My partner is really untidy

This may be unusual. But I am generally tidy. I have a place for everything and keep everything in it’s place. If I have too much stuff to keep the house tidy I will get rid of things. I do the whole putting dirty cups in the kitchen when I am finished with them thing and I put rubbish in the bin (trashcan if you’re in the US). If I don’t do those things it’s hard to focus and function because the mess is distracting. I’m not pristine but things don’t get out of hand.

My partner on the other hand struggles to throw things away when there is more stuff than space. He will get things out and not put them back and leave dirty crockery and litter around the place.

It drives me crazy and makes it hard to concentrate. By the time I have tidied up enough feel able to start a task without being distracted by the mess I don’t energy to so what I wanted to do. I have chronic fatigue so I have very little energy to start with.

We have been together 14 years and have had many conversations about it. I have explained that it makes my life hard.

Does anyone else have this problem?

What worked for you?

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Not nearly to the same extent . . .

But I understand . . .

I am 75 yrs. old and married (to the same woman!).
Everyday I forget (or just don’t bother) to put things back. Even if I do put things back, I often forget the “right place” to put them. When our actions / inactions are at odds with each other, there is frustration, annoyance, or anger (depending on the matter at hand).

But we get past it and move on . . . may take awhile but we try to remember the important issues in our life together.

I understand that this is not the answer that you may have hoped for. Others here may be more helpful. But, for what its worth . . .

Best of luck to you!

My dad was dealing with an undiagnosed ADHD wife and daughter….

There are tips you can get from decluttering websites or ADHD organisation videos that will help like having clear containers and less steps to do stuff.

In our house the IKEA catalogue wasn’t safe for long… nothing he did fixed it. Mum made a basket for her magazines, and a basket for her crafts, but the teaspoons still went on the sink, or into a just cleaned, still full dishwasher…

If you saw you mess I live in right now you’d die, but I’m particularly unwell now as dad is gone. Mum is gone and all my little systems are gone…

Maybe slip them some amphetamines in their coffee? :wink:

I have chronic fatigue syndrome AKA myalgic encephalomyelitis.

This means I have limited energy, I can only work three days a week and need most of my off days to recover. I also have (as yet not formally diagnosed ADHD) so someone not putting things away or clearing up after themselves things makes it very hard for me. I end up missing out on the things I want to do because I can’t function with the distractions of an untidy space and have to tidy up before I can concentrate using up some of the energy for something I want to do like a bit of gardening or baking a cake. I often can’t do those things after cleaning up.

“Get past it and move on” is a good solution when something happens occasionally. It doesn’t help for an issue that happens regularly. There is a lack of balance in continuing to accept something that causes distress.

You must be a good husband for your wife to stay with you all this time. If you’re physically and mentally able to do it, please put things away. It sounds like it upsets your spouse when you don’t from what you wrote. It would be kinder to her.

Hi Luxr, it’s me that’s the tidy one and I have ADHD not my boyfriend. I am good at keeping the house tidy. My boyfriend who does not have ADHD is the untidy one. I have systems in place and there is place for everything. Things are where you need them, the laundry liquid in the cupboard next to the washing machine, bin next to the sofa etc. but he just doesn’t put things back after he gets them out or put wrappers in the bin when the bin is right next to him. I am so confused by it.

It’s so awesome you have systems! I remember those….

Well it’s not fair he’s making you problem solve your way every day by mucking you up… when the problem solving is generally harder for us…

Assuming he is able, and not undiagnosed like mum and I, then…he is disrespecting you…

As a single woman with no time for other people making my life hell I’d probably gaffer tape him to the garage door and tell him he can’t come back in till he is ready to talk.

An honest talk about the relationship, and heat bugs you, what bugs him, might be overdue. I know this stufff is super hard… but there’s a relationship video Jess did sbout this that I happened to watch last night… it might inspire you

Or maybe you’re not asking for advice, just want to vent?

I’d definitely be venting! And dreaming up little revenge schemes!! Maybe you have a voodoo doll handy? :wink:

Thanks Luxr, I do need (another) heart-to-heart with my partner. After 15 years we have had a few.
I’ll not kick him out or tape him to the door, I don’t feel a need for revenge or voodoo as I do actually like him.
I don’t think he realises he is being disrespectful. When he lived alone his house was a mess, big time.
Quite possible he is undiagnosed something. More likely Asperger’s than ADHD. He is a software engineer after all.
He loves problem solving and setting up systems (it’s what he does for a living) so if I reframe it as a problem solving task it might work.
I was seeking advice. But there is also what my boyfriend calls the “cardboard programmer” effect.
Sometimes just acknowledging your problems and discussing it with someone else helps you find your own solutions.

