How to Keep a Clean House when your Partner is Messy

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You don’t have to accept this messy life! Here’s how to keep a clean house when your partner is messy.

Let me start off by saying I love my fiance but his lack of cleaning drives me nuts. I can tell where he has been in our house because he leaves little presents for me to find. And by presents, I mean articles of clothing, his keys, his wallet, a cup … 

It is one of our biggest pain points if you ask me. Sometimes I feel like his mother since I constantly have to clean up after him.

Can anyone relate?

I didn’t realize how messy he was until we moved in together. When he used to come over to my apartment, he was waaaay tidier. I assume he was just being respectful of my space and the fact that I had roommates but boy, do I wish I knew. 

Now, I’m not the tidiest person. You should see my office, it’s bad but I do try to stay somewhat organized. At the very least, I try to keep the spaces where guests would visit clean. 

Which if you ask me isn’t too much to ask. But here’s the thing.

He doesn’t see it as messy.

women with cleaning cloths in her hand. She is wearing blue rubber gloves. She is looking at the cleaning cloths and looks annoyed. This could be because her partner is messy

Our definition of ‘clean’ is completely different. 

I think realizing this is the first step in the right direction. There are ways to overcome this argument. It’s going to take some compromise but trust me you can live in harmony with a messy partner.

Personally, I believe social media makes the idea of a clean house so much worse. Like the houses, you see online do not look lived in. Where is all their sh!t? 

I just don’t get it but it’s so aesthetically pleasing, at times I wish I could attain this look. I gotta remind myself that social media isn’t ‘real’. These are perfectly curated pictures but I digress.

Kudos to you if you can (and please let me in on your secret) but I do believe there is a way to find a happy medium between these homes and a home that looks like a tornado hit it. 

At the end of the day, no matter how organized you are, if your partner is not, you are going to struggle to keep an organized home. After all, it does take every member of the household to achieve this.

Here are 7 ways to keep a clean house when your partner is messy that have worked for me. 

1. Communicate what bothers you

a couple is sitting in a messy room. there is a broom and mop leaning against a bookshelf. There is popcorn on the coffee table and floor. There are blankets on the floor. A hamper knocked over. They do not look happy with the mess.

When we first moved in together, I tried to keep my frustration to myself. Thoughts like these went through my head:

‘he works a lot, I have more time to clean’ (true but it doesn’t make me any less frustrated)

If I stay more organized, that will make him more organized’ (this one is almost comical now)

All I need is a cleaning schedule, then the apartment will be clean‘ (it helps but it also doesn’t quite work like that)

Even after I tried these things, I still felt like he was working against me on trying to make our home nice.

So the inevitable happened. He left a dish in the sink and I completely overreacted. You know how it is. It was the last straw and weeks worth of frustration spewed out all at once. The result was bad. It didn’t come out well and it solved nothing. 

Find the right time to communicate your concerns of the mess to your partner.

Communication is key in many aspects of a relationship and when you communicate from a place of frustration, it typically does not come out the right way.

I used accusatory statements like ‘you always’ or ‘you never’ and believe me, this is just going to make your partner become defensive. Definitely, if you haven’t communicated your frustrations before because they most likely don’t know it bothers you.

A women wearing pink gloves has one hand on her forehead leaning on a table.

Acting on emotion is never a good thing. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t try to parent your partner. You are not their mother and you shouldn’t have to act like one. 

The first thing you should be aware of when bringing up this conversation is that it is not intentional. The mess just doesn’t bother them. Your preferences can really depend on how you grew up. Was your childhood home messy or clean?

Everyone is raised differently. Some people never had to worry about cleaning up after themselves. My little siblings are bad at cleaning up after themselves because someone would always do it for them.

And if you know someone is going to do it for you, why would you do it yourself?

I use to say that my fiance was making a mess on purpose but that’s quite honestly ridiculous. He just doesn’t see the mess or doesn’t think it is messy.

