May 30, 2013 WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR SISTER’S A NEAT FREAK This question comes from Caroline, who writes: I have to share a bathroom with my older sister, who’s such a neat freak! Whenever I leave my clothes on the floor or toothpaste by the sink she gets so mad! It’s ridiculous! What should I do? My Advice: Hi Caroline! Since my sister is SO messy that I want to take a bath in hand sanitizer whenever I spend time in her room, I’m kind of on the other side of this fence…but I will do my best to give you advice!! I totally get that you want to do stuff your own way. There’s nothing more annoying than having someone else on your case for every little thing you don’t leave EXACTLY how and where they want it. Whenever my mom asks me to “tidy up” my room, which I think is actually pretty neat, and “put things where they belong,” I want to say, “The door knob is right where it should be, so why I don’t I just close the door!” I mean, it’s MY room. It’s not like I’m making art with clumps of mud in there. I should be able to leave a couple of books and shirts lying around! But see, that’s the thing…it’s MY room. So while I have to humor my mom every now and then, I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s preferences, like you do. When you have to share space with someone else, you have to agree on basic ground rules so it’s not a constant battle. It might help to try to understand where your sister’s coming from. Some people like things super neat because it makes them feel in control. And when stuff gets messy, they actually start to freak out a little. Now, I’m not saying you should have to do everything HER way. I mean, leaving the toothpaste on the sink doesn’t exactly make you a nasty slob! (Unless the tube was covered with mold and crusty old spray cheese…it’s not, I hope!) It’s just that it might help to try to think about where she’s coming from. The next step is getting her to see where YOU’RE coming from. If I were you, I’d sit her down and tell it to her straight…something like: “I get it: you’re SUPER neat and you like things orderly. You probably have all your books alphabetized in your backpack, and that’s totally cool if that’s your thing. But I’m a lot more chill. I like to keep things easy, and it’s easy if the toothpaste is on the sink. So why don’t we find a middle ground so YOU don’t feel grossed out by the bathroom, and I don’t feel like I’m always one stray strand of dental floss away from getting yelled at?” Then you guys can brainstorm about the middle ground. Maybe you agree to put your clothes in the hamper, and she agrees to stop being sink police when it comes to stuff you use regularly. What do you guys think? Do you have any advice for Caroline?