They say opposites attract. So when an obsessive-compulsive clean freak and a messy slob come together in holy matrimony—or in a live-in relationship, there’s bound to be some friction over tidiness.
In any relationship, one partner is likely to be more neat and organized than the other. If you are the clean, organized partner and your significant other’s mess is always grating on your nerves, there are some things you can do to keep your sanity.
Nagging won’t do it, as that usually explodes into larger arguments. And going around the house picking up after him or her isn’t a solution either. We cannot change our partners. The only thing we can truly change is how we react. Hopefully this list will help you and your partner put some systems into place so both of you can feel happy and calm in your home together.
1. Communicate and compromise
Like most aspects of relationships, you both will probably have to compromise in this area. Sharing a home and bedroom together means you need to find common ground that you are both happy living in. If you like everything perfectly spotless and sparkly clean then you may have to lower your standards a little. And if your partner is okay living in complete squalor, they will have to work a bit to meet you in the middle. The important thing is that you are both making sacrifices and working to show you care for each other by keeping the peace in the relationship.
2. Establish neat and messy zones
Establish areas of the house that are to remain clutter-free. These should be common areas like kitchen counters and the entryway. Then, also establish messy zones where your partner won’t touch your stuff or nag you to clean it up. This can include areas of the house that receive less traffic such as nightstands or desks.
If one partner is leaving items in the neat zone, then their partner can simply return it to their messy zone and not have to see it. For example, if a desk has been established as a messy zone, and your husband continuously leaves receipts and papers all over the kitchen table, instead of going through them and sorting them, simply put them on his desk for him to deal with at his convenience. This reinforces the idea that his stuff is his stuff and that his stuff is his responsibility to clean.
3. Divide up chores
If you feel like you always clean up and your partner doesn’t contribute as much, divvy up the cleaning responsibilities. If one person cooks dinner, the other one cleans. One person can dust once a week, while the other vacuums. This helps give everyone a share of the household responsibilities and keeps one person from feeling resentful of the other. An important element to agree on is frequency since this is almost always a point of contention.
4. Be patient with messes
People who like things clean and tidy see and notice messes before those who are not so clean and tidy. The messes eat away at us and we have to fix it, now. It could very well be on our partner’s list to declutter their desk or closet, but we just get to it before they get around to it. Give your partner time to take responsibility for the mess and clean it on their own time (within reason). If you are always taking care of their messes for them, they may not realize how much that bothers you.
5. Hire a housekeeper
If all else fails, you can always hire someone to come in and clean professionally. This way, you can lightly clean and tidy up the home while someone else takes care of the heavy, nitty-gritty cleaning.
Putting new systems into place and changing up someone’s routine takes time and results won't come immediately. Give your partner time to adjust to the new rules and give yourself time as well. Realize that it’s not a personal attack when the messy person ignores requests to keep their space clean. People will naturally to continue to live how they have for years. Keep the bigger picture in mind of why you chose to live with them in the first place. Chances are you didn’t choose them because of their cleanliness and organizing habits.