Dealing with a Messy Spouse (Marriage-Saving Tips)

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Have you ever wanted to clobber your spouse over the head with a frying pan? Or is that just me? Okay, I would never really do that. But that’s the feeling I get when I notice every mess he leaves around the house. How to deal with a messy spouse? I figured there’s got to be more of us who could use an answer to this question. So let’s get into it.

Rest assured it is not just you. According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of wives believe they do more household chores than their husbands. So why does this matter? Because it’s driving us crazy! 

Additionally, it’s a strain on your relationship. Frustration like this tends to simmer and boil at a low temperature until the lid finally blows off. The good news is it doesn’t have to. 

Getting ahead of this frustration by addressing it with your spouse is the best course of action. I’ll share a few tips on how to do that but first, let’s look at the possible reasons behind the mess.

Reasons Behind the Mess

It may be hard to believe but most messy people don’t see themselves as being unclean. In their mind, it’s something they’re going to take care of later. Maybe they feel like they’re in a rush or they’re just too busy to address the mess. In either case, it’s not always intended to be left a mess. 

Other spouses are very project-focused. They may start a project then get distracted by something else and forget that they’ve left a mess. It’s also worth noting that children are a big distraction for most spouses. 

Kids tend to accumulate mess all on their own. Either way, the best thing is to have empathy when addressing the mess problem. Try to understand where your spouse is coming from and their perspective on the mess. 

Having this understanding helps you relate to them. Relatability is the best way to work toward a solution together versus an adversarial approach. This leads us to my first tip for dealing with a messy partner: communicate.

How to Deal with a Messy Spouse

Tip #1: Communicate

Remember what I said about the lid blowing off? Yup! That’s what happens when you hide your frustration and allow it to fester. That’s why communication is your first step. Open communication about things that bother you is monumentally important for a happy marriage. This includes messiness. 

Furthermore, if you wait until you’re outraged to try talking to your spouse about being messy, it’s going to come off as aggressive and confrontational. That’s a bad place to start if you’re hoping to find a solution. Here’s a few ways to approach the conversation in a non-confrontational way. 

Wait until you’re calm. 

Yes, I know seeing that mess might spark a fire in your belly but try to take a couple of deep breaths. Remember to understand their perspective and allow yourself to calm down first. This goes a long way toward having a positive and productive conversation.

Another helpful point — don’t lead by calling them a messy person. They probably don’t see themselves that way in the first place, and they may see it as a personal attack. They may even retaliate by calling you a neat freak. Which you probably don’t think is true either.

Choose a time that works for you both.

Don’t try talking to them when they are busy or in the middle of another task. Remind yourself the focus is working together to find a solution, not you giving them a problem to solve. That means approaching the conversation at a time when you are both available to contribute.

Lead with feelings and questions.

When talking to your spouse about messiness, or anything for that matter, leading with how the issue makes you feel is always a good start. It lets your spouse know something is bothering you without them feeling attacked. Using I statements is a good way to do this.

Questions are another productive tactic for having a positive conversation when dealing with a messy spouse. Questions allow you to fully understand their perspective and learn possible solutions they may be considering.

Focusing on feelings and questions gives you a good mindset as you approach the mess conversation with your spouse. The alternative is usually demands and accusations which would have a far different outcome.

Introvert Petal

We are good with questions. Not so much with talking about our feelings. Give yourself a little prep time for conversations that require both. Sort out what your feelings are and write them down. This way you won’t have to figure out how to explain them in the moment.

Once you’ve got the communication part down, it’s time to work toward a solution.

Tip#2: Find Solutions and Compromise

Compromise is not the easiest thing to do because it requires both sides to give up something they want. However, compromise is a critical tool for dealing with a messy spouse, or spouses in general. Although it requires both sides to give up something, finding common ground allows each side to gain something they wouldn’t have gotten had the feud continued.

Trust me. Compromise may require you to stretch but it has saved marriages, and ended wars! Probably at the same time. 😂 Here are a few tips on how to use compromise to find solutions that work for you both.

Listen to what’s most important to the other person. Each of you will have something that’s the most important point about the issue. Find out what that is for your spouse and give it consideration in your solutions. Even if it doesn’t mean much to you.

Decide what you’re willing to release. If you can’t have it completely your way – and you can’t when you’re married – choose something to let go of to meet them in the middle.

