Annie's Mailbox for June 24, 2011: Daughter's messy room causing stress

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Dear Annie: I'm so frustrated right now. Our 22-year-old daughter, "Olivia," is living at home with my husband, our 17-year-old son and me. A while back, she quit college and moved in with her friends, which turned out to be a financial disaster. Two years ago, Olivia decided to return to school and moved back in with us. She works full time, goes to classes and has managed to pay off her creditors. She is saving money to buy a car. We do not charge rent, but she does pay for her own gas and personal items.

The problem? Olivia is a sweet girl, but she is really letting herself go. She has gained a considerable amount of weight and doesn't seem to care about her appearance. However, what is really tipping me over is her room. It is an absolute mess -- clothes all over the floor, the bed and stuffed in the closet, and dirty dishes, garbage and makeup strewn about. I can't even walk through the room. Every time I look in there, it just makes me sick and angry. I don't do her laundry, but can't recall her doing it, either, so she must be wearing dirty clothes.

Her father and I have begged and threatened, but nothing gets her to clean up. All she says is "I'll get to it" or "I'm too busy." But when she's not at work or at school, she's sleeping, watching TV or visiting her boyfriend.

I'm ready to kick her out, but I'm afraid she will quit college and get in financial trouble again. Olivia has one year left of school. Should I put up with this disgusting room until then?

— At the End of my Tether in South Dakota

Dear S.D.: If you are too worried to throw her out, then yes, you'll have to put up with the mess until she graduates. Olivia may be slovenly or depressed, and her schedule may be so busy that she needs more downtime than most. If you think she may be depressed, please suggest she visit the college counseling department. Whatever the reason, you are not obligated to go into Olivia's room if it is too stressful for you. Close the door.

Dear Annie: My sister-in-law, "Maureen," has two different sides to her personality. A month ago, we were invited to my brother's house for dinner. My teenage daughter took a piece of bacon that was drying on a rack. Maureen yelled at her and then hit her on the back with the flat of her hand. I said nothing, but was hurt and angry.

Maureen will snap for no apparent reason at some innocuous remark. She has been doing this off and on for years. I have overlooked her behavior for a long time, but the incident with my daughter was the last straw. I believe she needs some kind of help, but she would never admit it. How do I deal with this situation?

— Totally Fed Up

Dear Totally: We're astounded that you said nothing when Maureen hit your child. That would have been the moment to speak up, tell her she was out of line and then leave. You cannot force Maureen to deal with her mood swings, but there is no reason for you to put up with such abuse.

Dear Annie: I laughed when I read the letter from "Neglected," who complained about her husband's lack of gift giving. Here's how my friend "Nadine" handled a similar situation:

Nadine kept dropping hints to her hubby that she wanted some new dishes for their 25th anniversary. When nothing was forthcoming, she "borrowed" his credit card and ordered the reasonably priced set she wanted.

When it arrived, she unpacked it, called a few friends to come over and waited for her husband to come home. When he arrived, she made such a tearful, effusive appreciation speech (with many kisses thrown in) that he was speechless. He never forgot again.

— LOL at the Memory

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