How To Live With A Messy Partner & Not Lose Your Mind

Other People's Clutter

Why is the laundry not folded?

Why are the breakfast dishes still in the sink at dinner time?

Why are all of the jars open?

Living with a messy partner can be one of the most frustrating things about your spouse. Sometimes it can seem like you just can’t get through to them. But messy and clean “odd couples” can work out, it just takes some work from both parties.

How To Live With A Messy Partner & Not Lose Your Mind

1. Be Very Specific About What Bothers You

Not only do you need to use “I” language with a messy partner — but you also need to explain things clearly.

Most messy partners truly can’t see the mess that they’re leaving around.

The reason they can be messy is because the clutter simply doesn’t bother them. So when you ask them to do something to fix it, it’s harder for them; they just don’t have the visceral reaction you do.

Try to outline things for them from a functional standpoint: “I prefer it if you wash the dishes immediately, because otherwise it will attract ants or cockroaches.”

2. Distribute the Chores Fairly Rather than Equally

Try not to get too caught up in what’s “equal”,  try to focus on what’s “fair”.

Your partner may want to take turns doing the laundry or turns doing the dishes, because that’s “balanced.” In truth, though, there are some chores that people just hate and other chores that people enjoy. Distribute the chores fairly based on what’s easiest for the individual.

If someone enjoys yard work but hates laundry, it makes more sense to distribute the yard work to them. Likewise, if someone absolutely hates dishes, they may need to take up a couple smaller chores to make up for never doing the dishes. The important thing is that no one is doing significantly more work that they loathe.

3. Try Not to Get Irritated

As long as your partner is genuinely trying to help out, getting irritated is only going to cause animosity.

Rather than getting irritated when a chore isn’t done or a mess is made, treat it as a mistake and request that they fix it. Too often couples begin to treat their partner’s mistakes as intentional acts of aggression; with a messy partner, it very likely isn’t intentional at all. Instead, they simply cannot see the same mess that you do. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with it, but taking it in a more positive direction can help your mood as well.

4. Get Rid of the Excess

You can’t have clutter if you don’t own clutter, right?

One of the best ways to limit the amount of messes that a partner can make is simply to eliminate unnecessary items in your home. Dishes are a great example of this. If you constantly find that dishes aren’t getting done, one way to get into the habit of doing them is to put all dishes away except for a few that you use. This forces you to wash dishes on a regular basis because you simply don’t have enough of them to keep cycling through.

5. Create Positive Reminders

Some tasks, such as taking out the trash at the end of the night, can simply be forgotten. Setting alarms on smartphones and other devices is a good way to remind yourself and your partner that it has to be done before you to go bed that night. You can even set up a system for alternating chores, so there’s never an argument regarding who is supposed to do something next.

6. Work With Them Rather than Against Them

Try to think from your partner’s point of view. Sometimes with someone who is absent-minded, it isn’t a matter of not wanting to do something; it’s a matter of forgetting altogether.

Often you can eliminate problems simply by altering the environment. For instance, if your partner tends to leave clothes on the bathroom floor, you might be able to resolve the problem by putting a hamper in the bathroom instead of the bedroom. Providing organizational tools can feel like a defeat, but as long as you aren’t “parenting” your partner in other emotionally exhausting ways, it may just be one of those little things done for the health of a relationship. That being said…

7. Try to Avoid Parenting Your Spouse

When you’re sick of tidying up after your spouse, you may end up parenting them instead of treating them as a partner.

Parenting occurs when you start feeling that they’re so irresponsible that they need to be taken through things step by step, and when you assume they are doing things incorrectly intentionally because they are lazy.

Remember: for the most part being messy isn’t some inadequacy; it’s a minor incompatibility. People live in different ways and grow up with different tolerances for mess. By approaching it with them rather than against them you can turn it into an exercise in bonding rather than a constant fight.

