ve done this before, and I tend to be pessimistic when I plan things anyway, I imagine that at the end of the week she’ll still have a bunch of food/trash in her room. At that point, I was considering telling her that since it’s an issue of sanitation, we will have to go into her room to throw things out. I’m hoping that this threat to her privacy will make her take it seriously. And if it doesn’t, then we will actually throw stuff out, and the problem will still be taken care of, though not ideally.

But, I get the vague feeling that this could be a mistake. Do you think putting forth such a rigid rule might make her worse?
Anyone have any advice on dealing with this?


#2

Yes there can be mental issues and fatigue that may make being clean last on the priority list.

But when its bad enough to bother other people, rules are definitely in order.
This happens if you have sz or cancer or just a ‘normal’

If they are having a rough time, paper plates that they toss out can be a possible solution until an episode is over.
Extra rent can be charged for cleaning services if they are working and just being a pig.
Do they have a social worker or a doctor? This should definitely be mentioned to them.

Good luck, you don’t deserve this. you can be ill, but you still have to be human and not pig.


#3

She’s applied for disability benefits. I think when she gets approved she’ll have a case worker? But she was denied last time because they told her she was all done and then mailed us more paperwork we never got… So it’ll be at least half a year before that kicks in.
I’ve tried to convince her to see a counselor or psych, but she doesn’t seem to want to, and I can’t really push it much when she doesn’t have much money left over after rent, and has to take the bus everywhere.

Charging extra rent might be a good idea. She does at least pay rent on time. Then again, if she pays us to clean it might make her feel even more that it’s okay to be messy like that – a weird economics/psychology theory I’ve encountered before.
It’s a possibility though.


#4

If she’s anything like my family member, there will be little cleaning on her part. Any cleaning will not occur on a regular schedule. It is okay to be messy; it’s not bad or wrong, just unhygienic.

My “system” applied to your situation:

First, tell her what you are doing (throwing garbage away) and why you are doing it (roaches). Ask her if she would prefer you doing so when she is in her room or not in her room, if your schedule allows this option.

Knock first. Go in her room once a day and take away garbage that roaches eat.

No matter what, if you are in her room, never read anything of hers or look at her computer if it’s on. Privacy can still be maintained.

Any cleaning I do on my family member’s behalf is my choice and I can change my mind at any time, leaving the house to become infested or whatever. I am free to stop cleaning up after myself or anyone else.

Creating rules, nagging, enforcing, overseeing are all much more time-consuming and difficult than just walking in a room and picking up trash, in my experience.

PS There are usually lots of food wrappers and half-full containers of food wedged between my family member’s furniture and the wall. Try to get in those nooks and crannies!


#5

Funny you should say that, I’ve noticed this already. Especially in the case of food containing wheat, which she’s not supposed to have, and I came across accidentally when I was looking for our ashtray.

Thanks for the advice though, you’re probably right that it’d be easier to just do it ourselves, but I’ll talk to my boyfriend about it and he’ll probably want to try one more time to let her do it on her own.


#6

It’s just my way, not everyone’s way.

I’m sure you’ll figure out what works for you.


#7

[quote=“krazykikikat, post:1, topic:34949”]
Anyone have any advice on dealing with this?
[/quote]Wow, sorry to hear all this. I live as neat as possible given this condition, never had pest issues. Yeah, don’t expect certain persons to pull their weight. You’re going to have to go that extra mile to clean up after her if she isn’t going to do it herself. I had to do this myself with a perfectly sane woman when I was non-SZ back in my early 20’s.

I have always been balanced about hygiene & keeping a clean house, not all of us are like this. If you want a partner, expect some form of flaw - seems she is unorganized & unkept around home. I’d recommend referring her to a therapist of some kind - her disability insurance should cover it, for I know mine does - and make this a talking point & an area of improvement for her.


#8

Funny, my boyfriend would say the same of me in the first couple years of our relationship. Although I rarely left actual food out, usually just didn’t rinse out my cups. But that’s another reason it’s so frustrating. I had no viable excuses to continue being a slob, but she does. Maybe that’s just me being unfair though…


#9

I’m pretty slovenly in my housekeeping, but there are guys who are worse than me. I lived with one guy, and he would do things like leaving a half eaten plate of spaghetti sitting out on the coffee table all night. I’d tell him not to do that, and he would say, “Well, you left a dirty dish sitting out by the sink”. I live on my own, so I don’t have to please anyone but myself when it comes to housework. If I have a roommate I try to do better, but I usually corrupt him instead of him reforming me. If I was married I wouldn’t expect my wife to pick up behind me. It looks like I’m not going to get married, so I can live in blissful sloth.


#10

Well, I just got word from my boyfriend that pest control is doing a complex-wide spray tomorrow. Guess it’s time to get cracking on the cleaning.


#11

Right you are there. Raise rent then
How about a discount for being clean?
Try out that psychology. Good luck


#12

I have the best luck taking a trash bag and throwing things in together. He never throws anything in the trash can. We clean together and it works. I just hand him the bag and give him simple directions. He helps me put the clean dishes away and this morning even loaded the dishwasher as I handed him the dishes. The were pretty rinsed already. This was a first as he doesn’t like to get his hands in there usually. Slowly but slowly. He will take the Clorox wipes and mop around the toilet with his foot. It works. Just realize they simply don’t see the problem and it isn’t a concern to them. I like the ideas others gave too. Good luck


#13

I think you summed it up perfectly: They don’t see the problem. So true in many situations!