24 answers

Sister with Horrible Living Conditions

My mother and I would liKe to confront my sister and her living situation but don't know how to go about doing it. She is 7 years older them I am so she was having babies while I was 13 so my hands were pretty tied to help them. We did what we could without going overboard because we didn't want to see her children lost to the system of foster care. We probably should have, looking back on it they would have been better off. I was at her home today to take my niece home after spending the afternoon with her trying to help her nurse her newborn. She went home from the hospital yesterday. I was blown away from the mess and smell coming from their house. It was horrible. I've noticed the smell of my sister before and knew things must be bad but not like I saw today. She has never been one to keep up with things. I remember growing up when my sisters shared am room my older sister's side was neat while her side was horrible. We've tried to get her to change but it is awful. My dilema is I can't see letting another generation grow up this way. I hate to see my niece and her new baby in this situation. We don't have the space to bring them into our home we live in less thn 800 square feet now with 5 of us. I pray that my sister would change her ways. No one wants to go over to their home because of the way they live. My 9 year old walked up to the door and the first thing she asked me is why is it so messy. I didn't know how to respond. I know it hurts my niece. It has went on to long and something needs to be done.I feel so guilty for letting this go on so long. My sister gets very angry whenever anyone mentions it. Their uncleanliness has been the elephant in the back of the room for far to long. I know this post is long but I thank those of you who have read it. I pray someone has some ideas. HELP

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Can you help her clean her house? Maybe at first do a major cleaning over a weekend. Then help her once a week for a few weeks. Show her that it can be done. It is so overwhelming for her to even get started. My sister is also like this. I also have a tendency to let my house get too messy, but hopefully never to the point that you're describing.

I agree with Pauline, help her clean her house up. Does she work? Where's the father? You're a SAHM clean her house for her while she's working or what not, or make it a sister/sister day, not everyone can be neat freaks, maybe she just needs a little extra help.

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You HAVE to do what's best for everyone even if that means turning her over to CPC (Child Protective Services). I would warn her and tell her you're NOT doing it for any other reason that it IS what's best for everyone....her, niece, baby, etc.

Sometimes, things get bad enough, it FORCES change. This seems to be one of them. If she gets mad, too bad. You're doing what is RIGHT and that's the most important thing.

Tell her, give her a deadline and if she doesn't comply, do what you have to do. This way, the ball is in her court and if she doesn't do what needs to be done she has no one to blame but herself!

Make sure your niece knows too. Maybe she can get out ahead of time and find a friend, someone from church, etc. to move in with so that she won't get her child taken away if she can keep things clean & in respectable and acceptable conditions for an infant and any other adult.

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E., I know how you feel. My sister is a now single mother of 5 and lives in such a mess. I dont let my kids go over there because of the smell and mess. The only advice is maybe your family can offer to help her clean up. If for some reason you feel like her children are in danger you should call childrens services. I know it is hard to do but maybe she needs that wake up call. Good luck

Can you offer to help her clean it once, and then it be her responsibility from then out? Can you explain to her the health hazards of those living conditions?

Most importantly, you've got to look into the best interest of the children... not the mother (your sister). If those children are living in sub-standard living conditions and in harm, then I think it is your responsibility as an adult to report it. Your sister is an adult and can make her own decisions, but those children need someone looking out for their best interest.

I know it's a tough decision and I'm sorry you and your family are going through this.

Hi! I don't know if I am repeating someone's advice to you but have you tried or can you try getting a maid service to come in and do the necessary cleaning it would take for her to be able to keep up with it in the future? I would suggest that if you can afford it. Its not really too much for 3 or so hours. It could be a one time present or early Christmas/b-day present! Then she could see the light at the end of the tunnel of which she sound like she doesn't even want to see! If it's more than a 3-5 hour job then maybe family could pitch in with the cost? Then you or someone she trusts can present it to her with love and understanding!


If there are children in the house, the nastyness needs to stop... and if you can't get your sister to change, maybe it is time for the neice to find somewhere else to call home with her baby. There are programs that will base housing on income (Sect 8 housing) and then your neice will only have to worry about her and the babies mess. Eventhough if your neice is old enought to have a baby, she should be able to help with the cleaning up issues too. And something isn't done and you can smell the house before you get to it... which if I read correctly you can, then that little babies lungs are taking in all of that nastyness and it will cause problems later for it. Someone needs to stand up for that little guy & protect "him" - if "his" mom and grandma won't then I guess it might be your job to!

I know my house is far from perfect... there are days I don't get to the dishes, the laundry is only done on the weekends and I only clean out the old food in the fridge on Sunday nights - so sometimes there is a moldy thing or two in there, but I do try to keep up on it between working full-time, going to school full-time and trying to be a wife and mother of 3 young ones. But my house doesn't get to the point where you can smell it - let alone outside... except maybe the trash cans beside the driveway (which are outside). If it is that bad... she didn't just forget the dishes a day or two - they have been there awhile.

