Doormats And Bully Roommates Do Not Mix

by admin on September 2, 2015

Dearest EHelldame, I am having a problem with my roommates and would love your input on how to correct the problem with grace.

I live with my fiance Jim in a three-bedroom townhouse with our dog Coco and our cat. We have two roommates who are a couple – Kelly and Cody. They have a tiny dog called Boo.

When they first moved in, they were stellar roommates. They are very definitely “blue collar” and our townhouse is the nicest space they have lived in, so they were eager to please. They promptly cleaned up after themselves, only put small amounts of food in the fridge, were rarely around, and never had guests over. Kelly made a point of telling us during the “interview” we conducted that she was estranged from her sister, who was constantly in and out of jail/prison, and didn’t really like her mom or brothers who also had dubious reputations. They also mentioned that Kelly used certain “herbal” remedies, but promised to keep that in their room and out of sight since that was a huge problem we had had with our last roommates. Jim and I do not mind the use of these products, but insist on it being cleanly and considerately done.

Things have now changed quite a bit with Kelly and Cody. Jim and I are unable to buy groceries for ourselves since the fridge is stuffed with their food – even minuscule amounts of leftovers are apparently worthy of saving in any empty container around and left in there for weeks at a time. Even after “cleaning out” the fridge, there is still barely room for food. They have been bringing in various appliances and home goods from various places – our coat closet is stuffed with microwaves, TVs, chairs, et cetera, and there is a mattress and box spring wedged in our laundry room. Boo is allowed to doo-doo in our front yard, without a leash (she is “scared” of them), even though we have already gotten one email from management saying that if that continues we will be fined. Any kind of “herbal” remedy is now used upstairs, downstairs, in the kitchen…often resulting in disgusting paraphernalia left out. Cigarette butts cover the front yard and back yard – when my mother dropped by to see our cat, she looked out of the window into the backyard and commented “Oh, that’s a lot of cigarette butts…” When Jim and I come home from work and college, respectively, we can never enjoy a quiet time in the living room since Kelly and Cody are permanently on the couch watching TV, often intoxicated. If we miraculously get the couch first for some nice time together, Cody decides he wants to join and will hover around or outright sit down and make crude jokes about whatever we watch.

The worst problem is Kelly’s “clan”. Despite what she told us before, her mother and sister are now regular fixtures at the townhouse. They will sit downstairs watching Netflix on Jim’s TV for hours at a time, prepare food and leave a gigantic mess on the range, the counters, the floor, the pots and pans and utensils, and in the sink. They also use our townhouse as a shower and laundry stop. The water bill has tripled in the past three months, and Jim and I are barely able to move in the shower for the dozens of shampoo bottles, body washes, and loofahs. The power bill is also through the roof, since they will simply leave the TV on after they are done watching and never turn lights off in rooms they are no longer in. Jim is unbelievably uncomfortable around the clan, mostly because of how dubious their reputation is and also because of how disrespectful they are to our living space. I have had little interaction with them but what interaction I have had involved none of the three women being sober. Occasionally some friend of theirs will come over, ostensibly to pick the sister up and drive her somewhere, but will inevitably end up joining the little party.

Jim does not like Kelly because she is often very rude to him and also disrespectful to Coco, and he has spoken to Cody numerous times about how he does not like Kelly’s clan being invited over. While Cody waffles about “he won’t stand for it any longer”, it is clear that Kelly is “wearing the pants”. Sometimes the clan comes over when Cody is at work – other times he will just join right in watching TV with them. Jim has decided to move out when his lease is up, but that still leaves us three months with Kelly, Cody, and the clan, and while we are not sure if we can afford them being around anymore, literally, we also cannot afford to kick them out and pay their part of rent and bills alone. What is the best way to deal with these unwanted extra guests, and possibly the other problems too, while remaining on the “high road”?

You and Jim are candidates for the most spineless people in the history of this blog.   I’m going to sound harsh but someone needs to administer a much needed shot of titanium to your spines.

