Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I disagree and I am hoping you can be the tie breaker. We have two teenagers, ages 15 and 17. I have always felt that they should tidy their rooms and make their beds. My husband disagrees and thinks they should do what they want in their own rooms, so I only ask that they pick things up off the floor once every two weeks so I can vacuum. After 10 years of this, their rooms are filled with trash and food wrappers, old school papers, clothes that no longer fit, old books and various gadgets, toys, art supplies, the occasional dirty dish, etc. I ask them to clean out closets. They make a half-hearted attempt and then ignore me. My husband says just let it be, and so I do. The new school year is upon us and they want more things. More clothes, more school supplies, etc. They have difficulty locating the things they already own! Would it be unfair of me to give them a deadline to clean out their rooms, and if they do not clean out by then, I will go in and do it for them? I know they are busy kids, so I don't mind doing it. But my husband says that they should live in the trash if they want to and if I clean out their rooms, I am invading their privacy. Do you agree?
Frustrated and Tidy
DEAR TIDY: I can't quite be a tie breaker because, although I agree with him in a basic sense, I also believe that he should be supportive of you -- because this is obviously very important to you.
However, your idea of a deadline, where if your teens don't clean out their rooms -- you will? That is not a deadline. That's a vacation (for them).
The best accessories in a house with teenagers living there are the bedroom doors. Keep them closed.
They -- not you -- should clean out their rooms when they get to the fire hazard stage, and your husband should back you up on this. The day before your kids are scheduled to go somewhere they want to go is a great day to devote to this -- teens are at their most compliant then, and you have some leverage.
If your teens want new clothes, gadgets and supplies for school, they should empty out their closets of old/unused ones. The more washed and folded clothes they donate (they should do the washing and folding), the more points they get toward new ones. This is the kind of math every kid comprehends.
Curating their own collections will acquaint them with the incredible bounty of their lives. When it comes to their daily mess, you should learn to let it go.
DEAR AMY: We have been very close friends with our neighbors for 13 years. Last year we had a mini-makeover in our kitchen. The wife did not say a word (nice or otherwise) about our kitchen makeover. This past winter, they had an entire kitchen remodel. I felt slighted that she did not offer up any words about our remodel, so I rarely went there to see their progress. She called me out on it and I told her how I felt. I've only spoken with her a few times since then, and they were just brief conversations, nothing like we used to have together. Should I work harder on the relationship to see if we can get it back to where it used to be?
Hurt in Michigan
DEAR HURT: You should both work harder to mend this long friendship, which seems to have sputtered over some mutual pettiness (reconsider your own retaliatory behavior). If you make another sincere effort and it is rebuffed, then unfortunately it seems the friendship is over.
DEAR AMY: "Stuck" was a sad husband with a verbally abusive wife. He didn't report her age, but she may be going through menopause. Menopause hit me like a ton of bricks -- and I lashed out frequently before I figured out what was going on. Treatment helped me a great deal.
DEAR BETTER: Several readers offered this possible explanation for her behavior.