If you are like most people, you live with one or more other people. The problem with this is that no two people have the same level of cleanliness. Invariably, one person is going to end up being the “cleaner” one and one will be the “messy” one. And somehow you have to come to grips with that.
Housework varies from the #1 to #3 cause of stress in marriages & families, right along with money, child raising, and sex. It is the topic of many a fight and has even caused the breakup of many marriages. Therefore, it is worth giving the topic some time and attention.
I believe the way to get the cleanie people to live in peace with the messy people in the house is a little bit of open and honest conversation with a good healthy dose of respect and tolerance. Then you can get past some of these stalemates and power struggles that have been going on for years.
Part of an honest conversation is to ask for what you want. What a refreshing concept! No more criticizing and blaming the the other person, no more passive aggressive manipulation, you just come right out and say what it is you need. Here is something I came up with for my family a couple of years ago. It’s still written on a piece of paper on the side of the fridge as a reminder.
My Bill of Rights:
- My desire for a clean house needs to be respected even if it is not understood or shared.
- This is my home too. I deserve to live in a place that meets my needs and my desire for a peaceful, clean place to relax.
- I do not deserve to be embarrassed when company stops by unexpectedly. Even if it’s not fair, they blame me when the house is messy and not you. I shouldn’t have to be ashamed when it isn’t my fault.
- I will expect your cooperation because you love me and want me to be happy. Having a reasonably clean home is necessary to make me happy.
- I don’t expect miracles or extraordinary efforts, but everyone needs to do to some basic things on a daily basis to help keep the place in order.
- I would love to have your praise and compliments, but I will settle for you not criticizing my efforts or making me feel bad about asking for what I need.
That is calm, respectful, assertive, and to the point. And it did get results. After I wrote that, my family began to see that having a clean home was a priority for me and that I really wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable or extraordinary, and they began to help more and complain less.
Similarly the messy person in the relationship needs to have the right to not be nagged over every little thing. Our arrangement is that if the public areas of the house are presentable, I don’t gripe (very much) about the non-public areas of the house. If he wants to keep 8 empty drink cups in the den, or let the dust bunnies run wild around his computer area, that’s OK, so long as he helps keep the living room and kitchen mostly clean. That’s a compromise we can both live with.
Same thing with kids. If I ease up about little things like having to have the dishwasher loaded a certain way, or the towels folded just so, and instead show a little appreciation when they help out with things, won’t that make them a lot more likely to cooperate? And I need to understand that their idea of clean isn’t always the same as mine, but it doesn’t make them bad or lazy people – just different. Seems to me that seeing the other person’s point of view would go a long ways towards developing some compromises that would work out for both parties and bring a little peace to the household.
What are your strategies for dealing with the cleanies vs. messies situation in your household?