Many words about a housemate situation
November 5, 2016 5:34 AM   Subscribe

I've been trying to figure out what to do about a very nice but exhausting housemate/friend. For years. Be prepared to be buried in beans and snowflakes.

So I have this housemate. As background, we've known each other since kindergarten, have been good friends for many years, always had each other's back, etc.

About...eight years ago, I guess?...her life hit a downward spiral that ended up with her being unemployed, broke, and evicted from her apartment. She asked for help, and I told her that she could come and crash land with me (I own my own home, which I suppose makes her a lodger rather than a tenant). I had a touch of unease at the time--that feeling that if she came she was probably never going to leave--but put it aside because, you know, friend in dire need, plus I'd hope that if I were ever in trouble like that someone would similarly help me out.

Eight years on, you guessed it, she's still here. She is, in many respects, a most lovely person: kind, generous, empathetic, funny, intelligent, always ready to jump in and help other people with their problems. We do enjoy each other's weird sense of humor and have a lot of fun together. Unfortunately, she is also:

- Shall we say, differently tidy. (On this clutter image scale, her living spaces tend to be somewhere around a five or a six--except that everything on the bed is on the floor instead--whereas I tend to be a one.) When she moved in, I made a rule that she could keep her own room in whatever state she liked as long as it wasn't gross and/or a health hazard, but that the rest of the house had to remain uncluttered. The success of this has been mixed. There's a basically permanent pile of stuff at her end of the dining room table, along with other small piles here and there throughout the house. Half of the garage is heaped with her things. Periodically the stress of this builds up to the point where I start getting extremely anxious/angry, at which point she makes small changes like clearing off the top of the dining room table (though the stacks on the floor remain) or doing a bit of housework like cleaning the kitchen or vacuuming. A couple of times she's undertaken major cleaning/ redoing of her room, which always ends with me having a hysterical meltdown because her furniture has been in the living room for three months, for example. It's hard to have guests because cleaning up is always such a major production. (On the plus side, she does her dishes! Which does not all at come naturally to her, so I genuinely appreciate the effort.)

- Underemployed and undercontributing. After a great deal of struggle, she's finally landed a part-time job, which kind of maybe almost pays her bills. In theory, she's been supposed to be paying me rent for the last eight years; in practice, I've been getting $100-150 per month since she got this job. She also chips in toward food--say, $100 per month. My household expenses are along the lines of $1500 per month (not including groceries for us both or healthcare for our cats, or any of my personal expenses such as phone, medical bills, car insurance, and assorted niceties like clothes). I have a decently paying job and no debt, so I can manage this with a bit of care, but it still feels unbalanced and wearing. Although she has a number of frustrations with her job, she has been making no moves to find a better situation.

- Weighed down by issues that keep her from changing the above: ADD, depression, assorted learning disorders, low self-esteem, and a variety of physical health problems. It seems as though whenever I have a complaint with the state of things around the house, or with her missing a deadline for taking care of something that I've asked her to do, there's always some medically related reason why whatever it is couldn't/can't be done--and that is just so, so hard to argue with. I also find the ADD and depression hard to live with on a personal emotional-health level. I crave quiet, order, ritual, organization; honoring one's word and following through on promises is very important to me. And when I'm stressed or feeling down, constantly hearing about someone else's struggles and disappointments and negativity is just too much. Her financial constraints mean that she's fairly consistently undermedicated (plus sometimes she just forgets to take her pills).

In short, I feel like I'm trying to push that rock uphill every day--and it's not even my rock.

My own mental health has been increasingly poor the last several years.* But I struggle with whether the disruption to my home is the cause of my anxiety/depression, or whether the mental issues are making me less able to deal with what is really not *that* terrible of a situation, all things considered. This cause and effect conundrum only serves to mess my head up even further, and it makes me totally exhausted, hehehe. *lies down on face*

OK, so I already can see the DTF** coming, so let me finally get out my actual questions.

1) Am I, in fact, overreacting to the situation? Am I just a neurotic fussbudget? Please validate me, or not.

2) I've been toying with the idea of renting a room or apartment that's closer to work and staying there for most or all of the week. This would have the following benefits:

- shorten my long commute (currently 1 hour each way, driving), thus reducing one source of stress in my life

- be a trial run to see if I might want to actually sell my house and move closer to work someday (a thought I've vaguely entertained)

- serve as a test to see if being away from Housemate actually has a positive effect on my mental health

The downsides that I can see are, first of all, I could only afford this by taking about $15,000 out of one of my retirement accounts. (That would be for one year of this experiment.) I have other accounts aimed at retirement, so it wouldn't be crushing, but it's not ideal. (I'm in my late 40s, if that makes a difference.) Is this a totally crazy-pants idea? Is it at all worth the financial hit to give this a shot? Second, gods only know what my house would look like after that year. But I guess I could wait to worry about that when the times comes.

If the answer 1) is "no" and the answer to 2) is "crazy pants," I'd welcome other thoughts. The prospect of simply evicting her is there on the horizon (yes, I'd have to look up tenant laws), but it will probably mean the end of our longtime friendship. And I'm very, very conflict averse, which makes this haaaaaard. So hard.

Okay, I think I'm done now. Thank you for help or hope or even just taking the time to read this!

* I'm currently seeing a new prescriber who's in the process of adjusting my meds. He also does some therapy (though his primary focus is medication), but we haven't really gotten into that end of it yet.

** I really would not consider her an MFA. ^_^
posted by velvet_n_purrs to Human Relations (74 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Quick followup: Rescue by family is probably not on the table. Her mom just moved to a one-bedroom apartment after being evicted; her sister and brother-in-law are in the process of being evicted; and her dad is pretty much done with everything after years of being a support system. There's an aunt in another state who maaaaay be able to help her, but it would mean losing her job.
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 5:43 AM on November 5, 2016

OMG. The housemate has to go. This has been going on for eight years. Eight years! Wow. I am in awe of your stamina, resilience, and kindness. But it's no wonder you want this to end.

This is not good for you or for her. She's pushed you into a sort of mother role, like she is a young teenager who contributes some of her pocket money to the household and cleans up a bit when nagged. She's completely hijacked your life and in the process halted her own development towards autonomy and adulthood.

I'd say you need to talk to a lawyer to see how you can disentangle your life from hers. If you want to help her, I think hooking her up with resources would be the best thing you can do, rather than continuing on as though you had adopted her as your perpetual child. Maybe even get her a MeFi membership so she can ask questions about jobs, ADD, re-building her life.

Once you have dealt with this situation you can reassess the renting/ house selling idea. Right now, it feels like you are doing it as a non-confontational solution to the problem with your housemate.

Good luck, this really needs to stop.

