7 Tips For Living With A Messy Partner
Most guides for living with someone who is your cleanliness opposite are written from the perspective of the clean partner who has successfully reformed the messy one. Not this guide. These tips for living with a messy partner are coming straight from the mouth of the (somewhat) reformed mess maker. That makes it better. Not because clean people don't what they're talking about (although I have my suspicious), but because if you really want to change a messy person, you have to understand a messy person.
Of course, I'm speaking in generalities here, but messy people of the world tend to share some common bonds. We're creative or artsy types with lots of hobbies that come with lots of stuff. We tend to not do things we don't like doing. More structure isn't the solution; think: chore charts, etc. Who is going to remind us that we have a chore chart? And punishments or fights aren't going to help. That just makes us want to be messier out of spite.
The real key is to help us change our thinking and adapt new habits.
1. Redefine Messy
Sometimes my wife's definition of messy is my definition of organized chaos or simple clutter. It seems fine to me, and not something that needs addressed. To her, it's just a bunch of stuff that's not where it is supposed to be. If you want your partner to keep less clutter around, that's a totally different issue that wanting them to wash the dishes. It's a little bit of a style and preference difference and a little less of a home hygiene issue. Creative storage solutions help a lot. So does dedicated space, like an office that your clutter lover can keep how they chose (with the door closed, of course).
2. Take It Down A Notch
Habits take time to learn, and a person can't realistically change their entire housework philosophy overnight. That means sometimes you're going to have to take the small victories and stop seeing a few dishes in the sink as a failure. Sometimes you're going to have to tolerate some messiness and pick up some slack and lower your expectations. And sometimes you're going to have to resist the urge to clean so I can do it later, when I'm not busy. This is the clean person's re-education period as well.
3. Teach Them
I grew up in a house where doing laundry required climbing over a mountain of dirty clothes in the basement. Where we had to wash plates if we wanted to use them. An entire formative period of that kind of housekeeping means that maybe I just didn't know I was supposed to clean something. I didn't know you wanted the sheets changed every weekend, so I wasn't being lazy. I just honestly didn't know that wasn't a monthly chore. And cleaning up as I go is weird, and gets in the way of my process, but I totally see the advantages of it now that you've shown me. Some things just never occur to me. You totally have to be a patient guide.
4. Praise Them
Hey, there was a Girl Code marathon happening, and yet I still managed to clean the whole house. I perspired! Like, intense boob sweat type perspiration. I folded eight loads of laundry, even though it felt more like I was hauling the One Ring to Mordor. I ruined my manicure on the dishes, even! I don't want to hear that this is standard adulting and that I don't need praised. I want you to throw a huge freaking parade in my honor! I want you to buy me dinner and tell me how pretty and amazing I am. Make that happen and I will clean all the things, all the time.
5. Remind Them
If you hear me say I am going to clean out my closet this weekend, and then when the weekend rolls around, there's no closet cleaning to be had, it's likely I just forgot. It's OK to remind me. I either don't notice things like that, or they don't bother me, so they're easy to forget. Or I feel like there are much better use of my time. Sometimes messy folks have a lot going on in their brains. It's also OK to remind us how you feel, especially if a clean house is an important way to relax and de-stress. Your partner loves you and wants you to be happy, so this may be the best motivation there is.
6. Make It Fun
If cleaning was fun, everyone would do it. But it's not. So instead of just cleaning here and there throughout the day, I like to pump up the jams and get in some booty work with my housework. You have to support whatever works or your partner, even if it's not necessarily how you would do things. And it's best to do the chores during the week when you also have work and other non-fun stuff. Nobody wants to do chores on the weekend. Trust me.
7. Ditch Chores You Hate
There are certain chores I hate that my wife doesn't mind, and vice versa. Assigning them to each other means we don't have to do the chores we hate the most. For example, I don't take out trash. It involves too much going outside and touching gross things. And my partner doesn't like to fold laundry, which is not that difficult. Knowing you don't have to do something you hate makes cleaning easier to handle.
And remember, sometimes habits take time to develop. Slow change is better than no change.