Etiquette Hell

Hostesses With The Mostest => Entertaining and Hospitality => Topic started by: Knitterly on April 14, 2013, 11:36:10 AM

Title: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Knitterly on April 14, 2013, 11:36:10 AM
To start with - the person is question is my brother.  Close family. 

Generally, we get along pretty well.  He, like most people, dislikes being nagged.  I don't want to be a nag.  However, whenever he comes to visit, he does several things that drive me a little crazy and my poor Mr K just about ready to rip out his (own) hair with the sheer thoughtlessness of it.  I guess I'm looking for a nice way to say "Dude, seriously knock it off or I won't invite you over anymore" without nagging over every little thing he does.

These are all pretty minor in terms of thoughtless guest behaviour, but they happen so frequently.  Also, he is currently bemoaning his singlehood status.  His will date, but it pretty much fizzles after the third or fourth date.  Basically, once a date invites him home, they rarely go back out again and he genuinely doesn't seem to know why.  So I'd also like to help set him straight because I *KNOW* that some of these things are going to be dealbreakers for the other person in the relationship.

1 - When he comes in, he takes his shoes off.  This is awesome, as this is how we do things in our house.  We have a *big* mat area in our front hall along with a bench to sit on to take shoes off and a shoe rack.  I also have a bin of slippers.  Regardless, once his shoes are off, they invariably end up halfway down the hall.  He does not borrow the slippers I make available.
Please note, I am aware of the shoe/no-shoe controversy.  Our shoes-off-ness is partly ethnic culture and partly regional culture.  Shoes on households are rare, and so the question is not how to I make him take off his shoes, but rather once his shoes are off, how do I 'train' him to put them on the mat?

2 - When he comes in, he will take out his wallet and keys and phone and put them on my kitchen counter.  This is fine.  HOWEVER, I have a small drying towel on the counter near the sink for LK's bottles and clean bottle nipples.  He invariably puts his things on top of this towel.  THAT drives me NUTS!  I feel like I should not have to say, "please don't put your wallet where my daughter's clean bottles go".  I feel very much like that should be a common sense thing.

3 - Mr K and I often eat our dinner in the living room after LK has gone to bed.  It is an enjoyable way for us to reconnect.  For this reason, I have placemats on our coffee table.  The placemats take up about 1/3 of the space of the coffee table.  They are easy to fold up and put away.  Usually I do this when I have guests, but if I'm not expecting guests, I may not remove them.
He put his feet ON the placemat.  Even typing that, I just hung my head going "why would I have to say 'don't put your feet on the placemat'?"  These are actually OBVIOUSLY placemats.  He's been over before and has eaten with us in the living room, so he does know that those placemats are where the food goes.
I said nothing and threw them in the wash.
If he had moved the placemats to put his feet up, I would have been okay with it.

4 - I offered him a drink.  He wanted a cold pop.  Mr K grabbed the pop.  I handed him a coaster as Mr K handed him the pop.  He took the pop and the coaster.  He put the coaster on the table.  Then he put the pop on the table.  Then I picked up the pop and put it on the coaster.
He is almost 30 and has a fairly well paying extremely professional career.  He's not some mannerless bum.
Although at the same time... he rather is.

His empty pop can and beer bottle were where he left them when he left.  He did not ask about recycling or where they should go.

All of the above happened in the first 60 minutes of his visit.  If he was a date and not my brother, this behaviour very early on would be a dealbreaker. 

These are examples and far from a comprehensive list.  They are little things.  I do know that a past girlfriend got very upset with him about shoes on her coffee table and they broke up shortly thereafter, so I have a strong suspicion that he does not do these things just at my house, but does them in general.

Is there anything I can do about this, either as a hostess, friend, or sister, to alert him to the understanding that his behaviour is thoughtless bordering on rude? 
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Zilla on April 14, 2013, 11:51:01 AM
I just don't understand.  Have you ever verbally told him about these things? Or been proactive?
 
Oh hey, let me put your shoes here with the others.  I keep all our shoes here.
 
Can you put your wallet over here? That's where I put the baby's clean bottles. Thanks.
 
Let me move these placemats, we use these for eating. (I would think they would be a foot rest too BTW)
Dude, that is a coaster for your drink! (said jokingly)
 
As for recycling, that's a bit much IMO but if it's important to you, just say, "Oh are you done? That goes in the recycling bin in the kitchen on the right..." etc.
 
