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.

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

  1. Carol says:

    I have cleaned my husband’s mess by his chair & it Just goes right back to a mess & he has all of his clothes on the living room couch & other stuff stacked up.
    I have cleaned it over & over again.
    I talked to because I have a back problem & it’s hard for me & he Just goes right behind me.
    I Love you so much .
    But I can’t keep doing this its now stressing me out.

  2. Tired says:

    If I get up early I come back to find he made his side of the bed but not mine. When I ask about it, it’s I forgot. As in you’re making a bed and forgot to do the other side?
    Then the answer is I want sure where you were so I left it.

    I make both sides of the bed. Have you ever heard of someone who forgets to make the other side of the bed?

  3. Johnny teague says:

    I have tried everything. I do the yard work auto repairs and all the housework and repairs. Since getting married my business has suffered. I spend more time to home work than my repair business. Also I cook 80 % of the meals. I am at my with end. I love her but she says if she is not working that’s her down time. What can I do. She will not help me.

    • Jen says:

      Marry me instead. I’m dealing with the same, it’s really a dealbreaker at this point. We’ve been together for 3 yrs (not married) and I’m willing to walk out over the issues you described.

      • Mary says:

        More or less same here, we have been together for soon 7 years. Not married because I have told him I don’t believe in marriage, truth is; I’m scarred to say yes to a life like this. I could be away from home working for 10-12h, he stays home all day “studying”, but mostly playing video games. On my one-hour commute back home, I had to stop to grocery shop, then cook food. When he was working, part time, on his days of he refused to do anything close to vacuum cleaning or doing the dishes because “he wanted to just relax”, as if I ever hade time like that due to his carelessness…

        I admit, I’m very tidy and I need it tidy to keep my head clear, but my boyfriend is just a mess… I don’t know if I want children, I just turned 35 so it’s sort of now or never, but I can’t have babies with a man like this. How will I have the energy to organize, shop food and tidy up for one more – without sleep?

        We have talked about this issue many times, he says he can’t and most important, don’t want to change. He says I should be less tidy, but I have no idea how to be like that. Clutter really stresses me out. Sometimes I do not have the energy to tidy up all the time, then the house is a mess, looks like a bomb exploded. And this is not something I just say, he agrees… he just don’t care.

        He recently moved to another city to study so now we live in different homes. I never been so relaxed in my whole life it feels like. I’m really contemplating to end this relationship because all the past deception that caused so much stress has turned me into a person I do not like. Well, this became a novel, sorry!

      • Mike says:

        While the messiness/unorganized problem is probably more with men, there are a number of us guys who are having to deal with a messy/unorganized spouse as well. In my case it’s compounded by the fact that I’m not allowed to organize or clean up after her, because she seems to have some self-entitled ownership of all things domestic. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think that there’s probably a lot of women like you who would dearly love to have a guy who was neat and organized. But, this isn’t a dating site 🙂

    • Lili says:

      My partner and I are at the end , I can’t take it anymore , I have 2 kids and expect the house to look like Ikea catalog, nothing is helping. Don’t get me wrong he cleans and helps with household, but he punishes me after that with stone walling me and ignoring me. I told him previously he can get a house help because his expectations are not realistic, I prefer to spend time with my kids rather than being obsessive cleaning.

  4. Mess_equals_stress says:

    This is the scary part i used to be neat and tidy but it seems my husbands messiness has made me slack off too. Mess makes me so stressed and i cant stand grubbiness which he can be. I have a 3 year old too but she is good and is learning to tidy after herself. I just want consistency in cleanliness but can never find it in the home and when the evening comes i am exhausted to clean thoroughly.

  5. Cindy says:

    You floored me when you contradicted yourself saying it’s not like it’s going to ruin your marriage, yet you don’t know how much more you can take. I’m the clean one and my husband isn’t filthy because I won’t let it get to that point, but leaving chips and crumbs on the floor as he gets up and leaving bread open bottle not closed and food left out and it doesn’t take but seconds to do it is my problem with my spouse. To me if someone truly cares they would clean up after themselves and make the other person happy, but they don’t see it that way. Sorry

    • Courtney Kistler says:

      My fiance does the same thing — leaves everything everywhere: cabinets open, bottles of salad dressing out uncapped, crumbs on the living room floor, drawers are rarely closed, and his cycling gear literally EVERYWHERE. I like this article in that it has a more calculated approach rather than my current which is due to years of being pushed and going “ok no more Mr Nice Guy, I’m pissed”. I think we can give some of these a try. He needs to hear it from someone else too, not just me who probably sounds like a barking hyena anymore 😉

  6. Kiesha Allen says:

    My first time meeting with a Psychic medium and I have to say, it’s really worth it. It had been 6months since my husband left me without saying anything.All thanks to Dr Adoda I was able to connect with my husband again with his powerful reunion love spell and now he loves me more than he used to. Eternally grateful with The Great Dr Adoda! I highly recommend, His contact details ( http://dradodalovetemple.com )

  7. Ijustwantadvice says:

    Im 21 years old I leave with my parter and my puppy. I’m not working right now, I’m an artist, I’m also staring an online business so that’s why I’ve decided to take a time out. Anyway, i stay home as you can see every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is clean, I love starting my mornings with a clean place because it make me have a great mood through out the day and I feel organized! yes, i clean every day it’s a light clean when I really clean the whole house is Monday and Friday because having a puppy well I get fur everywhere so that’s why! Been organized has become a big part of me (I’ve been working on it this past months and it involes cleaning). after that I cook and I clean but just the area that i have used. once Im done i relax and work on my projects! my partner is a hard working person, and if he can work over time he will I’m very proud of him! But there is just something that bugs be about him, when he comes from work he sands the floor all across the house. I know he’s tired I know he just wants to eat and rest, as I mention earlier I know he’s been working hard and the his job is very hard and risky. I know all of that and that’s one thing he has told me he thinks I don’t see that. Here is the story of the problem, once he comes i welcome him ask him about his day etc, then I tell him if he can please take his shoes off outside or put them by the entrance. I talk to him in the nices way not trying to bother him or ruin his day or making it seem like that’s the only thing I care. but unfortunately he gets mad and starts bringing past problems
    Says I should just stay quiet, that there is tomorrow and the next day to clean.
    that maybe he has been so nice to me by getting me things and that’s has made me like this.
    that Im at home and i have all day.
    that i act like an older woman. (Which for me it’s not bad)
    He says so much none sense that have nothing to do.
    he just starts being rude. And it just seem like he’s just trying to avoid something that can be easily done
    (i have had told him constantly and maybe he got annoyed, I have shown a kind of mad face, he has done things right sometimes, I have told him I want to make it last clean while it can)
    Now it could be me in a way! But also it can be him in a way!
    i just think that if he knows I have told him severely times nicely we can prevent arguments, it’s not a hard thing to do. he dosent have to come up will a million excuses or be rude! Plus it’s the only thing that I ask him to do for me that involves house course! …He just makes me feel unappreciated!
    When he wants Something, for him I have to not do it again or else it’s my fault or he gets mad. But if I tell him that, I’m the bad person who does not appreciates him! He’s just that type of person that doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do or acepte there mistake! I don’t know how else to talk to him i have try it the best way by sitting down. I’m not saying he’s a bad person but when it comes to situation like this I don’t know what to do… as dumb as it can sound he just doesn’t understand how cleaning and being organized has help me in a way!( emotionally and mentally)and he throws it all out when he says that I’m home all day and there is tomorrow and the next day, just repeating what I said earlier!

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