On preview: please don't make her problem your problem. After EIGHT years, she needs to sort out her situation without burdening you with it.
posted by miorita at 5:48 AM on November 5, 2016 [87 favorites]

You are not over-reacting. This is above and beyond what I'd expect anyone to do for anyone. If the disruption to your life is so bad that you're thinking of moving out of your own house as a solution, she needs to leave. Right now she has no incentive to change anything, so she won't.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 5:51 AM on November 5, 2016 [27 favorites]

No, you are absolutely not crazy, and no, I don't think you should be driven away from your own house!! Can't you just check out the neighborhoods near your work and decide based on that (visiting rentals or houses for sale, seeing how far a drive from work it is uaing google maps and seeing traffic patterns at different times of tldqy through that) to decide whether to move closer to work?

I know you don't want to hear this, but I think you should give her a realistic timeline to get her act together and tell her that past that deadline she has to move out. My uncle (mom's brother) did something similar to my mom minus his having mental health issues (none requiring meds). He lived with her for a solid 5-7 yrs after his life fell apart and contribute d in no way - not financially, not by cleaning. In fact, he even damaged her house. I think she struggled a ton with this because it was her brother, but in the end she realized she was enabling him and that he needed to get it together. It did damage their relationship, but she is visibly much happier. I think this is one of those really tough occasions in which you have to make a choice, and you have to think about your own health and well being and prioritize that. It is hard and sad, but life is hard enough without an adult who should be capable of at least paying her own rent weighing you down unnecessarily. Good luck. 😥
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 5:55 AM on November 5, 2016 [14 favorites]

PS: I have had a lot of things happen in my life so far, including having to count the pennies to make the rent, having to take meds, etc, and never have I ever moved back into my mom's house past the age of 18 save for the occasional transitional month (waiting to start a program in a new city and lease in old city being up type of thing). Because I knew it would add a burden for her. Even though I am 30 years' my uncle's junior. I did remind my mom of this when she was making her decision... The point is, if you have to get it together, you find ways to do it. There's no reason she can't get a second part time job at the grocery store or whatever if she needs to.
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 5:59 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can your friend qualify for food stamps or use food pantries to contribute? It sounds like she might qualify. I have a lot of similar issues to hers and I'm in a similar position but on a much shorter time scale and with family. I get all the assistance I can while trying to relaunch. Have her join Metafilter as suggested above! It's been a godsend to me.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 6:05 AM on November 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

1) Am I, in fact, overreacting to the situation?

No, living in a messy house and having even relatively minor financial strain is stressful for anyone. There's also research that small annoyances build up and really erode quality of life, in a way that big things don't. You're not crazy for thinking this situation is contributing to any anxiety/depression you might have. It would bother me and I am super laid-back.

2) I've been toying with the idea of renting a room or apartment that's closer to work and staying there for most or all of the week.

BAD IDEA. Your house will get wrecked if you're gone that much. WRECKED. Just from a financial standpoint this is a terrible idea, because it will end up costing much more than the $15K for renting an apartment -- you are going to have to pay to fix whatever happens when you're gone, and something will happen.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:10 AM on November 5, 2016 [51 favorites]

You've been choosing to support her for eight years. Has this, on the whole, improved your life or reduced your quality of life? From what you've written, it sounds like the latter, but the fact that you've allowed it to go on for so long suggests that if you're not a total pushover, you're getting something out of it. Do you want this person to be your platonic life partner?

At the very least, given that she's never paid you anything close to fair market rent, she should be contributing to the household by being your cleaner, cook, and errand-runner. If she can't/ won't do those things, then think hard about how she's using you, and whether it would be more comfortable for you to have a government or charity organization support her instead.
posted by metasarah at 6:10 AM on November 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Eight years! You are unusually forbearing. No, you are not overreacting - if anything, you are underreacting. You were supposed to be a temporary safety net, and your friend - probably not consciously! - turned you into a permanent mommy figure/cozy nest. And now you are thinking of moving out of your own house to escape her! This has to change.

First of all, you need a lawyer - if your friend has been lodging with you for eight years, she may have housing rights, depending on your area. Second, I suggest some kind of case manager for your friend. It sounds like her problems go pretty deep, and, seeing that both her mother and sister are being evicted, she didn't learn coping and life skills in her family of origin.

I suggest a case manager or social worker for your friend because it seems to me that she needs professional help - not just a kind friend and a crash pad. A professional can help her access the resources she needs. Because I think she first needs to move the hell out of your place.

Finally, counseling for you, or a Codependents Anonymous group, or some sort of support system. Eight years is above and beyond what most people would do for family, whether it's family of origin or chosen. A therapist or support group can help you with your boundaries, and with holding firm against what I am sure will be tears and protests ("I will be out on the street! Yoooouuuuu are the ooonnnlllyyy one who can heeelllllp meee!").

tl;dr: your friend needs to GET THE HELL OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. Don't move and leave her in charge! It's your house! Lawyer and therapist/support group for you, and social worker for her.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:24 AM on November 5, 2016 [37 favorites]

Is this a totally crazy-pants idea?

No, but I think it's a measure of how entrenched this situation has become that you are to the point of thinking about leaving your own home to get away from an essentially non-paying, non contributing guest. I do respect that this is a relationship, non just a tenant who isn't paying rent, but that's another reason why you need to stop living together, in order to see the forest for the trees in this situation. She's going to think it's unfair and that you should give her more chances to be a better housemate, but this pattern has gone on for so long that the chances of that working out are virtually nil.

Talking to a lawyer, a therapist, a financial planner or a combination of these may give you some ideas about how to approach this. For instance, a financial planner would probably give you a come to Jesus about how much this is really costing you and what it's going to do to your retirement.
posted by BibiRose at 6:41 AM on November 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

If the answer 1) is "no" and the answer to 2) is "crazy pants," I'd welcome other thoughts.

"No" and "crazy pants" are the answers. It sounds like evicting her is the nuclear option and you want some less extreme options...though you would be 1000% justified in evicting her if you wanted.

What is the absolute minimum YOU need to feel comfortable in your own house?

Sometimes we get into these overfunctioner/underfunctioner dynamics and forget how to think straight. Like, the fact that you even had to ask questions 1) and 2) tells me you have one set of expectations for what's expected of you and another for what's expected of her. You've been playing the role of person-with-no-needs for so long that you probably forgot how to have them. She probably doesn't think of you as a person with needs either -- after all you have a house and retirement savings and a full time job, therefore you must have it all together.

There comes a time when admitting to weakness is a form of strength. My gut feeling about this question is that you are not even clear what your needs are, but if you got clear with yourself a plan might emerge out of that. If it was me in this situation, I'd buy a cheap notebook and sit down with it and just write for a few hours to get my head clear. "What I am feeling is..." "If I could wave a wand and have everything be a certain way, it would be..."

When you realize that you want those things not because you are fussy or neurotic or demanding, but because your own mental health is suffering, then it is going to be a lot easier to ask for them.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:46 AM on November 5, 2016 [15 favorites]

Get her the hell out of your home. You do not leave your home.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:59 AM on November 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

i'd spend a little money to help her with first/last/deposit on an apartment she can afford on her salary with the further understanding that if she is evicted she is not welcome back . do not offer to store any of her stuff and change the locks once she is out.

