How to Live With a Messy Person

Woman laying on messy couch


Onzeg / Getty Images

It's second nature for neat people to clean up after themselves and keep things in a relative state of tidiness. So when a neat person lives with someone more inclined to be messy, it can cause quite a few problems. Use these tips to negotiate a cease-fire in the cleaning wars raging in your home.

  • 01 of 06

    Talk Calmly About It

    Roommates talking calmly in kitchen

    ​ izusek/Getty Images

    Ignoring the problem won't work. You'll need to face it honestly, but respectfully. The truth is that clutter and mess can cause quite a bit of anxiety and stress for people who are naturally neat. On the other hand, having someone nag constantly can do the same thing to a roommate who is more casual with his messes. Schedule a time and a neutral location to talk about the goals you both have for your home. Recognize that each person's opinion is valid and that compromise will be necessary.

  • 02 of 06

    Define Dirty and Messy Together

    Neat and messy drawers

    Fancy/Getty Images

    Dirty and messy aren't the same thing. Dirty implies that there is actual dirt, grime, leftover food, or mold present in your home. Dirty is gross and can potentially make people sick. Dirt invites damage, stains, and insects. Messy is more like clutter or items in places where they don't belong. Neat people sometimes combine these two terms, but they are different. It's completely fine to have rules about getting rid of dirt. Messiness is where you'll need to compromise.

  • 03 of 06

    Work Out a Compromise Together

    Roommates talking seriously in home kitchen

    YinYang/Getty Images

    Start by describing your ideal home. You might be surprised to find that you and your messy roommate agree on many items. At this point, you'll likely have to start compromising. What happens when someone is in the middle of a project? What should the living areas of your house look like at all times? Who has duties in which rooms? What are some daily, weekly, and monthly chores? You don't need to compromise on health and safety issues, but you may need to in regards to more subjective items like how a room looks.

  • 04 of 06

    Use Pictures and Lists to Define Expectations

    Sofas and built in shelving in a modern sitting room

    Gavin Jackson/Getty Images

    Try taking pictures of what each tidy room looks like after you compromise on a basic level of clean. You can then refer back to the pictures to make sure the room returns to the state you agreed on. Cleaning checklists can also be a useful tool once a routine has been agreed upon. It helps others to know and remember what is expected. Don't be tempted to add items that weren't agreed upon to the lists without group consent. That's an easy way to cause a revolt. We don't want to give our families any extra excuses for not cleaning! Recognize that children may have their own cleaning excuses and need separate solutions.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Respect Individual Space to a Certain Degree

    Boy on a bedroom floor, door covered in warning signs

    Mel Yates/Getty Images

    You may agree that common areas will have a different organization schedule, whereas personal spaces are a little different. While they aren't allowed to be dirty, the level of neatness can be a little laxer there. Will it still drive you crazy when you walk by a messy room? Sure. But until it becomes dirty, try to be tolerant of the mess.

  • 06 of 06

    Do Not Nag

    College dorm room of neat and messy roommates

    Yellow Dog Productions/Getty Images

    Living with someone who is messy can be a challenge. But living with someone who nags continually is no picnic, either. For this to work, you'll have to be calm and tolerant. Work out an agreement and stick to it. Create your sanctuary that you have control over. Even if it's just a shelf, your bed, or your own room, you can keep your space exactly how you like it. Recognize that the feeling of comfort you feel in your space may, inexplicably to you, be the same feeling your messy roommate gets in his cluttered room.