AKA Almost Magical Formula for Dealing With a Messy Husband That Isn't Divorce
You're a mom and damn-it, you work hard enough.
What you don't need is someone leaving a trail of mess and disorganization in their wake. No, I'm not talking about your toddler leaving foot-crippling Lego bricks all over the carpet.
I'm talking about your husband.
If you've been struggling with a messy husband and are one pair of sweaty socks left on the bathroom floor away from running off to Tahiti with the Postman, this post is for you.
Full Disclosure: I’m a stay at home housewife. I’m not really expecting my husband, who works long hours on a stressful job, to do chores.
But, I do expect him not to act like a toddler and to keep his own shit tidy. You know, basic consideration that comes with being an adult sharing a home with another adult.
This post is no way constitutes marital advice. I’m completely unqualified for that.
1 | It’s not you...it’s me
This first one is a little reality check, my darling buttercup.
Don’t get mad but...is it definitely your husband that’s making all the mess? Are you sure it’s all him and not just a teeny bit *gasp* you? You know, because...people who live in glass houses should definitely not throw nudist parties.
I’m going to be honest and confess that I have made this mistake. I went for months not-so-silently-seething every time I saw the mess made by my husband while all the time not seeing the mess I had created.
If you’re really miss-perfect-pants go ahead and read on. If not, perhaps start by making a quick list of 3 things you want to declutter and organize right now.
2 | Kick ‘em when they’re down
‘Where the *fudge* are my car keys?’
My husband is mad. That vein in his forehead is throbbing and he’s gone quite red.
‘You’ve obviously moved them. Where are they?’
Spoiler alert: I never touched his car keys. He didn’t put them away properly when he got home last night.
I heave myself off the couch and go help him look for his mother-fudging car keys before he has an aneurysm. And….Behold! There are the keys, tangled among a veritable mountain of paperwork, water bottles and manly pocket detritus that populates our kitchen counter (all of it his, y’all).
‘Oh, thanks. Have a good day *kiss*’.
And he’s out the door. Aneurysm avoided. Mini tantrum already forgotten.
But it’s too late. I’ve found a weakness, an Achilles heel, an opening. I’m practically rubbing my hands with glee like a Bond villain (if Bond villains wore bathrobes and fluffy slippers).
Within minutes I’m setting up a command center in the corner of the kitchen I’ve long had my organizing-eye-of-Soren-on:
Key hooks? Oh, yes.
Mail slots? You betcha.
Little basket for all that pocket-crap? Hell, yeah.
I stand back smugly to admire my work. And it is beautiful.
Key Takeaway: Pick your moment. When you see your messy husband struggling with a problem that is the direct result of his mess and disorganization, it's usually a good opportunity to help them set-up some stress-reducing, time-saving organizing solution.
By the way, before anyone gets pissy and comments: how dare you move his stuff?! I didn’t move a single thing on that kitchen counter.I just stuck up the key hooks and mail slots, and stationed a seductive little basket on the counter. A little basket that was so temptingly empty, it practically whispered ‘come on, big-boy, stick some pocket-crap in me, you know you want to’.
3 | Can I throw it from here?
If you organize communal areas with baskets, boxes or bins, please consider ditching the lids.
Consider your partner’s point of view. You’re asking them to:
- take off the lid,
- put away the item
- and then put the lid back on.
That’s assuming they find the right basket, box or bin first time.
It’s a lot.
Make things easy and leave off the lid so your partner can see at a glance what’s in there (yes, I know you labelled it, but that doesn’t matter) and then toss the item in question back in there in one smooth move.
4 | Define messy
Do you remember Monica from Friends?
Teaching her boyfriend how to organize his desk, she reminded him that ‘if it’s not a right angle, it’s a wrong angle’.
But that’s her own personal opinion, right?
For you, messy might mean some dishes in the sink. For your husband, messy might mean ‘about to be featured on Hoarders’.
Key Takeaway: avoid labels (‘messy’ or ‘unorganized’) that are subjective and carry negative connotation when having discussions about household chores.
Take a look:
‘The sink is messy’ (said resentfully, fists clenched, eyelid throbbing with tension).
‘Those dishes from last night are still in the sink. They’ve still got bits of food on them so they're festering and attracting flies. So unhygienic. Do you enjoy diarrhea?’ (said calmly, in a matter of fact way).
Why not give it a try next time?
