Alice does her best to offer solid advice about life at home. From noisy neighbors, houseguests, roommate relations and everything in between, she understands that the hard part isn't knowing what the right thing to do is - it's doing it.
Dear Alice, I live in a big apartment building with a busy laundry room — during peak days/hours the machines are usually all full. So what about those machines where the load has finished but the owner hasn’t come back to switch the wash to the dryer or take his dried laundry home? I often have to stand around waiting for someone to show up and deal with their clothes. Is it rude to remove those loads so I can get my own laundry started?
Dear Alice, I’ve been invited to a potluck/birthday party. I know I should bring a dish to share but since it’s also a birthday party, should I also bring a gift for the birthday girl? Sincerely, Gift Guessing Dear Gift Guessing, In most cases, a potluck is inherently casual and the dish you bring IS your gift.
Dear Alice, My boyfriend and I recently broke up but we have 5 months left on our lease. We moved into this place together and both of our names are on the lease so there’s no real clear-cut answer about who has to move. We both want the apartment (or actually, who knows, maybe we just each don’t want the other person to have it). Right now we’re co-existing but it’s pretty strained. What should we do?
Dear Alice, Hope you can help me with this one because it’s getting awkward. My apartment’s kitchen windows look out onto another building and one of the tenants there likes to walk around his living room naked. I know because he forgets to shut his drapes most of the time. I’m always humiliated when it happens, but he doesn’t seem to learn his lesson and wear a robe.
Dear Alice, Thanks, Stuck between a friend and a large space Dear Stuck, I think you already know what to do. You’re clearly not looking for a roommate, even your best friend. Your concerns about privacy and her lifestyle are valid, but whatever your reasons, you don’t need to justify why you don’t want to let a grown woman and her baby share your space.
Dear Alice, I live alone in a large apartment building in the city and usually this would provide some level of anonymity, however, a new couple just moved into the unit next door and they won’t leave me alone. I’m an introvert and I really prefer to keep to myself. I’m happy to nod politely and say a quick hello to other residents that I see in the lobby or the elevator, but I really don’t feel the need to get into long conversations every time I step out of my door.
Dear Alice, My boyfriend and I have been living together for a couple of years now. Whenever I try to decorate or improve our space, he complains and puts his foot down saying that we don’t need anything. Yet at the same time, he also complains that our place is a mess and that he wishes it looked better. Anytime I try to offer an idea for improvement, I get shot down, which wouldn’t be so bad if he offered an alternative idea, but he doesn’t.
Hi Alice, How do I ask a neighbor to pick up the dog poo from their yard more often because it is smelling up my yard (front and back) real bad? Do I go straight to 311 or do it face-to-face or is there a better suggestion? I’d like to cause the least amount of embarrassment/awkwardness/ill-will while still getting the shit taken care of. Flies, man, already and super-humid Baltimore summer coming … Thanks!
Dear Alice, I live in an apartment building with pretty thin walls and thus I can hear the couple next door fighting…a lot. It’s not physically violent (as far as I can tell) but it’s certainly unnerving to hear these two yelling at each other all the time. At this point, it’s gotten to be that they have a fight at least twice-a-week (and at least once every weekend).
Dear Alice, I am in a long distance/weekend relationship and unavoidably spend every other weekend with my boyfriend’s family (we take turns visiting each other). Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly hospitable. The weekends I stay there are the ones my boyfriend has to work during the day. His parents always fix dinner for us, and sometimes they also invite me for breakfast – if I’m lucky.
Hi Alice, I was hoping you could answer a question for me. We are going to need a house sitter for two weeks over the summer. Along with a very fair pay, do we have to have food stocked for two weeks for the house/pet sitter as well? Thanks, Vacation Time Dear Vacation, Nope!
Hi Alice! I recently moved into an apartment building that allows cats. Although I am severely allergic, I never thought it would be a problem— why should a cat confined in a separate apartment bother me? Then, the day I moved in, I met a neighbor who happily told me I moved to the “cat floor.” Uh oh. I wasn’t confused for long: my neighbors open their doors and let their cats roam around the common area by the elevator!
Dear Alice, My cousin is moving to my city and I made the mistake of inviting her to stay on my couch while she is looking for an apartment. I thought this would take a few weeks, max. So far, it’s been a month and it doesn’t seem like she’s making very much progress on her own place. She IS trying, but her budget is very limited (which I only found out once she arrived) and so she’s having a hard time finding something she can afford. It’s not about money.
Dear Alice, I am living with my family in a high-rise apartment. I am new to this country, Germany. My child is three-years-old and I am having trouble getting him adjusted to this new environment, but he is doing much better than in the beginning. Our upstairs tenants have a problem with my kid crying as it is loud and echoing at times. This happens especially when my son is inside the bathroom, as it is small and opposite to the bedroom.
Dear Alice, The holidays are coming up and I’m wondering—do I have to go home to visit family? I’d really rather travel, or even just stay home and catch up on sleep and see friends. Would this be rude? I’ve never not gone home for Christmas before and I’m afraid my parents and siblings are going to be sad or even, possibly, mad. Is there some sort of compromise I can come up with to make everyone happy?