8. Teach your Children to Clean Up After Themselves

Dealing with children on top of a messy partner can be a hair-pulling level of frustration, but it can be somewhat mitigated by teaching kids to clean up after themselves. Agree early on deciding the types of chores that you’ll teach children (such as picking up their toys, or bringing their cups and dishes into the kitchen), and make sure that you teach them these skills consistently. That way, even if you still have a messy partner, you don’t have messy kids.

9. Learn to Make Some Concessions

Acceptance can be a huge step if you can concede: my partner is disorganized, and I’m going to have to live with it. There may be some small concessions you have to make, such as letting them keep their personal office in disarray, or allowing them to leave their own clothes unfolded in their drawers. There are some things that truly just don’t bother messy people, and where it doesn’t directly impact you, you may just have to leave them be.

Are you living with a messy partner and need to vent? Tell us your craziest stories!

Kylie Browne

Kylie is our friendly Community Manager. Organizing advocate. 80s music fan. Busy Mom. Amateur over thinker. Thrives on coffee and chocolate.

123 thoughts on “How To Live With A Messy Partner & Not Lose Your Mind

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  2. Laura says:

    I live with a messy, unorganized selfish man. I do 95% of the housework. What really bugs me is that we live in a rental and his two ferrets are destroying the place. He never paid a pet deposit because he said the landlord was okay with pets. I never heard her say that. The ferrets are NOT litter box trained. They pooh and pee wherever they want. It stinks! He will only clean up when I point it out. At our last rental, he allowed the ferrets to go into his nightstand which was in the living room. He took the drawers out, and there was a HUGE mound of pooh! Not to mention the pee that seeped and stayed in the wood. Plus the ferrets dig at the carpet and there are bald spots in places. No way is my husband going to pay for the damage. He also leaves leftover food out, let’s food go rotten in the fridge and his bedroom is a messy. He has so much stuff that the living room is full of his stuff too. We have 0 storage here, and all my stuff (which isn’t much) is crammed in my bedroom. I have got rid of some of my stuff over the years, just to give him more room. He grew up with 3 brothers, so has a real “male” mental outlook: he says ALL men swear ( he swears at me, calls me bitch, cunt, pig, whale, etc.). All I ask from him is respect and help with household chores, that’s it! I have had to actually leave the place sometimes because I can’t get away from his ferrets. They have free roam of the whole place a lot. So I have to constantly be aware of not stepping on them, not leaving cupboards open, not to step in ferret poo. It is difficult keeping them out of rooms, so I even have ferret noses around me when going to the bathroom! It has driven me to tears of frustration, but my husband does not care, they are his sweethearts. However, I am the one having to play with them while my husband is in his room watching endless tv and playing his computer game.

  3. Micheal Patty says:

    Hi my wife is the messy type and she does to chores when I help but I also work full time so I can’t babysit my wife to have her do the chores with taking care of the kids I have been out a job before and have done lots with my time and still had time for the kids need help this is week 4 of messy messy house I feel as tho I’m living in a teenagers dorm room instead of a home plz help I’m on the brink of drastic measures (taking the kids and taking her to court and getting a divorce cause of her messiness I’ve talked to her several times about how I feel and she always says sorry and I try to do better

    • Brad says:

      I know EXACTLY how you feel, I deal with this same exact thing, and get the exact same response from her. I am completely out of ideas, and have even told her if things don’t improve I will be moving out, and all I ever get is, “I know I dropped the ball, and I’m going to do better.” but that only last about a day, 2 at most. I am so out of ideas that I feel like at this point I’m just prolonging the inevitable.

