Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Dresser Comes With Strings Attached

DEAR HARRIETTE: My stepfather recently contacted me about an extra dresser that is in my parent's home. He told me that I could have it, seeing as no one else wants it and there is no space for it in the home. I was happy to have a project and made it clear that I planned on painting it and upcycling the piece. The day before I picked up the dresser, my stepfather called me, strongly suggesting that I stain the wood instead of my plan. I don't want furniture with strings attached. Should I just leave this dresser? -- Don't Tell Me What to Do, Detroit

DEAR DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO: Take a deep breath and relax. Absolutely do accept the dresser, and thank your stepfather for thinking of you. Also thank him for sharing his advice for how to upcycle the dresser. Tell him you will take his ideas into consideration as you make your plan.

Your stepfather likely was thinking about how best to support you and came up with a plan that he thought would make the dresser more appealing and potentially more valuable. Men are solution-oriented, and often the way that they show their love is to give advice. Yes, it can often come across as critical and bossy. If you are able to look beyond what feels like controlling behavior and remember that your stepfather is trying to help you, it will be easier to experience gratitude, and you will be more comfortable deciding what to do with the furniture and letting him know your decision. He is not the enemy.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics

DEAR HARRIETTE: Throughout the holiday season, I have witnessed guests asking for a tour of the home they are in. I find this to be completely rude, although some hosts graciously lead guests around their homes. I fear this will happen to me, and I definitely do not want to show people my bedroom if not necessary. My home is clean. I am just private and host on one floor only. If faced with the demand for a tour, how can I deter the guest from checking out my home? -- Private Floor, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

DEAR PRIVATE FLOOR: Relax. You get to show people what you want in your home. And you can comfortably stand your ground. Indeed, try being proactive. When folks come to visit, invite them to come into the rooms where they are welcome. You can point out highlights in those rooms, such as family photos, a stereo system, dining table, etc. If someone asks you about seeing the rest of your home, simply tell them that you entertain on this floor only. If they persist, you can say, "Sorry, but this is the only floor where I invite my guests. Please enjoy yourselves." And let that be that. You can even put up a little fence at the doorway or stair entry -- the kind used to prevent children or pets from entering a space. That sends a clear, unspoken message.

(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.)

Read more in: Holidays & Celebrations | Miscellaneous