Opposites attract: Night owls marry early birds, party people partner with homebodies and we, neat freaks, just can’t live without some messies in our life. We love them: They are our partners, our children, our aging parents. They are spontaneous, funny, out-of-the-box thinkers who challenge us to think in new ways and try doing things a little differently.
We can’t live without them, but how can we live with them?
Have Compassion For Your Messie
Many messy people actually prefer things to be neat and organized, so don’t assume that they like their scattered environment. Messiness is often not a choice but a byproduct of ADHD, depression or a physical disability that prevents them from keeping things neat.
It can sometimes be confusing when people who are totally chaotic in one area, such as the home, are able to remain much more organized in the workplace, where they have more structure, administrative support and incentive to appear neat.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t care enough to pick up after themselves at home. More likely than not, they have used all of their focus at work and have no energy left for neatness at the end of the day.
Give Them A Messy Zone
A “messy zone” is an area where they can let it all hang out and be as messy as they want to be. The most common approach to this is to give them total control over their bedroom (or study or garage).
Preferably, this zone has a door that can be closed and it’s an area that visitors won’t be able to see. This not only protects you from having to look at the piles every day but more importantly, protects your loved one from literally airing their dirty laundry to the world.
Create An Agreed-upon Public Zone
The payoff of giving someone a messy zone is that you, in turn, can negotiate for a neat “public zone” that is appropriate for the whole family to use and is guest-ready. This zone is usually the living room or part of the dining room, where visitors are most likely to be in your house.
Conversely, this area is under your reign and you maintain the right to clean it in any way you see fit. When your loved one makes a pile, you can lovingly pick it up and deliver it to the door of their messy zone. Or, better yet, ask them to do it themselves.
Learn From Your Messie
We, neatnicks, sometimes tend to be a bit narrow in our thinking. Our messies are great resources when we need to solve unusual problems or to think of creative solutions. Asking them for help recognizes their unique skills and can help offset a lifetime of being criticized for not conforming to the norms of school and work.
Also remember that cleanliness is not godliness, nor is the opposite true. Your harmonious messie/neatnick hybrid home is based on compromise, compassion and fun. Go build it!