When it comes to the ongoing war between neat freaks and clutter bugs, it’s more important to live together in peace than to bump heads over a “messy” home

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: “When a neat freak and a clutter bug live together, why is it that the messy one is expected to make all the effort to keep things cleaner? Can’t the neat freak try to leave fewer things lying around? How can we get along?”

I smiled when I read this question. Usually, I receive mail from others in the household, asking me what they can do to change the habits of messy people. Living together is not easy, especially when cleaning styles and level of tolerance are different. The good news, however, is it’s possible to live together harmoniously, even with contrasting styles.

And yes, it’s not just about the messy person being neater. It is also about the neat person being more tolerant. Living together in peace is more about respect for each other and the commitment to the relationship than it is about the feng shui.

Molly and Jerry


Molly hired me because she thought she and I were on the same page, and assumed I would side with her “against” Jerry by telling him that his messy habits were creating “bad energy” in the home. When I explained that the issue was more about finding a way for them to accept each other, given their contrasting styles, Molly was not pleased. She pulled me aside and told me that she had hired me to tell Jerry that he was in the wrong and needed to clean up his stuff, not that she had to change.

I am often brought in to help settle disagreements over what is “better” energetically. When I am called in to address an environmental issue that the couple disagrees about, the solution is usually not about the proper feng shui but more often about ego, personal taste and individual style.

In these cases, I find that some “life guidance” is in order. If you and your mate or roommate are at opposite ends of the cleanliness spectrum and want to improve your relationship and experience more peace, here is my advice:

Recognize that it is natural to have differences

When it comes to the cleanliness and orderliness of a home, not everyone in the household will have the same standards. To some people, orderliness is not a priority, while to others it is a top priority.

Accept others as they are

Acknowledge that you cannot change or control the other person. You can only take responsibility for yourself. If you cannot reach this level of understanding, you will expend all of your energy complaining and judging, creating resistance and chaotic communication, as peace becomes an unfulfilled wish.

Start by communicating


When contrasting cleaning styles are a source of emotional stress, not dealing with the situation only builds resentment. Talk about the issue and use the following points to guide the conversation:

1. Take turns expressing what you see or don’t see as acceptable, and what “clutter,” “messy” or “dirty” means to you. To establish where you each are on the “clean versus messy” spectrum and to gain perspective, focus on the relevant areas of the home and talk about them without judgment or a need to be right.

2. Confine your conversation to what is relevant. Determine how you will manage the common areas of your home. Be clear about what is most important to your mate or roommate, and to you.

3. Expect to compromise. What can you commit to that will show the other person that you care? Both of you should come up with three things you are willing to do that are high on the other’s priority list. The neat person may agree that the dishes in the sink do not have to be washed immediately, while the messy person may agree to clear papers off the dining room table each evening.

4. Agree not to nag or complain once you have committed to the changes. As the neat person, be more tolerant than you have been. As the messy person, make an effort to take responsibility for what you have agreed to, not because “clean is right,” but because you care about the relationship.

Repeat as Needed

Once you have made some progress, you will notice a greater sense of appreciation for each other, and your environment will feel lighter on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. Although it can be difficult living with someone so different from you, the greatest level of success will come from a team effort.

Alice Inoue is a life guide at Alice Inoue Life Guidance, LLC, a company committed to assisting people in living empowered lives. Alice shares her wisdom as a professional speaker and personal consultant, and offers a series of instructional DVDs on feng shui, as well as her award-winning books on feng shui, happiness and spiritual life wisdom. Visit www.aliceinspired.com for more information.

Alice’s Nice Advice: Give Yourself A Boost Of Energy

Red is a “fire” color and can give you an energetic lift. Place fire colored objects — throws, pillows, statues, vases, silk flowers — in the room you spend the most time in. Bring out your red clothes and accessories.

Surround yourself with red for an energetic boost this week!