I love my husband to bits. However, his messy habits used to tick me off. Nevertheless, after some small and other big fights I formulated a plan to work out our home-keeping. The main aim was to make him understand how the cleanliness and organization at home is going to benefit us and to achieve and keep a well-maintained home with him.
This article is aimed to share a systematic way to train a messy spouse/partner to achieve and maintain cleanliness, organization, and orderliness at home.
Step 1: Stop attacking him/her
If you are hurling your partner with mean comments all the time over the messiness, forget that he/she is ever going to alter anything. When messiness is a habit, it is extremely hard to break. It requires a lot of patience on the part of whom who wants to break it. So, the first step towards changing your partner’s messiness is to stop attacking him/her at all.
Keep your eye on the aim. If you want him/her to pick up soiled towels from the bathroom floor, just simply ask him/her to do so. Do not cringe at the sight of those towels, shout, or scream (at least in front of your partner). I agree without the personal attacks your partner might not pick up his clothes or towels when you say it for the first time. Still I maintain that this is the better strategy to make things work. It is perfectly okay to remind him/her about things patiently. Whether your partner does the job or not, when you refrain from personal attacks you get in better position to move to the next step.
Step 2: Convey what you want and how would it benefit
This step can be carried out only when you are in the right position (at peace with your partner) to talk about what you want to achieve. Note down the things you want to talk about and here again focus on what you want to achieve, rather than only telling that he/she has not been cooperative.
Talk about how much cleanliness and orderliness mean to you and how the messiness is affecting you. Here the catch is that one should talk about the effects of ‘messiness’ and not about the effects of your ‘partner’s messiness’. I know in any neutral person’s eye messiness and the partner’s messiness might be the same. However, it is necessary not to take your partner’s name while mentioning the messiness. Otherwise, the messy partner may start being defensive about the whole situation. Talk (a lot) about the benefits of cleanliness on your relationship and your love life. If you have children, tell your partner how important is cleanliness and orderliness from kids’ health and nurturing point of view.
Do not expect your partner to change overnight. In fact, it might take several talk sessions to make him finally want to act to change things. Keep each session short and focused. If possible, schedule the session at a prim restaurant or any other clean hangout place. This way, your partner will be able to see the contrast of cleanliness and lack thereof on his return to home.
Step 3: De-cluttering
When your partner finally realizes the importance of organization and cleanliness, the next step is to de-clutter. Usually a typical American home has a lot of clutter. Anything that you have not used for one year qualifies as the clutter.
De-cluttering the entire home is indeed a big project. However, it is truly worth the amount of time and hard work it takes. Tell your partner that de-cluttering is truly a life changing experience. Once done it makes the life easier beyond imagination. Allocate a space in each room to collect the clutter of the respective room. De-clutter all of your possessions including shoes, clothes, collectibles, books, DVDs, and even the unused furniture items.
Arrange a garage sale, once the clutter is separated from the useful items. Keep the money you make from this sale as a fund to help you while organizing. (This fund can be also be partially used to buy your messy partner a present for participating in the de-cluttering project.)
Step 4: Carryout a pilot project of cleaning and organizing
This step is to give the messy partner a feel of the convenience and bliss that organization and cleanliness brings into the life. The pilot project should be organization of the stuff that your partner is most passionate about. For example for the avid readers, their books can be organized. The DVDs of the movie lovers can be arranged.
My husband is always very conscious about his office attire. So, as the pilot organizing project we decided to organize his wardrobe. He did not only participate in the project very actively but it also gave him the necessary boost to help me carry out projects to clean and organize the rest of the home.
Step 5: Focusing on organization
After the de-cluttering, a very encouraging thing is that there are relatively fewer things left to organize. Also it is the best time to carry out other organizing projects when your partner is all excited at the ease that the pilot project has brought in his/her life.
Start with smaller projects for inspiration
Here too, start with smaller projects for lesser toil and more inspiration. For example, do not propose to your partner to organize an overflowing garage. Instead, propose only for organizing a single section.
Refrain from distractions but keep the project interesting
If you are a cleanliness freak like me then you might jump with excitement at the thought of washing a carpet (for example). However keep in mind that your partner might cringe at the very thought of it. So do not consider anything other than the component of your project as a distraction. Rather, try to introduce different elements of interest in any project for your partner.
Play his/her favorite music while working. Bring him/her favorite chocolates/snacks and coffee flavors in the breaks. Finish off every project with his/her favorite fast food. Other than that, offer other favors like a night out with friends, going to the movies, or going to watch a particular sport etc for completing a project.
Proceed to larger projects
When you and your partner have got into groove of working together and have started enjoying it, then proceed to larger projects. Do not forget elements of interest in between and the rewards afterwards.
Step 6: Focusing on cleanliness and hygiene
An organized home is easier to clean and maintain. So focusing on cleanliness and hygiene is the next logical step after organizing.
The most crucial spaces for cleaning are the bathroom(s) and kitchen. A dirty bathroom or kitchen can play havoc on the health of the entire household. The partners should mutually decide upon regular cleaning routines and schedules for the kitchen and the bathroom.
After the bathroom and the kitchen, the next important cleaning routine is doing the laundry. It does not only include the regular washing of clothes but also of the sheets and even drapes or curtains.
Once your partner is comfortable with the routines of doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen or the bathroom, then formulate rules and routines for the cleanliness of other living spaces. How often any given space needs to be cleaned depends directly on the frequency of use of the space, location of the home, environmental factors, and the vehicle traffic in the vicinity of the house. A simple rule is that a place should be cleaned as often as it tends to get dirty.
Step 7: Focusing on décor and ambiance
One can focus on the décor and ambiance of the home, once it is cleaned and organized up to the desired standards.
Ask for your partner’s opinion while decorating
The possibility is that your messy love might not even be a little interested in what kind of décor the home should be. However, a smart partner would always ask for opinions for one clever purpose. Asking the partner for opinion means that you are subconsciously bounding him/her to maintain the décor in every possible way. This way, he/she will not think that organization and cleanliness is just your job or responsibility. Of course, when a partner is involved in decision making regarding the decor, he/she feels responsible for maintaining it too!
Keep the décor basic and minimalistic
The easiest way to maintain a prim space with a messy or prone-to-be-messy partner is to keep the décor very basic. Do not pile up on anything that may become hard to maintain. For example, lesser number of furniture items or collectibles in a certain room means that lesser time will be consumed in dusting them. If there is lesser number of items to be dusted then the dusting can be made a daily routine. The space is always going to be spick and span.
Step 8: Allocate a place for cluttering
It is normal for everyone to be under spells of messiness. So accept that it is but normal for your partner to clutter occasionally. An excellent way to deal with this situation is to make a separate space for cluttering. Any region away from the guests’ vision or a closet can serve the purpose. Tell your partner to throw anything he/she feels like cluttering in the allocated region. However, once the clutter region runs out of space, some of the items there must be transferred to their respective right places. This way it also becomes convenient to keep a check on the clutter, so that it never goes out of control again.
Personal experience of maintaining a spick and span home with a prone-to-be-messy husband
Personal experience of helping friends organizing different sections of their homes