Messy Hurts You More

October 28, 2015

in Uncategorized

In 2012 UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families published a book called Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors.

I see a number of warnings in the book, including how having too much stuff is bad for us. What I found particularly fascinating was their science-based conclusion that managing the families possessions (aka clutter) caused many women elevated levels of stress hormones, but the same was not true for men!

Messy Kids Room © Joseph Helfenberger |

So there you have it, the clutter bothers you more than it bothers him. I’m sure there are exceptions, but on the whole having too much stuff is much harder on women than on men. Maybe this is why you can’t get any traction with your husband on this issue; he literally doesn’t see the problem you see, or sees it as a much smaller problem. It causes you more stress than it causes him, and he can’t figure out why you’re so uptight about it.

If too much stuff is a problem for you, as it is for the majority of families in the USofA, don’t let it slide. Show you husband one of the stories linked below and start a dialogue. Tell him the clutter is hurting you, and also hurts your family and your marriage. If it will help, tell him it’s hurting your sex life – which is perfectly valid since increased levels of stress hormones inhibit both desire and pleasure.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I tortured my long suffering wife with junk for years.

Trouble in paradise: UCLA book enumerates challenges faced by middle-class L.A. families | UCLA 
Clutter in typical middle-class home at epic–if not epidemic– proportions | SFGATE On The Block 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosemary October 28, 2015 at 10:05 am

Yes, I would say that, in general, clutter bothers me more than it bothers my husband. Luckily, neither one of us is too extreme. Like most middle class Americans, we’ve accumulated too much stuff in our cupboards and closets. Now we are in the process of gradually simplifying and decluttering. eBay is our friend!
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Paul Byerly October 29, 2015 at 7:36 am

@Rosemary – Yup – less really is more!
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May October 29, 2015 at 3:14 am

This is especially tru for stay at home mothers, as we spend all day in it. It’s managable when the kids are in school/nersery as we can actually spend the time cleaning wich in it self is really boring repetitave work. During the school holidays on the other hand it becomes really difficult as children have a natural instinc to play and let their immaginations run wild jumping from game to game with out seeing the mess that is created in it’s wake. For example yesterday I was folding laundry in the loungue (we don’t have a utility room) and had just finshed folding some bedding when one of my daughters rushe in grabed one of the blankeets and ran out again because they needed all the clean blanket as they were making forts, meaning that I would have to fold the blankets again. (please note they are good girls and do help with the chores).

I supose what this means for a relationship is that my Husband who really dosn’t like mess only has to be in the mess for a few houres in the evenings whilst I spend almost all of my day trying to deal with it.


Paul Byerly October 29, 2015 at 7:39 am

@May – Most husbands have no idea how crazy it is for our wives, especially when we have young children.
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Kate October 29, 2015 at 6:21 am

This is so true. I live in a very small house with a large family. Just the existence of many humans in one area is clutter. I also homeschool, which is more stuff. I never feel at peace at home. It is like a prison to me. There are always chores, clutter, things to pick up, a new mess, a new dirty bit, the need to vacuum is constant. There is no privacy, no personal space for me (hubby took over the bedroom and has his man-cave, the kids bedrooms encroach on any other living space simply because of how this house is set up.)

On top of that is the relationship clutter. Everyone needs me for something. I do it all myself. I don’t get time to myself unless I stay up very late after everyone’s gone to bed, but then I am too tired to do anything for myself. Just last night I had work to do, but hubby wanted “marriage time”. I just want to run away screaming and hide by myself somewhere for at least a weekend. I feel like I have lost me. I don’t get to go out with friends…I barely have friends beyond words on a screen. I don’t have time for my hobbies and interests. I don’t have money for hobbies, interests, to leave the house, or go out with the girls. I’m just stuck and every effort I do take to get unstuck gets trampled underfoot or fails miserably.


Paul Byerly October 29, 2015 at 7:41 am

@Kate – I would bet your husband has not heard you on these things. I’m not suggesting you have failed to tell him, rather I think he has not heard the depth of the problem because of gender communications issues.
Keep telling him, he may eventually get it.
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IntimacySeeker October 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm

I take comfort in this and knowing I’m not off the charts when it comes to order and cleanliness. I often describe myself as a claustrophobic minimalist. Clutter depletes my energy and after awhile, does raise stress levels. Some rooms in our home are clutter free (or nearly so), especially our bedroom. Some areas are where my husband works on projects and I avoid them, other than short visits. Those areas get organized and cleaned up twice a year or so. We have learned a way to meet both sets of needs and also to best utilize our gifts: I organize and he does the vacuuming and scrubbing. Not a bad deal!


Paul Byerly October 30, 2015 at 9:55 am

@IntimacySeeker – Sounds like you two have come up with a very livable arrangement. ;-)
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