Are you married to a messie?

They say that opposites attract, and if you are a neat freak or a "cleanie", chances are, you are married to a "messie".
Messiness doesn't really have anything to do with someone's character. Most "messies" are lovable, kind, generous, and have a great sense of humor. It's just that they tend to go through life sloppy and disorganized.

Living with a "messie" can be frustrating and challenging.  Living with a "messie" can cause the non-messie spouse to become depressed and discouraged. Some people have ended up divorcing because the mess created by one spouse overwhelms the other.

You don't have to endure the heartbreak of divorce over messiness though. You can learn to live harmoniously (for the most part) with your "messie" mate.

Please note: The terms "cleanie" and "messie" were, as far as I know, coined by Sandra Felton in her first book, The Messies Manual. They're meant to be descriptive, not disparaging.

Set boundaries for clutter areas

Don't let the mess overwhelm your whole house. It's amazing how fast your "messie's" clutter can take over large areas if you don't set some boundaries to keep it contained as much as possible.
  • Designate an area in the house--maybe a room, or a part of a room--that's theirs to keep as they please. Even though it's cluttered and messy, don't say anything. That's their space, but they must keep the clutter within their space, and not let it overflow to other areas of the house.
  • If it's your husband who's the "messie", you might need to set some boundaries outside your home as well, especially if he enjoys collecting anything, or tinkering on things.
What worked for us was fencing off part of the yard so that Hubby could keep all of his old cars, car parts, and other collected treasures in that one area, without them constantly spilling over into the rest of the yard.

A book to help you get started

If you can't stand the clutter and chaos any more, and want to learn how to become clean and organized, this book can help. Sandra Felton, the founder of Messies Anonymous, first published The Messies Manual in the early 80s, and it's sold hundreds of thousands of copies since.
This is the new and updated version of her work, which includes seven new chapters.
If you don't know exactly where to start to get organized, but know THAT you want to start, check out the tips and advice in this book.
By the way, buying this book for your "messie" mate probably isn't the best idea, unless they've already stated that they'd like to get organized. This book is better if YOU are the one who wants to become uncluttered and organized.
The New Messies Manual: The Procrastinator's Guide to Good Housekeeping

The New Messies Manual: The Procrastinator's Guide to Good Housekeeping

Be patient

It will be frustrating and challenging at times, but do your best to learn to be patient with  your "messie". Why disrupt the peaceful atmosphere of your home by arguing over clutter?
Be patient with your "messie" mate as he or she learns to become better organized and neater.
Notice their attempts at improvement, and compliment them--not in a mommy-patting-child-on-head kind of way, but sincerely, letting them know that their efforts haven't been in vain. For most "messies", it's a huge undertaking, trying to learn a new way of living after what might have been decades of messiness.

Don't nag or lecture

When it comes to getting your "messie" mate to clear their clutter, don't nag or lecture. This only causes them to dig in their heels, and progress will never be made.
Organizing might be easy for you, but it might be a nightmare for your spouse. Even though it's hard sometimes, do your best not to lecture them on "a more efficient way" to clean up their mess.
If they're just "churning" their clutter, moving it back and forth, but not really getting rid of anything, or getting any better organized, and it's driving you crazy, leave the area before you start saying things you might regret.
It's difficult to keep the lip zipped, but in the long run, it's a lot better for your marriage.

Offer to help

It's okay to offer to help your "messie" spouse get decluttered and organized, but if they don't want your help, accept it. Let some time go by, then try offering to help again. After awhile, they might take you up on it, but not everyone will.
If they do agree to let you help, be careful not to "take over", and don't be bossy. Try to work as a team to improve an area. Don't give the impression that you are appalled at the mess (even if you are).
Don't try to clear a huge area all at once, unless your mate has indicated a desire to do that. Decluttering saps a lot of energy from a person who isn't good at it, and they can end up frustrated and discouraged.
Do little bits at a time, then celebrate what you've accomplished.

How about you? Are you married to a messie, or are you the messie?

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