Why do so many women complain about their messy husbands? (And kids)
Doing a quick search of my blog posts over the years, I’ve written a fair few on relationship dynamics.
At first glance there’s often no apparent connection between your relationships and your clutter. And often there’s none – especially if you live alone. Then you know for sure that it’s YOUR clutter.
Unless of course you have Other People’s Stuff, the clutter that belongs to adults who live elsewhere and use you as free storage.
Then there’s the people who DO live with you. Partners, parents, kids, extended family, foster kids or friends. Living their lives with you. Sharing a living space.
You… are probably the main keeper of the house. And they may have VERY different ideas on what makes a liveable environment.
They may be messy.
And they’re a grown up!
They may be suffering from…
Note – at this point imagine the Jaws theme playing…
It’s all about different perspectives. They may not care about “mess”. They may be perfectly happy fossicking about in piles to find what they want. Being able to clean easily may be so low on their priority list it’s almost nonexistent. Cleaning may be so low on their priority list it’s in the negatives!
It’s all about the dynamics of your relationship with them. How much they care about your needs and how much you care about theirs. They may also have been raised to never do a single thing around the house. Or they just may have different standards to you.
Their response to you and your need for tidiness might be negative: They might think you’re nuts. Fussy. A nag. They might be very defensive or argumentative. Or passive aggressive. They might ignore you or constantly forget what you asked them to do.
Your kids may also have picked up this attitude from your parter or another person in the house. Have you ever heard any of them say “that’s Mum’s job”? (Oooh that makes my blood boil!)
There’s a couple of things you can do about this:
The quick fix:
You’re going to have to have a grown-up conversation with them.
Pretend for a moment that you’re adult flatmates. Equal individuals, treated with respect by the other adults in your living space. You might have house rules, in order to maintain the living space and stop it from descending into a state of uncared-for squalor. Kids are a bit like those flatmates who have no idea how to clean and don’t really care either. They need guidelines, training and rules.
And if they don’t? A flat meeting is required, where you have grown-up conversations.
A conversation about living together as equal partners or as a team. About what makes each of you happy when it comes to how belongings are kept in your home and who does what housework.
A conversation about compromise. Honouring and respecting each other’s presence in the home. Making changes work because you care about each other. Willingness to be an equal member of the team who live in the shared space.
A conversation about valuing each other’s perspective, not about who’s right. Making an effort to be a contributing, valuable member of the flat or team. Remind your partner that they are the other adult in the house. You are the parents, the guides, the decision makers, responsible for the health, well being and guidance of the younger people you care for.
The effort you put into talking and making compromises will be worth it when you notice a reduction in conflict and stress in your home and in your relationships. When you all understand each other and are all working together towards the same goal – a peaceful, happy home.
Change your own behaviour and reactions.
You have choices. It’s likely that what you’re doing right now isn’t working. Or it works for a little while but then slides back. They start making piles again, or stop picking up their messes or they sulk or flounce or roll their eyes when you ask them to do something.
If you can get your kids and partner to help, you may have to drop your standards. Or at least lower them in the meantime. If they do a job a little bit wrong (and sometimes this is done – a lot wrong – on purpose) just thank them. Leave it as it is. Get them to do it again a few times. Then ask them nicely to do it a different way, if it still bothers you.
You may have to negotiate certain jobs, swapping most hated for less hated tasks, depending on the person. Assume they’re going to be part of your family team, with you as team leader.
Plonk a basket under the spot where they dump stuff, every single day, they get a treat if their stuff ends up in the basket. Install a hook and give them a gold star every time they hang their bag up. Reward good behaviour.
If you always do something in response to their behaviour and it’s not working, or that’s not the kind of relationship you want to have with them, try doing something different. Instead of screaming, instead of doing it yourself, instead of feeling resentful. Do the opposite.
The Best Fix:
Is both the Quick fix and Not-so-quick fix combined. Sometimes it’s a long term process, sometimes it’s fabulously and quickly effective. Pick your battles, start with the things or behaviours that makes you the most crazy.
Tackle every little problem you fix with loving kindness.
Most of my clients in this situation are women who love their homes. They love a tidy, clean house. It gives them pleasure to have clear surfaces, to move the furniture around, change the cushions. They might not love cleaning, but they have standards that they like to maintain.
Clutter and housework problems raise their ugly heads when husbands or partners don’t share this love or understand this pleasure. Partners who don’t respect this need, don’t believe they should help or don’t believe that money should spent on help. Partners who are not supportive and who will not communicate on an adult level.
Sometimes it takes couples therapy to deal with clutter, because it’s not the clutter that’s the problem. It’s the relationship.