At the end of the day, you can’t change your partner. And you wouldn’t want to because you love them for them! Just like they don’t want you to change. 

But if you don’t communicate what is wrong, they aren’t going to know. So if dishes in the sink really bother you, talk to them. 

I suggest using ‘I’ statements versus ‘you’ statements.

People don’t like hearing that they are in the wrong. And honestly, they aren’t. That’s why phrasing it like ‘I would really appreciate it if you put your dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink so we don’t get bugs’ is a way better approach.

This way you’re expressing your concerns but you aren’t blaming them for being who they are. 

If you are able to express your concerns calmly, then hopefully your partner is willing to compromise with you. Otherwise, they aren’t being a very good partner.

2. Split up the chores fairly

a couple in aprons with a thumbs up ready to clean

Now fairly doesn’t necessarily mean equally. After all, if you like a cleaner house than them, you are probably going to have to put in more work. 

For example, one of the things my fiance and I agreed on was he would do all the outside chores and I would do all the inside chores. This is more so if you own a house, but I absolutely hate bugs so I would rather do any inside chore than weed.

He enjoys doing outdoor work. While I don’t enjoy doing every indoor household chore, I’d rather do that than the outside work. Also, if I’m in charge of the indoor chores, I can keep the house cleaner and there’s less resentment since we agree on who was doing what.

If you ask me, the chores inside the house are way more than the chores outside. He disagrees but that’s a different argument. Besides that, he has to work way more than me. Not counting blogging, I work around 40 hours a week where he works 50 plus.

I would never admit this to him but I do have more time on my hands. However, that doesn’t mean I have to clean up after him. So he is in charge of the outside chores and cleaning up after himself. This is what works for us. It’s not going to work for everyone so you will have to find out what compromises work for you and your partner.

At the end of the day, you’re more likely to do things you enjoy. We can all agree with that statement so trying to split up chores this way could help keep the peace.

Here’s an article on how to keep a clean house if you need some ideas to discuss with your partner.

3. Create small goals

a couple looking off into the distance. The man has a tablet in his hand. The women is lying on the couch looking at what the man is point at

Now, I said that my fiance is in charge of cleaning up after himself and if we’re being honest this doesn’t always happen. After all, it is hard to change a habit. 

So like any time you are trying to create a new habit, start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all! 

If your partner never puts their clothes in the laundry basket, maybe start there. Then move on to the dishes and so forth. Expecting them to change all their messy habits all at once is just not going to happen.

Little changes can add up to make a huge difference. So if your partner is trying to change to make you happy then give them a little grace.

After all, you can’t expect someone to change so if they are changing because they love you and want the relationship to work then you should be happy they are trying.

So if they slip up and kick their shoes off by the couch and leave it there, try not to jump into attack mode. Also, don’t use it as ammo later on. 

4. Create a chore schedule

I think chore schedules are great. It creates more accountability and less stress. If I schedule out chores throughout the week, I am a) more likely to do them and b) I don’t have to dedicate a whole weekend day to cleaning up. 

Like who wants to spend their whole Sunday cleaning? Not me!

I have a whole article on chores checklists (and a downloadable one below) but it is a great way to keep everyone in the household accountable. 

I’ve tried making a chores checklist for just myself and believe me, it doesn’t work as well. It was just a frustrating experience where I felt like I was constantly cleaning and failing at keeping up with all the mess. 

Remember, you aren’t your partner’s mother so you can’t just assign chores for them. There’s a really good chance they aren’t going to do it. 

But if you talk about it with your partner and you both agree on the checklist, then it’s a really good way to create accountability. 

Just like I mentioned earlier, split up the chores fairly and then create a chore checklist based on this agreement.

To give credit where it’s deserved, my fiance will clean up after himself, just not on the timeline I would like. He’ll get to it a few days later. However, with a chore schedule, he knows when he needs to have his chores done. 

