Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Recently Divorced Friend Is Acting Out

DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a holiday party with a bunch of people I have known for some time. One woman who recently got divorced was “hanging from the rafters,” so to speak. She was obviously drunk. She wasn’t obnoxious, but her behavior was a bit much.

I typically give people a pass at parties with lots of alcohol, but I am a bit worried about her. She is in a vulnerable position after getting divorced. Her husband is the one with the dough. If she acts out too much, who knows if it will affect the alimony? Should I say anything to her? -- Drunk Night Out

DEAR DRUNK NIGHT OUT: If this woman’s behavior is out of the ordinary, it may just be that she consumed a bit too much that night. Because you know that she has been going through a difficult period, it would be kind of you to check in with her to see how she’s doing. Don’t bring up the inebriated night. Instead, talk to her about her new life. Ask if she is doing OK. Find out if she needs anything.

If you see this woman act out again at a public event, you should say something specific about the alcohol consumption. Know that if you have to go down that path, people don’t usually respond well to criticism about drinking too much. If you do say something, express your concern for your friend’s well-being -- again, without passing judgment.

Reader Refuses to Let Neighbor Visit Messy House

DEAR HARRIETTE: Let me start by saying my house is a mess. I know I need help, because no matter how much time I spend “cleaning up,” it is still in total disarray.

A couple of days after Christmas, my next-door neighbor rang my bell. I don’t usually answer the doorbell, because I don’t want to invite anybody in, but this time I answered. It was my neighbor and her baby coming to pay a visit. I was happy to see them, but I was not about to let them in, so I stood in the doorway and visited with them there. AWKWARD! I said I would stop by another day to talk to them. I feel like a jerk, but I know it was the right decision. My house is no place for a baby. What can I say to my neighbor so that she won’t feel like I was rejecting her personally? -- Climbing Out of a Mess

DEAR CLIMBING OUT OF A MESS: The first step toward handling a difficult situation is talking about it, and realizing that you are aware of the problem and are willing and ready to deal with it. Knock on your neighbor’s door one day and ask to talk. Tell her the truth: Your home is a mess. You aren’t proud of it, but it’s true. When she came over the other day, you couldn’t let her in. It is not tidy enough for a baby. Admit how humiliating it is to have to tell her this. Explain that you mentioned it because you don’t want her to think that you were rejecting her when you didn’t let her in.

Your next step is to get some help to clean your house. Find a home organizer or even a hoarding specialist. Look for one in your hometown. If this problem has been persistent, you may want to see a counselor. Hoarding is considered a mental illness. For more on how to help yourself to stop hoarding, visit helpforhoarders.co.uk/self-help.

(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.)