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by Abigail Van Buren

Friend Fears for Family Living in Piles of Clutter

DEAR ABBY: I have a close friend who is an extreme hoarder. She and her husband have a beautiful, large, custom-built home that is stacked floor to ceiling with clutter. There are only narrow paths to walk around. Clothes, papers, toys, etc. are piled everywhere. Normally, I would mind my own business, but they have four children at home. The children are getting to the age where they are embarrassed about their home. It is so bad they can't invite friends over.

When we discuss the condition of the place with her and her husband, they get defensive and say they just don't have time. They do both work full-time, and their time off is usually spent shuttling the children to activities. Overall, they are excellent parents, and the children are loved and cared for, but the condition of their house is worse each time I see it, and they continue to buy more and more stuff. Last time I helped clear out a room, it was full of clutter a few weeks later. What can I do to help? Should I stay out of it? Should I contact CPS? -- CLUTTER EVERYWHERE

DEAR CLUTTER EVERYWHERE: Because you say the children are loved and cared for, instead of contacting Child Protective Services, I suggest you quietly place a call to the Health Department for guidance. From your description, the "beautiful, large, custom-built" home may be a fire hazard and possibly a danger to the family's health if there are "critters" also living in that mess. Whether their problem is the result of depression or simply gross disorganization, they do need an intervention for their children's sake.

DEAR ABBY: My 25-year-old daughter is getting married in about two months. Invitations have been sent out, and everything was going along pretty smoothly. However, my two older brothers, who live out of state, have informed me that neither of them will be attending her wedding. They didn't offer any reason for not attending, and money is not an issue.

My father, who has been very ill this past year with cancer, is doing everything he can to be there. My daughter had hoped that everyone could come, as it would be an opportunity for our entire family to be together, especially given my father's poor health.

Am I wrong to be upset? My brothers seem to not prioritize our family very highly. I am trying to focus on who will be there and not on who isn't. But I am afraid this isn't something I will forget. -- TRYING TO SMILE IN FLORIDA

DEAR TRYING: Unless you have omitted some important information from your letter, has it not occurred to you that your brothers' refusal may have something to do with their relationship with your father? I'm as mystified as you are about why they refused the invitation, but please don't allow their absence to cast a shadow over this happy occasion.

When you say you won't forget it, I hope you won't waste your precious time looking backward and carrying a grudge. Your daughter's wedding is not a command performance, and if your brothers cannot be there to appreciate the joyous occasion, so be it.

Read more in: Family & Parenting

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