  4. Kyle says:

    I’m not going to say that I’m not a messy person myself but compared to my partner I’m definitely a lot better. While they are the one to do all the more detailed cleaning around the house such as bleaching areas and picking fluff out of the corners of the carpet, I am more of a small concise mess maker and leave small items but definitely try to keep it all in corners or in my area. I’ve tried so many times now to express how frustrating it is that they always leave their messes around in public areas for days/weeks until it comes to a boiling point and I get fed up and start to do it myself, only to hear them say “I was going to do that later/ this weekend”.
    Even as I sit here now the kitchen table is being used for storage for her work items and puzzles and the lounge room is littered in eating items, drinks, clothing and bed equipment. I almost feel the worst of it that upsets me the most is their constant need to buy random crap to “organise” areas of the house. Containers in almost every cupboard in the kitchen but they’ll just leave the ingredients on the bench instead of putting them back. Baskets for clothes yet the only clothes ever in there are mine. A whole cupboard dedicated to medical supplies with labelled containers but the panadol and bandaids etc are always left on the benches or around the sink in the bathroom. Was is even the point.

    Hopefully attempting the steps above I can have a more peaceful experience in our home because I’m becoming absolutely fed up at this point.

  5. Leila says:

    My partner is driving me to the brink of insanity with his uncleanliness, barn-like behavior. Most unorganized, scatter brained man I’ve ever met yet. Gets pee all over the floor in the bathroom, leaves beer cans, cups, water bottles all over the house, picks his nose and flicks it at the wall, spits constantly, as SOON as I get anything spic and span, the bathroom..kitchen or living room he comes in with shoes on throws his shirts and sweaters wherever and just leaves it there, can’t find NOTHING to save his life ! My coat closet he’s managed to clutter f*ck that as well by throwing all the coats onto the floor. There’s two cupboards in the kitchen that I call his junk cupboards because.it has the most random , nasty useless junk in it that he frequently puts his keys , wallet in that he also loses at least once a day. Anytime I fold clothes and put his neatly in his closet since I kicked him out of my dresser, THAT is all messed up and unorganized as well. Anything that is ever lost in the house is because he has touched it . The bathroom, as soon as he gets out the shower he does not close the curtain a huge pet peeves of mine cuz I keep my house very clean and on top of the mess I already have from four children he’s just another one added to the mess that I have to constantly follow behind all day to keep this house together! And DONT gete started on any of the house rugs!!!!!!!! He manages to mess up and move all over every single one even with strong carpet tape under it how he walks he drags his feet or something because even my will kids all 6 and under don’t even move the rugs. !!!!!!!!! UGH

  6. Claudia says:

    I’ve told my husband several times to NOT pee on the toilet seat and when I’m around he won’t do it but when I’m not around he pees on the seat again. I also told my husband to use the flosser pick to floss his teeth with one hand and then block anything from flicking on the mirror with his other hand. When I’m around he covers his mouth but when I’m not he flicks it on the mirror. I am constantly reminding him to keep the house clean but now I find myself reminding him to NOT do certain things multiple times a day. He’s driving me crazy, I’m so close to filing for divorce and selling our house that we bought together bc it’s irritating me really bad.

  7. Christine M says:

    My partner used be neat and orderly, but as our living spaces grew, he got messier. He used to make the bed, stop at my house, fold my laundry as a surprise… it was all a trick to get me to marry him i tell you! It’s hard because my ex was obsessed with cleanliness but made me feel like dirt about one thing being out of place. Second hubs is a polar opposite. He tells me the house looks great, thanks me, but never ever makes an effort to keep it that way. He does some laundry on occasion and will wash dishes but during his busy season i get stuck with everything, on top of raising our child and working full time. We are constantly battling a never ending laundry pile, and he always takes off his jeans or jammie’s and chucks them somewhere, never in the hamper and never in a drawer. Hamper is literally 2 feet away. I’m just going to start burning his clothes. I give up.

  8. Deron says:

    I am dating a messy partner who has come from a family of messy people. It amazes me that not only will she walk past things that are visually out of place, she will find the most pleasurable thing to do except clean up. When I was younger I had never understood that people could be like this. Now that I aged into my thirties and am ready to settle down and get married I see that this is an issue that is deeper because she has kids that have the same disgusting ways. I don’t have children or the dirty ways that she has, so I try to be helpful and supporting. However the closer we get I start to notice other things that are red flags, like the fact that she tries to blame her children for why her house isn’t another red flag is the fact that she has raised her children ignorant and dumb to the fact that taking care of home is a responsibility not a punishment. We live in a world with so many options that people don’t even think that being a dirty person is a problem because they can go outside and find a guy online in 5 seconds that will accept the disgusting conditions.

