« Go Back

Love Me, Love My Mess

Who is happier—the neat freak or the slob? There are many theories and studies on the subject, and it’s quite likely that you are one type in a relationship with the other.

People with clean houses are healthier and more active than their messy counterparts. So concludes a study by Indiana University research scientist, NiCole R. Keith; while women living with clutter tend to feel depressed and fatigued, says the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Even the National Sleep Foundation weighs in, reporting that people who make their beds every day and who change their sheets frequently are more likely to have a good night’s sleep.

In general, people report feeling better about themselves and are more productive when they and their surroundings are clean and organized. Seems logical then that neat people are happier.

But–some psychologists have found chronically disorganized people to be more intelligent and creative than the fastidious. They score higher on verbal IQ tests and have a broader range of interests. They tend to be intuitive and extroverted. Then we must ask, aren’t intelligent and extroverted people also happy?

Neat people can’t understand how anyone can focus and be productive amid environmental chaos, and why it doesn’t frustrate them to have to spend so much time looking for things. Messy people don’t understand why in this interesting world someone would waste so much of their precious time cleaning, nor do they comprehend why their coat must be hung up right now.

Common sense tells us we can’t change other people, but we may be able to reach an agreement that can save everyone’s sanity.

How about communication and compromise? Neatniks may have to lower their standards a bit, while the disorganized take on more responsibility. Go for the middle ground.

Perhaps you can walk through the house together to designate certain areas as non-negotiable neat zones, and other spaces as, shall we say, self-expression zones? If one partner creates a mess in a neat zone, the other should transfer the pile to that one’s personal zone for them to deal with. It should go without saying that spills will be cleaned up by the spiller. Immediately.

Dividing and sharing chores can forestall resentment, but it’s also important to agree on their frequency. If you’re vacuuming twice a week, your partner shouldn’t get by with dusting once a month.

Neat people will have to exercise patience with messy partners since change won’t happen overnight. Be sure to give your non-neat one a reasonable amount of time to clear away their disorder.

If no compromise can be reached, hire a housekeeper and focus on why you decided you couldn’t live without this person. Shouldn’t neat freaks and slobs both be happy?

Constance Watkins

*(See online, 12 Reasons Why Disorganized People Are More Intelligent by Diane Labrien).