DEAR AMY: I have a 19-year-old daughter whose bedroom is a total disaster. Clean and dirty clothes, garbage, and assorted other things cover her bedroom floor. She refuses to pick up anything, saying she's just your typical teenager. She works (sporadically) and has a social life. When she runs out of her own stuff she comes into my room and takes mine (towels, socks, etc.). I've had to start keeping my bedroom door locked at all times. I'm at my wits' end; I've threatened, stopped cleaning her room, stopped washing her clothes and even bagged up some of it and put it out with the trash. Nothing changes -- one time she even filled her drawers with dirty clothes and garbage. How do I get her to realize she's becoming a hoarder? Distraught Mom
DEAR DISTRAUGHT: Hoarding is a serious but relatively rare disorder caused by underlying issues such as anxiety and depression. It's possible that your daughter filled her drawers with dirty clothes and garbage because this is how she "cleans up." Let's assume that she is actually neither a hoarder nor a "typical teenager," but a young adult who can't be bothered, with a mother who has been tolerating it. She needs an incentive to behave differently.
You should NOT have to lock your own bedroom door in order to assure that she will respect your privacy and possessions.
It's time to stop picking up for her, stop cleaning up after her, stop washing her clothes, stop trying to convince her to correct her behavior, and stop letting her drive you crazy.
If she starts trashing common areas of the house, bag whatever she has left lying around and put it in a garbage can outside.
At 19, she should be working full time or attending school and working. If she has health issues, then one condition of her living at home should be that she start taking responsibility for her physical and mental health. She should be evaluated for alcohol/marijuana abuse.
It sounds as if your daughter has few life skills. Give her a reasonable deadline to get her act together (say, two months), after which her choices would be to show vast improvement and continue to live at home -- or live elsewhere. If she needs motivation, goals and direction, the military might be a game changer for her. Hand her a brochure from the nearest recruitment center and start the clock ticking.
DEAR AMY: A little over a year ago, I applied to graduate school and was accepted. Unfortunately, I panicked and declined admission. The adviser said that if I ever changed my mind, I should contact him. I'm ready now and I want to do it, but I'm nervous and unsure about how to get back in touch with him. What can I say/write that will convince them that I am ready this time around?
DEAR MARY: Write an email to the adviser, reminding him of who you are. Don't use the word "panic." Say, "Last year I was thrilled to be offered admission to your graduate program. Unfortunately I wasn't able to join the program at that time, but you generously left the door open to a deferment. Over the past year I have (provide positive examples of what you've been doing), and am now ready, excited, and hopeful to open the door again. I hope you will consider me as a candidate for admission now and would appreciate some direction on the steps I need to take to officially reactivate my application." Be as plucky and brave as you can be -- and good luck.
DEAR AMY: "Always a Bridesmaid" wrote to you about waiting for a marriage proposal? Are women really still doing that? A young teacher at my school has been living with her boyfriend for a couple of years now. I asked if she was getting married, and she said, "I don't know. That's up to him!" Really? My husband and I married in 1971 and it was a mutual commitment and understanding about getting married. Are women really hoping and waiting to be asked?
DEAR DUMBFOUNDED: The answer, strangely, is "yes."