Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Doesn't Know What to Do About Smelly Shoes

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband has three adult sons. They grew up without a mother and were all athletes, so this leads to some ... odor issues. They walk into the home when they visit and kick off their shoes, and it makes the whole foyer smell like an '80s gym. Where could we move the shoes as to not offend everyone's nose without offending the brothers? -- Whiff of Fresh Air, Rockland County, New York

DEAR WHIFF OF FRESH AIR: Do you have a mud room? You could ask your stepsons to deposit their shoes there. But honestly, you are probably going to have to say something. It’s kind of like that Febreze commercial: They are probably nose-blind to their foot funk. If you don’t tell them why you are banishing their shoes to another area, you will not likely meet with success.

You can consider using humor, saying, “Boys, you are killing me with those feet. Give me your socks so I can wash them while you’re here.” Or some such. It’s likely that their socks and shoes are dirty. For their shoes, you could sprinkle baking powder or a foot powder to help neutralize the odor. Bottom line: you have to address this head on, or it probably won’t work. When you bring up the awkward conversation, tell them you mean no offense but you need to help them out on this one.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter cannot pick a direction in college. She is nearly halfway through school. "Jenna" says she is still “finding herself” and has switched majors more times than I can count. Back in my day, there was none of this waiting around. I fear since she has been taking random classes, she will have to stay in college longer. I am paying the tuition! How can I force my daughter to become set on a goal and not let it go? -- Choose Your Path Wisely, Syracuse, New York

DEAR CHOOSE YOUR PATH WISELY: It is not unusual for a college student to flounder before settling on a direction. Your job as a parent is to help nudge her along. Being practical can help a lot. Tell your daughter that you cannot afford for her to go to college beyond the traditional four years, so she must choose a path so that she will be able to graduate on time. Talk her through what it costs to go to college in case she ends up needing to be there for more time, so that she can determine how to get financial aid and what her overall strategy will be to succeed.

This is a water-in-your-face kind of experience for your daughter. For her to come to terms with what it takes to go to college and for her to have skin in the game may wake her up to greater focus. Be sure to let her know that she can choose an area of interest and pursue it, and after she has given it a try, if she wants to do something else she can change. For now, though, she must decide.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)