There are so many red flags in this dilemma and it’s no mystery to me why Kelly and Cody are walking all over you.  You appear to have no convictions, no boundaries, nor internal fortitude to stand your ground.   It’s a sad indictment on humans but people, like animals, gravitate towards a hierarchy and if they detect that someone is not to be respected, they exploit that weakness.   Cody and Kelly were fawningly polite and deferential upon first interviews because they perceived Jim was in a position of authority and power as the leaseholder.   But that quickly changed when they realized they were rooming with a pair of doormats who could be easily manipulated and now the power has shifted to Cody and Kelly.   They have you over a barrel and they know it.  Cody is acting like the man of the house, not Jim.

Your first problem is the lack of conviction about “herbal remedies”, a cutesy euphemism for drug use.    If the municipality where you reside has not legalized this “herbal remedy”, Jim is in serious danger of being liable for the presence of these drugs in a domicile which he holds the lease agreement.

There are closets full of small appliances?  I noted you used the plural “microwaves” and “televisions”.   If these items are not in their original boxes, I suspect either Cody or Kelly or both of them are burglars and thieves.   If the police were to raid your townhome, they won’t care nor believe your claims that you and Jim are innocent victims.

And Boo Boo pooping on the front lawn will be Jim’s problem as it is he who will be fined by the rental management, not Cody.

You two are risking arrest, legal fees, jail time, and least of all, a bad reputation as undesirable tenants because you have allowed Cody and Kelly to take over the house.    I’ve been a landlord and I wouldn’t rent to you.   You have demonstrated poor judgment and have no ability to keep someone else’s (as in the townhome’s owner) property safe and clean.   You can’t afford to live in the rented townhome without Cody and Kelly’s financial assistance means you are slaves to them and the potential of having your life ruined by association with them.

But if you and Jim cannot possibly afford to boot Cody and Kelly out before the lease is over, you have a very few options that will require you both to gird up  the loins, take a stand and get back your home.  There are three bedrooms?   Why not move the TV and couch to the third bedroom, which I assume you and Jim have primary use of, and make that room your private living room?   Buy a door handle with lock and key and change it out so that only you and Jim have access to it and when you and Jim move out, replace the door knob with the original one.   If this is not feasible to do,  have Jim buy one of these …….and put it on his TV plug.   And aren’t Netflix accounts password protected?   Have Jim change the password and don’t tell Cody and Kelly.

Give Cody 3 days to get the mattress and box spring out of the laundry room or else you are throwing it away.   If marijuana usage is illegal where you live, issue an immediate ultimatum to remove all evidence of it from the townhome or you will call the police.  Regardless of whether it is legal or not, inform them that the original agreement was to keep the drug paraphernalia to their own bedroom and any further items left in the common areas of the house will be thrown out.  And be sure to include a demand that all the appliances in storage in the closets are placed either in their bedroom or in rented storage space.   Place tape down the center of the refrigerator door and inform Cody and Kelly that the left side is their side of the refrigerator and the right is yours.  Anything of theirs loping over to your side will be thrown away promptly.

Good luck.


Blabber Stylist

by admin on August 31, 2015

A few months ago, I was back in my hometown, visiting my parents. My mom and I went to her local hairdresser for some girl time one day. While I was getting my hair cut, the stylist’s assistant (who spent the whole time talking about very personal subjects) mentioned seeing her brother. The stylist was surprised they’d seen each other, as the assistant and her brother didn’t get along well. He seemed to be the ne’er-do-well type who only comes around when he wants something. The assistant replied that their mother hadn’t been doing well lately, and she was concerned that she may die soon. And as unpleasant as her brother is, he *is* family, and she couldn’t imagine grieving for a parent without him. When their father died, it was heart-breaking, had brother not been there to comfort her, she’s not sure if she’d have been able to keep it together. She just didn’t know how only children could handle it when a parent dies, it’s cruel to do that to someone, that’s why she has two children. She wouldn’t want to subject a child to suffering through the death of their parents and then being all alone.

