Having a messy spouse can be really frustrating. I get it. You may feel like you are constantly cleaning up after them, and that they are never grateful. Even though it can be challenging, there are many ways to deal with a messy spouse.
Often, someone’s cleanliness habits has a lot to do with their upbringing. If your spouse grew up in a messy household, they may not see the value in keeping things clean and tidy. If your parents are neat freaks, you may have a different perspective.
My spouse used to be a bit of a slob. It would drive me crazy! I would find clothes strewn about the house, dishes in the sink, and toys scattered everywhere. I would nag and complain, but it seemed like nothing ever changed. Eventually, things got a lot better when I implemented a family chore chart. This is just one of the ideas I suggest.
The way I see it, there are two types of cleaning. Decluttering/tidying up and deeper cleaning. Tidying up involves putting everything in their designated space, organizing, and making sure the surfaces are clear. Deeper cleaning involves actually cleaning the surfaces, which can often be neglected in a busy household. This would include things like mopping the floor, cleaning the bathroom, and dusting. Sometimes, people have a preference for what type of cleaning they prefer doing. This is worth exploring with your spouse.
How to deal with a messy spouse or partner:
1. Communicate with your spouse about your expectations
It is important that you be clear about what you expect from your spouse in terms of cleanliness. If they are not aware of your expectations, they may not know that they need to change their behavior. Even if they are aware of your expectations, they may not know how to meet them. After spending some solid time communicating, you can begin to work on a plan together.
2. Create a chore chart
One way to help your spouse be more accountable for their mess is to create a chore chart. This can be a physical chart that you hang up in the house, or it can be a digital chart that you both have access to. I would suggest putting the chart on the fridge or in a common area where it is visible at all times. This is a great way to visually represent tasks that need to be done around the house. Each task can even be assigned to a specific day of the week. Chore charts help prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed, and also helps give a sense of progress. There are also chore apps available for mobile!
3. Set aside 30 minutes a day for tidying up
This is something that you can do together as a team. Set an alarm for 30 minutes, and spend that time tidying up the house. You would be surprised how much better the home can look with two people cleaning for 30 minutes. You can set aside this time after work, before bed, or even in the morning after breakfast. 30 minutes is just enough time to make a difference, but not so much time that it feels overwhelming. If it feels like too much, start with 10 or 20 minutes and gradually work your way up.
4. Lead by example
If you want your spouse to be more clean, then you need to set the example. Even if you are not a neat freak, you can still keep things tidy. Make an effort to pick up after yourself, and to put things away in their proper place. If your spouse sees you making an effort, they will be more likely to follow suit.
5. Reward and recognize them for their efforts
When your spouse puts in an effort to be tidy, be sure to give them a verbal or written compliment. This will show them that you appreciate their efforts and will encourage them to keep up the good work. Also be sure to recognize them for their other efforts around the house. Did they fix the leaky faucet? Did they make dinner? Give them credit where it is due! It takes a team to keep a house running smoothly, and every contribution should be celebrated.
6. Start small
If you are having trouble getting your spouse to change their ways, start small. Ask them to focus on one area, such as picking up their clothes, making the bed, or doing the dishes. Once they have built that into their routine, you can move on to other areas.
7. Make sure everything has it’s place
This is the golden rule of keeping your home tidy and free of clutter. Make sure everything has it’s own place. When things have a designated spot, it is easier to put them away and to keep track of them. This can be especially helpful for things like toys, remote controls, and keys. Storage bins are especially useful for this. I like to use clear storage bins so that I can easily see what is inside. If your mail tends to stack up near the door, invest in a clever mail organizer. These little things will help ensure your shared space is tidy and uncluttered.
8. Refrain from nagging
It is important to avoid nagging your spouse about their messiness. This will only make them resent you and will likely lead to them feeling defensive. Even if you are tidying up after them, refrain from making comments about their laziness or lack of cleanliness. This will only make the situation worse.
9. Hire a housecleaner
If all else fails, you may need to hire a professional house cleaner to come in and help keep the house clean. This can be a last resort, but it may be necessary if you’re too busy to maintain a clean home. There’s no shame in admitting that you need help, and a house cleaner can be a godsend.
10. Make it as easy as possible
Keeping a tidy home requires there to be access to storage and cleaning supplies. If they are not easily accessible, it will be more difficult to keep things tidy. Make sure there is a trash can in every room, cleaning wipes in the bathroom, designated hampers for laundry, and storage bins in the closets. By making it as simple as possible, you can encourage your spouse to keep up with the tidying.
11. Look for inspiration.
Inspiration can be a game changer. If your spouse is consistently messy, it’s possible they just don’t see the why in keeping things tidy and clean. Share photos of clever organization hacks for the garage, well-decorated kitchens, and tidy mancaves. This may incentivize them to want to put in the extra effort.
12. Purge on a regular basis.
The more things you have, the more likely it is that your home will become cluttered. Go through your belongings on a regular basis and get rid of anything you don’t use or need. This will help to keep things tidy and prevent clutter from taking over your home. I would suggest a deep purge once a month where you donate anything that is no longer needed.
13. Create a safe space for the mess.
Have you ever seen the episode of Friends with Monica’s closet? Basically, Monica (the biggest clean freak) had a safe space where she could be messy and no one would judge her. Having a safe space where your spouse can be a little messy can help to prevent them from making a mess of shared spaces.
14. Be patient
Change takes time, so be patient with your spouse. They may not become a neat freak overnight, but if you are consistent with your expectations and compliments, they will slowly but surely get there.
If your spouse is messy, it’s important to have a discussion about it. Talk about why it bothers you and see if there is a way to come to a compromise. Maybe they can agree to tidy up more often, or do a deeper clean once a week.
Whatever the agreement is, make sure it is something that works for both of you. Do you have any tips for dealing with a messy spouse?