Dear Carolyn: I bought a house about a year ago and my daughter and her three kids moved in with me. I am single and live downstairs in the in-law suite with a roommate who is my friend.
The children are 13, 10 and 2. My daughter is 30. And to say they are lazy — and will not under any circumstances clean anything — is an understatement of biblical proportions!
My only request for her living here was to please keep the house clean. My daughter does not pay any bills here, just my roommate and I do, and our space downstairs is always clean. It is just a kick in the teeth when they are so disrespectful. I keep asking, yelling, demanding, talking, but nothing. My friend suggested we take all the dishes, cups, glasses, silverware, box them up and just give them disposable everything.
My daughter's excuse is she has three kids. What?!! No, she sits on her butt with her face in her phone, and her kids are the same. Their rooms are disgusting, all of them. When I have had enough, I clean it. I know, wrong thing to do, but I can't stand it and I have no idea how to get them to just clean up. And yes, I do need to go upstairs, to do laundry, to watch the children, and sometimes use the oven.
I work a full-time job, as does my roomie. My daughter works, too, but not always full time so she has plenty of time to clean up.
Any suggestions short of throwing everyone out of my house?
Carolyn says: "Dear Carolyn: Is there anything I can do to solve my problem, except the one thing that will solve my problem?"
Possibly the most common phrasing I see.
If you want cleanliness, then you evict your daughter.
If you want your daughter there, then you live with the mess.
(Side note: Please, outraged readership, conserve electrons by not writing to me that the daughter "should" clean up, respect her mother, stop being an ungrateful exemplar of everything wrong with kids/society/our country these days, etc. If I could control what other people do, then they'd all be out mailing me checks.)
There are degrees in between filth and eviction, of course — but only the degrees to which your daughter is willing to cooperate, which are apparently 0.
Her kids may be salvageable still, and maybe you can task them and teach them to clean, but that's also a boundary you need to negotiate with your daughter.
The operative word in your letter, by the way, is "request." A request can be denied. Rudely, ungratefully, gallingly, call it what you will, but by making your terms a request, you've made them your daughter's prerogative.
If you want to fix that — huge "if" — then do the one thing you've refused to do and change the request to a condition, with X days' notice: "You can live in my house expense-free, but only if you keep it clean. If you do not keep it clean, then you can't live in my house expense-free."
Don't set any conditions you're unwilling to enforce. Or unable to, meaning, run them by a qualified local attorney first — though I hope for everyone's sake it never comes to that.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.