Use The Clean Up Rule

Everybody Gets to Clean Up Their Own Messes.

The Clean Up Rule says that everybody gets to clean up their own messes. It is a principal that encourages us to take responsibility for dealing with our own messes and leave other people to clean up theirs.

There is a tendency in relationships with a personality disordered individual for the Non-PD to begin enabling the the neglectful or abusive behavior. This enabling often takes the form of the Non-PD going out of their way to compensate or try to cover up for the shortcomings of the personality disordered individual.

The incentives for doing this may be:

  • In an attempt to demonstrate to a challenging person that the Non-PD really does care for them.
  • Out of a sense of fear that abusive behavior may be triggered or escalated.
  • Out of a desire to restore a sense of normalcy to the home environment.
  • Out of embarrassment or shame at what others might think if they witness chaos.

The problems caused by this kind of cleaning up after a person who habitually creates a chaotic environment can be:

  • Loss of self esteem for the person who does the cleaning up after another.
  • Non verbal communication that the chaos created is acceptable to the victim and/or will not be challenged and therefore is "OK".
  • Creation of an environment where the chaos creator is encouraged to escalate their behavior.
  • Denial of the opportunity for the chaos creator to learn from their own mistakes.
  • Communication to other dependent bystanders - siblings and children - that there is no hope of things improving.

Therefore cleaning up someone else's messes is typically a short term gain for a long term loss. It is a healthier alternative to use the clean up rule wherever possible. Everybody Gets to Clean Up Their Own Messes.


  • A teenager gets fined for vandalism and his parents refuse to cover the cost but require him to get a job and pay it off.
  • A woman has an affair and her husband refuses to blame himself for it.
  • A man destroys objects in the home and his wife leaves and refuses to return until the mess is cleaned up.
  • A parent begins swearing at her adult children over Christmas Dinner and one decides to leave and refuses to bear the responsibility for "ruining the event for everybody"