But in the end, you may have to use your words to express how you feel.  And if you have and he still ignores it, then try once more said firmly.  You don't need etiquette with your own brother and as you mentioned, close family..
 
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Ohjustlovely on April 14, 2013, 12:09:36 PM
When we were kids, Mom said "No feet on the furniture!" Perhaps you can say that. Even say the "Mom says 'No feet on the furniture'" part.

My mother used to wrap a napkin around a cold beverage. Since you knit, maybe you can knit one of those slip-on things.

Somebody else on this forum on another thread said they put out a basket or bowl for people to put their keys and other stuff near the door. Sounds like he needs one of those.

I don't expect my guests to take their glasses, much less their empty bottles and cans, to where they go afterwards. But if that's your house rules, then it's on you and your husband to tell him.

That's it: it is your house, your rules, so it's up to you to tell him. Every time he comes over, as he is doing them.

It is not nagging. Nagging is saying, "Gee, when are you going to lose weight? Are you working hard to get a raise at work? How organized is your garage? Why aren't you married yet? Etc. Nagging is that going on about his personal stuff. Asking a question is not nagging, even if you asked that one before, in my opinion.

But telling or instructing someone while they break or forget one of your house rules, even though they are one after another is not nagging.

Nagging is like worrying. Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair, going on and on and on.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Perfect Circle on April 14, 2013, 12:12:35 PM
You just need to tell him what you want to happen in your house.

On the recycling thing - we recycle everything but I don expect my guests to do it, I do it for them.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: NyaChan on April 14, 2013, 12:20:04 PM
There is a difference between Nagging and sharing your preferences.

Nagging:  "Would you like a drink?"  Brother says yes.  "Ok, but you have to keep it on the coaster."  "Here's your soda, make sure you put it on this coaster."  Brother takes a sips.  "Put it on the coaster when you put it down, not the table!"

Sharing preference:  "Would you like a drink?"  Brother says yes.  "Here's you soda and a coaster.  The table gets marks if you put it on the surface so please be sure to put it on the coaster."  Brother puts it on the table.  "Doofus! I just said to put it on the coaster." (in the nice sisterly way of course)
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: perpetua on April 14, 2013, 12:33:27 PM
Sounds like you're expecting him to be a bit of a mind reader, to be honest. Especially if as you say all these things happened within the first 60 minutes.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: camlan on April 14, 2013, 12:55:29 PM
Even though the two of you grew up in the same house, clearly you have both developed your own set of house rules.

I grew up with 5 brothers, so here's how I  see things from your brother's point of view.

1. Shoes off. That's the main thing. He probably doesn't have a set place to put shoes, so your nice large mat simply doesn't register in his mind. He's done the important thing--taken his shoes off. Since he's leaving in a couple of hours, it doesn't matter where he leaves his shoes.

2. Drying towel. If the towel registers on his brain at all, it's simply a towel spread out to dry things on. If he's never had a baby, the need to keep baby things cleaner and separate from other things is not something he's ever thought about.

3. Placemats. I'll bet he thought the placements were on the coffee table to protect it from feet--that the placements were where he is supposed to put his feet.

4. Coaster. This one, I have nothing. Sheer cluelessness.

5. Not taking his glass back to the kitchen. Does he leave things like this around his own living room? Because it seems to me as though he is very comfortable in your house and is treating it the way he would his own--shoes where they drop, no coasters, glasses left in the living room until he gets around to cleaning up.

 I think a conversation is in order. Just tell him, "Look, I'm happy you come to visit and that you feel at home here. We think of you as one of the family, too. But since you are family, there are a few family rules you need to know about." Then go into shoes, coasters, placements, glasses and the like.

If, at a later date, you decide to address the girlfriend issue, you could maybe point out that immediately treating someone else's home the way he does his own home could be a trifling off-putting, and that maybe using his best guest manners for a while would impress his date.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Sophia on April 14, 2013, 02:08:42 PM
I can see why you would be frustrated.  You shouldn't have to TELL someone "use a coaster", when the coaster is handed to them.

If it were me, I'd have a frank talk about his clueless level.  I'd probably also have a written list of Things People That People Who Want a relationship Do Not Do.  It is like he needs a remedial etiquette class.  I wouldn't do this for anyone I wasn't extremely close to.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Zilla on April 14, 2013, 02:12:55 PM
I can see why you would be frustrated.  You shouldn't have to TELL someone "use a coaster", when the coaster is handed to them.

