Dear Amy: I’m a 28-year-old former city dweller who relocated for more space and a quieter location to sit out the pandemic.

I love my new leafy neighborhood and my lower rent.

I live in a house with a 70-year-old man (the brother of my landlord), who is a former art history teacher and librarian. We have our own living spaces and bathrooms; I have a space more than twice the size of my previous apartment on the second story and he lives in the basement.

I have loved his company and the care that he devotes to the garden. There’s just one thing — he is a very sentimental hoarder.

Our kitchen is loaded with many dozens of wooden spoons, sets of dinnerware, and cabinets full of cookware. We easily have 150 spice containers, as well as random knickknacks in every corner. There are corners that are covered in spider webs and other pests.

How do I get him to let me organize the space?

He seems open to the notion of adjusting his life to accommodate a roommate, but I don’t know where to begin and how to preserve our good relationship. Any ideas?

Amy says: It is refreshing to hear that this (somewhat unconventional) living arrangement is working out so well for both of you. As a rent-paying housemate, you have the right to essentially take over half the kitchen, but because you are a considerate and respectful person, you are handling this carefully.

Now that you have settled in, you will have to muster up the courage to approach your housemate about the kitchen. Say, “I hope this isn’t too awkward, but would you mind if I more or less attacked the kitchen and did a deep clean?”

Let’s assume that he will agree to this. After you get started with the cleaning, ask him, “How attached are you to some of these spices and smaller things? I’m seeing duplicates and a lot of stuff that is expired.”

Basically, I’m suggesting that you take on this job in stages. Just as the accumulation happened over time, once he has the experience of navigating in a cleaner, tidier space, he might encourage you to do more.

 

Send questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com.