The good news? You found the love of your life. The bad news? You didn’t realize the extent of his slovenliness until after you tied the knot. But hope, like love, springs eternal: Here’s how to deal effectively when you’ve married a messy human.
Establish ‘Drop Zones’
Friends, meet the drop zone system. In other words, a series of strategically placed dumping grounds where family members are allowed to put their stuff without any any rules or organization. Think: A big personal hamper in the bathroom to toss dirty socks, a basket next to the entryway for change and pocket crap and a junk drawer in the kitchen island that can be as insanely disorganized as his slovenly heart desires. These designated “messy areas” are a democratic first line of defense.
Be Direct About Your Needs
Bottom line: Passive aggressivity does not work in this scenario. (There will be no loud sighing, cupboard slamming or angrily scrubbing out his crusted Tupperware after he goes to bed.) Instead, ask for help directly and without nagging or negativity (e.g., “Can you sort through your mail stack sometime tonight, sweetie?”). If you receive push back, appeal to emotions and offer up a way to cater to his. (“It makes me feel frazzled when there are stacks on the kitchen counter. Since I know it makes you happy to re-read old magazines, why don’t we find a spot for them on the bookshelf?”) As with all things in partnership, open (and non-accusatory) communication is what it boils down to.
Routinize Family Cleaning
You probably can’t make your spouse like cleaning—but you can train him to clean in small doses. The first step? Take a cue from your kiddo’s preschool class by making cleanup time a part of your life together as a family. (Think: A designated hour on Sunday afternoons when everyone tidies their spaces and tackles laundry, or ten minutes between dinner and TV time when you wipe down the counters.) Remember: When a cleaning practice is just part of your lifestyle, it doesn’t seem like cruel and unusual punishment.
Learn to Let Things Go
At the end of the day, it’s going to be a loooong road to forever if you argue every single time she leaves a dish in the sink or shoes in the hallway. Part of being at peace with your marriage is understanding your partner is truly wired differently. Letting an occasional micro-mess roll off your shoulders is one of those little things we do for the people we love.