DEAR HARRIETTE: My older cousin and her spouse have been begging my sister and me to come and spend the weekend with them. We spent one weekend with them before, and we had a great time going on outings but were not comfortable in the house. It was not clean. My cousin asked if they had been bad hosts, but we did not know how to respond. -- Dirty House
DEAR DIRTY HOUSE: Is there any chance you can invite your cousin and her spouse to spend the weekend with you? If it is possible to shift the dynamics so that you can be together without having to be in their home, all would appreciate the fellowship.
If you cannot avoid it, you may have to have the difficult but honest conversation, telling your cousin how much you enjoyed their company at your last visit, but adding that you didn’t feel comfortable in their home. Let me ask: Could you possibly help them tidy? If there is a chance that they may not be on top of things because they are older and they need some help, a solution might be for you and your sister to give them the gift of spring cleaning. No matter what, broaching the subject will likely be awkward, but if you can actually be part of the solution, if only for this moment, it may represent a turning point for them in their home and you in relation to them. It’s worth a try.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)