Do not co-sign for the apartment.
posted by noloveforned at 7:07 AM on November 5, 2016 [50 favorites]

I think it's a good idea for your housemate to be working with a social worker as suggested above. She may qualify for assistance such with housing, etc.

I started to say more, but I think noloveforned's post is pretty good. You'll spend less on helping her move out than you would moving to another apartment for a year yourself.
posted by bunderful at 7:12 AM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

On the plus side, she does her dishes! Which does not all at come naturally to her, so I genuinely appreciate the effort.

This is a pretty telling detail for how much this not-OK situation has been normalized for you. On the plus side, she does some of the things that would be basic, table-stakes expected behavior for a regular, market-rent paying, own-groceries-buying housemate? When you try to enforce normal boundaries, you characterize it to yourself as you having a "hysterical meltdown". Unhealthy behavior now seems normal to you, healthy behavior doesn't.

You've gotten so twisted around on this that raiding your retirement to rent a new place, while you let her destroy your own home (let's be real, you know she would if you have her in there alone) seems like a reasonable, equitable solution to you.

And, after eight years of you enabling her, is she any closer to being able to live as an independent person? No, it sounds like, if anything, she's further away than when all this started.

You need to give her reasonable notice, and you need to evict her. This is the only real solution here. If you feel you must, give her a little money to help towards a deposit on her next place, though I think it's better for you to get out of the habit of supporting her.

Yes, it may mean the end of your friendship, but as things stand now, it's not an actual friendship, it is a codependency spiral that is hurting you both. If you want any real hope of restarting an actual friendship, as something like peers, that's the only road that leads there, and you have to bear the conflict and the risk of ending your relationship to get there. Be brave.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:14 AM on November 5, 2016 [34 favorites]

You have been an incredibly kind and generous friend. 8 years!!!! I am going to be walking around muttering that for days. You've basically been parenting a low functioning teenager for longer than teenagers are even at that stage. You have been a saint and if it was working for you then hey, great. But it really isn't.

Think about this - if you had taken in an orphaned 12 year old child they would have grown up and moved out by now.

You need to give your friend notice to move out. As far as your house/commute/move go, do not leave her in the house and incur expenses to move yourself. But do look at reducing your commute if it would make your life easier. But make sure that decision has nothing to do with her - maybe leave it til she's gone.
posted by kitten magic at 7:16 AM on November 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

You are underreacting. She needs to leave.
posted by medusa at 7:21 AM on November 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

You are a kind, sweet person with the goal of providing help for your friend. Forgetting for the moment how deleterious this situation has become for you, it is also NOT helpful for your friend. The aid you have provided is not working for her. Now the kindest and most helpful thing you can possibly do to for her is to set a timetable for her to transition to another arrangement and allow her the great gift of being responsible for her own life. Good luck, sweet and kind friend.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:25 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have a solution!

For a fraction of the money, go see a couples counselor together. Get this person to help you make and stick to an ACTION PLAN. Think of it as an "intervention" since that will really be your goal here.

- Your friend needs her mental and physical health evaluated. She needs to become more employable, she needs to get gov't assistance supplementing her living expenses if she can't get a handle on things.

- Short term, friend has deadlines and the house gets tidied and overhauled. The therapist will help you guys set, work on, and successfully meet deadlines on getting the house back in shape.

- Long term goal is that the friend moves out. Or maybe she's your platonic life partner and she doesn't move out, but with this professional oversight on the situation so that there is positive momentum maintained for both of you.

Also. Are you dating? Do you want to date? Because I feel like you sacrificed your life along the way, and it's OK to set some personal goals to get back on track in that area of your life.

Your friend sounds like she has some sort of processing or cognitive issues ultimately holding her back, and that these might even run in her family? I imagine she has a very fatalistic "it can never get better" inner belief system. I imagine she feels fear fear, confusion about her condition, + guilt and desperation nearly all of the time. Her situation is awful, and "tough love" tactics will hurt you both too much. Try professional intervention, see if you can get her self-sufficient.

You could also simply see a lawyer and take her to a mediator or similar to notify her she has to leave in X number of days. You could have a difficult talk and then serve her a legal document that requires she moves out. Then you follow through with an eviction process if she does not go. That will cost $3k to $5k, plus the friendship.

I really think ultimately your friend needs some sort of case worker. She's not functional and it would be kind and humane if you helped her get help. But no, don't move out of your home. And don't go on like this.

(Incidentally. You should look into the side effects of any meds you are taking. Sometimes these meds cause long term deficiencies or disrupt your internal biome or whatever, and fatigue and other unwanted conditions result. You said you've been feeling changes lately and I thought there might be a connection. Maybe it's worth double checking.)
posted by jbenben at 7:35 AM on November 5, 2016 [16 favorites]

Wow. You are a saint. I could have never done what you have for so long. I agree that you should not be driven from your own home. Yet if you really want to see if you want to move closer to work, can you rent your house to a fully paying tenant and rent a place closer to work.

This has the side benefit of getting her out of your home. Just tell her you can't afford both places and she needs to move out. The good news is that it is true. Using retirement funds to support both homes is not being able to afford them both.
posted by murrey at 7:37 AM on November 5, 2016 [11 favorites]

You need to rectify this situation. She needs to be out of your home. You are a special person to have tolerated this situation for 8 years.
I would not pull money out of your retirement fund to test the "living closer to work" situation. You have a squatter situation and by leaving the house, she will have full reign of the home without you bothering her.
Have you mentioned the idea of selling your home and moving closer to work, to the roommate?
This could give you a way out. Tell her you are putting the house up for sale at the end of the month or end of next month or whatever time line you want. Just do not make it more than a couple months away. This gives her time to, hopefully, get her life together enough to be on her own. You could even help her by suggesting she visit a social worker to see what she qualifies for. You could even go with her. Telling her you are putting the house up for sale doesn't make you out to be a bad person, just someone who is moving on in their life. You can contact a couple of realtors to get appraisals and go from there. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SELL YOUR HOME. Just go through the motions to convince your squatter that you are.
I wonder if the commute would be a big deal if your home situation was better. Right now, you dread coming home which makes the commute a problem.
Best of luck.
posted by BostonCannuck at 7:42 AM on November 5, 2016 [21 favorites]

You are a very kind person to let your friend live there for 8 years, which is a very long time for anyone. Even one year is a long time to let an independent adult get back on their feet, let alone eight.

It's time you started thinking about your needs: What do you want? It sounds like you want a nice tidy house, where you can be at peace with yourself and your needs. Your needs are not met! Please repeat this to yourself because you deserve better. Like you said, your friend is not a MFA, but it is clear that you desire very different things (like you say, quiet, order, ritual, order, etc) . So, it's time your friend left. If she was contributing in other ways that eased your burden, you can take that into account. But it appears that you are two very different people, and you cannot achieve your happiness while she is living there. The other posts have great advice.