Make sure you both agree on the final outcome. Whatever solution you come to, it should be one that you both can live with at the end of the day. This isn’t the time for passive-aggressive agreement. Be honest about what you can stick with on a regular basis and what you can’t.

Communication – check. Compromise – check. For tip #3, I’ll share a possible solution that works for many and walk through how to apply communication and compromise to it.

Pinterest pin style image of how to deal with a messy spouse and main points.

Tip #3:  Establish a Cleaning Routine

A common, and effective, solution to prevent a messy home is establishing a cleaning routine. A good cleaning routine outlines who is responsible for what and how often. Frequency can be a weekly basis or a daily cleaning routine so long as you both agree.

And feel free to include some positive reinforcement for accomplishing your tasks. You don’t have to borrow your kids’ gold star stickers but something to reward yourself is motivating for adults too.

Avoid anything too vague like ‘clean house’ or ‘clean living room.’ It’s a lot more clear and more effective to include specific tasks. Include a to-do list showing what each task entails to make it even stronger, e.g. doing the dishes means emptying the dishwasher and reloading it.

If you have a lot of little things that need to be done, try bundling them into small projects. This helps you stay focused on the bigger picture of having a tidy home rather than fixating on every small mess. 

For instance, a table is a common cluttered space for a lot of people. Tidying the tables around your house is a small project that doesn’t take much time. Having clear tables such as your kitchen table, coffee table, and dining room table helps a lot with maintaining a clean home.

Having a routine leaves little room for questions regarding who’s responsible when something is left undone. Additionally, it becomes an easy reference point to prevent future arguments. When in doubt, refer to the cleaning routine. 

Pro tip: write it down somewhere. Even if you don’t always look at it, it will be a lot easier to read what you discussed rather than straining your brain to remember.

Cleaning Routine Communication

Find a good time when you are both relaxed. Let your spouse know you’d like to discuss something bothering you. When they are ready, talk about why the mess bothers you by sharing how it makes you feel. Ask if your spouse intended to make you feel this way and what their thoughts are about the mess.

Being prepared with an example is a good idea. Use something recent, within the last week. This isn’t to rub their nose in it but to help them understand what you mean.

Let them know you have a possible solution you’d like to try. Be open to listening if they have different ways they’d like to try as well. Explain the cleaning routine and how it could work in your home.

Cleaning Routine Compromise

Tell your spouse what would make you feel better about the situation, and what would disappoint you. Actively listen to your partner’s point of view about this too. Decide how the cleaning routine will work and a specific time range to test it out. 

Make sure you include the factors that are most important for both of you and leave out the factors that pose a conflict. Revisit the conversation at the end of this time to tweak your routine or try something different if it’s not working for you both.

​A Few Additional Tips

  1. Make sure the whole process doesn’t take a long time. You will both be ready to stop talking about it if it does. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes. If you’re not done by then, pick another time (sooner rather than later) to finish the conversation.
  2. Don’t get stuck on traditional gender roles. You’ll reach a better plan if you stick to your personal strengths, not what you think each of you is “supposed to do.”
  3. Remember the most important thing is both of you feel comfortable in your living space. Keep that at the forefront and you won’t go wrong.

If all else fails … 

When To Seek Outside Help

If you can’t come to a solution that works for you both, then it’s time to enlist some outside help. A professional cleaner is the easiest and most obvious if your budget allows for it. What you see on TV – someone who lives in your house and cleans all the time – is not your only option. 

Many professional cleaning businesses will set up flexible scheduling based on your preferences. For instance, a flexible plan could include someone coming to clean only certain parts of your home once or twice a month.

Alternatively, consider a therapist or mediator if there is no room in your budget for a professional cleaner. Either a professional, a good friend, or a family member. You’ll want to identify someone who is trusted and skilled enough to facilitate a conversation between the two of you. 

The objective is to identify – you guessed it – solutions and compromise. In the end, you should have a plan you both agree with, how you will execute it, and for how long.

This may seem a bit extreme but I’ve seen relationships devolve over less! It is NOT a sign of weakness to do whatever you need to keep peace in your home and marriage. Besides, it can’t hurt if nothing else is working.

Tips and Solutions for Dealing With a Messy Spouse

A messy husband is annoying but addressing the situation proactively can prevent arguments or resentment. Communicate openly, be solution-focused, and be willing to compromise. When you’re stuck, bring in someone else to help.

I’ve been there and I know how you feel. There is hope! With a little extra effort from you both, you can focus less on the mess and more on each other!