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Yes I find that same just talking about it, getting an outside perspective helps.

It sounds like you have it under control and you’ve lasted this long together you’re clearly doing heaps of things right!

Good luck! Happy to brain with you any time, I Lim to to throw silly ideas out there and see what sticks.

Hi Claire,

I get rid of the rubbish, but the house is messy.

I think, one has to start tidying the house, develop determination, momentum to clean the house possibly consistency.

I have an anxiety disorder, resulting in me forgetting about the clutter. I tidy the garden.

Ultimately, a tidy organised house is better for everyone.

It’s not me that’s untidy Aladdin. It’s my boyfriend.

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That just might work.

Or even just being introverted can be the issue. I’m naturally introverted, and can overlook the world around me for hours a day, because the world inside my head can seem more real than the world around me. I work in information technology, and my observation is that over half the other techies I’ve worked with are also introverted.

Then again, I have ADHD but wasn’t diagnosed until 2 years ago, when I was 45. (Still, with good medication to help manage my attention, my introversion is still a major factor.)

Many men respond better to an external authority for accountability than they do to their partner.

  • Some chalk it up to patriarchy or other social influence, but I just think it’s basic male psychology. In general, males tend to respond well to a coach, mentor, or group leader who is also male.
  • I’m generally untidy, myself. My dad is even moreso (he’s definitely got ADHD traits, though he’s never been diagnosed). But when I was about 20 and living with my parents while attending college, my dad could just make a mild but direct request that I clean up the kitchen for my mom (or wash her car, or whatever), and I would jump to it out of respect towards my dad and love for my mom.

Does your boyfriend have anyone that’s a mentor (father figure, leader of the pack, etc) who he can look to for external accountability like that? Maybe his dad or grandfather? Or if you both attend church, does he have a relationship with the minister like that?

Maybe relationship counseling or a life coach can help. Or hiring a professional organizer to come to your home and through tidying best practices with the both of you. Again, this turns the focus to an outside authority figure to promote the tidiness that you need.

(Note, not every man responds well to authority figures. It’s just more common than not.)


At work, it’s always been easier to keep the overall work environment clean… All except my own desk, which will wind up cluttered just a few days after I clean it. Yet shared workspaces are easy for me to keep tidy, just due to general workplace expectations.


Change is hard. I have packrat tendencies, so my mess tends to gather in specific places out of sight until it overflows. But I got used to overlooking my dad’s messiness, and I do the same with my kids’ mess.

I’m recently divorced and have custody of my kids half the time. When they are here with me, me youngest makes a mess everywhere, and her brother adds a little to it. (He’s more like me, count training his clutter to his own spaces. His sister just leaves things out everywhere.)

Since I’m now the only parent in my home, I’m more aware of the mess, and I’m much more prone to clean it up. I’m also trying to teach my kids to help keep the house clean. With my son, it’s easier. With my daughter, if I’m not working alongside her, then she will stop at the first distraction. (I wonder where she gets that distractibility… Oh yeah, me!)

  • I’m forming a good habit with the dishes, washing them twice a day instead of once every two days when the sink is piled high. I think that building one new habit at a time will help me keep my house clean more easily.

Clare, maybe ask your partner to take five minutes a day and clean with you. (You tidy your mess, and he can tidy his own.) Set a timer, and when it goes off, be done. Then, thank him and complement him on some desirable progress that he made.

  • If he responds well to verbal praise, then make a regular practice of thanking and praising him for and pretty progress he makes.

I know, males maybe perceived as less tidy than females.

Have you checked out the Clutterbug on youtube? She has a framework for understanding different organizing styles and advice on how to make things work for mixed households.

For example, I am a visual organizer (i.e., I need to see my stuff) and I prefer macro organizing. I will never ever ever be successful with a system that is too detailed. I might be successful with dropping everything into a basket.

Macro vs micro = broad categories vs detailed organizing.

Another way to think of it is where do I want to put my effort. If something is even a little bit hard for me to put away, I won’t. Meanwhile, I don’t mind searching through a container to find exactly the thing I need.

That depends on the male. I’ve seen some guys offices with everything in a set place, so neat and tidy. For others, it’s their workbench in their garage, with all the tools hanging on pegboard and arranged neatly in tool chest drawers.

… I’m definitely NOT one of those guys!

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