I only wanted to add, I looked at the Clutter Image Scale and it is utterly shocking. Most of the time, I'm a 1. Sometimes, the flat gets incredibly messy when I haven't tidied up for a week. So it's a 1.5. I don't think I have ever reached 2, ever. And I don't think I'm abnormal. I think that someone who is *ok* living above a 2 would have a mental disorder about hoarding. Additionally, if I had to live with someone who thought a 2 was ok, it'll be very draining on my sanity.
posted by moiraine at 7:53 AM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

My mother finds herself in these sorts of situations. And they are messy to extract her from. On the one hand, you are being, have been, kind to this person. On the other hand, you have been enabling them to not get better, to not know how to live independently and not learn how to actually work out conflicts and issues with other adults with normal expectations of other adults.

So, with kindness, you could look at extricating yourself from this situation as, also, a kindness, because your passivity here has set this person back years when they could have been getting the mental health care they needed.

My SO used to have this living situation with his son's mom (long after they were in a relationship together). She was a bit of a hoarder and used all manner of threats to keep him paying her rent (which she would "chip in" for occasionally, never anywhere near the cost of things) and, like your roommate, would do dishes and other baseline lowest-level-help she could do and he'd act like she'd done something great like ... paying rent or something. She would also become belligerent when my SO would try to change the situation, flipping out, making it all about her, never getting down to the "Hey if you weren't here I could rent out this room, not live in a pit, work on my own mental health" aspect of it.

If you have trouble dealing with this, I suggest either, yes, going to a "couples counselor" or, alternately, going to a therapist of your own. Maybe you can get someone to go with you when you give your roommate an ultimatum. Honestly, the fact that she has no support network is not your responsibility except in that she has not been forced to work on it because you've essentially been treating her as an adult child.

My SO eventually moved out and left his son's mom to fend for herself (with child support which she mostly spent on herself) after being unable to reach a compromise with her. It took a while and basically salted the earth of their relationship. She moved back in with her mom and continued her behaviors with other people.

So, no, it's not okay for you to rent another place because yours has been overtaken by someone with a mental health problem. And yes, it's 100% reasonable for you to be rid of this person like YESTERDAY and there are social service programs that can help her get on her feet, but they should not be your repsonsibility. You deserve better than this.
posted by jessamyn at 8:07 AM on November 5, 2016 [15 favorites]

If making her move out would wreck your friendship you're not really friends. That's on her, not on you.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:14 AM on November 5, 2016 [17 favorites]

But, because life can be hard sometimes, pull $3k our of your retirement and set her up in an apartment for a few months. Put all her stuff in storage and give her the key. Then do nothing else ever.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:15 AM on November 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you've been tolerating this for 8 years, I can see why you wouldn't want to just kick her out, but I do think that setting and enforcing some intermediate boundaries with the ultimate goal of getting her out of the house would be good. It's OK, though, to decide that this isn't working out for you and to take your house back. You do not owe her permanent room and board. Do not take out retirement money to move out of your own house in order to get away from her.

First, she needs to be accessing as many services as she is eligible for. She should get on food stamps and contribute to the household grocery budget. This is also a good opportunity to get on the Section 8 or other supportive housing waitlist--these tend to be long, so it gives you guys some lead time. With the money from food stamps going toward groceries maybe you could get a house cleaning service.

Second, she needs to get her mental health in order. There are medication assistance programs if needed. Timers on phones help with medications.

Third, no stacks. I would seriously just pick them up and put them in her room. Cleaning up before the cleaning service comes is a good reason to get that stuff out of the way.

It's likely that this will be stressful and involve some hard conversations, but you've gone above and beyond for a long time and it is not good for either of you to be her parent figure in this way.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:21 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you don't change this situation soon, you will NEVER change it. As everyday goes by, she becomes that much more entrenched and has that much less incentive to get on her feet. If you cannot get on your feet in 8 years you will never do it without a major crisis.
posted by AugustWest at 8:23 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't nth jessamyn's breakdown of the situation enough. That you might get push-back and get derailed in your goals, that not moving things forward has enabled this person to avoid getting better.

After 8 years and a lifetime of friendship, I see you as partners and I put a very rosy spin on you both wanting to make improvements in your lives. I sorta forgot that this person might sabotage the effort.

I think some sort of short term therapy to help you stick to your goals and not lose momentum. It's horrible you wanted to avoid conflict to the point where you considered abandoning your home. Get some professional help and tackle these issues.
posted by jbenben at 8:32 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

For the love of all that is good, do not move out and leave her to trash your house! Plus, that is YOUR retirement money. Not money to be used to keep roommate happy* while attempting to salvage your mental health.

*keep enabled is more like it.

Stop enabling her. You have done way more than enough already. She is NOT your responsibility.
posted by Neekee at 8:44 AM on November 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

8 years is longer than several of my friends remained married! Your commitment to helping your friend has gone beyond above and beyond. You are not overreacting, and you deserve to have your life back, and your living space as your own.
posted by TwoStride at 8:45 AM on November 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

I would be wary of couples' counseling -- it could very likely end up further cementing the living-together aspect of your relationship with your friend. If you do end up pursuing that, look for a therapist who specializes in helping couples break up (or co-parent), not necessarily stay together.

And I agree with everyone else: This woman needs to move out of your home.
posted by lazuli at 8:51 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mad props on being kind.

Whatever your roommate's reaction to your reasonable and overdue demand that she move out, do not forget that you have been kind. That you are kind. Do not allow yourself to become bitter by the lack of gratitude and reciprocity, or by outcome of this life change.
posted by Neekee at 8:51 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you cannot get on your feet in 8 years you will never do it without a major crisis.

posted by Neekee at 8:53 AM on November 5, 2016 [8 favorites]

I agree with everyone above that it's high time for this co-dependent situation--and your many sacrifices-- to end. That said, you're clearly connected to this woman and a 40+ year friendship is hard to jettison lightly. So what might be another way towards an improved living situation for you that preserves the relationship?

Do you like your house? Apart from noting its inconvenient location relative to your job, you don't say. How much space do you need? What if you sell this house and buy a two- or even three-unit building closer to your office? You could live in one unit and your friend could (preferably pay rent to) live in another; the third one would generate income. This scenario would continue to cost you money, but it also creates a way to extract and enforce a lease agreement from her (blame the bank if necessary). Moreover, it creates a vehicle for future income (rent or AirBnb), mitigating the hit to your retirement fund if that financing arrangement remains in play. It's a plan that would probably take 6-12 months to execute... and one your friend might not go along with if she didn't want to move to the new location (which is fine). Key question: can she manage her mess for as long as it would take you to sell your home?