At this point I should mention that I am an only child. I was born long after my parents stopped “trying”; they thought there were going to have a childless life when I was born. It was a hard pregnancy for my mother, & she was in her forties. After I was born, there was no question of there being another child – I was it.

As the assistant is going off on her monologue about how hard life is for only children, my mom is sitting there, looking down, upset, clearly unhappy (side note, my mom is the middle child of three sisters).

When the assistant stops to take a breath, I calmly say that *I’m* an only child. And that it never occurred to me that I’d be more upset when my parents die, because I’m an only child. And I’m not about to start speculating on something like that now.

After a long, awkward pause, the hairstylist changed the subject. The assistant spent most of the rest of our visit being rather…sullen.

As much as I love my mom, I don’t think I’ll be returning to the salon with her. I know she loves her stylist, but I hope the time she spends with the assistant is at a minimum.

Was my response to the assistant rude? Or just about right?   1204-10


Feel Good Friday – Tractor Syncopation

by admin on August 28, 2015

Clever use of a vintage tractor engine for the “drums” in this musical compilation.  Happy, upbeat music to end your week.


I was reading the post “Your Hospitality isn’t needed but your Muffins are”, and it reminded me of what happened several years ago. When my daughter was younger, she went to the same daycare for about four years. The first year I invited everyone in her class to her party. (Invitations were put with the children’s belongings a month in advance) One parent RSVP’d and showed. The next year, (hope springs eternal) I invited everyone and a few RSVP’d and showed. (I promptly RSVP”d to every invitation my daughter received, and always brought a gift, or sent one when we weren’t able to attend.) The third year, no RSVP’s and no shows. After that I gave up, but something interesting happened a few days after the party. (I was fine with no one from the daycare being there; I had plenty of family and I always have plenty of food, and we had a blast.)

I had a message, garbled and obviously from a child on my voicemail at home. It was obvious that the child didn’t speak English well; all I could make out was something about cake. I shrugged it off. The next day, there was another message, still garbled but a little clearer. This child wanted some of the birthday cake that was left over! Thinking back, I had a pretty good idea who this child was. At the last party of another kid in the class, this kid had eaten nonstop and we all had to wait for him before we had the cake. His dad was there, and ate even more than he did. I thought, surely I’m mistaken. No way did this parent not RSVP or acknowledge this party in any way then have the nerve to allow their child to call me wanting the leftover cake.

Well, that’s exactly what happened. After the third message, I got the number off the caller ID (message was again garbled and from a child) and called. I spoke to the father and he openly told me that yes, his child wanted some birthday cake. Not one word about missing the party. Obviously they had my number; they could have RSVPed! After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I calmly told him there was no more cake left over and hung up. Good grief.   1114-10


Greetings, EHell.  Thank you for helping me learn to be a polite adult.  I write with yet another mother in law story.

Some background on the family: the four siblings are not close.  Two of them have been condescending about our career choices and corresponding salaries, so we’re content to be with people who accept us for who we are, not what we earn.  We make polite visits a couple of times each year and shake off the comments; the rest of the time we’re happy with the life we’ve chosen and made together.  It’s never fun to be around snobby people, so we limit our time with that part of the family.

Dear MIL often has visions of family harmony that don’t correspond to the rest of the family’s hopes or desires.  Thus she makes plans that the family can’t fulfill to her expectations. I don’t think she’s malicious in her intent, just epically clueless.  She has made insensitive statements about finances, forgetting that my husband and I have chosen service careers (ministry and education)  that keep our tastes (and vacations!) much simpler than hers.  Never has she spoken outright rudely, it’s more that she forgets that not everyone lives the same life she does.

Her latest request highlights this perfectly.  She and her husband will celebrate their 20 year anniversary in a couple of years.  They want the entire family to convene on a tropical island (four kids, spouses, ten grandkids).  She called everyone with this idea and asked that we start saving so we could afford to come. “It’s her dream”, she told us.  They offered to pay for the anniversary dinner, though, once we arrived at said island. (Gee, thanks?)   She skipped the step between dream and planning: asking the rest of the family their inclination.  Instead of this being a family discussion, two people decided what everyone would like and asked the rest to start saving.

