How To Deal With A Neat Freak

If you're not a neat freak yourself, dealing with one can be tough. Here's how to do it and maybe even adapt a few of their better habits.

Photo by Michael Dolan

Amy Rosenberg, over at Psychology Today, writes that it isn't too difficult to leave with a neat freak under a couple of circumstances. First, the neat freak needs to be aware of their exceptional need for order. Also, they need to be aware that they can often be resistant to change. If your neat freak has this awareness, cohabitation can be much easier.

Assuming you're messier than your neat freak, you're going to need to sit down and negotiate. Realistically, you're not going to live up to the sparkling standards of an anal retentive cleaner, so they're going to have to accept you for your "faults" and all. That said, you'll need to make an effort as well. Together, make a list of the common problems that excessive drive for neatness causes you and let your neat freak outline the problematic messes that you make. Once you have your list, find ways to compromise. This may mean hiring a housecleaner once and a while, or finding ways you can contain your mess in a specific area that your neat freak can tolerate.

If you're a messier person, living with a neat freak is not necessarily a bad thing because you can use it as an opportunity to learn their better habits. Too much order isn't a good thing, but being messy isn't either. If your neat freak feels you aren't doing a good enough job cleaning, ask them to teach you how to do it more effectively. Just because they're compelled to put in the time to keep everything nice and tidy doesn't mean they want to spend the entire day keeping the house spotless. Chances are that they've learned a few efficient cleaning methods so they can enjoy an orderly household without devoting their entire life to the cause. Learning a few of these tricks can really help you out.

Setting aside designated cleaning times can also reduce strain on your relationship with your neat freak. By setting aside specific times for you to clean, your neat freak will know exactly when it's going to happen. This should provide relief for both of you, as the neat freak will have an assurance of cleanliness and you won't have to listen to any nagging.

Lastly, you need to realise that neat freaks and messy people suffer from the same problem. You're both perfectionists in your own way. The difference is that the neat freak can't live with failure and the messy person can. For the messy person, the mess is generally just so overwhelming that it's better to do nothing than to try and tackle what seems to be impossible. The neat freak just doesn't see the task as impossible, but rather necessary. Knowing that you're basically coming from the same place should make it much easier to compromise and, ultimately, provide a living environment that satisfies both your needs.

A Field Guide to the Neat Freak | Psychology Today

Got any great tips on how you've made life livable with a neat freak (or a messy person, for that matter)? Let's hear 'em in the comments!


    Why should the messy person change to accommodate a neater one... why is being anal retentive a 'better habit'...? How about the messy person teaches the clean freak to relax and reduce the importance of order in their lives. If everyone in the world didn't make their bed in the morning, our first female moon-walker could have invented a better mousetrap that could also cure the common cold by now... probably.

      As a clean freak myself, i actually kind of agree with that! People are entitled to live in their own "lifestyle". They feel comfortable like that. There is no "normal" standard to comply to.

      Everyone can live by their own individual standards, and if i ever encountered living with a more "laid back" person, i would give myself some options.
      1. Let him live the way he lives
      2. Ask to perhaps "compromise" where he can keep common places clean or at least make an effort. He doesn't have to live to "my standards" - that's stupid.
      3. Live with someone like myself.

      My brother is extremely messy, and has plates and shit in his room from a few days prior (Perfect "battlestation" image), while myself on the other hand can't deal seeing mess. My room is spick and span, however, if the kitchen is dirty, I'll bloody clean it! I want it a certain way, so i'll do it myself. I won't force my ideals upon my brother! He's happy the way he is.

    Its all about reasonable levels I think. Being clean and tidy should not be frowned on as a bad thing. But lets face it alphabetizing your books/ DVDs - OCD, being specific about how a towel is arranged on a towel rail - OCD, etc etc. However, having lived on my own for a while I recently had a mate staying (rent free) with me for a month. He did things that infuriated me, leaving stuff lying around, never putting anything back the way he found it, during the month he was with me never lifting a finger to clean the bathroom etc. Is that cool and laid back or just plain disrespectful? Am i OCD? I don't think so.

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