If it were me, I'd have a frank talk about his clueless level.  I'd probably also have a written list of Things People That People Who Want a relationship Do Not Do.  It is like he needs a remedial etiquette class.  I wouldn't do this for anyone I wasn't extremely close to.

Other than the coasters, everything else is a matter of preference.  OP, I would not do a list or lecture on his clulessness.  instead give him a chance and give him a verbal heads up.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Knitterly on April 14, 2013, 02:18:22 PM
Yes, he's pretty comfortable here.  He comes over fairly often.  He lives about 6 hours away, so not *really* often, but often enough.

The recycling thing isn't something I expect of a normal guest.  However, so many of my friends/guests ask about where to put their empties that it kinda sticks out when my brother doesn't.  I usually ask about where to put empty glasses and containers when I'm in someone else's home, too.  At the very least, if I don't know, I put them near where I know the garbage is (ie with the dirty dishes or by the kitchen sink).

Does he leave his own garbage around?  Having never seen his own place, I don't know.  He does it at our parents' house, too. 

The shoes thing I made a joke about right away.  His response was "Oh" then he moved his shoes.
By the time we got to the coaster (not actually the 3rd thing, just the third I mentioned), I just moved his pop without saying anything.  Again, his response was just "oh".  It seemed to have genuinely not occurred to him to use the coaster or the mat, etc.

I'll try put out a basket the next time he is coming over.

Please note, the things I mentioned are by far not a comprehensive list.  Other things include wiping his dirty popcorn fingers on my couch,  blowing his nose and leaving the kleenex on the coffee table... etc.  There are other things, too.

I love him, but... :(

Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Surianne on April 14, 2013, 06:37:26 PM
I agree with what the other posters have said so far about how to be clear without being naggy.

One other piece of advice I'd suggest is to address just the most important issues with the next visit.  He's got a better chance of remembering them that way, and you'll sound less naggy than if you have to tell him to do X or Y every 5 minutes  :)  Which issues are actually damaging versus which ones are preferences?

So, for example, decide that shoes aren't a big deal, because he took them off, and it doesn't really matter whether they go on the mat or not.  Similarly, putting away recycling isn't a huge deal, because you can do that fairly easily.

Do tell him about the towel being for baby things, and that putting other items on it can transfer germs and be dangerous, and redirect him to a bowl or something else.  Do tell him that he has to use a coaster, because a glass can damage the table. 

As for the dating advice, I think that depends on how close you are with your brother, and whether he's asked you about that in the past.  I wouldn't go near it with a ten foot pole with my family members, but you might be closer with your brother.  If you think he'll appreciate it, you could try opening it up the next time he complains about his dating life.  Ask him first, before giving the advice: "I have a couple of thoughts, would you like to hear them?"  And if he says no, respect it.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: cass2591 on April 14, 2013, 07:24:19 PM
OP, you said he's pretty comfortable at your house, but what I'm not sure is if you've said anything to him about what bugs you other than making a joke. You said "I feel like I should not have to say, "please don't put your wallet where my daughter's clean bottles go".  I feel very much like that should be a common sense thing." but obviously you do have to tell him.

And why did you not say "dude, please don't put your feet on my placemats"? Why do you not say something when he wipes his greasy hands on your couch or ask him to throw away his used Kleenex He's your brother for heaven's sake, talk to him.

Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: sammycat on April 14, 2013, 07:33:45 PM
He's your brother for heaven's sake, talk to him.

Exactly. Barring any toxic realtionships, if people can't talk directly and plainly to their own sibling/s, spouse, child or parent, then who can they talk directly to?

As for the tissue thing, that is so absolutely disgusting, I wouldn't care who it was, even a complete stranger, I'd be telling them in no uncertain terms to pick it up and put it in the bin immediately, and to clean down the surface it had been on.  There's zero excuse for that one.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Luci on April 14, 2013, 07:42:31 PM
I'm actually focusing on the wiping his hands on the sofa. That is permanent damage!

I would start there.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Knitterly on April 14, 2013, 08:28:58 PM
I'm actually focusing on the wiping his hands on the sofa. That is permanent damage!

I would start there.

Actually, it's not, really.  Both sofas have removable, machine washable covers.  They are a pain in the bum to remove and wash, but they are that way on account of the toddler factor.  But still... we have machine washable furniture for our toddler (and planned future sprog), not because I would anticipate my almost 30 yr old brother to wipe his fingers down.