Thanks to this site, I could see this several ways instead of simply being slack-jawed.  It reminds me of wedding invitations where the guests are asked pay for their meal, or where cash requests explicitly adorn party festivities.  If one plans an event in an expensive location, one must expect some to be unable attend due to the cost rather than requesting a major budget overhaul to make something happen.

I’ve never heard of this dynamic before, though I do come from a family with more modest vacation and anniversary traditions than MIL.  My family of origin brainstorms reunion locations together, and the places we choose honor various incomes and tastes.

We’re going to decline on budget reasons, and will go into more detail if pressed. It doesn’t feel right that I point out to my MIL that her request was tacky.  It’s unlikely that my friendly SIL will go with her family either (they want to save for Disney).

I’m always impressed with the level of clueless behaviour from this side of the family. This one caps it off for me, though! 0202-15


Vacation Hell

by admin on August 25, 2015

I will preface this story about my sister with a little information about her family and parenting style. She is married to a man that she treats like a doormat and has three unruly children (boy age 13, boy age 9, girl age 12). Her approach to parenting is to keep her children happy at all costs. Her husband is not allowed to discipline his own children. I respect this as her own decision, however when it affects others around them that’s where I draw the line. Restaurant eating with them can be quite trying as her children ruin each others meals with the salt and pepper, climb under the tables etc. My irritation about this was reinforced when my family (myself, husband, boy age 12, boy age 10) took at 3 day vacation with them over Spring Break to an indoor water park/hotel resort. The meals went as I predicted. If they wanted to stay up all hours playing video games that’s what they got to do. I then look like the bad guy as I enforce a decent bedtime for my kids (11:30pm as opposed to 3am). Thank goodness we didn’t share a hotel room.

A new problem has now cropped up. Every summer for the past 6 years, my husband two boys and I have gone to a resort town in our state and stayed at the same motel for 10 days. The motel is ideally situated near all the attractions and activities in the area. We have made acquaintance with a few of the regulars that are there at the same time. Really it is the only motel suitable for our needs, as it is family oriented and a lot of other nearby motels host younger partying types. Last summer my sister and her family decided to try it out for themselves, going at a different time than us. They had a wonderful time. While there she called me and asked if they could join us the following year for our annual vacation. I responded with “sure, but I’d prefer it if the two vacations overlapped one another by about 3 days. We do enjoy our private family time.” She agreed.

Fast forward to this spring. Last week she called me to confirm that her family will be sharing the entire vacation with us. I responded by reminding her that we had agreed that the vacations should only overlap by a few days. She then threw a fit that “all she was trying to do was get the cousins together for a great vacation”. My husband works 12 hours a day 5 days a week. This is his only vacation. He is not interested in spending the whole time with my sister’s gong show of a family. I feel he was being a good sport about not making a fuss about the 3 days. I mentioned to her that I needed to keep my husband’s enjoyment of the trip in mind too and that ideally we would prefer a low key quiet vacation with our kids. She doesn’t think this is a valid concern. My husband has a set 2 weeks of vacation time that he has booked off work. Others in his office have also booked off time; therefore he is unable to change it. The thought of all 8 of us on a wine tour makes me shudder. My children have been taught from a young age how to behave in various social settings, hers have not. I don’t want to trade off child care with her so she and her husband can get away from the kids.

My remedy for this problem has been to shift our vacation to start a few days later and end a few days later. We would then have the original 3 days together that I was wanting to begin with. I’m wondering if I should tell her now or wait until a day or two before the vacation is due to start to break the news to her. 0524-14


Vintage Etiquette – You And Your Work (1948)

August 24, 2015

“Any job, pounding a plane or selling shoes, is as important as you make it. If you think it’s not important, whatever it is, you’ll soon become bored with it and do it poorly. To enjoy your work, you need to find something more than money. You need personal satisfaction, pride of accomplishment, a sense […]

Read the full article →

Feel Good Friday – Badpiper Thunderstruck

August 21, 2015

Click to share:

Read the full article →