  9. Mona says:

    Currently , I’m in a relationship with a messy partner. I just don’t understand his logic as to why he throws his most valuable pictures, lyrics, clothes and other personal treasured belonging on the floor – like trash and then there is sometimes trash too. If you haven’t figured it out, I’m the neat & tighty one. I find myself wanting to clean more and more, because I’m getting grossed out. Though, I too have been working on being more flexible about leaving some of his stacks alone, such as his stacked clothes in the spare room. Though, I hate when he leaves his clothes and guitars all over the living room. I guess it’s because I just hate coming home from a long day at work to a visually messy living room for it’s the first room I see. Then when he cooks, I just have the urge to clean up right behind him… it’s awful! Yet, I hold back and do breathing exercises to get me through it. Though I feel I can clean as we go as he prepares dinner. So, there is less of a mess later. The garage is a hot mess too, especially his side. Though, I’m consciously being patient. I’ve requested some clear space to walk through the garage and keep my bikes accessible. I guess what I’m sharing is that I’m finding this challenging to live like this, yet I love my partner . I’m really torn.

    • Julie Cochran says:

      Unfortunately, im in the same situation, I come home from work & have to clean a spot off the table just to eat!!! He & his daughter always leave coke cans everywhere & even food!! Seeing more roaches has my nerves on end. I have told them repeatedly that you can’t leave open food out on the counters, store, bedroom floor, etc. B/c they draw roaches & rodents!! He hasn’t had a job since last Aug yet can’t help keep the house up. I love him but I also have Multiple Sclerosis, (nervous neurological disease) & it’s just become so overwhelming it’s as if it’s paralyzed me b/c I don’t know where to start & I can’t keep up picking up from them constantly much less getting to the basics of home order & some cleanliness!!! Just about fed up b/c I can’t even feel comfortable in my own home after coming in from work!!! Wit’s end!!

  10. Peace David says:

    So I had this argument with my partner about keeping the house messy, it’s 3 days now he has stop eating at home, stop having any intimacy with me, giving me silent treatment and all please what should I do?

  11. Mary G says:

    Not sure where to start, I have so much. But I’ll start by saying it’s the little things of not putting stuff back that bothers me.

    Example: I asked my son to put a load of paired socks on my husbands and I bed. I’d get it them and put them away.
    For many reasons I got busy and want able to get to them before bedtime.
    My husband goes to bed first but not before throwing all the paired socks on the floor! I believe we had had a small argument just before bedtime as well.

    This tells me he did it intentionally:(
    I left them there and he picked them up 5 days later. He put them back on the Bed.
    He then goes to bed, I walk in to put the socks away. I find him watching TV with the remote in his hand. It’s 7:30 his bedtime is 8:30.
    I comment why is it that you have time to watch TV but not put the Clean fitted sheet he was covering himself with on the mattress instead of sleeping on the mattress itself.
    (I had given him the sheet set a couple of days before.

    He replied why haven’t you done it?

    I walked away before a big argument in the middle of the night.

    We have a 2 story home nearly 3k soft.
    4 bdrms, 2 1/2 baths, 2 living rms, 2 dining rms and an office.
    A 17 yr old daughter who spends 98% of her time on her phone which he tells me to leave alone because he doesn’t wasn’t to hear any fighting and he just wants be relax after work.

    P.S i DONT work

    • Anne says:

      How frustrating! BTW, you do work it’s just not paid work. Trust me when I say, you are not going to change his or your daughters behavior. What you can do is change how you react to their behavior and your availability to be their house keeper. Have you considered working outside the home? Maybe then you can afford to have a house keeper come in occasionally and maybe also have some extra money to treat yourself. You deserve it.

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