I live about five hours away from my parents and visit them frequently. However, their house is so dusty and in such disrepair that the visits are exacting a toll. I have dust allergies that go berserk in their house, and my dust-free sleeping solution (air mattress) is starting to hurt my back. Whenever I try to raise these problems with them, I get a million reasons why nothing can be fixed, and often a giant guilt trip to boot. Not visiting: not an option.
Inside: details to make Wilson Bentley
posted by the_blizz to Human Relations (44 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How bad is it? The only spare mattresses are thirty years old and the two couches have never been cleaned. One is at least forty years old (forty years of dust!), and the other is so busted that a frat house wouldn't want it on their porch. (Until recently, they had a spare pillow that belonged to my uncle when he was a child. My uncle is 80.) Only one of the spare bedrooms has a fully functional door; that one is too cluttered to sleep in anyway. There are thick layers of dust--ropes of dust--on everything but the surfaces they use regularly, which are actually fine, as is their own bed. Some things look snowed on, the dust is so thick. They only recently replaced a broken dishwasher--after 12 years. They used to have a stove that would electrocute you if you weren't careful. The cat peed in one of the bedrooms--on a carpet already black with dirt--and they haven't done anything about it.
I've done my best to mitigate the situation:
-I take Claritin for the allergies, something I only occasionally need in my regular life. If I don't take it every day while I visit, I get a weepy rash on my face and flu-like symptoms.
-I don't sleep on their beds or couches. Even with the Claritin, I still have to be careful. So I sleep on an air mattress and insist on a new pillow. But now the air mattress is starting to hurt my back.
-Sometimes I stay with a friend. It's seriously inconvenient, as all my friends here live downtown (DC) and my parents live in a suburb. I live in New York, so I don't own a car. Any car I could borrow is manual transmission, which I have learned to drive with only mixed success. I could bring a bike and combine it with Metro. But no matter how you slice it, staying in DC makes a short visit even shorter. Since I visit once a month, I can't really afford a hotel and rental car.
Not visiting is not an option. My dad has terminal cancer, so I need to visit, frequently, while I still can. My parents don't visit me: traveling is difficult for them, and even when it wasn't, they rarely wanted to leave town or even the house.
For over a decade, I've tried and tried to get them to clean and repair the house. They are both still working, they live in a nice suburb, and their finances are solid. They can afford to replace furniture, hire help, and so on. And my mother is a teacher, so she has time for summer projects. But they just...won't.
Raising the matter with them doesn't help: I just get a million excuses and a guilt trip for being so demanding. Perhaps also mockery for preferring New York to DC. (I know I'm not being a prima donna. Their friends don't like to stay with them either and are mostly too polite to say so.)
Reason, like the suggestion that neglect will cost more in the long run, doesn't help. Only utter disaster--flood, sewage backup--prompts any change, and then only the minimum.
Bargains (ie, I'll paint the room if you clear it) don't help, as they utterly refuse.
Constructive suggestions don't help. Hire a cleaning service? No, they did that one time and the cleaning lady refused to come back because the house is so uncleanable. Hire a packing or organizing service to clear stuff out so they can redo some rooms? No, because once they did that during a move and it was a disaster, couldn't find anything for ages. Hire one of my friends to help? No, she used to be late for everything when we were in high school. Etcetera. Offering to buy new furniture doesn't help, as there's nowhere to put it and they are reluctant to throw things out. (Those were good, expensive mattresses!)
Even helping doesn't help. I tackle cleaning projects every so often, but there's only so much I can accomplish in my short visits, and my help doesn't seem to spur them to action.
I try to be cheerful during these visits, but I'm exhausted and resentful. My schedule is already overloaded with a full-time job plus freelance contracts (abundance of riches meets bad timing, can't back out of anything, but that's another story), so the time for these visits is hard to spare. Sleeping on an air mattress in a room with no privacy is uncomfortable. The dust is impossible. You know that thing young people do where they visit their parents to get a little TLC and the comforts of home? My visits are the opposite of that. My parents won't meet me halfway, or even a quarter of the way. My brothers won't back me up--one lives here and doesn't mind the filth, and the other lives nearby with his fiancee and deals by ignoring the situation and leaving all his stuff here.
How can I get my parents to clean and fix their house? (...short of arson?) Failing that, how can I survive the situation? MeFi, do you have any suggestions? Any at all?!