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 who is more inclined to be messy, it can cause quite a few problems. Use these tips to negotiate a cease-fire in the clean wars raging in your home.

1Talk Calmly About It

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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.

2Define Dirty and Messy Together

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Dirty and messy really 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. People who are neat sometimes combine these two terms, but they really are different. It’s completely fine to have rules about getting rid of dirt. Messiness is where you’ll need to compromise.

3Work Out a Compromise Together

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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.

4Use Pictures and Lists to Define Expectations

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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 your 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.

5Respect Individual Space to a Certain Degree

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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 more lax there. Will it still drive you crazy when you walk by a mess room? Sure. But until it becomes dirty, try to be tolerant of the mess.

6Do Not Nag

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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 own sanctuary that you have control over. Even if it’s just a shelf, your own 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 own cluttered room.


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