Tips for Dealing with a Messy Partner

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5 ways to make living with a messy partner easier

I'll admit it, whenever I'm in a relationship, I'm probably the messy one. I don't mean to be. In fact, I'm actually quite a fan of living in a clean house, it's just that when the time comes to properly tidy up, my mind tends to drift to other things. Luckily I live in New York, so I can just play it off as if I'm really, really busy. But the truth is, even if I had absolutely nothing to do all day, I'd still probably find myself surrounded by stacks of books and papers, piles of clothes, and an impressive array of giant dust bunnies. All of which is to say, I know what it's like to piss someone off who's a lot tidier than me, and I also know what it takes to get a messy person to pitch in and help clean once in awhile:

First and foremost, make sure it's your partner that's the messy one and not you

It's not quite the same as being in a relationship, but I once had a roommate who was, well, let's just say a little delusional over her level of cleanliness. She would constantly call “house meetings" in order to deliver a State of the Union on how no one but her was ever cleaning or pulling their weight. She would institute a strict chore schedule and then never, not once, keep it. In fact, she was actually the messiest of the three of us who lived there. Needless to say, she was not exactly what you would call self-aware. So if you're going to criticize your partner for being messy, just make sure that you really are the clean one. Otherwise it's just going to make everything a whole lot worse.

Create a chore schedule

This really is the best possible chance you'll have at getting your partner to pull their own weight. Trust me, if you just cross your fingers and hope against hope that they'll one day pick up a mop and clean the place, it isn't going to happen. So the best tactic is basically to divvy up the chores, set a “to be done by" date, and then count on your partner holding up their end of the bargain. If I know that I have to clean the bathroom or vacuum the house by a certain day, I'll usually get it done. Mostly because it's a lot less painful than dealing with the inevitable consequences if I don't.

Guilt trips can work, but non-verbal is usually best

The best way to lay a guilt trip on a messy person is to lead by example. Just make sure that you've done your share first, and then make it obvious that you're waiting for them to do their's. Some people won't realize or care that half of the house is clean and half of it isn't, but your garden-variety slob usually notice, and then will feel compelled to get their shit together and not look like the weakest link in the relationship. And of course, some gentle goading can certainly help grease the wheels, although be careful about going overboard. I know when I start to feel too heavily criticized I can go a bit Occupy Wall Street and engage in some good old fashioned passive resistance.

You're probably going to have to compromise a little

Yeah, I know, it sucks if you're the full-blown Felix Unger OCD type who needs a spotless house to keep from going crazy, but when it comes down to it, the million dollar word for any relationship is compromise. That's not to say that you should live in squalor, it's just that, for the sake of not driving each other nuts, it might be a good idea to meet somewhere close to the middle. It's better to be a little happy than not happy at all.

If all else fails, hire someone else to clean

This is basically the lazy man's way of problem solving; just throw money at it until it goes away. But if you can afford hiring someone else to do your dirty work, you should definitely consider it. That way if you find yourself living with a total slob, you'll at least know that you'll have one day a week where you can be truly happy.


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