Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…
Dear GWBW — I come home and my moms “reorganized” my entire closet Now there’s one shoe downstairs and one upstairs. She turned my whole closet upside down like that! That was 3 weeks ago, and I’m still searching for my things every day. What can I do about this? — Closet Case
Dear Closet Case,
What a great question about setting appropriate boundaries. And whether you’re 13 and your mom is all up in your grill, or you’re 45 and living with a senior mom who requires your assistance — doesn’t matter. Same relationship dynamic thing, different time. Moms who need to do your thing their way, is…classic.
You know your BadWitch wants you to tell her like it is (but keep in mind that for you, her action was annoyingly intrusive, while to her, just helpful), but I understand that this may be both difficult for you to say, and for her to actually hear (whether because of big ego or legit cognitive reasons — if the latter (which your searching up and downstairs for stuff alerts me to), immediately get her under a geriatric physician’s care). Still, together you should set down some rules for happy co-existing in this house.
Whatever your age, calm the heck waaay down and then ask you mom why she felt she needed to help you get organized. Ask questions to hear past “it was messy”-type responses to what her perception is about your organizational skills, how you live. If any of it resonates with you, think then act to improve yourself. Thank her! If it doesn’t feel true for you, then try substituting her “you” statements with your proper name and repeat them out loud. If most or all of it still doesn’t feel true to you, then consider what is actually important to you a la values, and then calmly set enforceable boundaries. Remember, one huge lesson living with people we love can teach us is how to reasonably compromise.
Setting boundaries: Let your mother know clearly that you respect her, but that you and your territory must have her reciprocal respect, too. Just because it works for her, deosn’t mean it does (or has to!) work for everyone on the planet. Find the most effective way to say it so your mom can hear it. Find a way to enforce it (expectations > consequences). If you don’t, you can expect that she will repeat this closet makeover episode (in one form or another) and that will be on you, later. In the worst (and last case) scenario, put a lock on your door.
Lights on in that closet,
Dear Closet Case,
OMG!!! And I mean that! I don’t know what’s more horrifying, the idea of your mother seeing every nook and cranny of your inner wardrobe or the idea of someone else reorganizing the items that should very specifically be categorized by the wearer. Shocking.
Well, first and foremost you must sit down with your mother to discuss this fiasco. In a loving (which means practice A LOT before the face-to-face), calm voice (A LOT) let her know in no uncertain terms that though you believe her “helpfulness” in regards to your closet was born from the most loving thoughts and ideas, in truth it felt like a disrespect for your privacy. You know that was not how it was intended (see why you have to practice?), but in fact reorganizing someone else’s closet without their prior notice and consent is best left to parents of small children not yet capable of organizing sweaters together, etc.
Let her know that you are still searching for some much need items. In truth, though you two are so similar, your organizational styles are very different….and, well, it makes life more difficulty when getting ready for (school/work/obligations).
Be clear before your bathroom cabinets are reorganized and those much needed daily products disappear! This is an important opportunity for you to set boundaries like an adult. Show her what you’re working with. But show it with love and respect. She birthed you. She deserves heaping helpings of both.
Also, your mom may be somewhat bored. Is she older and needing to get out to the local centers to play with people her own age while you are at work? Or maybe the stay at home mom is discovering a latent passion for interior design. Whatever the root cause remember compassion—not anger—will get you the respect you crave.
Good luck (sincerely),
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