Hi Alice, As you know, pervasive cell phone usage is a fact of our modern life. However, I still think etiquette and face-to-face interaction should be a priority. Unfortunately, my mother doesn’t seem to share my concern. I’m 23 with two younger teenage sisters, yet it’s my mom that is constantly on her cell phone either texting or playing games. This frustrates me to no end and I find it incredibly rude.
Hello Alice, The problem is, my husband and I still want to spend time with my family but these occasions always focus around my mother’s cooking. My parents don’t believe in going out to eat, and we’re not sure if we can politely bring a dish or two and have my husband eat only that. It seems rude. Any good advice on how I can approach my mom about this again, or ways around this?
Dear Alice, My official roommate has her boyfriend living with her, which has been the situation for two and half years with no real problems. He’s very friendly, respectful, and helpful, and is basically our third and unofficial roommate. However, sometimes they get into couple fights, and this often ends with her screaming at the top of her lungs at him for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Dear Alice, My husband and I have a terrace and we like to throw parties during the warm weather season, cooking on the barbecue, and so on. I know that today parents are going everywhere, every time, with their children and I even can understand it; also, I know that, if I want to be with my friends, I have to be with my friends’ kids too. Which means that, besides our work as hosts, we have to babysit at our own parties sometimes.
Dear Alice, My boyfriend and I have been living in a small, lovely apartment for a year or so now. A few months ago new neighbors moved in below us and we can hear them talking- not every word, but the murmurs of their conversations. We can sometimes hear walking or cabinets, but what really gets to me is the talking. We have an area rug in our hard wood floor living room, but our bedroom, where we can also hear them sometimes, is carpeted so I am not sure if that is much of a factor.
Dear Alice, Signed, Normally-Content-But-Lately-Harried Dear Harried, Moving in together is a big step and your mutual anxiety is normal and not necessarily unfounded. Even if you’ve been dating a long time, the transition to cohabitating can be a fraught one as you both adjust to sharing space, having less privacy, and figuring out new routines together. Not that the change doesn’t bring about lots of positive, fun things, too, but some amount of initial conflict is inevitable.
Dear Alice, Recently, my brother and his girlfriend came rip-roaring through town on a summer trip across the US. I was happy to provide them access to a comfy bed, laundry machines and a regular shower. My brother, who smelled musky, did not shower the first day, and on the second day, I told him that he smelled a little ripe and ought to shower (perhaps a bit blunt).
The bathroom I share with my husband smells constantly like old urine. He says that it’s because he’s tall, and his pee therefore hits the water in the bowl with enough velocity that some must splash out and escape his notice (especially during middle-of-the-night bathroom trips). Have other people encountered and solved this problem? It is driving me crazy.
I hate doing the dishes and never have anyone over because it gets to levels no human should ever see. Can or should I get a countertop dishwasher? Will my landlord hate me? What if I don’t have any countertop for it? You could totally get a countertop dishwasher. There are even non-countertop versions, too. For instance, The Sweethome recommends this portable dishwasher on wheels, for $450.
I’m going out of town, and a mutual friend wants to spend the week at my house with her family while I’m gone. How do I say no? This one probably seems harder than it is, but: Just say no. (“I’m actually not comfortable with that right now.”) It’s your home and you’re not required to share it with people just because you’re not there.
Is it appropriate to ask my landlord to pay for an appliance that broke in my new apartment? My window A/C unit was fried because a previous tenant decided to DIY some of the electrical wiring in the apartment without notifying the landlord. Here’s a little background: I installed my window A/C unit in my new apartment. I bought the unit two years ago, having saved up and researched the most cost and energy efficient model. The unit fried as soon as I turned it on.
Dear Alice, I have a lovely group of friends who always do nice things for each other for birthdays. We’ve been friends for five to 10 years now (varies by friend), and with each birthday, the gift recipient sends thank you cards, even though we are all there to give, receive, and thank for the gift in person. My understanding of thank you cards is that they are generally for major events (showers, weddings, etc.
Dear Alice, Since we’ve moved in, we’ve learned the hard way that one of the downsides to the new construction is really poor sound absorption, it’s so bad to the point that we can hear their dogs claws on the floor. Anytime their kids run around (which is fairly often) it sounds like a stampede and it’s genuinely disruptive. For example, if we’re watching TV we actually have to increase the volume so we can hear it!
Dear Alice, My boyfriend is moving into my apartment. All of the decor in my place is new, in great condition, and I’ve spent a lot of money on it. It is mostly neutrals with a little bit of blues and greens. When he moves in he insists on hanging up his movie and video game posters and placing his little character figurines around the place.
Dear Alice, With graduation season upon us I’ve received dozens of announcements from friends and family for their graduating kids. What is the proper etiquette when you receive these? Are you expected to send a gift (i.e. cash)? I simply can’t afford to send money to each and every graduate and many of these announcements are from people I haven’t heard from or talked to in eons. I feel like I’m suddenly being contacted out of the blue to send money.