Articles (Blog)

Over The Mess? It’s All About Feelings!

Are you struggling with a messy, cluttered space?

Have you been accused of being messy? Constantly being hassled about it? Thinking they should just accept it and go fold their own knickers into tiny little parcels?! Unless, it really does bother you and it’s causing a problem in your home.

It can be a real point of conflict in shared spaces. Every one is different so it can really help to try to understand why they’re “Messy” or a “Neat Freak”.

Note – Labels are handy, I’m going to use Messy and Tidy as handy descriptors that everyone gets.

The Messy Person might have a very high clutter tolerance level or a very low boredom threshold (and find tidying so tedious they could SCREAM!)

Or they may simply have an un-critical eye or are just so busy that their brain just doesn’t register clutter as a problem. Until they pause for a bit, or someone points it out.

Creatives often blame their brains for the mess they’re accused of making. The theory is that the brain of a creative person works differently to the tidy person’s brain. And there have been studies that prove this is true (and not all creatives are “Messy”).

However, it’s usually simpler than that:

Priorities. Passion. Focus.

What ever you like to call it, any one of these things is likely to be the cause of tidiness being at the bottom of to-do lists. And this can happen to even the most orderly of people, but it’s usually a temporary state for them.

So why is it temporary for some and not others? Uncomfortable feelings.

Discomfort. Irritation. Frustration.

Those uncomfortable feelings are a motivator for some people but a de-motivator for others. The trick is WHEN these feelings occur.

The main difference between the Tidy Person and the Messy Person is the timing of these uncomfortable feelings.

The Tidy Person feels them during and after a mess is made. The Messy Person feels them when they are forced to deal with a mess.

The Tidy Person resolves their feelings by tidying the mess. The need to get rid of those feelings are enough to drive that person to take action and deal with the mess.

The Messy Person doesn’t have those feelings at first. Mess does not bother them as much, their perspective is different. Their feelings arise when they are faced with the task of resolving a mess. Big or small, dealing with a mess causes uncomfortable feelings for them.

This applies to toddlers, kids, teenagers and adults, it’s just the priorities that are different.

Understanding Each Other.

It helps when we understand that avoidance of uncomfortable feelings are a possible cause of the behaviour that we REALLY don’t like.

If we’re Messy it’s good to know that the Tidy Person who’s bothered by the mess is feeling uncomfortable feelings right now.

If you’re Tidy it helps to know that the Messy Person doesn’t feel the same way. They may or may not actually care about the mess. But they’re not being difficult when asked to tidy, it just makes them feel uncomfortable feelings so they try to avoid them.

Caring about how the other members of your household feel about Mess or Tidiness can be another motivator. If you want to maintain harmony (or find it again) remember their perspective.

Make it easy to put things away. Nip clutter causing behaviour in the bud. Get everyone on board, if each person does a little bit, it doesn’t get so bad. Relationships are a dance of give and take or in this case Priorities and Feelings.

Negotiate and compromise. Create family routines and acceptable behaviours and be consistent. The goal is to avoid creating situations where uncomfortable feelings about clutter will arise, which leads to conflict and friction.

It takes time, but if you’re consistent, it will happen.


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