The prosecution: Grace
My adult son lives at home and his room is a tip – leftovers and clothes on the floor. It’s my house: he should live by my rules
Curtis hasn’t hoovered his room for weeks, and there are often pizza crusts and half-empty bottles of ketchup lying around, and dirty shirts and pants on the floor. He just says: “It’s my room, so I’ll do what I want.” But it seems I am still asking him to do the same tasks I was 10 years ago when he was a teenager.
He’s 25, and I don’t want him living like a slob in our home. He needs to develop more life skills. I worry what will happen when he meets someone – no girl should have to put up with this. I’m doing it for his own good.
When I threaten to go into his room myself to tidy it, he gets annoyed and tells me to stay out; it often turns into an argument. But I don’t think it’s over the top to expect him to keep his part of the house clean if he lives with me. Curtis pays £250 rent a month, which helps with food and bills. I don’t expect him to pay more as he’s saving up for his own place.
When I threaten to go into his room myself to tidy it, he gets annoyed and tells me to stay out
I’m retired and the mortgage is paid, but I do feel the financial pressure of maintaining a four-bedroom house – there’s always a task that needs doing.
My husband passed away five years ago and he was very tidy and excellent around the house. When he died, Curtis had to help out more. He repainted the dining room and did a pretty good job, but there are still things I need a hand with. In the garden we used to have a pond, which my husband maintained, but it became too much work. I still need to get a wall replastered and the driveway needs to be cleaned.
Curtis could do the handyman tasks if he applied himself, but he often says he’s busy or tired so I end up having to pay someone.
Curtis works full-time, so I am trying to be mindful of that, but sometimes I need more help. Maybe I am comparing him to my husband, but if Curtis kept his room tidy and offered to help out without being asked, it would take the stress off me a bit.
The defence: Curtis
I pay my rent. I should be able to live how I like in my own room. She’s a clean freak and shouldn’t go in if it bothers her
My room is the one place I have a bit of privacy in our house, so I feel that I shouldn’t be obliged to keep it the way my mum wants. It’s not that messy: yes, there are some shirts and socks on the floor, but that’s my problem, not hers. Why does it bother her? Just don’t go in! I say that all the time. There might be a bit of dust on the shelves, or the odd empty packet of food left on a plate at the weekend, but there’s certainly nothing going mouldy or been sitting there for weeks.
Mum is a clean freak – she always has been – and her reaction to my room is really over the top. I think she’s bored: she retired before the pandemic, has been sitting inside too long and needs to focus on other things. When she tries to come into my room and order me to tidy it I get angry. It’s not like I don’t help out around the house, but my room is my responsibility.
Mum is a clean freak – she always has been – and her reaction to my room is really over the top
I’m a teacher, and work six days a week, 7am-7pm. During term time I don’t have much free time, and when I do I want to go out and see my friends or relax. This can cause arguments with mum: she calls me lazy and says I’m not doing enough to help her when, really, I’m just not able to work to her schedule.
Since dad died I’ve had to take on the role of handyman. In lockdown I painted the walls, cleared out the spare rooms, and I also cook most of the dinners. I try to help out but I have a very busy schedule. Lifting heavy things is hard for her, so I know that’s important and I don’t mind, but when mum wants something done she gives me very little notice.
To be fair, she has got a bit more relaxed. I think dad’s death taught her not to sweat the small stuff as much, but she still has “certain standards” as she calls them, and if I don’t meet them she can be unreasonable and argumentative. When it comes to my room, though, I don’t feel like I have to change my habits. If I want to keep it messy, I will.
The jury of Guardian readers
We all need our own space to be truly our own sometimes, even at home with mum. Grace believes she’s giving Curtis a good deal with cheap rent, but expects it to be topped up with DIY duties. Maybe it’s not such a good deal after all.
Being an innate slob I initially sided with Curtis. Why clean what will get dirty? Successive lockdowns, however, have given me a new perspective. My cleaning and tidying routine has been a reliable source of small joy. While I’m in no way a “clean freak”, I’m on Grace’s side: tidy your room, Curtis!
Grace is doing her role as a mum, teaching her son valuable life skills. If Curtis does not want to play by her rules he should move to a shared house where he might also see this sort of sloppy behaviour in the kitchen and bathroom.
Curtis chose to live at home because he can’t afford to move out, a problem Grace probably didn’t face when she bought her four-bedroom house for the price of avocado on toast and a flat white. Living in dirt is maybe his grim way of gaining a sense of control.
Curtis is entitled to have a private place in the house: he pays rent for it and as long as he is helping out with other housekeeping matters relating to shared spaces, there should be no problem. Given that Curtis is working and is not the sloppy and lazy person Grace paints him as, they seem very disconnected from each other’s realities.