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Amy Osmond Cook
Amy Osmond Cook, Ph.D.

Q: My husband is so messy. It seems like all I do is pick up and put his belongings away when I'm cleaning the house. How can I get him to put his things away without always nagging him?

Kathy: My husband is fantastic but he’s messy too! Here are some things I have tried that work well. He’ll never be a neat freak, but we manage to keep our house relatively clean.

1. Positive reinforcement. Compliment your husband on the qualities that you admire. Let your husband know how much you would appreciate him putting his things away. When you see him putting something away or hanging up his clothes instead of throwing them on the floor, let him know how much this means to you.

2. Keep it contained. If he can’t keep from being messy, try to keep it within a particular area in the house. Perhaps he can keep his mess in a large closet or room so you don't have to see it. Even a corner of your bedroom is better than the entire house. Find solutions that you can both live with.

3. Put things in perspective. If your worst pet peeve is his mess around the house, then concentrate on how much you appreciate his other great qualities. There are many things that are so much worse than a messy husband.

4. Look inward. Chances are, there is something you do that bugs your husband. Do you forget to put the cap on the toothpaste after you use it? Do you roll the toilet paper the wrong way? Perhaps he'll see your efforts, appreciate them and try harder to pick up his things.

Amy: Mom, these are great points! My husband can be messy, too, and I use all four of your points frequently. It reminds me of a true story I read not long ago by Lola Walters in the January 2011 Ensign:

“My husband and I had been married about two years — just long enough for me to realize that he was a normal man rather than a knight on a white charger — when I read a magazine article recommending that married couples schedule regular talks to discuss, truthfully and candidly, the habits or mannerisms they find annoying in each other. The theory was that if the partners knew of such annoyances, they could correct them before resentful feelings developed.

“It made sense to me. I talked with my husband about the idea. After some hesitation, he agreed to give it a try.

“As I recall, we were to name five things we found annoying, and I started off. After more than 50 years, I remember only my first complaint: grapefruit. I told him that I didn’t like the way he ate grapefruit. He peeled it and ate it like an orange! Nobody else I knew ate grapefruit like that. Could a girl be expected to spend a lifetime, and even eternity, watching her husband eat grapefruit like an orange? Although I have forgotten them, I’m sure the rest of my complaints were similar.

“After I finished, it was his turn to tell the things he disliked about me. Though it has been more than half a century, I still carry a mental image of my husband’s handsome young face as he gathered his brows together in a thoughtful, puzzled frown and then looked at me with his large blue-gray eyes and said, “Well, to tell the truth, I can’t think of anything I don’t like about you, Honey."

By avoiding “the grapefruit syndrome,” we’ll be able to better keep our relationships strong and focused on the positive things about our husbands. In return, we’ll either see a change in their messy behavior, or it will bother us less!

Xoxo, Kathy and Amy

A former Miss Utah, Kathy Osmond has spent the past 40 years raising five children and traveling with the Osmonds. Amy Osmond Cook (amyosmondcook.com) teaches at ASU, writes for LA Family Magazine and is raising five children of her own.