Most everything is actually directly address with "Dude, can you not do that?"  or "Dude, can you do it this way?"  After saying it to what feels like everything he does, it feels more like I'm a mom than a sister or friend.  Honestly, I'd rather relate to him as a friend even than as a sister.  We deliberately worked on changing that dynamic to make our relationship healthier and more durable (see previous posts on my rather screwed up family).  Eventually it just become "Dude!  Really?!"  Then it becomes silent as I silently seethe and fix the situation myself.  Because...dude... really?  :(

Part of me wonders if I should have left out the brother part and just tried to address this as "this is my friend", but then, the fact that he's my brother is also pertinent, because I'd just stop inviting over any friend who was so careless in my house.

I'll try have an actual conversation with him *before* he comes over next to say something along the lines of "Hey, when you were over you did X, Y, and Z.  You probably don't realize it, but we do A instead of X because ___ and B instead of Y because ___ and we do C instead of Z because ___.  I'd really appreciate it if you did it that way next time."
How does that sound?
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: camlan on April 14, 2013, 08:41:41 PM
When my brother married, he moved over 7 hours away, so any visit pretty much requires an overnight stay.

The first time I visited, my SIL showed me around the house. She also pointed out a few family rules. "Here's where we leave our shoes. This fridge has soda; you can help yourself. Here's the recycling bin, and here's where we put food scraps for the compost. We don't use paper towels--this drawer has dish towels if you need them. If you need to use the bathroom during the night, please use this one, not that one, because the water in the pipes wakes the whole house up."

First, this made me feel as if she thought of me as family and not as a guest. Second, it made me feel much more comfortable in their home--I knew the house rules and she set the boundaries on things like could I get a soda myself or would she rather I ask for one, that sort of thing.

Now, as they've added children and the children are growing up, she still does a version of this. "Now that Susie is crawling, we always have a baby gate here. We just step over it, but you can removed this way. Just remember to always put it back." "Sammy had a horrible dentist's visit. None of the kids are getting any candy anymore. They'll probably whine for some. Give 'em an apple." "We have a new TV. Here's the remote. I don't know how to use it to watch Netflix--ask the kids and they'll show you."

I wouldn't do this in a phone call--he'll forget it all by the next visit. Just the next time your brother visits, pick the 3 or 4 things that bug you the most and tell him about them. Ask him nicely to change. I say 3 or 4, because if you overload him with "Do This, not That. Do That, not This," there's a good chance he won't remember any of it. Give him a couple of concrete things to change, and praise him lavishly when he does them correctly. Then the next visit, work on a few more things.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Danika on April 14, 2013, 08:43:43 PM
This is hard. Especially since you grew up in the same house and you're not like this. It's strange to see that you're both so different, and I definitely relate to your view of things.

I think at the next visit, I would try talking to him in words and tone of voice as if he's an adult, but thinking of him as a child. For example, if we had a bunch of 5-year-olds in our house doing the same things, I would address each thing as it came up "Oh, please, put your shoes upright with the soles down, side by side, on the mat next to the front door, not in the middle of the hallway", "Please, don't put your wallet there. That's the baby's towel and it needs to be kept sanitary. Sometimes wallets aren't so clean", "Actually, I handed you the coaster to go underneath the cup so that you didn't get a water stain on my coffee table", "Please, don't put your feet on our placemats. Dirty feet and sanitary placemats near food that goes in our mouth is a bad combo."

I don't think it's nagging. But I do think it's tiring for you.

If you're going to write/tell him about these before the next time he comes over, maybe you could start with "I might seem like I have high standards for cleanliness, but I need to go over some ground rules because I think it will make our visit more enjoyable."

I'm not sure if it'll be effective though. Some people just don't have the same things on their radar.

