Our Best Tips For Helping Messy And Neat People Live Together Happily

Picture this: You meet a guy. You like him a lot. He seems to check all the boxes, but when you go to his place for the first time, you realize that he's ... well ... a bit of a slob. Is it a deal breaker? Or, maybe you're the messy one, and he's Mr. Tidy. It's common for people who live together to have clashing lifestyles, whether it's between spouses, friends, or relatives. One person is neat, likes order, and hates clutter. The other person always leaves their belongings lying around, is unorganized, and doesn't clean or declutter as often as they should.


In some homes, the tidier person feels overwhelmed and stressed by the messes, so they might clean up or organize for the less-tidy person. This could upset the disorderly person who now can't find their things. It's a vicious cycle that can cause friction in an otherwise happy relationship.

Regardless of which best describes your lifestyle at home, you'll be happy to know that it is possible for a messy person and a neat person to live together happily. Here are some tips that can help.

Talk it out

With many housemate situations, it's the tidy person who's more vocal about the messy person, instead of the other way around. After all, you don't hear of many people complaining that their partner is too tidy, do you? Either way, if you're struggling to live with someone because of clashing home lifestyles, sometimes the best first step you can take is to simply talk about it with that someone.


Communication is key in any relationship. If you have an issue with something happening in your home involving a spouse or other housemate, approach the person in a respectful way and voice your concerns. Avoid certain "you" statements and name calling like, "You're such a slob" or "You're such a neat freak." Instead, make your preferences known, acknowledge your differences, and offer solutions. 

Maybe you're the type of person who immediately takes your dirty shoes off the moment you walk through the door and has a "no shoes in the house" preference. Or maybe you prefer to wear your shoes until you get to your bedroom because you hate seeing shoes lying around. If you're on one end of the spectrum while your housemate is on the other, talk about it. Nothing will change if you don't.


Create boundaries

The bedroom is typically the most personal space in a home, but this can also mean that it's the least organized or most cluttered space. Perhaps you see it as a place to express yourself and unwind a bit without rules or order, but your spouse or roommate might see it as a place where order is a must.


You might come home from a long day at work, throw your work clothes in the middle of the floor, and throw on a pair of sweats so you can relax. But your spouse or roommate might come in after you and see nothing but a giant mess and assume you're being lazy.

This can be frustrating for both of you, which is why it's important to create boundaries. Try to come to an agreement on which sections of the room are your areas and which sections are your roommate's. Then, agree that one person can be as tidy as they want to be while the other can be as messy as they want to be in their respective spaces.

Be understanding

Whether you consider yourself more of a neat freak or a disorderly person, think about how you became that way. People don't suddenly become messy overnight; sometimes it starts in childhood. Other times, messiness can be the result of mental illness. Los Angeles-based therapist Gaby Teresa told PsychCentral that there's a correlation between depression and messiness: "Living with depression can make it feel really, really challenging to do a lot of things, [and] keeping a living space clean may be just one of those." In the same vein, people also don't suddenly wake up as neat freaks. Being tidy is also a trait that starts in childhood.


Plus, being messy or tidy isn't always a conscious choice. Sometimes it's just what we are and what we become, based on how we were raised, our surroundings, or our mental health. So regardless of which end of the spectrum you fall on, try to be understanding of the other person's lifestyle, and know that it's okay to have differences. You just have to find ways to navigate around them.

Focus more on the positives

If you live with someone who's always relocating your belongings, it can be frustrating. In the same vein, if you live with someone who's always cluttering up your living space, it can be equally annoying. But if you try to shift your focus in another direction and focus on the other person's strengths, it can make a big difference in a positive way. It may help you see the not-so-tidy person as more than a slob, or the super-tidy person as more than just a neat freak.


Your housemate may be messy, but are they also artistic or good at fixing things? Both could benefit you somewhere down the road. For example, if the messy person is your spouse, but they know how to fix your car's alternator, saving you a lot of money, focus on that strength and less on the weakness (the messiness).

On the other hand, if your partner is a neat freak, and you see that as a bad thing, shift your focus on their more positive attributes. Tidy people tend to also be very organized people, which can be very beneficial when it comes to storing important documents in your home. So if the tidy person in your home is your spouse, focus on the organizational benefits and less on the obsession with cleanliness.


If you spend a few minutes every day focusing on your housemate's positive characteristics, you'll be more likely to overlook your clashing home lifestyles.

Be willing to compromise, and then do it

Living with a neat freak can be challenging if you're on the messy side, and living with someone who's on the messy side can be challenging if you're more on the neat side. It can be difficult for both parties, but if each party is willing to bend a little, it can make a world of difference. Sometimes compromise is all that's needed to keep the peace in a relationship, as long as each person meets the other halfway.


In some relationships, compromise could mean that the messy person agrees to spend five minutes at the end of each day tidying up. The tradeoff? The tidy person agrees to not touch any of the other person's belongings or even complain about them. Compromise could also mean cleaning and organizing together.

To make any level of progress toward peace, you have to first be willing to compromise. Then, you have to make sure that you follow through with your end of the agreement.

Lower your expectations

Maybe you've already talked it out, created boundaries, tried to be understanding, and focus on the positives. Maybe you've tried to compromise, but despite all of your efforts, you're still struggling with the messy vs. tidy dynamics. One of the reasons for this may be that you're expecting too much from your housemate.


If you're the messy person in the relationship, you might be hoping the other person will just accept your messiness and quit nagging about it. Or, if you're the tidy person, you might be hoping the other person will reach your high standards of cleanliness by the weekend. Unfortunately, it's possible that neither of those things will happen, ever.

When expectations are too high, it's usually a guaranteed recipe for disappointment. That doesn't mean you have to give up and be miserable in your own home, though. Just don't expect a complete 180. Instead, be grateful for any amount of progress that you get. Appreciate the effort that your partner makes because yes, it is absolutely possible for a messy person and a neat person to share a roof, peacefully.