4 Tips for living with an unorganized person

I am a self-proclaimed neat freak, and anybody who knows me would absolutely agree with that description. When things are out of place in my life, I need to correct them ASAP or they infringe on my inner peace. If I’m in a messy room, I immediately feel claustrophobic, stressed, and tense. And I’m sure if you’re reading this, you feel the same way too.

The Hunky Engineer, however, feels no such things. He can live in a world with clothes on the floor, and unmade bed, and papers all over his desk. He takes no notice of the empty envelopes from open mail on the countertop right next to where he’s eating, or the crowded sink when he does his hair in the morning. He’s either blissfully unaware or blissfully ignorant, but he doesn’t let the messiness affect him in any way. Which is fine…unless you live with a neat freak who is always stressed out because of the mess.

Today, I’m offering 4 tips on how to live with a messy and unorganized person. Most pairs that exist out there, from my general experience, have a naturally clean and organized partner and a naturally messy and unorganized partner. And this is great, because each partner can learn from the other one. (This topic can also apply to siblings, parents, roommates, etc. – I’m just using a partnership for my examples in this post today.)

Living with the Hunky Engineer was tough at the beginning because he wanted to feel free to throw his stuff everywhere and I wanted a clean and orderly home that was always guest ready. Obviously, these are two completely different mindsets and ways of life. We needed a compromise, and fast, because it was definitely taking its toll on our relationship. I was yelling about him being messy and he was yelling that he should feel comfortable in his own home. And guess what? Both of us were right.

So, here are my tips on compromising and living with an unorganized person.

  1. Communicate the problem

This sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you aren’t willing to talk with your partner (or roommate or parents or whomever) about how their behaviors impact you and your comfort, you aren’t going to get anywhere. There will just be incessant arguments daily until something blows up.

But how, you might be wondering, do we approach these issues? Well, here’s what we did.

First, we made sure not to tag it on to the end of an argument. We talked about it at a different time, in a neutral space. Even if you’ve resolved your argument, those feelings are still there under the surface. If you try to have a reasonable discussion, it might head right back to the argument. Give some time and space before discussing your discomfort.

Secondly, we made sure it was about us. Another cliché, but use “I feel” statements, instead of “you need to stop” statements. When your partner understands how you feel and realizes they are affecting you, they are much more likely to listen than if you accuse them. For example, I told the Hunky Engineer that I cannot feel comfortable where there’s a mess. He told me that he cannot feel comfortable if he feels like he’s living in a museum.

Third, you need to communicate a compromise, however it might work best for the two of you. I will share what we did, but that might not be the solution for everybody.

2. Working out a compromise

This will look different for everyone depending on what your dynamic and life is like! For us, we wanted to both be happy and comfortable, so we made sure to discuss exactly what it was we liked about being organized/unorganized. I hated that the Hunky Engineer would leave his jackets, sweaters, and clothes from work (he changes at the gym so when he comes home, he’s in workout clothes) on the kitchen table.

Now, we don’t use our kitchen table much, we have stools at our island. However, I couldn’t (and still can’t) stand seeing his clothes there. But for him, it was the ease of grabbing a coat or sweater or needing to pack his gym bag at night, so he needed to take all the clothes out of it.

Our compromise? We hung hooks in the laundry room for the daily use coats and sweaters, and I got a hamper specifically for the laundry room where the Hunky Engineer could put his clothes when he was loading his bag. This solution works for me because I have a clear kitchen table and the Hunky Engineer has convenience since we walk through the laundry room to go to the garage or outside. Win-win.

I know I make it sound easy, but please note, it took us almost a year before we finally came to a compromise. We both wanted the other partner to give in to what we wanted. Realistically, however, that just wasn’t possible. We both had to drop our pride and come together on a solution that was mutually beneficial.

Of course, this is just one example of a compromise we’ve made for organization/cleanliness in our house. There have been tons of conversations over the year and a half that we’ve lived together, some successful, some not, about how we will manage and maintain our home. And we are still having conversations to this day. There will always be changes and adjustments needed. It’s never a “one and done” situation, and that’s NORMAL!

But I’m going to tell you that you NEED TO COMPROMISE with your partner. The neat freak can’t just run the house, and vice versa. Compromise is KEY.

3. Have grace

A short and sweet tip, but you need to have grace when it comes to adapting. Your partner will still make mistakes, and you’re still going to make mistakes too. Whether you’re the messy partner or the organized partner, mistakes are going to happen, and change will not happen overnight. Offer gentle reminders but don’t allow every minor setback to become a major blowout.

Note: I am the kind of person who needs to be called out for making a mistake or else I won’t notice I did. My mind is constantly running a mile a minute so sometimes I don’t even realize I’m yelling or getting overbearing. I definitely need someone to pull my mind back for a second so I can realize what I did and make a note to adjust in the future. HOWEVER, not everybody likes a constant reminder of their minor mistakes. You need to read and understand your partner to handle this situation best.

4. Create a space for yourself that fits your needs

For me, this was my favorite part of the compromise. For those of you who have been here a while, you’ve seen the transitions of my office space. My office space is my sanctuary! I love my reading chair, my new desk, and all the little things that make it personal. This space is MY space, and the Hunky Engineer is not allowed to tell me how to keep it, and he’s not allowed in the room unless I’m in there (not really, but he doesn’t go in anyway). The Hunky Engineer, on the other hand, has a studio (yes, studio, for music) downstairs. He is allowed to keep it how he wants, which is usually pretty messy. However, he knows if we are having people over, he has to clean it since it’s on the first floor and you can see it as soon as you come in our front door.

That said, I am aware that not everybody has the luxury of having a space to make their own. But I would recommend even a corner to designate as your space. A space that your messy (or organized) partner can’t touch. You can keep that space the way you like it/need it. If you have a small aparmtnert, maybe the kitchen is your space and the living room is your partner’s. Or maybe you do the sides of your bedroom. Whatever works for you, I highly recommend trying to designate a space for each partner that is not touched or influence by the other partner (unless its for dusting/vacuuming because cleaning is still a thing.)

And that’s a wrap! I hope these tips are useful for you and you can apply these to your life living with an unorganized person! What are your tips?