Amy: Loving mother-in-law's hoarding makes visits stressful

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • September 14, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Dear Amy: I have a wonderful mother-in-law. She’s very supportive and loving. I call her regularly and visited for a week when my husband was deployed.

The problem is that on a scale of 1 to 10 for being a hoarder, she’s probably a 7. It’s very stressful for me to be in such a cluttered environment. My in-laws live out in the country, so there are no hotels nearby.

During one of my visits I spent the entire day cleaning while she was out of the house. I just wanted to show her that it’s possible to keep her house tidy. Unfortunately, it didn’t last, and there’s stuff everywhere again.

I’m dreading our next visit. Should I deal with the stress for just a short period of time since she does so much for us? Or should I risk upsetting her and no longer being welcome in their home?

Amy says: Your mother-in-law is unwilling or unable to radically change the way she lives. Tolerance is called for because you cannot force her toward change.

Other than simply keeping your visits short, the most obvious solution is for you to find somewhere nearby to stay, with another family member or at a B&B or the nearest motel (even if it’s an hour away). Sleeping at night in a relatively uncluttered environment will make your daytime visits easier.

Explain this by telling her, “I sleep much better when we’re not underfoot. I definitely want to spend time with you, but this works better for me. I hope that’s OK with you.”

Photos: Late wife isn’t ex-wife

Dear Amy: Your advice to “Worried” was right on. She was excessively concerned about personal photos of her new boyfriend’s late wife on the walls of his home.

As a widow of six years, I have pictures of my husband throughout the house because they give my kids and me great comfort. I believe Worried was confusing “ex”-wife with “late” wife, and, frankly, after two months of dating, she has no right to ask him to change anything.

I know that when I get to the point where I’m ready to share space with someone else, I will understand the need to make some changes. Until then, it’s my house. And anyone who can’t understand why I still have a few pictures of my late husband around? Well, I probably shouldn’t be dating him anyway.

Amy says: I agree with you. “Worried” seemed offended by photos of her guy’s late wife, in a relationship that was only two months old.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

© 2018 Star Tribune