New research* from Clearabee, the on-demand rubbish removal business, suggests that mess is the biggest turn off in the bedroom and also one of the biggest causes of arguments amongst couples.

Sex on Female First

Sex on Female First

Just under half (49%) of people are turned off by mess and clutter in the bedroom. This is followed by holes in the sheets (43%) and too cold a temperature (41%). Too much heat in the bedroom (39%) and bright lights (38%) are also big turn offs.   

In addition to interfering with couples’ sex lives or drive, mess is also one of the leading sources of arguments amongst them, with 13% of couples citing mess as the issue they are most likely to argue about. It ranks second only to money, with it actually rating as the highest source of arguments amongst those aged 55+ (14%).

Six in ten (61%) of those in a relationship say they argue about mess, on average, 51 times a year, almost once a week. We spoke to Jo Hemmings to find out why this is becoming such a big issue for couples today. 

Why is clutter such a bugbear for many couples?

We tend to be naturally tidy or untidy people. With a mixture of nature – the way we were born – and nurture – the way we were brought up, most people fall firmly into one camp or another. But if you’re a naturally tidy person, who can’t abide clutter, you’re in for a rocky road relationship wise, if you partner up with someone who not only doesn’t tidy up, but may not care or even notice.

Does this mean that minimalists and obsessively neat people will automatically have a better relationship with their partner if they are the same?

Anyone who is ‘obsessively neat’ is probably going to have very high expectations of tidiness, whether their partner is a naturally tidy person or not. Generally speaking, it’s better to be in the same area of the tidy/messy spectrum for the relationship to work at its best. Otherwise, the tidy one will complain about the mess and the untidy one will just feel nagged at. Coming to a compromise – such as keeping the bedroom/bathroom/kitchen tidy, while letting the living room or garden, look more lived in is sometimes the answer.

Why is clutter such a turn off in the bedroom?  

Clearabee’s research suggests around half (49%) of us are turned off by mess and clutter in the bedroom. The bedroom should be a sanctuary. A place where you can sleep, relax, make love – generally unwind from the day in peace and relaxation. If it’s chaotic and untidy, it makes people less likely to be able to relax and more likely to feel anxiety and stress. And that can lead to resentment, irritation and rows.

What sort of assumptions does clutter create about a person? 

Research has shown that we way we keep our environment, reflects both our state of mind and impacts our productivity. So, those surrounded by tidy spaces tend to get more done as they have less visual distractions to disturb them.  Other studies have shown that messier people are more creative and that creativity thrives in disorganisation. So, we probably shouldn’t make too many assumptions about people surrounded by clutter, unless it affects us personally!

Why is mess so closely ranked to money in terms of the leading source of arguments for couples?

According to Clearabee’s study, mess is second only to money as the leading source of arguments amongst couples. Your living space is a buffer against the rest of the world. The one place where you can take some control over the mess and chaos of the outside world. If your home is untidy and you don’t like it – while your partner appears not to notice or care – then resentment levels can lead to pretty big arguments. It’s not just the dislike of mess, it’s the feeling that you have to constantly tidy up after someone else who can’t be bothered to do it and for some couples this feels disrespectful and unfair.

Do you think clutter is becoming a big problem in UK households? If so, why?

We buy more consumer products than ever before, but in general the size of our homes is getting smaller. Unless we resolve to have a regular declutter or throw something out when we buy a new version, it’s inevitable that the clutter will begin to take over!

If joint clutter is causing regular arguments- what steps should a couple take to steadily rectify this problem?

Depending on the amount of clutter and how quickly it collects, have a day or so a week or a month, where you have a big joint tidy up/throwing out session. Decide which rooms are the most important for you to have clutter free and which ones don’t matter so much and agree that you will follow those rules. Make sure that there is plenty of space to actually put things away, so that there are no excuses!

What advice do you have for a couple where one is messy and the other is tidy?

A 2015 study revealed that couples who didn’t split chores (whether naturally tidy or not) had less relationship satisfaction and less sex than couples who divided up the chores equally, so compromise needs to be made. The tidy one should resist the urge to nag their partner while trying to offer them a bit of personal space they can clutter up – like a room or even a cupboard. List the three things that really frustrate you – like using the bedroom as a ‘floordrobe’, never emptying the dishwasher or putting shoes away and focus on asking your partner to do these relatively simple things. Being cross at them for just ‘being messy’ is unlikely to work.

In your opinion do you think a ‘less is more’ approach in a joint space is conducive to a stronger relationship?

For most people, messy or tidy, having a relatively clutter free living space brings about relaxation and relieves stress, so generally it is conducive to a stronger relationship. However, put two messy people together, who believe that clutter and untidiness is what makes their home special and unique to them and their family, and they can live perfectly happily together!

How can hoarding affect a relationship?

Hoarding can be a serious problem, with underlying psychological issues. Whether it’s low self-esteem, an inability to make a decision or simply wanting to hold onto the past – it can be all consuming to the hoarder who can’t bear to part with anything and very frustrating for their partner who wants a clear and calm space to enjoy their home life.