Dear Savvy Auntie,

My niece is married and has three young children. Her house is a garbage dump and her car, frankly, is a rolling garbage dump. It is not only unhealthy but it's also unsafe for those children. I have tried to help her clean up but it is a lost cause.

I think she may be suffering from depression and she may be a hoarder. Regardless, it is those children that are paying the price. What can I do to help her?

Great-Aunt Concern

Dear Great-Aunt Concern,

It is so difficult to see children you love negatively impacted by their parent/s. You don’t say how old your niece’s children are, but it is never too early to both teach and model good cleanliness habits.

You could bring them plastic or straw boxes to keep their belongings in neatly and teach them to put away their things. Help them make their beds, clear their dishes, and practice personal hygiene. Even if they are not able to be completely adept at these tasks, they will be learning a different way than their mother’s messiness.

You sound perceptive about your niece’s emotional state. I advise you to talk to her about getting help - remembering to be sympathetic and compassionate as three children and depression can be overwhelming.

If all else fails, you can make an anonymous phone call to the children’s pediatrician stating your concern and requesting assistance as this situation can lead to health hazards.

Do make a reality check on your cleanliness standards by observing other people: are they in line or overly fastidious? We often think our way is THE way.

Good Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

Photo: TatyanaGl
Published: April 17, 2017

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