It's not the best solution, IMHO, but given your history of entanglement, it's a thought.
posted by carmicha at 8:57 AM on November 5, 2016

Wow, you are an incredibly kind person to have dealt with this for so long. I agree with the suggestions above: tell her that you are putting the house up for sale in XX months, and that she will have to be out by then so the place can be properly shown. (In the meantime, you can decide whether you really do want to move. That part is none of her business.) If you want to continue with your rather extreme kindness and generosity, you could--rather than taking money from your retirement fund to leave her alone in your own home (!!!)--offer to help her find an apartment and cover her first and last months' rent, damage deposit, etc.. You could even pay for a few sessions for her with a counsellor, to help her get on track.

Then, walk away and let her take care of herself. One of the kindest things you can do for another person is foster their independence. I'd also suggest some counselling for yourself, so that you understand what is going on in your own life, and your own thinking, that got you into this in the first place,and let it go on for so long. You don't want it to happen again.
posted by rpfields at 9:12 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you go ahead and decide to move to a new house, that partially solves the problem. You have a built-in deadline for her to be out, a reasonable scenario that doesn't feel as much like you're throwing her out, and your life gets better in a number of ways.

If you want a brief re-focusing time, you could move to a small apartment at first (only one bedroom) while you get a feel for the new area and save a bit more money. Store the extra stuff you can't fit in there, and spend the year with yourself.

Couples counseling sounds like a great way to move toward this, too. You'd be setting up (and probably paying for) the counseling sessions, she'd get started on therapy, and the therapist could help make a good plan for her and you both.

Am I sure this is the _right_ thing to do? I couldn't possibly be. If you feel like you're drowning, though, it's a workable strategy.
posted by amtho at 9:20 AM on November 5, 2016

Also - I wouldn't judge her for having stuff all over her room, or even in the garage, unless she has enough space to neatly store a realistic amount of stuff for a person of her age and situation. It's normal to want to own a few hobby things, some cooking stuff, some fitness stuff, some art stuff, etc., and it's also normal to despair of ever having a place be orderly and lovely, and to kind of give up and just stack it or leave it in place, if there just isn't anywhere good to put the stuff.

I'm not saying that's her situation, nor that you have to do/allow anything in particular, but I wouldn't necessarily rush to pathologize her.
posted by amtho at 9:26 AM on November 5, 2016

I assume that you've put up with this for so long because she provides company you'd otherwise lack, am I right? And that up until now, you've enjoyed her company enough to offset the stress her messy habits cause you and the financial hit you've taken.

And it sounds like at this point you would rather forego her company rather than continue to take the home stress and financial hits. Which is probably where most people would have been 7 years and 11 months ago...

I agree the easiest way to have the eviction conversation is to tell her you are going to sell the house and move closer to work. That's really, really all you need to do. You could, help her research food stamps or whatever other forms of aid she can find, but ultimately she is NOT your responsibility. Just get her out of there. Give her a deadline. You can say you need her out in 1 month so you can start the improvements for the sale or whatever.

DON'T sell the house until you've had a chance to live there by yourself and see how you like it. You may find that it feels too big and that moving to a smaller place closer to work would be appealing. Or you may find that you actually love coming home to a place that is clean and all yours. Or you may find that you can get a decent tenant with a rental agreement that stipulates an amount of rent that makes financial sense. No way of knowing, until this lady leaves.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:54 AM on November 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't necessarily rush to pathologize her.

It doesn't matter if you pathologize her or not. What matters is

1. you tried to set up boundaries of what works for you
2. she did not work within those boundaries despite being in a situation where you are nominally doing her a favor
3. you did not enforce those boundaries making future boundary-making less likely to be fruitful

I totally get where you are coming from. You told her what you wanted re: cleanliness etc. however there were no sanctions for her not doing this. Ergo the boundaries seem more like suggestions. If you want to have a cleaner house you may need to go one step further and be "rude" and physically move her stuff out of common spaces and let her know "This is how this is going to work" Keep in mind that the initial rudeness is NOT you, it's her by not working with you on this initially. Maybe this is because she can't. Maybe this is because she won't. Either way, you have to make your own choices for you and if you want a cleaner space it is actually literally possible for you to have but you may have to move outside your comfort zone to do it. Enforcing boundaries is hard but it does ultimately result in you getting closer to something which you want.

This woman is not your wife, she is not your romantic partner. One could make an argument that she is actually inhibiting your ability to form other relationships by making your home difficult for you to share with anyone who is not her. All of these are reasons for better, enforced, boundaries.
posted by jessamyn at 10:01 AM on November 5, 2016 [20 favorites]

I have not read all the responses, partly because I agree completely with the first one. So maybe this has been said, but: she can absolutely live with her mother, as a last-ditch backup. My brother and sister-in-law lived (happily) in a studio apartment for many years. Granted, they were married. But mother and daughter living in a one-bedroom is a whole lot better than putting yourself through this kind of stress for years for someone who is not even related to you.

Maybe I'm projecting, but I don't think I could live with this situation for more than a month, max. Eight years just boggles my mind.

I am also conflict-adverse, big time, so I get that. I think what you need to do is come up with a very, very simple script. Then take a deep breath, tell her you need to sit down and talk about something super important, and recite the script. Which could be something as simple as, "I'm sorry, but after all this time, you really need to move out, by the end of the month. Perhaps you can live with your mom. But it has to be done."
posted by merejane at 10:04 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

P.S. Just one person's opinion, but I think telling her that you are selling the house (unless you really, really plan to do that, entirely independent of this situation, which does not seem to be the case) is a big mistake. It's not easy if you are conflict adverse, but just be honest.

Couples counseling also strikes me as a big mistake. It will drag this situation out, and I think reinforce the this unhealthy and co-dependent relationship. She's not your wife or your significant other; you are not a couple.

This just needs to end; she needs to move out, as soon as possible. Rip the bandaid.
posted by merejane at 10:10 AM on November 5, 2016 [16 favorites]

One other thing I would ask you to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about: is this replicating a similar, unhealthy relationship pattern in your family of origin? Maybe you had an alcoholic family member growing up, or one with an untreated personality disorder that other family members enabled, and you're repeating a pattern you had modeled for you when you were young?

If so, I think that's something you need to be working on, for the sake of your own emotional health. Alone, with an (non-couples!) therapist, maybe with Al-Anon if there is a an alcoholic relative in the backstory to all this, but be working on it.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:48 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

You are way underreacting. You've let this woman freeload off you for eight years Of course you're sick of it. She is not your problem to fix.
posted by MsMolly at 11:15 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

It may be odd, but the phrase that leapt out for me was "our cats". That suggests to me your life is more enmeshed with this person than you like to admit. You may have to do some introspecting and honesty about what the presence of this person has meant to you, even if it no longer does, before you can undertake some of the excellent actions others have suggested here.
posted by zadcat at 11:20 AM on November 5, 2016 [20 favorites]

It's hard to make this kind of decision, even with a bunch of internet strangers / Mefites telling you to do so. But you have eight years experience in *not* doing this, and it has gotten you where you are today. You are allowed to make a different choice. Imagine what your house will look like after a year of you being the only one living there. Hold on to that image and feeling during the upcoming (temporary!) awkwardness.
posted by Vatnesine at 11:23 AM on November 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Woah! Press pause a second!

