DEAR HARRIETTE: I have an older sister who has been mean to me since we were kids. We are now in our 50s. We don't talk often, but I can count on her saying something rude or mean to me whenever we do talk. She is so consistent, I honestly don't think she realizes how awful she is.
I used to get very upset about her comments. Now I usually ignore her. But recently, she went in hard, bringing up old memories of me when I was an awkward teenager and pointing out how awkward I was. She went on and on about just about anything she could remember that used to make me squirm. I tried to deflect.
At one point I said, "That's enough." But she didn't stop. I have talked to her about this before, but it doesn't ever end. How can I have a better handle on how she talks to me? -- Mean Sister
DEAR MEAN SISTER: Decide that you aren't going to put up with it anymore. When your sister begins to go in on you, tell her you have to go, and hang up. Literally stop talking to her as soon as she starts to insult you. Even if it feels like you are hanging up on her all the time, be consistent. If you do not give her an audience, her vitriol should lose steam. Either she will get the message and curb her rudeness or she won't, but either way, you will not have to listen to it anymore.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been home for months, like everybody else. I have told myself that I can use this time to get my house in order. But I haven't done it. I work a lot and then I just feel too tired to do housework afterward.
This is not good, though. I have way too much stuff and need to do some serious purging. How can I get motivated to do this? It hasn't happened yet. -- Clean Up
DEAR CLEAN UP: I am a big believer in lists. Think about the big picture. What do you want your home to look like in six months? What will it take to get there? Go room by room and make an assessment of what you have to do to get your place in order.
Make lists by room. Write down each step that you think it will take for you to clean out that room. Define the steps in small enough increments that you can track success easily. For example, in your bathroom, you may list checking all beauty products and throwing out anything you don't use and sorting through towels to discard old ones.
Have a plan for where your discarded items will go. Some items may be trash, but others may be great for giving to those in need. Be sure to map out the exit strategy for items, because the process of purging will make more mess for a period of time.
If you keep your momentum you will be able to reach your goal. Do something every day, and you will feel successful during the process.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)