Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor recently had a baby, and I am so happy for her. I like her a lot and want to support her, but I do not want to invite her to my apartment. As much as I try, I am not neat -- my friends even call me a hoarder. My common areas are clean enough, but I am still embarrassed to invite her over.

Because my neighbor is staying at home, she has asked in one way or another for us to get together. I feel like it’s odd that I don’t extend an invitation to my place. Should I invite her over and let her decide? I am super private. I’m also always thinking I will get it together one day and have a tidy house. But right now, my next-door neighbor needs me. Should I open my door? -- Pre-Hoarder, Brooklyn, New York

DEAR PRE-HOARDER: Here is a perfect opportunity for you to face your demons as you reach out to your neighbor. You have not described the degree of your hoarding. If you believe that your home is unsafe for a child, it would be wise for you to get help to clear out your home so that you can safely invite a family with an infant to visit. If you are just messy, you can be honest with your neighbor and tell her that you want to invite her over, but you are concerned that your home might not be clean enough. Suggest that she come by alone first. If she thinks your common area is acceptable, you can invite her to bring her baby over.

Mothers with newborns need connection. If your home is not an unhealthy environment for her and the baby, your neighbor may be able to look past the mess.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I referred my cousin to a company for work because she was out of a job and I knew she would do great work for them. She was hired, and she has done well. Her problem is that the employer doesn’t pay minimum wage, even though the job calls for a professional employee. She likes the work, but is barely scraping by. Whenever she approaches her boss about overtime or her salary, she gets the brush-off. Her boss says that she is being ungrateful and maybe she should leave. That sounds like a threat to me. I want to complain on her behalf, but I know she needs the work. How can I help her? -- Helping My Cousin, Syracuse, New York

DEAR HELPING MY COUSIN: Your cousin should think about her next job even as she considers lobbying for better wages at her current job. Standing up for yourself is part of the American way, yet it is often incredibly difficult. If your cousin can gather facts and figures to tell her boss why she deserves more pay, she can present that. Even better would be for her to find another job where she feels secure and respected.

It is the law that all employees, except those who make tips, are paid minimum wage, so long as the business earns more than $500,000 per year or if any transactions occur across state lines. For more information, go to dol.gov/general/topic/wages/minimumwage.

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