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 of our home, 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. There are easily a dozen sponges — some old, some new. 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 and even go "Marie Kondo" on it? 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?
DEAR NESTER: 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 and have lived in the house for a while, 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? I've been watching a lot of videos on how to do this and I'd like to give it a try."
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.
One of my daughters transformed our kitchen during the pandemic, and, while there was a minor adjustment period (where are those coffee cups?), overall, the result has been wonderful and welcome.
DEAR AMY: This is going to sound strange, but ever since the pandemic hit, I've been having very strange dreams — at least twice a week. Some of these dreams are obviously anxiety dreams, but in others, it is as if I am revisiting relationships I've had throughout my life (going all the way back to childhood). These dreams feature vivid shapes and colors, but nothing much seems to happen. What do you think is going on?
To Sleep, Perchance ...
DEAR SLEEP: I read a fascinating interview with Harvard Medical School dream researcher and professor Deirdre Barrett, who has surveyed over 2,500 people about their pandemic dreams. You are definitely not alone in reporting vivid dreams during this period. I was surprised to learn that you might be able to control more of your dream content in advance of sleeping.
Here is Barrett's advice about how to "direct" your dreams:
"Think of what you would like to dream about. You could pick out a person you'd like to see in your dream tonight, or a favorite place. Some people enjoy flying dreams, or some people have just had an all-time lifetime favorite dream. Pick what you'd like to dream about and ... visualize that person or place. Or you can put some photograph of what you're trying to dream about on your nightstand, so you look at it as the last thing before you go to sleep. If you have a particular favorite dream you're focusing on, you might try to replay that in detail before falling asleep."
DEAR AMY: I couldn't believe you published a note from "Jeez Louise!" admonishing parents that all of their children should be treated equally. Hey, life isn't fair. It's that simple.
DEAR READER: Life is not fair, but parents should at least try to be.