Living with a messy person when you’re used to being clean and tidy is no picnic. It’s like a real life episode of The Odd Couple, but with less comedy and more tension. More often than not, it ultimately leads to arguments or unhealthy, passive-aggressive behavior. Living with someone who has different ideals than you do is frustrating, but there are ways to deal with it in a healthy manner.

Have An Adult Conversation

Find some time to sit down and have a frank, honest, and respectful conversation. Explain to your partner or roommate that physical clutter causes your brain to feel cluttered too, causing you a lot of anxiety that could be easily prevented. But be prepared to give a little too. Having someone nag or be passive-aggressive probably makes your messy counterpart anxious as well. Speak calmly about common goals and make a plan to reach them.

Realize That Dirty and Messy Aren’t the Same Thing

Being dirty is a real problem. Dirt, mold, and grime have the potential to make someone ill. At the least, they exacerbate allergies. They also invite pests into the home, which can lead to even bigger problems. If this is the issue, it definitely needs to be met head on. Being messy, however, is a different story. While clutter creates its own set of problems, it’s much better than living with someone who’s actually gross. There needs to be a certain amount of compromise.

Lay Some Ground Rules

Decide which areas of your home you should concentrate on. Which spaces should be kept neat at all times, and which ones can be more relaxed? For example, if it’s most important to you that the living room be clutter-free and the kitchen sparkling, perhaps it’s okay to relax the rules in the bedrooms or any other areas that aren’t seen much by visitors.

Create a Routine

Make a schedule or routine, complete with checklists for cleaning and pickup. It takes roughly 21 days to create a habit. That’s three weeks. If you and your significant other or roommate can remember to follow your checklist together daily, picking up after yourselves might just become second nature.

Respect Personal Space

Compromises should only be made for common areas. Each member of the household should be allowed a personal space that’s unique to them. This is much easier if we’re talking about roommates or kids, of course. It’s a little more difficult when you’re sharing a bedroom with your significant other. If this is an area where you have to compromise, try to have other personal space in the house (or even outside…She Shed or Man Cave, anyone?), where no one else’s opinions or rules matter.

Try to Remain Positive—Don’t Nag

No neat freak wants to live with a slob. But no one wants to live with someone who constantly nags either. This might take a little bit of introspection on your part. Think about why the clutter bothers you so much. What can you let go of? Are there other constructive things you can do to help feed that need? Keep yourself feeling positive by spending some time in your own spot that you can keep tidy and spotless. Then think about the fact that your messy counterpart might actually feel most at ease in the midst of the chaos.

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