Your living conditions, due to this room mate, are so terrible that you are actually considering moving out. Of your own home! What!?

You are literally stating that you are grateful that a grown adult washes their own dirty dishes!? I feel you have lost track of rational reality after 8 years of living with this. Your sense of "normal" has been shifted MILES.

To put the tidyness into perspective - I have three young children, two of them have autism. I never get a full nights sleep and I consider my house to be a horrible mess most of the time. It is between a 1 and a 2 in your scale. You are living in a hoard. Again? You are living in a hoard!

Do not leave your home unless she does too because you have sold or leased it. If you move out for a year a) she will destroy your home (and dealing when it happens might be "once the do not occupy sign is up" or "after the fire engines leave" don't risk it!), and, b) who knows what legal rights to your home that will afford you.

Unfortunately you need to face up to what you really want - to have your home back. This is especially painful as it may put her back in the position you "saved" her from 8 years ago, but the common denominator is her, not you. There are some people you can't save. She is one of them. Maybe another friend will step in as you did. Maybe her dad will reappear. Maybe she will finally get a handle on the needful activities of successful adulthood. You have done an 8 year stint of taking responsibility for no real reason. It's not your turn anymore.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 11:35 AM on November 5, 2016 [19 favorites]

I wouldn't necessarily rush to pathologize her.

It doesn't matter if you pathologize her or not.

Very true. I have a personal thing about normal behaviors being treated as mental health issues due to stuff from my childhood. My comment was of dubious relevance to the immediate situation.
posted by amtho at 11:44 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You've done your time. This Random Internet Stranger gives you permission to take steps to rip the blanket.

I briefly had a much less dysfunctional roommate in a "work apartment" I maintain. I only sleep there 2-3 nights a week and my life improved 100% when he moved out. Make it happen.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't frame this as a conflict. You did her a favor 8 years ago when she needed something, and now you are asking for a favor because you need something. "Sharing a living space with someone had become very stressful for me, and I need to live alone now. You have made a lot of progress, and while I know that leaving seems daunting, I'm confident that you can. I wouldn't be asking this of you otherwise." Emphasize that you are not kicking her out right this minute, but that you are going to work with her to draft a plan with a timeline and milestones for the next 60, 90, or whatever days. Tell her that regardless of her progress on the timeline, that day is the hard deadline.

I don't know what "we haven't gotten to that end of it" means re: your prescriber and therapy. Get to that end of it on the phone tomorrow at 9am when their office opens. One thing to work out with them is how much money YOU are willing to spend to get out of this and whether that amount is reasonable.

Swing by a free legal clinic for housing - not necessarily for legal advice, but because lots of folks who go to those are in your friend's situation. The clinic will have brochures for services, resources and organizations that can help your friend.

And she's not your friend anymore, btw. I hope you can see that. You're getting absolutely nothing out of this relationship.
posted by good lorneing at 12:00 PM on November 5, 2016 [8 favorites]

Tell her you are selling the house next year and moving in with a friend near work while you look for a place to buy (otherwise she will want to come with you) and you need her out in 6 months. Help her apply for Section 8 and do whatever it takes to get her on Medicare or Obamacare or whatever your local equivalent is. Help her look at apartments. It's not fair but you'll have to put some effort in here too. Marry her off if you have to but keep telling her you need her to move out by X date so you can sell the house. Tell her the realtor told you so, she sounds like someone who will latch on to something a perceived authority figure says. Then once she's moved out you can change the locks and sell or not sell as you choose and make up any story you want about why not.

I have a miserable negative immature roommate like this for 6 months once, also as a favor and I fucking snapped and kicked her out at that point (original agreement was 6 months, took me an additional 3 to get her out). I tell you, you you will not care about that friendship once she is gone because she will make the whole process so unreasonable and punitive that you not want to talk to her ever again. So just accept that up front and it'll be easier.
posted by fshgrl at 12:21 PM on November 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

So I think one thing that really stands out to me is the difference between fairness and what will help you get to where you need to be. It is fair to kick her out now in that you have spent eight years, seven years longer than anyone else would have, allowing your friend to live there. However, an abrupt eviction is more likely, especially if you are conflict avoidant, to cause you extreme difficulty and a great amount of stress, which it doesn't sound like you have the spoons to handle at the moment. Yes, partially that's because your spoons have been depleted over the last eight years, but the situation still is what it is.

I work/volunteer in social services and have had to handle this sort of situation a lot. First, let me say you are welcome to memail me with details of your location and such, and I am more than happy to call other social workers in the area and try to get her set up. She absolutely needs a social worker. You cannot be her social worker, it takes a lot more spoons, and a lot more boundaries, than you have the capacity for at the moment even if you were a professional social worker. You don't need to be figuring out food stamps, or disability, you need a professional social worker who will help you with this.

I would, when talking to her about this, frame this as a positive. "Hey, you can get someone to help you get set up with money and tools!!" You will need to semi fib, sort of, by writing up an eviction notice for her. Tell her that this is a thing you are doing to help her get access to the social workers. Tell her this is what your friend, a professional social worker, is telling her and you to do, to help her get one over on the system. Know, inside yourself, that she is not actually getting one over on the system, she is exactly who the system is designed to help. She needs to leave your house, and you need to help her. This is not making her any more independent.

Anticipate the process of getting her to where she can move out stably to take about a year. She will need to move from part-time to full-time employment, or need to be set up with disability and safety net additions to supplement her part-time employment. She will also need to gain life skills such that she can take care of her own apartment or single living situation. You want her to become firmly established on her own. I would not give her any deadlines at this moment, only say that it is important to you that she get access to this really cool thing that you have the opportunity to do.

Again, you would be completely justified if you wanted to evict her immediately, but given the length of time that she's already been staying there, I think something so abrupt would absolutely destroy your friendship, and also be difficult to do legally. It's OK to take the time to get to a more advantageous situation for both of you.
posted by corb at 12:27 PM on November 5, 2016 [31 favorites]

Personally, I would get her into an apartment by any means possible, and THEN work with her on the getting a social worker/rebuilding her life part. The thought of having her in your house for another year gives me hives, and I don't even live with her.
posted by delight at 12:38 PM on November 5, 2016 [14 favorites]

I still have not read every comment, so this may have been said already, but two points:

- If you don't deal with this now, you run the risk of being in the same situation eight years from now. Isn't that kind of horrifying?

- You are enabling her, which is not actually doing her any favors. She needs to learn to live on her own, and every day that you allow her to live with you, you are delaying the push that she needs. That is not kind; it is co-dependent, and not good for either of you.
posted by merejane at 1:42 PM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a decently paying job and no debt, so I can manage this with a bit of care, but it still feels unbalanced and wearing.