We had very good friends who let their unruly children run around like the cartoon Tazmanian Devil with dirty hands at our house and others. I finally stopped inviting them over to our house, but I would still meet them at public places. We happened to be at a mutual friend's house in the fall. MessyFriend let her 1-year-old eat pizza with her hands. No bib, no high chair. Just from a plate. And then the baby's hands and mouth were covered in red sauce. MessyFriend let her 1-year-old climb up a flight of stairs with white carpet with all this red sauce. I turned to MessyFriend with my jaw hanging open because I have absolutely no poker face. I didn't say anything but I'm sure my facial expression did. MessyFriend gave me an angry look and looked at me like I was crazy and just let her daughter get marinara sauce all over the mutual friend's white carpet. I guess people have different standards.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Figgie on April 14, 2013, 11:09:17 PM
Coasters can be difficult for some people to remember, especially if they are moving around with their drink in their hand.  Can koozies can fit around cans, bottles and even glasses and they had the advantage of sliding onto the beverage container and moving with it. :)

Here's a link to different types:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_koozie

The easier you make it for him to have a single place to put things at your house, the more likely he is to do that.  But I agree with prior posters that you really have to tell him and not assume that he should know these things.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: kudeebee on April 14, 2013, 11:14:32 PM
How about getting a small basket for the counter for him--or anyone else--to drop their keys, etc in?

Call him out on the others--"bro, put your shoes on the rack please."  "put your drink on the coaster, not on the tabletop, bro."

If you know he is coming, remove the placemats from the table or fold them up and set them to the side.

Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: perpetua on April 15, 2013, 03:01:56 AM
OP, you said he's pretty comfortable at your house, but what I'm not sure is if you've said anything to him about what bugs you other than making a joke. You said "I feel like I should not have to say, "please don't put your wallet where my daughter's clean bottles go".  I feel very much like that should be a common sense thing." but obviously you do have to tell him.


I agree with this. It probably hasn't even occurred to him. I don't have children and while I probably wouldn't put my keys on a tea towel because that's just odd to me, I wouldn't know that the bottles have to be kept away from everything else. He probably doesn't either.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: YummyMummy66 on April 15, 2013, 06:59:12 AM
I would tell him this is not the Holiday Inn and you are not paying for a hotel room and I am not your maid. Here are the expectations of our house.  Please follow them.   (this is for the shoes, and cleaning up after himself).

As for the keys, etc., get a bowl of some kind and tell him, this is where his items go.  NOt on baby knitt's towel.  This is where her clean bottles go and we do not want germs on that item.  Please, this is a coffee table, not an ottoman.  Your feet do not belong on it period. 
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Sophia on April 15, 2013, 08:58:53 AM
I don't know how this would work in this situation, but you will be the best judge so I am throwing it out there.  I wouldn't apply it to a friend, but I would a brother. 

In the more egregious examples, like wiping greasy fingers on his couch, could you make him be the one to make things right?  Like point out the greasy finger marks and tell him he now has to remove the cover and put it in the washer. 

I am curious how he turned out that way.  You don't seem like you were raised by wolves, by he seems to have been.  Did your mother scurry after him with a trash can and cleaning rag?
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: WillyNilly on April 15, 2013, 09:56:09 AM
While I agree your rules are reasonable, one thing I noticed was a lot of total extreme opposites. Shoes go on the mat/feet don't go on mats and keys go on bare counter/drinks do not go on bare surface; you want the cans and bottles recycled in a special bin, but the paper tissues thrown in the regular trash.

He might not bethinking of the logical explanations behind the rules, simply the last rule you told him. In some situations you are protecting surfaces, in some cases you are are protecting the surface cover. So he might be just simplifying the rules in his head "foot stuff = on mats", "stuff on counters & tales doesn't go on mats" and ending up over simplifying to the point of totally missing the reason behind the rule.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: camlan on April 15, 2013, 10:12:33 AM


I am curious how he turned out that way.  You don't seem like you were raised by wolves, by he seems to have been.  Did your mother scurry after him with a trash can and cleaning rag?

I can only speak for my brothers, but as I have 5 of them, it's a decent sized sample.

They all grew up doing chores around the house. They all knew, after they were about 10, how to wash dishes, scrub a floor, vacuum, do laundry, clean their rooms, set a table. My mother did not pick up after us, but made us pick up after ourselves. We knew not to take food outside the kitchen or dining room. We knew that wood furniture needed to be protected from possibly wet glasses, while the Formica kitchen table did not. We knew the difference between the daily Corelle dishes and the fine china that came out on holidays.

Without exception, my brothers moved out of the parental house and became slobs. Dirty dishes left in the sink until there were no more clean dishes. Dirty laundry left until there were no more clean clothes. Didn't own vacuums or dust rags or even many cleaners. The bedroom of one of my brothers was carpeted in clothing. He claimed there was a dirty pile and a clean pile, but I couldn't see any line of demarcation. Food and drink were spilled on sofas and chairs and they simply didn't care. Bathrooms--I tried not to have to use the bathroom at their apartments, they were so gross.

