Don’t let a cluttered house create family conflict

Our daughter and her husband are extremely poor housekeepers. They are successful in education and at their jobs, but utterly fail when it comes to cleaning.

Dear Annie: Our daughter and her husband are extremely poor housekeepers. They are successful in education and at their jobs, but utterly fail when it comes to cleaning.

They never invite people to their house. The mess embarrasses our two young grandchildren, who make unsolicited comments about the condition of their home when they stay with us. We once mentioned the state of their house years ago and were told to butt out.

When my son-in-law was hospitalized, the family performed a cleaning intervention. Unfortunately, it didn’t last, and things are back to the usual. We don’t know how to encourage cleanliness without creating a conflict. Any suggestions? — Concerned Grandparents

Dear Concerned: How messy? If it is clutter (not hoarding), leave it alone. A messy house is no reason to create ill will with your daughter. Not everyone’s standards of cleanliness will be up to yours, and while they may not want company, it is not dangerous. However, if there is old food getting moldy on the carpet, bugs crawling all over the floor and rats in the closets, it is a health hazard to the children and should be reported.

We suggest you tell them that you understand how terribly busy they are and ask whether you can gift them with a professional cleaning service as your birthday, anniversary and Christmas presents. (Feel free to add Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day if you can afford it.) Don’t make negative remarks about their lack of housekeeping skills. If they refuse your kind offer, invite the kids over more often and leave the rest alone.

Dear Annie: I’m a 59-year-old non-working female who has been married for 20 years. I thought my husband was a wonderful man, but 10 years ago, he removed my name from our joint bank accounts.

I worked for 30 years. I now find myself with no money and no job. I have to depend on my husband for everything. He doesn’t give me money unless I beg for it. Is there anything I can do legally to persuade him to give me an allowance? He says he pays all of our bills, so I don’t need any money. Our three children agree with him. For health reasons, I cannot return to work. What can I do? ­— Confused

Dear Confused: Because your husband and your children all believe you should not handle money, we have to ask whether there is a reason. Do you gamble? Do you overspend? Even so, you still should be allotted a small amount of money for personal use.

The other possibility is financial abuse. Many people think abuse is predominantly about physical harm, but it comes in many guises, one of which is controlling all the money in a relationship, making one partner completely dependent on the other. If this is what is happening in your marriage, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) at 1-800-799-SAFE.

Dear Annie: You’ve printed a few letters about parents who are estranged from their kids. I have not spoken to my mother in years. She is a meddler and a self-centered person who is more interested in her image than in what’s right.

Years ago, I went through a nasty divorce, and Mom sided with my ex-wife in court. When the truth came out, I was given full custody of my son. My mother never showed remorse for her actions or even said so much as “I’m sorry.” My son is now 18, and she has never tried to contact him. I have learned not to let her hurt or control me. I am OK with my life the way it is. — Better Off Without

Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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