Please find the strangth in you to help out that little baby... I know it will cause propblems with your sister. But maybe if you talk to her you will see she just don't know where to start, or maybe she just never learned how to clean... and with your help she may find a way of leaning or see that the dirtyness can actually hurt something she loves and be willing to change.

Good luck!

sorry to her bout the childeren but they r the most impoartant and she gone have to get upset because it has to be done tell her if it was just her you wouldnt so much as care but ur goal is the chilern some one can take the lil ones and as a new mommy gift get her a maid and to do the whole house and show her how to clean and some tips to keep it going. and the reson i say the whole house because she is already set in her was and then it too big in her mind she feels is nothing that she can do the a child and new born by her self she sleepy and everything in between i think that we be a great thing to do or somthing along those lines becuase onec she see how to do and keep a clean house that may help and say i like this i wont to be better at this hope it helps if not i think u know what u need to do

Child protective services (at least in our county) won't remove children from a dirty home. They come in, tell them to clean, and check back. That's it. My brother and his wife live in horrible conditions. They have been turned in multiple times, and that's all that ever happens. We no longer visit at his home, and if we do stop by, we stay outside. This is their choice, and so be it. We can't change people. However, there are options for your niece and her new baby if she wants out. Good luck.

I am in agreeance with one of the other ladies about the talk with the niece and telling her about keeping the house clean. The other lady is correct in what she says. Anyone who smells the house or sees inside the house can call Protective Services and they will take the baby. Your neice can see if she can stay somewhere else if she isn't willing to keep the house up and take care of a mom that should be taking care of her and helping her. Your niece has to do something or she will loose her baby due to uncleanliness and health people have a legal obligation to report anything like that.

Short of going over there and having a cleaning party, which will offend her horribly, and talking to your niece about the unhealthy living conditions for her newborn and offer to come over and help her clean it up for the sake of her child, I don't see what more you can do.
Unless you call in CPS and have them or the Board of Health make a call and make it a legal issue.
It sucks for all of you.
I will pray for your sister and all of the children living there.

I agree with Pauline, help her clean her house up. Does she work? Where's the father? You're a SAHM clean her house for her while she's working or what not, or make it a sister/sister day, not everyone can be neat freaks, maybe she just needs a little extra help.

This has to be so hard for you. We don't want to see bad things happen to people we care about (even if we don't like them sometimes) much less be a part of those bad things happening. I can see one of the delimas being that if you turn the mom in then the daughter potentially suffers the consequences of losing her new baby to cps. You don't mention how old your niece is but she is old enough to understand the mess and she is old enough to clean it. Not for her mom, but for her baby.

I would sit down and have a frank talk with her (you niece) about the hazards of having the baby in the house in that condition. I would tell her about CPS and how if she takes her daughter into the doctor and they for any reason question the living conditions, be it her or her baby's cleanliness, the cleanliness of her carseat or blankets, or even the smell coming of her that has permiated the house and everything in it, it is enough to have the doctor call CPS and report it and send a caseworker out for a home visit. At that point the baby stands a good chance of being removed from her custody as well as charges being filed against her or her mom if she is a legal minor.

I would offer to come help her clean it during her 6 weeks of recovery and in that time show her how to do the things her mom never taught her. Then it would be up to her after that to keep it clean. I would let her know that if she didn't keep up with it, then she would put her baby at risk because anyone walking in and seeing it could call CPS anonymously and the jig would be up without her ever knowing who did. The mailman, the exterminator, a neighbor. Anyone.

You can't clean her house for her every single day. It sounds to me like she lives in filth because she CHOOSES to live in filth. No amount of cleaning help is going to change that. If she has no motivation to clean, she's not going to get it by you cleaning her house for her. Not to mention, you have your own kids to raise and your own house to clean. If the filth doesn't bother your neice, then she won't clean it either. I don't know how old she is, but if the mess bothers her, then she should move out. Short of involving CPS, I don't really think there's much you can do. Confronting your sister will only cause a big fight between the two of you, it won't make her change her ways. And if your sister smells, it's most likely because she isn't bathing or washing her clothes. It is a situation that needs to be addressed, but I don't think that cleaning her house for her is the answer.

Have you suggested pitching in for a maid service? It may be that she's angry because she doesn't know how to or can afford the cleaning service. Otherwise, it's pretty much up to her. You can't make someone change if they don't want to. But, I appreciate your willingness to help. It's hard to watch, but unfortuately once you go through all the suggestions, you just have to let them deal with it.

Good luck.