Decor was strictly functional. The bicycle parts were neatly lined up in the hallway. The guitars were carefully put away after each use. The furniture was from the thrift store, so it didn't matter if it was broken, or scratched or got spilled on. Why put clothes away if you are just going to take them out again?

I shared an apartment with one brother for three years and he thought I was nuts because I wanted things to be a little color-coordinated in the kitchen. (Thirty years later, I am still teased about wanting only certain colors for that kitchen.)

Sometimes they'd clean up their acts a little if they had roommates. But it wasn't until either a) they got serious about a woman or b) bought their own place that they started to clean up and take care of how things looked and wanted to take care of their belongings.

I do not wish to stereotype all men. I know several who are clean and neat and tidy and who live alone. But I do think that there is a subset of men who really don't care what their environments look like when there is no one else to see them. Not being of the same mindset, I have no idea what fuels this, but I've seen it in many more men than just my brothers.

And I can see, if they are used to living that way, how they would tend to treat their siblings' homes in the same way.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Thipu1 on April 15, 2013, 10:37:53 AM
He's your brother and you sound like you're on good terms with each other.  Talk to him.

The shoe issue wouldn't bother me all that much but people have very different ideas about this sort of thing. At SIL's house, the pile of shoes in the entry resembles a littler of puppies.  Nobody minds.   

  The keys and wallet on the towel would bother me but there's another question.  What is the color of your counter?  We stayed at a hotel where the counter tops were dark.  Mr. Thipu had trouble finding his glasses when he put them down.  We solved the problem by putting a piece of white paper on the counter.  If you don't want to provide a basket, a second towel might solve the problem. It isn't nagging to say, 'This towel is for the baby.  The other towel is for you'.

Feet on the place mats?  Absolutely not. 

Drink not placed on the coaster?  absolutely not.

Wiping greasy hands on the sofa? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Moray on April 15, 2013, 10:50:27 AM
He's your brother. Just tell him. Silently getting torqued because you "don't feel like you should need to say something" does no one any favors. You stay frustrated, and he has no idea that you consider X, Y, and Z a problem.

Unless I'm very much mistaken, he's not a mind-reader.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: gellchom on April 15, 2013, 08:08:07 PM
He's your brother. Just tell him. Silently getting torqued because you "don't feel like you should need to say something" does no one any favors. You stay frustrated, and he has no idea that you consider X, Y, and Z a problem.

Unless I'm very much mistaken, he's not a mind-reader.

This, exactly.  And please be nice about it.  Otherwise, he'll just get defensive and not hear you.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Iris on April 16, 2013, 12:09:03 AM
Friends often remark how relaxed I am about the 'little things'. Daughter tap dancing on the floorboards? Meh, what's a few sctratches. Constantly having to sweep because of dog hair? Well, he's so cute, I don't mind. Having a kitchen a little less clean than I would like because DD is still learning? It's more important for her to learn responsibility than for my sink to shine perfectly. Shoes not on a mat or keys in the wrong place wouldn't even register for me.

However, I handed my FIL a cup of tea one day and instead of using the saucer he put the hot cup straight on my new lounge. That DID annoy me I will admit - the saucer was right there! I just gave it to him! Did he think I was about to serve him a tiny meal? I did speak up though (pleasantly, I didn't show my annoyance) and he's never done it again. I would do the same for a friend too.

I do have to say though that I don't know *anyone* that would not consider leaving a used tissue lying around a deal-breaker relationship wise. That's really quite disgusting. Ditto for using a lounge as a napkin. Since you are his sister, IF he raises the topic of "Why can't I get a long term gf, I went over to Sally's place and that was it! She never wanted to see me again!" you can give him some gentle guidance. He might genuinely have no problem with these things and not be aware that they are huge deals for other people. Sometimes it takes someone else to point these things out and as they say, that's what friends (and sister friends) are for.
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: StarFaerie on April 17, 2013, 04:57:07 AM


I do have to say though that I don't know *anyone* that would not consider leaving a used tissue lying around a deal-breaker relationship wise. That's really quite disgusting.

Hi, I'm StarFaerie. Lovely to meet you. And now you do know someone who wouldn't consider either to be a deal breaker or even an issue. It's only a tissue, easy to put in the bin later whenever I get around to it, and I probably wouldn't even notice the couch thing.

Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Iris on April 17, 2013, 07:05:37 AM


I do have to say though that I don't know *anyone* that would not consider leaving a used tissue lying around a deal-breaker relationship wise. That's really quite disgusting.

Hi, I'm StarFaerie. Lovely to meet you. And now you do know someone who wouldn't consider either to be a deal breaker or even an issue. It's only a tissue, easy to put in the bin later whenever I get around to it, and I probably wouldn't even notice the couch thing.

I stand corrected. Now I know one. Are you single, because Knitterly may have a guy for you  ;D
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: TootsNYC on April 17, 2013, 05:20:54 PM
I guess I'm looking for a nice way to say "Dude, seriously knock it off or I won't invite you over anymore" without nagging over every little thing he does.


I think you can say to him, "Dude, there are some sort of messy things you do that really bug me, and I could overlook them now and then, but you visit us a lot. So I need you to knock it off."

Then don't worry about nagging. Nagging is a *tone of voice*. Reminding is what you do when you're neutral.

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1 - When he comes in, he takes his shoes off.  This is awesome, as this is how we do things in our house.  We have a *big* mat area in our front hall along with a bench to sit on to take shoes off and a shoe rack.  I also have a bin of slippers.  Regardless, once his shoes are off, they invariably end up halfway down the hall. . . . how do I 'train' him to put them on the mat?


First, tell him. Then every single time he does it, say very neutrally, "Bro, your shoes are in the middle of the hall; it looks messy and I'm afraid I'll trip over them. Would you come right now and put them on the mat?"

If you see him about to walk away with them wherever, say immediately, neutrally, "Please put your shoes on the mat. That keeps them out of the way."

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2 - When he comes in, he will take out his wallet and keys and phone and put them on my kitchen counter.  This is fine.  HOWEVER, I have a small drying towel on the counter near the sink for LK's bottles and clean bottle nipples.  He invariably puts his things on top of this towel.  THAT drives me NUTS!  I feel like I should not have to say, "please don't put your wallet where my daughter's clean bottles go".  I feel very much like that should be a common sense thing.


Another common sense thing may be to not lay your keys on a countertop that you might scratch. Since this is frequently occurring, create some other place for him to set them. Like a small shallow bowl, or a little mat. And then tell him, "Bro, that towel is where I set my daughter's bottles, and I don't want you to put your keys or wallet there. Germs, y'know? So put your stuff here."

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3 - Mr K and I often eat our dinner in the living room after LK has gone to bed.  It is an enjoyable way for us to reconnect.  For this reason, I have placemats on our coffee table.  The placemats take up about 1/3 of the space of the coffee table.  They are easy to fold up and put away.  Usually I do this when I have guests, but if I'm not expecting guests, I may not remove them.
He put his feet ON the placemat.  Even typing that, I just hung my head going "why would I have to say 'don't put your feet on the placemat'?"  These are actually OBVIOUSLY placemats.  He's been over before and has eaten with us in the living room, so he does know that those placemats are where the food goes.
I said nothing and threw them in the wash.
If he had moved the placemats to put his feet up, I would have been okay with it.
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Well, duh, m'dear. Say something. Say, "Bro, those are placemats, we use them when we're eating! Shoes have germs. Next time, push the off to the side--or better yet, don't put your feet on the table." And pick them up that moment and put them in the laundry.

Also, I'm sort of thinking, "Who would leave placemats out after they're done eating?" So, well, he may think they're dirty anyway. Or he may just be thoughtless.

Either way, just tell him.

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4 - I offered him a drink.  He wanted a cold pop.  Mr K grabbed the pop.  I handed him a coaster as Mr K handed him the pop.  He took the pop and the coaster.  He put the coaster on the table.  Then he put the pop on the table.  Then I picked up the pop and put it on the coaster.

Next time, say something. It's not nagging. It's establishing the house rules. Be a little exasperated. "Bro, I gave you the coaster because I want to protect my furniture from the moisture on the pop bottle. Please don't be so disrespectful of my belongings." (which is a big nagging, but here I think you should say something like this, bcs it's important to make it clear to him what the problem is. I might even go so far as to say, "getting it refinished to remove water damage could cost $500, and I don't want to live with junky-looking stuff." Tone of voice is everything. Be the authoritative "informing" person, not the whiny "complaining" person.)

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His empty pop can and beer bottle were where he left them when he left.  He did not ask about recycling or where they should go.


