My wife is lazy, untidy

What you need to know:

In most cases, I have to spend so much time at the weekend cleaning up and as I do this, she will just sleep

We have been married close to a year now. I love my wife very much but I have come to realise that she is messy and disorganised. She is the kind of person that will leave unwashed dishes in the sink for days. If I do not wash them, she will not. The same thing applies to our dirty clothes. In most cases, I have to spend so much time at the weekend cleaning up and as I do this, she will just sleep. If she is this messy when it is just the two of us, what will happen when we finally have children? I need advice on how to help my wife see the need to start cleaning up after herself.


Dear Anonymous,

Living with a messy partner can be frustrating. While differences in organisation habits and cleanliness are common among any two roommates, it seems to be a cause of dispute, particularly among couples. This is a slight incompatibility that a couple can deal with if they are willing to support one another, even when it takes some work.

Be specific about what bothers you. Not only do you need to use “I” language with a messy partner, but you also need to explain things clearly. Most messy partners cannot see the mess that they are creating. So, when you ask them to do something to fix it, they just do not have the same intuition.

It can also be helpful to outline things for them from a functional standpoint. For example, say: “I prefer it if you wash the dishes immediately because otherwise, the mess will attract ants or cockroaches.” Rather than getting irritated when a chore is not done, treat it as a mistake and request that they fix it. Too often, couples begin to treat their partner’s mistakes as intentional acts of aggression. With a messy partner, it is likely that it is not intentional at all. They simply cannot see the same mess that you do. That does not mean you have to put up with it, but taking it in a more positive direction can help your mood as well.

Work with your partner instead of against them. Try to think from your partner’s point of view. Sometimes with someone who is absent-minded, it is not a matter of not wanting to do something; it is a matter of forgetting altogether.

You can also eliminate some problems by simply altering the environment. For instance, if your partner tends to leave clothes on the bathroom floor, you might be able to resolve the problem by putting a hamper in the bathroom instead of the bedroom.

Providing organisational tools can feel like a defeat, but as long as you are not ‘parenting’ your partner in other emotionally exhausting ways, it may just be one of those little things done for the health of a relationship.

Remember, for the most part being messy is not some inadequacy; it is a minor incompatibility. The fact that people from different environments meet means that there will be differences in the way they approach things. Remember there are harder incompatibilities than untidiness. Accepting your partner as they are can be a huge step in the right direction. There may be some small concessions you have to make, such as allowing them to leave their own clothes unfolded in their drawers.

Remember that this is a work-in-progress and so it is good to praise the good acts. The fact that your messy wife is making an effort to become better in any capacity is a step in the right direction and one that deserves praise.

Lastly, try to live in the moment than hope in a negative future of how she might be worse when you have children. Instead, deal with the current problems her behaviour is causing. Agree on how you intend to handle this situation when children come and letyour partner be involved in coming up with strategies of managing to keep an organised home.

Reader advice

Talk to your wife

Jeff Kiyingi.  The greatest mistake in marriage is regrets. If you did not talk about this at the beginning, it will  behard to implement now. Sit her down and in a loving way tell her what she needs to change. I hope you married your friend since this is the only way you two will be able to discuss this without getting into arguments.

Do it together

Nampa Patience Natie. Start involving her in the cleaning up processes. If it is washing the dishes, wash them together, if it is washing clothes, then wash with her. Once she is caught up, you can let her do it by herself.

She could be pregnant

Rose K. Mariah Akiiki. Talk to her about it. Remember she is not your househelp but a companion. You can teach her to join you while you do the chores, cheering you up or generally participating. Have you tested for pregnancy though? This could be causing her laziness.

Involve family

Patricia Aseerait. Talk to her about it and if she refuses to listen, then involve those close to her such as her mother, aunt, sister or friend who she respects and can listen to.

Seek counselling

Onifade Temitope Busayo. You should have sorted this out during courtship. I believe it is not just starting now. If she is not obstinate, correct her because you cannot continue cleaning the house throughout your marriage. Or, employ a househelp if you have the money. Alternatively,  seek counselling where a non-biased party will help her see what she is doing wrong and how she can change for the better.

Define responsibilities

Richard Carls Asobasi. This is why it is advisable to first become friends before marriage. The time you spend dating is meant to help you learn and understand your partner’s traits. The best thing you should do is to maturely talk about responsibilities in a home.

Get help

Martin Ssebyala. The way I see it, you cannot do anything to change her laziness, especially if you still treat her like a queen. However, now that you have no children, get a relative to help out and once you get children hire a househelp.

Hire a househelp

Carol Amuge. Hire a househelp. If you do not need one that stays with you, there are many who come, do their work and leave in the evening. Slowly, she will realise that she needs to help out and take charge of her home.

This is a lesson

Phibiola Eve. If she is pregnant then probably it could be the pregnancy making her that lazy. In this case, you have to be patient with her. But if that is her nature, then may all my unmarried brothers learn from this. When it is time to choose a wife, do it wisely.

Evelyn is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation


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