neat vs. messy (2) a whole other ballgame

Having to search for your stuff is one thing. But having a fight with your partner over a sock on the floor is a whole different . People build up resentment, and then they . The sock becomes a symbol of the relationship as a . You're going to want to avoid that. But how? A marriage counselor tells couples to "ask each other what your ideal living situation is—and what you can live with. Then live within it." But what if you're not enough to compromise? Don't . You still have options:

• Try claiming a room of your own, where you're free to be as messy or neat as you'd like. Declare your closet . Or up on paper plates and plastic utensils, so there are no dirty dishes. (The messy person you live with might feel guilty about the environment and start loading the dishwasher.)

• Stand your . "If you only get 12 square feet out of 2,000, you need to protect it," says Steve Miksis. He loves to make piles—of clothes, art supplies and workout —but for years his wife kept them in his office loft and a window seat in the bathroom. So when he saw one of her shirts on the top of one of his piles, he her. "You need to fight for your space, or else you lose it," he says. (He and his wife have since separated.)

• Play . Peter Wagner does. The 52-year-old financial adviser pretends not to know how to operate the dishwasher or washing machine and not to see his sweaty clothes lying on the floor. "My wife thinks that if she lets my dirty clothes pile up I will eventually pick them up and put them in the ," says Mr. Wagner. "I call her ."

yourself to your fate. "Neat has won in our life," sighs a messy friend of mine whose husband has been known to scrub the kitchen counters as soon as he comes home each night—even before he takes off his coat. He also each pair of scissors by the room they belong in and each outfit he packs for a trip according to the day he plans to wear it. My friend, who has been shamed into limiting her mess to one corner of the closet, copes by him—gently—to his face.