You should not have to "manage" this, with care or otherwise. At what point during the past eight years did you decide that you were going to make this unwanted roommate the focal point of your life.

1) Am I, in fact, overreacting to the situation? Am I just a neurotic fussbudget? Please validate me, or not.

A billion times no. You have allowed a challenging situation ("should I let my friend stay with me for a little while?") to turn into a profoundly dysfunctional situation that has literally taken over your life over the past eight years. You are considering moving out of your own home in order to continue avoiding this situation. Suppose a friend asked you for advice about such a situation. What would you tell them?

2) I've been toying with the idea of renting a room or apartment that's closer to work and staying there for most or all of the week.

This reads more like avoidance and giving up on the situation than actually addressing it. If you do this, you will have ceded your own property to this unwelcome house guest. Do not do this.

- serve as a test to see if being away from Housemate actually has a positive effect on my mental health

Given all that you have written here, do you really think that you need to take money from your retirement fund to rent your own apartment to test this hypothesis. I'm going to guess that you already know the answer to this question.
posted by theorique at 5:30 PM on November 5, 2016 [8 favorites]

I think your concerns are valid but this doesn't strike me as a DTMFA situation because, I think if you really wanted her gone by now you would have kicked her out. Is she providing something like, companionship? Pleasant company? Do you like having her around? Good friends are worth a lot more than rent and shouldn't be thrown away lightly. It might be that she's not capable of doing more, you know, not everyone is. If she got herself on benefits, did a better job of keeping her shit in her room & downsized a lot, would that that ease your (completely valid) frustration? Does she know how thin the ice is that she's on right now? Basically I think you should be honest with her about where you're at but I think this relationship is worth saving.
posted by bleep at 5:48 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really like corb's answer and strongly feel that you need to get a third party involved here, because you need some perspective on the situation and getting someone more neutral involved would help take the pressure off both you and your housemate to figure out what to do on your own. I think a social worker would be better than a lawyer, mediator, or therapist in this situation, because a social worker could help your housemate find resources to help them, and could give you a reality check without an agenda (I think that lawyers tend to divide, therapists tend to reconcile, and here you want some middle ground).
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:57 PM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

I didn't read past the first 10 answers. So someone might have suggested that you get counseling for why you have done this and why you think you might be wrong in asking her to be an adult in her own life.

You worry that you might be overreacting and pretty much everyone is shocked that you would think this for even a second. I lived with a friend from childhood whose sister is married to my brother. After she would not allow me to keep water on the counter and insisted that it be in the fridge because that's how it's done. I asked her to move. Did I overreact? Hell fucking no... I am not living with crazy control issues or people who cannot respect my wishes. And my wishes are simple just like yours.

Please look at why you think this was ever a good idea past 6 months. It is going to be very hard getting her out because she has no reason to leave and no real ability to leave. You are going to need support in your corner to get through this process however you decide to handle it. You deserve a better roommate than the one you have.
posted by cairnoflore at 7:09 PM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

You've gotten some great advice already, but here's something else to think about. You think her room is messy? Imagine your whole house after leaving her alone there for a year. You know full well the hoard will creep out of her room, spread over the dining room table and fill the rest of the garage if you let her have full rein. Time to have a come-to-Jesus talk with her and help her make other arrangements. With a firm deadline.
posted by jhope71 at 9:45 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a ton of sympathy for you, because I ended up getting enmeshed with a person like this when I was right out of school. I had a ton of unresolved mother-issues at the time, and she was very much a mother-substitute, who was in dire need of rescuing.

Fortunately for me, when she lost her housing and I offered her a short-term place to stay, I was, by then, used to living alone, and she was VERY difficult to be around in my small place, so much so, that I found a retreat center for her to visit, and drove her out there. If she'd been easier to be around, though, who knows? As it was, she was a fixture in my life for a few years, as I bought her coffee and listened to her problems and drove her hither and thither, until I finally realized that I wasn't doing either us any favors and ended the friendship.

I heartily second the recommendation for counseling, as well as consulting with both a lawyer and a social worker to find out what your options are and the needs she is fulfilling for you. Those people can help you build a plan to transition this person out of your house.

The one thing I would like to warn you about is that, if she is anything like my former friend, she is going to pull out the stops to get you to let her stay. Since you're living with her, this may be even more difficult for you to deal with. It may take a variety of forms - tears, guilt, promises to do better, or even anger, sniping , and outrage. Hopefully, your counselor can help you navigate this.

I wish you much success and support as you work through this issue.
posted by dancing_angel at 9:57 PM on November 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

Hey, I'll be the first person to say that if you want to rent a place away from all of this as a way of getting your mental health to a better place and of de-enmeshing -- as a stepping stone for this transition in more ways than one -- then I support it! A few thoughts:

- I'm a bit concerned about you pulling from retirement. Could you rent out your bedroom to someone else to partially cover the cost?
- For similar reasons, must it be a one-year lease? I think after a month or so, you'll be feeling so much better that maybe you could have her moved out by six months. That would reduce the financial impact.
- Like everyone else, I'm kinda worried about her stuff spreading. Renting out your room so she has another roommate is one solution. You going out there once a week is another.
- Would you stop buying her groceries during this time? That might reduce the financial impact and be a nice transition for her.

Good luck. I can only imagine this must be quite hard after all these years. You've been a good friend, and it will be quite good of you to give her the nudge out of the nest so that she can learn to live on her own.
posted by salvia at 11:49 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just read the part about you taking money out of your savings to get out yourself. If you go that route why not use it to get her out so you can have home back? I feel for you. Take care.
posted by cairnoflore at 1:46 AM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Give her six weeks notice. Why not longer? If you give her six months she still isn't going to do anything about fixing her situation until it's abou six weeks (tops) from D-Day. It is known.

"Friend, I k ow this is going to come as a shock, but I my commute is draining me terribly right now so I am getting a bedsit closer to work for a while. I will be renting the house in its entirety to be able to afford that and the realtor expects to have access in six weeks time. Can I help you find a place or do you want to handle that yourself?"
posted by Iteki at 2:44 AM on November 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

My friend was in exactly this situation (except for 10 months rather than 8 years). She finally bit the bullet, asked her friend to move out, gave 3 months notice. Nothing changed for 2.5 months; filth, late rent, etc. Friend's friend moved out, house got cleaned, stays clean, groceries get bought, don't disappear, my friend's mental health improved substantially. Kick this person out, ASAP, give max 8 weeks notice. Any longer notice will be squandered.
posted by beerbajay at 11:31 AM on November 6, 2016 [8 favorites]

I would feel stressed out, angry, passive, weird, broke, and hurt by an experience like the one you described. I would hate having her stuff in the common space, and would particularly be stressed out by the constant lack of good communication. She is unreliable and she isn't trustworthy to do what she says she'll do. How stressful for this to be the person you arguably are closest to, at least physically.