5 | Rewards for good behavior
This one is a gift from my mother-in-law.
I was a little uneasy about this when she suggested it. But actually I think it works, if used carefully.
Reward behavior you want to encourage.
I don’t mean you drop your knickers every time he puts his clothes away. But a simple thank you might not go amiss.
I’ll admit it’s a hard line to tread: you don’t want to appear like a patronizing ass (‘good boy, you put that shirt away all by yourself, well done, well done’). But we all like to be appreciated.
Try it, don’t try it. You be the judge of what works for you.
6 | Give him a space budget
This one is hard to swallow but we do have to remember that the house isn’t just ‘ours’. It’s only technically 50% ours. The other 50% belongs to our messy spouses.
That means you can’t run your home like a dictatorship.
So give him a space budget: somewhere in the house he can be as messy as he likes.
If you husband’s side of the home-office looks like it was just ransacked by burglars, well...so be it. Just keep your side organized and make sure his crap doesn’t start to encroach on your side.
Having said that…
7 | Let him know how much it hurts
Is your husband psychic?
I’m guessing not.
So please, please, please, just tell him how the mess makes you feel. But be sure to go deep and get beyond the surface-level anger and resentment.
If the dirty dishes make you feel anxious and depressed, he needs to know.
If the piles of dirty underwear on the bedroom floor is turning you off sex, he needs to know.
If his grotty side of the bathroom makes you want to make you sleep in the spare room, he….you get the idea, darling.
Remind him that you spend much more time at home than he does. Remind him that marriage is a compromise. Remind him that the postman has offered to elope with you to Tahiti….only joking (or am I?)
8 | TOP SECRET Jedi-Level Mind Trick
AKA: Think like a Madman
‘Who fancies clearing out the over-stuffed, possibly spider infested, garage this sunny Saturday afternoon? It’ll be vile, backbreaking work.’
No one, except a masochist.
Key Takeaway: If you’re asking someone to take the organizing suppository, you gotta lubricate the damn thing first.
Translation: Don’t try to convince them with the sweaty, backbreaking process. Give them the sweet and dreamlike finished result.
‘Hey, do you fancy turning the garage into that workshop you’ve always wanted? I’ll help this weekend so you could get started on that project you wanted to do’.
Manipulative? No more manipulative than all the advertising you see on television.
Give it a try: channel your inner Don Draper. You can thank me with chocolate.
9| See the innocence
AKA: The sandwich crumb conundrum
Instead of going all Terminator on your messy husband, why not ask about his objections or difficulties to keeping a particular place organized?
For years, literally years, I would seethe with resentment whenever my husband made a sandwich. He would put the bread directly on the counter.
When I finally pointed out the crumbs cascading onto the freshly wiped counter and asked: ‘Why don’t you use a plate?’ his answer surprised me: ‘Saves on washing up’.
I had assumed that laziness or a profound lack of respect for the time I spent cleaning motivated his plate-less sandwich making habit. But he was actually trying to be considerate. I just misinterpreted his behavior.
Key Takeaway: Your husband’s ‘messiness’ could be motivated by factors you haven’t even considered. Look for the innocence instead of going straight to the nuclear option.
10| Stop playing clutter defense and start playing clutter offense
Have you ever decluttered and organized a kitchen counter, table or other flat surface, and breathed a joyful sigh of relief? Look, you can see the surface again. Isn't it beautiful?
*joyful internal music scratches to a stop*
Have you ever boiled with resentment as a thoughtless family member casually tosses some piece of their *crap* on to that surface and nonchalantly asks you ‘what’s for dinner?’
Just like virgin snow, an uncluttered surface is irresistible to some people.
So try playing some clutter offense.
On that kitchen counter that used to be a catch-all for random crapola, why not set up a cute coffee station? There’s tons of inspiration on Pinterest, I won’t bore you with it here.
Key Takeaway: If you can predict which areas of your home are likely to become clutter spots (or have been clutter spots in the past), get your retaliation in first. Put something there that is useful or beautiful or sentimental. This will hopefully discourage other stuff from being left there.
As the French say ‘voila’.
10 tactics to deal with a messy husband. Take what you like, leave the rest and Vaya con Dios.
But before you spring into action, one last word of caution: Pick. Your. Battles.
Be strategic. You may lose a battle or two along the way but think bigger picture. A happy home is more than just categorized, color-coded and labelled.
And if all else fails, there’s always the postman and Tahiti……