Hi E., fortunately we are not all the same and from what you say confrontation may not be the answer. Cannot your Mother and yourself go to your sisters and clean her place up, perhaps saying you know she has her hands full, especially with a new baby. Perhaps if you did this a few times, she would like livivng in a cleaner home and make more of an effort. Kind Regards P. UK

This probably isn't going to make you feel better, but it may put things into a little perspective for you. I had a sister in law at one point that was the exact same way. My brother has since divorced her, but when they were married, it was absolutely embarrassing to go over there. She had a lot of counter space, and every inch was covered by garbage and dishes that hadn't even had the food rinsed off. It was disgusting! There was always mold on everything and it smelled really bad in their house also. I tried everything I could to try to help her. I went over there once every 3 weeks and cleaned her kitchen and as much of the other parts of the house as I could. I sat her down and tried to help her with a schedule on cleaning. I tried to explain to her that she was teaching her daughters how to keep a house, and they would end up being the exact same way unless she changed things. She would acknowledge that it needed to be fixed and I always thought I had gotten through to her until the next time I'd go over there and see the house in the exact same condition. AFter awhile, I finally realized that that was just the way she was. She just simply didn't care. She didn't like to clean, and even if she did, she never had, so she had no idea how to take the steps needed to keep a clean house. I literally had to just give up. It was really hard, because she had 3 daughters, one of which was with my brother. When he divorced her, we fought like crazy and he was awarded full custody. That environment is so unsafe for kids, but unfortunately, unless you've reached a point where you're ready to call social services on her, there's nothing you can do. You can't change someone who isn't willing to acknowledge that they have a problem. I learned that my sister in law was only agreeing with me to save face, but by that very evening after I would clean, my brother would come home to dishes from dinner sitting out without having been rinsed, and the garbage can full. Ridiculous, but there are many many people, sadly, who live that way.

Contact the Health Dept. Since this is a health issue, especially with a new baby around, they will look into it. They should be able to send out a nurse, who will do an eval. They ccan then set recs on how long she has to clean it up, and then they do a re-inspection. Maybe this will be the kick in the pants she needs. They will get CPS involved if needed. I understand your concern about Foster Care, no easy answers there. You can make an annonymous call to the HD. Good luck, let us knwo what happens.

My parents have a "messy" home & whenever we visit, we just pick up a little here & there. I don't think they even notice. Once when they went on vacation, we cleaned the whole house! My Mom appreciated it, but she was also afraid that we might have thrown something out that she didn't want thrown out. My Dad LOVED it! He said to come and throw more stuff out! lol. Now when we have time, we take one room at a time to straighten and throw things out. Maybe you can help your sister with one room at a time. Let her know you are there to help. Let her know that you might need some help too, so she can feel like you aren't "attacking" her - ask her if she would help you clean (fill-in-the-blank), if you help her clean (fill-in-the-blank). She might get her feelings hurt at first, but aftewards I'm sure she would appreciate your help and concern.

Holy Cow...All you ladies out there who think this mom of THREE SMALL CHILDREN can go over to her sister's house and CLEAN IT EVERYDAY because her sister is SELFISH AND LAZY are welcome to come over to my house and help clean...or maybe go clean there. Those of you with enough Income to think this Stay At Home Mom of THREE can afford a Maid...Well, my husband needs your husbands job.
Now, that sounds quite mean, but Come on...Offer the poor women some real help here ladies, you can do better than this...I have seen you do better.
Recently a women in Fl lost custody of her children b/c her house was soo Filthy and a Health Hazard.
Honey, I know there are differences in Cleanliness, my house is a 'pig sty' to me, but no stench and my family don't stink. My honest opinion...Call Child Protective Services, you don't even have to tell CPS who you are. When your family mentions it to you, you can be Dumb and not know a thing about it. Your sister can clean up her act and herself and get the help she most likely needs, or someone who is fit to raise children and have children in their home will take those babies (all babies, no matter how old we get) into their home.
My only question is, how old is your Niece? Does she enjoy living like that, is she a minor, or is she 'messy' too?? If you and your family are concerned and regretting not doing something years ago, then stop the regrets and do something TODAY! Pluss, you can always help your niece out, even if she can't live with you b/c of space problems. Perhaps you could offer her help in obtaining her own appartment, help her get a job, gather up your babies 'old' things and hand them down to her, drive her around if she can't drive, possibly babysit her baby while she works so she can afford to get out of her mom's house. And PLEASE remember, you can report to CPS without telling them who you are or how you know, and keep hounding them until they ACT. Call them everyday if you need too. Also, if they have pets, you can call the Humane Society in your area and they statistically re-act faster than CPS (isn't that horribly sad). Best of Luck hun...Follow you heart, it won't lead you wrong.