Now, that means that they are probably not going to do it until that day but it’s all about compromise. It’s better than him doing it when he feels like it. 

a couple playing around while cleaning. The man is holding a mop in a guitar fashion and the women is holding a broom like a microphone

5. Think about the flow of the house

Another way to avoid having a messy house is to improve the flow of your house. 

What do I mean by this? If your partner leaves their clothes in the bathroom after a shower, maybe placing a laundry basket in the bathroom would solve all your problems. 

I added two little baskets for our keys right when you walk into the door to avoid him just dropping them on the kitchen counter. It’s easy, he’s still just dropping them without having to think about it. It works.

This is where organization techniques could come in handy. If it’s easy for them to put it away, they are more likely to do it. After all, they know it would make you happy and it is really not that much effort. 

There is still a balance to this. After all, I’m sure in your mind, everything has a place at the moment. But for a messy person, if it isn’t convenient and is ‘going to take too much time,’ they are probably not following it. 

Another technique that people swear by is creating a messy zone.

a pile of dirty clothes on the floor and scattered throughout the room

The idea behind this is if your partner leaves a mess in a non-messy zone area, then you can just move that stuff to the messy zone and they can clean it or organize it when they want to. 

Now, the pro to this method is that you won’t have a mess in a shared space. The Messy zone is going to be some kind of man cave, office, a space for them. That room will be messy and at your partner’s standard of clean and then you don’t have to be constantly going through their stuff.

The con is that there is still a mess in your house. If you’re going to create a messy zone then you have to avoid the urge to clean it. It’s a way to create a space for them so if you can’t compromise on the cleaning level of the rest of the house, it may be a good option for you.

6. Declutter

This one may be kind of obvious but if you have less stuff, there is less stuff to leave around. Your home is going to look naturally cleaner because there is less stuff. 

If your partner refuses to do their dishes, if you have fewer dishes, they’ll have no choice. Fewer clothes? Fewer clothes can be on the floor.

Now, I’m aware parting ways with stuff can be hard. Between sentimental value, gifts from relatives that you have to keep, and what-ifs, you can easily collect a lot of stuff throughout the years.

Having clutter can bring feelings of anxiety and stress so it’s definitely worth it to part ways with some of the belongings that you never use. 

An easy way to declutter is to create some kind of calendar where if you haven’t used the item in a full year, you should get rid of it. 

or declutter room by room so it isn’t overwhelming.

We all have bins or boxes that we don’t know what it holds so organizing this stuff could be a good place to start. 

So if you can’t come to a compromise on picking up after yourselves or how to create an aesthetically pleasing home, decluttering could be a good first step. Here is an article on how to declutter.

7. Hire a housekeeper

When all else fails and you feel burnt out from all the cleaning than getting help may be the best option. 

If you have it in your budget, why not? Then you don’t have to argue over who is vacuuming because someone will do it for you. It takes the burden off of you and your partner doesn’t have to change. 

I wish that it was in my budget to hire a housekeeper but sadly it is not. However, there are ways to outsource some chores.

And by outsourcing, I mean appliances such as a robo-vacuum. I love mine. I hate vacuuming and so does my partner. So instead of one of us sucking it up and doing it, I can just press a button and my robo-vacuum will do it!

Now I wish there was a robot that could clean the bathtub but maybe one day. 

A housekeeper isn’t going to organize your home but if they are cleaning your home, it does create more time for you to organize and create a better flow for your home. 

cleaning supplies such as rubber gloves, sponges, cleaning cloths and spray bottles.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when dealing with a messy partner is that you’re going to have to compromise. They live there too so you have to bend a little. You don’t want your partner feeling uncomfortable in their home. 

Compromise and communication are key in order to keep a clean house when your partner is messy. Without these two things, you are going to end up resenting them.

And you don’t want that! It may seem bleak now, but there is a way for you to live in harmony in a clean house. 

Let me know in the comments below what you and your partner do when one of you is messy and the other is not. What strategies have you put into place?

Until Next Time,


How to keep a clean house when your partner is messy

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