How to cope with a messy housemate

Tearing your hair out living with someone else's mess? Follow this guide for conflict-free cohabiting

How to cope with a messy housemate

If your partner or housemate prefers clutter to calm, you might well find yourself in a constant state of stress.

Check out these tips to encourage a messy person to keep the home just that little bit more tidy – and help you understand each other's point of view.

How to Cope with a Messy Housemate


Talk about it

If you're finding yourself constantly complaining about your housemate's mess, perhaps it's time for a chat. Set aside a time to sit down and talk and be straightforward about the problem. Try to avoid accusatory language and focus instead on trying to solve the issue. "Let's find a strategy to keep the home tidy?" is better than "You're so messy".

Use this as a starting point to negotiate and be prepared to make compromises. If your housemate finds it difficult to prioritise tidiness, you could identify the areas where it is most important to stay neat. The kitchen and hallway, for example are areas where clutter builds up.

How to Cope with a Messy Housemate

Luci.D Interiors

Write it all down

Once you've decided on your priorities and both understand where the other is coming from, you can move on to allocating jobs. Assign one person to decluttering the hallway, and the other to emptying the bins, for example. If everything is written down, there should be no need for repetitive nagging, as you can just refer back to the rota.

How you divide up the to-do list depends on what works best for you and your housemate – change jobs weekly or keep them constant, whatever works for both of you.

How to cope with a messy housemate

PARKdesigned Architects

Zone out

If you need a space to be tidy, but your fellow resident just can't rise to the occasion, you could carve out your own 'areas' in the home to escape to. Allocate a tidy zone where everything is zen-like and organised for you, and a messy space for letting your housemate chill and let it all hang out. Even if space is tight, a corner of a room or a desk area can be enough to provide a sanctuary of your own to escape to.

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How to deal with a messy housemate

The Cotswold Company

Allocate a 'messy' box

Are you repeatedly picking up someone else's belongings? If it's taking time out of your day, be done with it and invest in a large box or basket to dump it all in. Every time something is lying around, put it in the 'messy' box and forget about it. You won't have to waste time putting everything away, your untidy housemate will be able to find everything they need in the box, and your floor space will be clear of clutter. It's a win-win situation.

How to cope with a messy housemate

Wireless Power Technologies Ltd.

Employ technology

Let tech do the asking so you don't have to. Encourage your messy roomie to put their tidying to-do list on their smartphone's calendar and set alarms when jobs need to be done. Bathroom needs cleaning? Put it on the calendar and a ping will tell them when it's time to get the rubber gloves on.

Embrace the world of apps as well, and download one of the many housekeeping smartphone helpers that will do everything from prioritising and allocating tasks, telling you when to clear the fridge and even offering handy tips. By having everything logged electronically, you'll bypass the need for constant nagging.

Be understanding

For a person who likes to be tidy it can be hard to live with someone who's messy, but it might make things easier to understand their perspective. Untidy people aren't strewing their clothes all over the place to annoy you, they just don't mind the mess. In a neat person's mind a cluttered place is disconcerting, stressful and downright annoying, for others it might feel relaxed and homely (yes, really).

It's a good idea to talk about your different perspectives early on, and at the same time you can take the opportunity to explain how a messy home makes you feel. If you show understanding towards your housemate, they'll be more willing to see things from your point of view.

How to cope with a messy housemate


Make it easy for them

You're more likely to encourage tidiness if it's easy to put things away. The key here is storage – allocate a place for absolutely everything and put it within easy reach. If the task of putting things away is straightforward, your messy housemate should find it simple to off-load their things into the correct places. Before long, if you're lucky, it might even become a habit – shoes in the rack, bag on the hook, keys in the basket.

Find storage solutions for a calmer, tidier home

How to cope with a messy housemate

Maple & Gray​​​​​​​

Start with a clean slate

In a similar vein, a decluttered, well-organised home is much easier to keep tidy. Schedule a day for you both to go through your cupboards, drawers and any other spots where clutter gathers. Put your items in piles of 'keep', 'recycle' or 'donate' and be ruthless about what you actually need. Once you've decluttered you'll be left with only the items you really need, and can decide on the ideal storage to fit.

By clearing the decks like this, you should both appreciate the feeling of being super-organised and it might just give your housemate an incentive to be neat.

Discover how to declutter your home and keep it tidy

How to cope with a messy housemate

Coppice Guild

Bring in the pros

Of course, you could avoid housework arguments altogether by employing a professional cleaner/housekeeper. Yes, it will add to your weekly expenses, but if you can afford it, it could be money well spent. If by doing without a takeaway once a week you end up with a neat, organised home without the conflict, it could be well worth it.

Need a drastic overhaul? Find storage designers and professional organisers

Focus on the good stuff

It's easy to get bogged down by your housemate's messy habits, but it's much easier and less stressful to be positive. Focus on the other helpful things your roomie does – perhaps they enjoy cooking delicious meals, are great at cheering you up after a hard day or are a dab hand with a drill. As long as they're trying to meet you halfway with the household tidying, it might be worth letting a few things go.

First published on Houzz