Top tips for living harmoniously with an untidy person

Going mad at the thought of living with someone else's clutter? Here's our guide to conflict-free cohabiting

1. Talk it through

If you’re finding yourself constantly complaining about your housemate or significant others mess, perhaps it’s time for a chat. Set aside plenty of time to sit down and talk and be straightforward about any issues you may have. Try to avoid accusatory language. ‘We should find a strategy to keep the home clean and tidy’ is better than ‘you’re so messy and impossible to live with’. Living with someone often requires compromise and negotiation.

2. Make a note of it

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Once you have decided on what jobs each of you are best suited to tackle, write it all down. Think about creating a rota that details exactly who should tackle a certain task on what day and time. This way you can avoid unnecessary bickering about whose turn it is to take out the bins.

3. Allocate a ‘zen’ zone

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Everyone needs a place that they feel they can escape to, even in a small, cramped flat. Even if space is tight, a corner of a room or a desk area can be enough to provide a sanctuary of your own for some (almost) uninterrupted quiet time.

4. Invest in a ‘messy’ box

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If you are constantly having to pick up after others, it may be a good idea to have a box that you can throw all odd bits of clothes, toys and games in. You won’t have to waste time putting stuff away, and your messy housemate will know that all their belongings are in the box.

5. Try to be understanding

If you are a person who likes to be tidy it can be hard to live with someone who is incredibly messy, but it might make things easier to understand their perspective on cleanliness. Untidy people aren’t purposely spreading their clothes all over the place to annoy you, they are just happy to live with the mess they create. In a neat person’s mind a cluttered place is often stressful, chaotic and anxiety-inducing, whereas mess might seem homely to an untidy person. It is best to talk through how you feel from the get-go, and outline a strategy that you both feel comfortable with, and can adhere to.

6. Work as a team

Image credit: David Giles

Schedule a day that you’re both free to go through the most untidy spots in your home. Doing chores as a team will often make them seem more ‘fun’ and exciting. Plus, it is a useful bonding experience, especially if you have just moved in with someone new.

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