That clutter scale surprised me. I thought I'd be in the middle but I honestly feel twitchy with anything above a 1 and definitely don't like anything above a 2. And most of the people I'm close with are the same, including some of the most well-adjusted people I hang out with. I don't find that to be all neurotic. It's a nice way to live. It would be true to say the two of you have different styles; even assuming that your approaches are equally valid, we have the fact that you just plain are stressed out by her approach. And that's okay.

It sounds like you have a good idea of how to take care of yourself and reduce stress. I would encourage you to consider that your friend is a real and major source of stress, and dealing with that situation is going to make a bigger difference (and a tangibly bigger financial difference long-term!) than making smaller changes like shortening your commute.

Trying out a short-term rental closer to work could be a fine idea, because it would give you some breathing space and let you see how it feels to have your own space back. I would not do it for a year. Perhaps a month in an Airbnb would work.

You've followed through on your commitment to help someone out because you yourself would appreciate the help. I doubt you would try to stay 8 years with someone who isn't happy with having you around. So, no need to allow her to continue to live with you for that reason.

Anecdotally, I had roommates who were a very poor fit for me. They didn't communicate, one of them did not do her dishes and her decorating style was "Everything needs to be out and around, because otherwise I forget I have it" while mine is "Max simplicity and tons of open space," she left dishes out occasionally. If I brought up chores it did not go well. My mental health was vastly helped by getting out for a weekend or 3-4 days at a time. Now that we've completely parted ways, I can feel my energy level rising, along with my confidence and just general happiness. You sound conscientious, sort of similar to me. It's so so so worth it.
posted by ramenopres at 3:12 PM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

This happened to someone I love and they did have to evict the person in question. It came down to the wire but when they were actually forced to legally, at the 11th hour they finally sought help with their social worker and got shelter elsewhere. It was stressful and took several months but everything got so much better once the problem tenant was gone. You can do this!!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:31 PM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your friend may not be the MFA here. I have a friend who is on the precipice of similar problems and I notice I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to puzzle out solutions to her life. I've engaged her and her family in trying to find preventative measures and offered some myself. Nothing works and she slides closer to catastrophe.

However, I realize my engagement with her problems is not solely a measure of my "kindness", but also a proxy puzzle I try to solve as I struggle with my own financial and emotional problems. "If she would only
do X, she would be ok". Or, how about if *I* would only do X, then *I* will be ok? Why don't I spend more time trying to right my own ship?

Your mental and financial stability will put you in a position to help others. You may not be able to help yourself while she is there.

Her problems are not your problems. You have made them yours. I suggest giving them back to her wrapped up in a gift of arranging a social worker plus some cash to move out.

Maybe you need a week away in an airbnb to get some space in order to rest, make a plan and some phone calls. It will not take a full week to get the ball rolling. You don't need to move out of your house.

Good luck!
posted by charlielxxv at 11:20 AM on November 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Here a timeline: I would book the airbnb and then tell her firmly right beforehand that you want to live alone now and are giving her a month or so to sort things out. That gives both of you a week alone to digest. You, alone, she, in your house. It will be better if you don't stick around to negotiate. Once you return you will have developed your plan and be better prepared to offer financial assistance or help with social worker.
posted by charlielxxv at 11:41 AM on November 7, 2016

I think it's insane for you to move out and leave her in your house. I believe you just need to bite the bullet and give her a short deadline -- six weeks max, maybe.

But if you really like the airbnb idea, why not rent an airbnb for her (for maybe a week, tops), so you don't feel as if you are literally kicking her out on the street. And maybe rent a storage place for her, again for a week or so. (And don't let her back to your place -- change the locks if necessary).
posted by merejane at 11:59 AM on November 7, 2016

You are trying to help this person, but the amount of money and care you are providing are just enabling her to not have to make any effort to improve her life at all. If this continues she will be your dependent for life. This is not your responsibility and making it yours lets her take the easy way out and not have to work or make any progress. It is not helping her, like someone who has an addiction and a parent who is giving them money for drugs, you are allowing this to go on. It's time to make it clear what is expected from her and you will definitely have to evict her to do so. This situation isn't benefitting either of you. It will seem really harsh but in my opinion it needs to be done in order for her to take charge of herself.
posted by photoexplorer at 12:00 PM on November 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another thought. If you want to have some Reason she has go to, something you state and then shrug your shoulders about, you can choose money as the reason. Decide that you want to have more of a margin, or get x in savings, or reach y goal, or spend no more than z amount per month. Then you can tell her: "Keeping you here isn't financially feasible." If she protests, you can shrug, like, money! Can't do anything about it! You can even make a spreadsheet to show her. You can pin the "blame" on a financial planner or your cousin or your boss or your mom.

If she promises to pay up the financial side, have a number ready and don't deviate from it. If she does somehow actually manage to contribute that amount, consistently, then you can think about next steps.

And regardless of what she promises, you can say: "Given how the past eight years have gone, I'm not confident that I'll be able to reach my financial goals with that arrangement [that she proposes]." Or, "Sadly, that ship has sailed. If only you had been able to contribute in that way earlier on, when I asked you, perhaps we could have made an arrangement. I'm now underwater financially--it's too late." Or, "I'm sorry, but that won't be possible."

I think it is key here that you not actually be underwater when you say this, as in, not able to meet your own needs. It is enough that you are not where you want to be with money. You decide what is a comfortable place for you. And if you suddenly decide that you require a $20,000 emergency fund and $20,000 to buy a new car (or... whatever amount), that is up to you and you get to draw that line.

I am also thinking about the true fact that once she's gone, and you get some space to yourself and some energy built up, you can definitely do OTHER nice things for OTHER people. You can live a life of generosity and selflessness, and all while maintaining your boundaries and having a home in which you are truly happy. You may be able to have an impact on many peoples' lives.
posted by ramenopres at 4:59 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you are at the point where you are willing to spend $15,000 and move out of YOUR OWN HOME, why not spend that money on renting her a modest apartment and moving her into it? You put her name on the lease, but you pay first-last-deposit and prepay six or 12 months of rent to her landlord. (Do NOT co-sign for the apartment.) Then the bank is closed, and she's not your tenant anymore, and you can even tell yourself that once she's out of the house, you'll have more patience and kindness to help her access social services.

It's not the most emotionally or financially healthy thing to do, but I think it's hard to go from zero to 60 on boundaries in one go, and it's a better alternative than doing nothing or moving out of your own home because you can't bear to set the hardest boundary.

You did an extraordinarily kind and generous thing for your friend. Whatever you end up choosing, I'm sorry this situation didn't work out the way you wanted it to. You deserve to do what's right for you.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:01 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Somewhat belatedly, I wanted to say many thanks to everyone who commented. I've been reading through your responses these past few days, mulling them over, and they've been a great reality check. I know what I'm doing now, and the pants are much less crazy. ^_^
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 4:58 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, and also, there were so many "best answers" that I only marked a couple that particularly resonated with me, but I could have marked a lot more.
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 5:06 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

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