Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parent Pays Phone Bills but Gets No Calls

DEAR HARRIETTE: I pay the phone bills of my adult children. They range in age from 18 to 29. I don't mind paying these bills, but my wife recently questioned why I'm doing so if they never answer my calls or text messages. I typically get ignored for a few days. For my youngest, I've tracked down his friend's phone numbers so I can contact him through them when he isn't responsive to me. Should I take my wife's advice and stop paying their phone bills since they don't use these phones to communicate with me? -- Ring Ring, Norman, Oklahoma

DEAR RING RING: As children grow up, it is natural for them to become more independent. This often means that they communicate less with their parents. That said, if you are footing the bill for their independence, you might have a bit of leverage here. Let me ask how often you call them. If you expect to speak to them every day, that may be unrealistic for certain children.

What you need to do is establish a rhythm with them that you both agree to honor. Ask each of them for a once-a-week call on a particular day, preferably within a window of time. Try that to see if it can become routine for you. If they continue to ignore your calls and you believe that you aren't being unreasonable with the frequency of your calls, put your foot down. Tell them that you are unwilling to continue to pay for their phones if they refuse to communicate with you on an agreed-upon regular basis.

Ultimately you may not be able to find an established time with each of your children, but chances are high that they will make the effort to be in touch more if they value your footing that bill. What you want to be mindful of is not lording the money over them. They are likely able to pay their own phone bills. What you really want is to be in touch.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have begun the process of downsizing to move into a small apartment. Originally, I thought I could have a minimalist lifestyle, but I've realized I am too attached to my clothing. How can I possibly let go of my prom dress, my first pair of high heels or my old college sorority shirts? Is downsizing not a possibility for me? -- Memories, Chicago

DEAR MEMORIES: Go through your belongings carefully and put them into piles. Which items do you need for your life -- for all four seasons? Which items fit into the memorabilia category? And which are simply extra? Maybe they don't fit, are out of style, whatever.

Allow yourself the opportunity to let go of things that are holding you back from your move. Solicit help. You may want to start by reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. This is a precious book that will help you learn how to let go of things that are cluttering your life.

(Harriette Cole is a life stylist 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.)