Tell him that since he is not EXACTLY a guest, you expect him to put those things away when he's done. And then every time, when he's getting ready to go, say, "Oh, did you put your pop bottle and glass away?"

If he's a guest, he wouldn't worry about those things, you'd do them.
(I'm wondering what he does in your mother's home, if he's used to having someone pick up after him in general.)

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All of the above happened in the first 60 minutes of his visit.  If he was a date and not my brother, this behaviour very early on would be a dealbreaker. 

These are examples and far from a comprehensive list.  They are little things.  I do know that a past girlfriend got very upset with him about shoes on her coffee table and they broke up shortly thereafter, so I have a strong suspicion that he does not do these things just at my house, but does them in general.

Is there anything I can do about this, either as a hostess, friend, or sister, to alert him to the understanding that his behaviour is thoughtless bordering on rude?

I think you can explain things to him. You can say, quite evenly, not at all scoldingly, "Brother, do you realize that when you put your stocking feet on a coffee table, it transfers feet sweat to the coffee table? It creates extra dirt, and it sends a message that the other person's belongings--and the work and money and thought they put into acquiring them--is worthless to you? Think about that a little bit, and stop putting your feet up on the furniture."
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: TootsNYC on April 17, 2013, 05:25:14 PM
Also--re: the "I shouldn't need to say anything" idea.

Actually, you may need to *explain* the cause-and-effect that's going on. Some people really don't think about it much. They've never had to, really.

Or they consider the issue to be "fussy"--so their shoes are in the middle of the hall. They figure it's just aesthetics. But it can be that you don't want to have to watch where you look if the doorbell rings. Or that you think they're essentially delegating all the "work" of THEIR FOOTWEAR to you. Or that maybe it is just that you don't like how it looks, but it's disrespectful to you for them to decide that THEY don't care.

Those are the sorts of things I've been trying to explain to my kids as they're growing up. That there are many layers of "consideration," and that folding the towels the right way is not just "being fussy" but it means that we can fit them all in the cabinet AND that someone can take a towel out of the top without suddenly ending up with extra ones falling out.

Your brother clearly hasn't been taught these things by his parents, and so perhaps you can simply clue him in.

Think of it as "clueing him in," and NOT as "nagging" or "correcting" or "telling him stuff he should KNOW already!" (because he obviously does NOT know those things).
Title: Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
Post by: Softly Spoken on April 19, 2013, 11:41:31 PM
Okay, I understand that by the time you got to the feet-on-placemats thing he had already done a lot of other stuff, but that totally squicked me out and I can't believe you stayed silent! You are so busy worrying about "nagging" that you aren't teaching him your house rules and are instead sending him mixed and inconsistent messages.

Does he get defensive and accuse you of nagging? If not, then don't feel about about telling him The Way Things Are In Your House. This doesn't have to be in lecture form. Just point out the obvious - he isn't doing things that can be defended. The sofa is not a napkin and the place mats aren't foot rests - say so!

If you are worried how you will sound, don't scold but keep it light and maybe try what I would call the "gosh you are (almost) so smart" method: Act like you are giving him the benefit of the doubt and think he either knew the right thing all along and just forgot, or is almost to the A-plus behavior with a gentle nudge. So you can say things like:
"Hey Bro, I see you were aiming for the shoe area and missed - thanks in advance for moving your sneakers so no one trips."
"Oooops, woah Bro - shoes go on hall mats but feet don't go on placemats - feel free to move those before you put your feet up 'cause I really don't want to taste your socks!"
"Hey buddy, you don't need use the whole sofa - just let me know you need a napkin, they're easier to throw away anyway amiright?"
*head tilt and asked with a genuine and amused smile* "Um...what were you planning on doing with that coaster, if you weren't going to put your drink on it? Be a good sport and save my table, 'kay?"

If you keep it light instead of silently seething, sighing, eye-rolling, etc. then he shouldn't feel nagged. Give him a fun little push instead of wagging your finger at him. Also, if you focus on how much you appreciate him doing things right, he should feel validated instead of put-upon. Call it "positive reinforcement training" instead of "how to get your sister of your case."  ;)

Forget the idea that you shouldn't have to say anything. We all have our clueless moments. Don't assume he knows or complain he isn't psychic.

It's your house and you know the way you like it - it is up to you to communicate your wishes to your clueless guests - whether they are related to you or not.