Six Tips for Living with a Messy Person

You thrive in pristine environments, where every item has a place and order is the name of the game. Your spouse, children, or roommates, however, have other ideas. They don't seem to notice the piles of clutter taking over your home, nor do they notice when that clutter clearly aggravates you.

Discrepancies in tidiness are some of the biggest sources of tension in today's relationships, and for good reason: old habits die hard and, unfortunately, it's difficult to adjust natural tendencies, even if this will make the other person feel more comfortable or respected. With the right mindset and equipment, however, your space can feel a lot more inviting for everyone involved.

Below, we've provided helpful tips on how to help a messy person get organized while also boosting your own peace of mind. 

Understand the Why

The first and most important trick to surviving life with a messy person? Understand why that mess occurs and remind yourself that it's not about you.

In the vast majority of situations, messy people are not determined to annoy or disrespect the neater people in their lives. Often, they simply have a different level of comfort with mess. They literally may not understand how not to be messy. Others just don't see mess in the same way you do; they may walk past a pile of clutter without even realizing it exists.

There may also be situational concerns at play. A previously pristine home, for example, will become a lot messier after a baby or toddler enters the picture. A busy week at work can also exacerbate messes, as can, unfortunately, mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Take some time to get to the crux of the issue before you determine how it can be resolved without harming your relationship.  

Go Minimal

It's a lot easier to make a mess if you have a lot of stuff. If, however, the messy person in your life is open to cutting back on unnecessary items, you could streamline your lifestyle and reduce messes to a considerable extent.

This undertaking must be pursued together, with the intention of selling or donating as many items as possible so that the mess-inclined individual feels good about getting rid of them. Set an example by sorting through your own items, rather than exclusively expecting the other person to downsize. 

Designate Mess-Approved Zones

Like it or not, you'll never entirely transform a messy person into a neatnik. Instead, focus on the spaces that are most important to you while acknowledging that, at times, a few others may slide. For example, messy people often find strict organizational systems overwhelming and prefer the concept of the junk drawer — a designated place where they can toss a variety of random items and know that they will reliably be available.

Allow your messy loved one the chance to maintain a personal junk drawer or junk closet. You just might find that the other areas of your home remain far cleaner than they would if you insisted on every single surface remaining spick-and-span. For teenagers, this concept may need to expand to an entire bedroom; your teen doesn't have to make the bed every morning, but tidiness is expected in communal areas. 

Provide the Right Tools

The easier it is to clean, the more likely your messy roommate or family member is to chip in. Make it a cinch by investing in powerful supplies and cleaning equipment that gets the job done with little effort. An excellent vacuum cleaner is a must-have, especially if it contains specialized attachments that make it easier to clean various nooks and crannies. Don't forget targeted cleaning solutions that instantly remove grime and grease. 

Give Lots of Compliments

It can be frustrating to praise tasks that you believe any person should do automatically, but compliments can quickly motivate cleaning-averse individuals. Instead of automatically focusing on the tasks that have gone undone, kindly point out any cleaning that you've observed recently around the house — and thank the appropriate people profusely.

This may prompt an internal eye roll on your part, but you'll be inclined to continue with the compliments as you notice that your household becomes a more positive environment — and that, buoyed by all those compliments, your messy roommates or family members start doing dreaded cleaning tasks without being reminded or scolded. 

Meet in the Middle

All these suggestions come down to one, overarching theme for learning how to deal with a messy person: it is absolutely crucial that you meet in the middle. This means understanding why both people respond the way they do to their environment. This should be followed by a conscious effort to adapt habits and routines to make life a bit more comfortable for both.

For the neat person, this might involve loosening up a bit on rules about when or how the house gets cleaned. The messy person, however, needs to understand that clutter makes you feel stressed or anxious and, out of concern for these issues, put a little more effort into picking up.

The change might not be automatic, but with mutual understanding, consistent praise, and high-level cleaning equipment, it's certainly possible. Remember: your clean home will feel that much more rewarding if it's also harmonious.

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