Can you help her clean her house? Maybe at first do a major cleaning over a weekend. Then help her once a week for a few weeks. Show her that it can be done. It is so overwhelming for her to even get started. My sister is also like this. I also have a tendency to let my house get too messy, but hopefully never to the point that you're describing.

E., I know it's hard to tell them but you have to.I have a daughter the same way. Childrens service went to her when she was at work (husband home) and took kids.I was living out of state at time so my oldest daughter took the kids. I moved here now and I'm working on custody of children. Sometimes there's more things going on then you see. Just make sure she isn't pushing older children into watching the little ones.If this continues you will have to report to childrens service. Thay will give her some time to clean place and check up on her from time to time.If she does this She will get children back. Sometimes you have to give tough love. Good luck
Good luck

Everyone has different ideas of what "clean" is. And everyone's home "smells" different. I am a full time working Mom and I do not have time to clean. My house is messy, and I am sure my family, all "neat freaks" in my opinion, thinks it is disgusting. But it is my house and I can live the way I want as long as it is not harming my children. I never paid attention to my mom when she taught us how to clean. Then years later, when i was ready to learn, I asked and she taught me all over again. I now know how to clean, I just choose not to do it to the extent that some people would find suitable. I'm like the one mom who said she would rather spend time with the kids then wash the dishes - they can sit for a night, my baby needs me.
Do not think badly of her because she is messy. Love her and be there to help her. She needs you not to be critical but to be compassionate.
Perhaps there is something more going on here. Perhaps she is suffering from any number of mental disorders, be it "simple" depression to a much more serious condition. Maybe she is "attached" to her "garbage" and is afraid to throw things away. Perhaps it is just a case of she never learned how. Even if your Mom taught you, she maybe just never paid any attention.
I don't think confronting her and tell her how bad it is, in your opinion, will help. She needs some help and since she has a newborn, now is the perfect time. You and your mother should go over and take turns cleaning and straightening the house. Have your neice follow you around and show/teach her how to do it. But it is not your neice's responsibility to clean and straighten the house. She is just a child and should be playing.
And calling Children's Services and/or Social Services is, in my opinion, an option that you want to reserve as a very last resort. Unless of course you are truly at your wits end with helping her and you think there is a more serious problem going on here, in that case you could use the help from these services. And if you do choose this route, you will need to approach the situation with the utmost care and compassion. After all she is your sister, she is blood.
But if this is a case of "she is messy and it drives me crazy" I would not bring in outside sources that could possibly ruin your relationship with her for years to come. I would suggest find alternative means to help her in this situation. Exhaust every possibility before giving up or going to Social Serivces.
Do they have pets? This could be the issue in full. Pets can really wreak havoc on a house. Maybe she just needs help taking care of the animals.
Does she have any friends? Perhaps you can all get together and work a rotating "visiting my friend" schedule to help her for a while. Play it off like, "Since I am here, I see that you could use my help with the dishes," or whatnot, and just go and start cleaning up. And as she watches you all, she wil lbe learning how to do it on her own and eventually you will all be able to taper off the "cleaning" visits and actually be able to enjoy hanging out with her and building your relationship.
I wish you and your family the best of luck and hope things start looking better in the near future.

Is it unsanitary or messy? I have a messy house but I work full-time and have no help. I have decided that I want to spend my free time with my children and not worry about the mess as much. However, my house is very sanitary - bathrooms, sinks, counters, kitchen are clean. We don't leave food out, no odd smells, etc. I know some people are offended by my mess and I'm sure my mom would love to clean it every time she walks in the door but it's just some stacks of papers, or things not put where they go - nothing that is going to hurt anyone. We also try to clean up before we have expected company.
You should talk to her if she is unsanitary and it is an unsafe envrironment for her children. Be careful of what you say so it doesn't come off as she doesn't know how to care for her children. Also, don't just tell her it's a problem, give her a solution. Maybe she just feels overwhelmed and doesn't even know where to start or how to keep a handle on it. Good luck.

I have a friend who is like that. Thankfully, she has no children. I am a firm believer in the power of teaching. Have you considered teaching your sister, or even your niece, how to clean properly? I understand that it may be a sensitive subject, but if you can get your niece and others in the your sister's household to help persuade her that something needs to be done, you may have better results. I hope this helps. I will keep my fingers crossed for you.

I think you know already that your niece needs to find somewhere else to live with her new baby. Does she have a trusted family friend, doctor, pastor, social worker at the hospital , someone who can help her find better housing? I fell that it is just a matter of time before that baby gets sick from the mess and disease in the house. Are there still minor children in the home? I have seen social services remove young children from a situation like that for a while to allow the parent(s) a chance to get better control of the mess. The kids were allowed to visit and keep in touch, and were later returned to the home. If you can't resolve this situation with your family and friends, I'd call social services. They are not the monsters that some people are afraid of, and they will work with families to reunite them if at all possible.

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