How to Thrive with a Messy Partner

Whenever I teach a workshop on feng shui and we get to the section on decluttering, there is one question I always get. Always. As in every single time.

“What do you do when your partner is messy and you’re not?”

(Or some variation on the theme.)

…So I’m pretty sure this is a common problem. If it happens to be one of yours, here are four strategies to help you thrive.

  1. First and foremost, don’t focus on all that clutter your partner isn’t clearing. Instead, focus on clearing your own clutter, even if its sum total amounts to a teeny tiny fraction of your partner’s vast clutter collection. This is the clutter you have power over, anyway. (Remember The Serenity Prayer?) And you’ll feel so much better when you take the time to clear out all your extras from everywhere, including your glove compartment, your downloads folder, and the fridge. This often inspires your partner to clear his or her stuff too. (No guarantees, of course, but it’s got a much better track record than nagging alone.)
  2. Next, find ways to keep your partner’s clutter out of sight. For example, let’s say your partner has a bunch of electronics piled around the television area in your living room. Even after you’ve cleared all your clutter (see above), he or she hasn’t budged: the situation is still an eyesore. In this case, perhaps there’s an entertainment center out there that will allow you to dust all those electronics, store them on shelves around the television, and then hide all of it behind closed doors for most of the day. Curtains are also excellent for situations like this: you can curtain cluttery areas under the stairs or even whole shelf areas to create a more streamlined look.
  3. Speaking of keeping clutter out of your line of sight, if you have the space, it’s ideal if you each have your own space. Meaning, you have a room that is just yours and your partner has a room that is just theirs. So — at least somewhere — you don’t have to worry about anyone cluttering up your space (you) or having an opinion about your mess (your partner). This is actually an excellent way to bring more harmony to your relationship in other ways too, because it reminds you that even though you’re in a relationship, you’re each your own person…One final caveat: make sure not to defeat the purpose! Resist the urge to go into your partner’s personal space and clean when they’re not around.
  4. Finally, find chores that your messy partner actually doesn’t mind that much. For example, maybe he is blind to dust, or she can’t remember to wash a dish to save her life. But maybe cleaning the litter box, vacuuming after you dust, and taking out the trash are all things that he or she could consider working into the schedule. Granted, you might need to have a talk to work this all out, but we’re just talking about a messy partner, not (we hope) an insensitive one. So ideally, they will genuinely want to help you tend to your shared home if you find ways to make it easy for them to do so.

Tess Whitehurst is the award-winning author of Magical Housekeeping, The Good Energy Book, and lots of other books on magical and spiritual living. Her articles have appeared such places as Writer’s Digest, Whole Life Times, and Spirit & Destiny magazine. She’s appeared on morning news shows on both Fox and NBC, as well as the Bravo TV Show “Flipping Out.” She’s also the founder and facilitator of The Good Vibe Tribe, an online spiritual community and learning hub. Visit her at www.tesswhitehurst.com.