Ask Alice

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.
Alice, Can I Take a Stranger’s Laundry Out of the Shared Machines?
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?
May 4, 2019
Alice, Should I Bring a Dish PLUS a Gift To a Potluck Birthday Party?
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.
May 4, 2019
Alice, My Neighbor Likes To Walk Around Naked
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.
May 4, 2019
Alice, Should I Let My Friend (& Her BABY!) Move In With Me?
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.
May 4, 2019
Alice, My Boyfriend Shoots Down All My Decor Ideas (But Doesn’t Offer Any Of His Own)
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.
May 4, 2019
Alice, I’m Staying With My Boyfriend’s Parents and Things Are Gettin’ Weird
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.
May 4, 2019
Alice, I’m Allergic to My Neighbors’ Cats (and They’re Everywhere)
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!
May 4, 2019
Alice, My House Guest Just Won’t Leave
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.
May 4, 2019
Alice, My Child’s Crying is Disturbing Our Upstairs Neighbor
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.
May 4, 2019
Alice, Do I Have to Go Home for the Holidays?
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?
May 4, 2019
Alice, Help Me Get My Mom Off Her Phone!
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.
May 3, 2019
Alice, My Husband Found a Hair in My Mom’s Cooking & Doesn’t Want to Eat Her Food Anymore
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?
May 3, 2019
Alice, How Do I Tell Friends Not To Bring Kids to My Parties?
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.
May 3, 2019
Alice, Hearing My Neighbors Talk Through the Floors is Driving Me Nuts
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.
May 3, 2019
Alice, My Fiancé and I Are Moving in Together and It’s Stressing Us Out
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.
May 3, 2019
Alice, My Brother is a Smelly Houseguest
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).
May 3, 2019
Alice, My Husband’s Pee Gets on the Walls
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.
May 3, 2019
Alice, Should I Get a Countertop Dishwasher?
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.
May 3, 2019
Alice, I Don’t Want My Friend to Stay in My House While I’m Away
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.
May 3, 2019
Alice, Can I Get My Landlord to Pay for a Broken (New) Appliance?
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.
May 3, 2019
Ask Alice: I Want My Boyfriend to Move In, But Not His Stuff
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.
Jan 18, 2019
Ask Alice: Can I Ask My Friends to Retire Our Thank You Note Tradition?
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.
Jan 11, 2019
Alice, Do I Really Need to Replace a Wine Glass Broken While I Was Housesitting?
Dear Alice, This past weekend I was house sitting for some very well-off friends. I got the go ahead from them to have people over for dinner and one of my friends broke one of their wine glasses. He offered to pay for it, but I also know he is about to move, doesn’t have a ton of spare cash and the replacement glasses cost kind of a lot ( and you have to buy a set of two). Do I go ahead and accept his offer? Do I replace the glass myself?
Sep 12, 2017
Alice, My Mom Refuses to Attend Events If My Dad’s Girlfriend Will Be There
Dear Alice, My parents have been divorced for nearly 20 years, and my dad is now remarried to a lovely woman. My mom refuses to interact with my dad and his wife, making for very uncomfortable/stressful moments when we are forced to all be in the same room (graduations, weddings, etc.). A few of my mom’s friends are throwing me my baby shower in a couple of months. My dad recently ran into one of the shower hosts and asked her to include his wife.
Aug 9, 2017
Alice, I’ve Got a Crush on My Tenant
Dear Alice, Really I don’t even know how to say this, but I have to say it because I need your help: I have a crush on my tenant. This guy is great, he’s everything I wish to have in a partner. Help! Thanks, Lovelorn Landlord Dear Lovelorn, Hooooooooo boy. While I am generally pro – going for it in matters of the heart, this is a different case because there is a pretty serious power imbalance at play here.
Jul 4, 2017
Alice, How Do I Ask My Demanding Neighbor to Move Her Stuff?
Dear Alice, I’m having problems with a neighbor for the first time in my decade living in New York. She came upstairs to pointedly complain about my dryer being on at 3 pm on a Saturday. My response was to tell her we were willing to accommodate her as much as possible, but that my laundry also needed to dry. We heard from her again on a different weekend when she could hear a tray table moving while my husband was cutting food during dinner.
Jun 26, 2017
Alice, Can I Call the Cops? My Cousin Won’t Pay Rent
Okay, so I have my cousin living with me, and he won’t leave. At first it was just him and his dog. He started by living on my blow-up mattress in my living room, and he paid a hundred dollars rent. I figured he’d be here a month, maybe a month and a half. He was making pretty good money … like $15 an hour for 35 hours a week, which is great for our area. But a couple weeks later, his new girlfriend also moved in.
Apr 17, 2017
Alice, What Should I Do With This Old Wooden Rack?
My question: I have this nifty little magazine/book rack, probably from the 1940s: It’s roughly three feet wide and four feet tall. There are four narrow racks on the top part, a couple inches deep, and that open shelf on the bottom. I don’t really need it for books (I have bookcases), and I don’t have magazines or books to “display” at the top. Does anyone have any ideas about ways to repurpose this elsewhere?
Apr 12, 2017
Alice, My Roommate’s Boyfriend Won’t Leave
My lovely roommate has recently met and is seeing a partner. And as nice as this guy is, he’s always at our place. He technically lives with his ex-girlfriend, so my roommate cannot go there. How many nights a week is it acceptable for him to be here? Currently it’s about four (which is over the weekend), and it’s driving me up the wall – I feel like I’m living with a couple, and it’s my apartment. How best do I handle this?
Mar 31, 2017
Alice, What’s the Best Way to Seat Divorced Parents at a Wedding Reception?
Dear Alice, My daughter’s wedding seating will be assigned. The groom’s folks have been divorced for 15 years. The father is bringing his long-time girlfriend. Where do we seat the MOG? It seems awkward to have them seated at the same table and he would not like it. She will be attending solo. To make matters worse, she makes racial comments and talks about every conspiracy theory out there.
Jun 28, 2016
Alice, Do I Have to Respond to Every Graduation Announcement with a Gift?
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.
Jun 13, 2016
Alice, How Do I Deal With My Roommate & Her Boyfriend’s Arguments?
Dear Alice, It comes and goes but sometimes these arguments can last for weeks and there is no escape from the daily barrage of screaming and yelling. I can even hear it upstairs through noise-cancelling headphones. Although he doesn’t shout back, I still get really upset when this happens, having grown up in a household where shouting and verbal abuse were not uncommon.
Mar 30, 2016
Alice, My Noisy Neighbor is Also My Landlord!
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!
Sep 17, 2015
Alice, Do I Have to Stock the Fridge for My House Sitter?
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!
Jul 23, 2015
Alice, Should I Tell My Neighbor I Have a Crush on Him?
Dear Alice, I just moved into a new apartment last month and I recently met my next door neighbor and sparks flew. We’ve actually chatted quite a bit over the last few weeks and even hung out on our building’s roof one night. You can probably already tell that I have a huge crush on him. But getting involved with my neighbor seems like a bad idea since I know I’ll be living here for at least 11 more months (and hopefully way longer).
Jun 30, 2015
Alice, Seat Saving: Okay or No Way?
Dear Alice, I am of the opinion that it is incredibly rude to save seats or to ask others already seated to move for a group. It’s one thing to hold a seat for a friend who’s running to the bathroom or grabbing a drink, but to show up early for an event with limited seating and save ten seats or more? To save a row of seats on an airplane or several deck chairs at the pool by placing items on them?
Jun 23, 2015