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How to Survive Living with a Neat Freak
January 9, 2018
Article originally sourced from Architectural Digest
"Whoever coined the phrase, “different strokes for different folks” had obviously never lived with a Grade A, certified neat freak like, for instance, me. I'm so obsessive down to the tiniest detail, it’s a wonder that none of my past roommates have attempted to smother me in my sleep (or maybe they have?). I get it, though—sharing a living space with someone whose definition of clean involves cleaning the cleaning products themselves (ugh, sorry) can make it hard to empathize with that level of tidiness. But when cohabiting parties fall on opposite ends of the neatness spectrum—ranging from at-least-I-can-still-see-the-floor to I-alphabetize-the-spice-rack (I do this)—it can make for some tense moments at home.
The problem, of course, is that you can’t really screen for neat freaks (and even if you did, there are certainly worse qualities to rule out a roommate). If you do find yourself face-to-face—or wall-to-wall—with one, don’t resort to giving each other side-eye across the breakfast table. Instead, here are five fail-safe, neat freak–vetted steps to finding domestic bliss—even if you live with a Danny Tanner-type.
Is the obsessively organized party aware of his or her over-the-top ways? Or does that person think the white glove dust test is garden variety behavior for normal people? Helping foster self-awareness—and practicing some yourself—can go a long way towards establishing a productive dialogue. Begin discussions with how the dynamic makes you feel, instead of what he or she is doing wrong. (“I feel like I can’t do anything right” vs. “Your nagging is exhausting”). This can help start things off on a less accusatory, more solution-oriented foot.
2. Divide and conquer
Does one of you hate to do dishes? Loathe taking out the trash? Try splitting up household chores and allowing the messier person to assert his or her utility in tasks the neater person normally hates. Here’s a true story: I lived with my much messier sister for seven years, and while her hands never once graced the inside of our toilet, mine never had to drop the trash down the garbage chute. It made our differences easier to bear knowing she was still pitching in.
3. Establish a safe zone
Accept that there’s zero chance that both of you will agree to move the needle all the way to one side of the neatness scale. That said, you can and should designate one or two spots within your home as hassle-free zones. Whether it’s the chair that keeps clothes from piling up on the floor—it’s OK, everyone has that chair—or a closet that keeps clutter far from view, détente is possible if you’re down to compromise.
4. Learn from each other
Look at your different lifestyles as an opportunity to pick up some new skills. The neatnik can learn how to be more relaxed, and the messier roommate can discover the wonder of finding matching socks in a drawer without tearing apart your room for 10 minutes. It’s life-changing, I swear.
5. Keep it classy
No matter what, remember to remain respectful of boundaries and stay honest with each other. There might be but a mere sliver of overlap in your respective comfort zones, and finding it might take some time, but at least you'll know you arrived there via the high road.