Adult Child Living at Home - What to Do?

Updated on July 01, 2013
E.B. asks from Virginia Beach, VA
25 answers

My daughter is 21. She lives at home. She is a slob. Her room is horrible. She doesn't put things away. She rarely does laundry. It doesn't seem to bother her in the least.

Now, I know the stock answer: kick her out, make her pay rent, etc, etc.

But I can't. She is medically disabled. It's not a mobility problem, and she has no intellectual disabilities whatsoever. She's ill. She has at least 6 firm diagnoses, many of which include fatigue and pain as part of their symptoms list. She can't work. She receives SSI. She finally got a high school diploma but that took 7 years.

So how can I motivate her to be neater, to be more responsible with her belongings? She doesn't ruin or break or lose anything, they're just all in a heap wherever she used them last. I've told her everything I can think of.

She doesn't have many friends, just some online friends, and one or two actual people that sometimes will come over. She doesn't go out. I know the isolation is part of the problem, and I do try to do things with her, like go to a movie or whatever. I hate to use that as incentive, (like saying if you'll clean your room we can go to a movie) because she'd just say she's too tired anyway and I think she needs the socialization more than any punishment.

What advice do you have for this situation? I'm so frustrated. She's a good kid, no drugs or alcohol, she's just living her life in sloppy isolation.

What can I do next?

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answers from Dallas on

Honestly she may be depressed. I know I live with pain everyday and work and sometimes when I go home I am over whelmed and if I am alone too long I can get depressed and don't feel like doing any house work. And it sounds like she's got even more going on. Have you taken her to couciling to see if there is any thing like that going on?

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I've implemented a new rule at my house: If I touch it, it goes in the trash. I've been doing it for a couple of weeks and the kids have now caught on. There is no longer a "trace" of them in every room!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Help her get on the waiting list for a low income apartment through the housing authority. Then when she gets an apartment help her move and assist her to have everything she needs. Then let her live on her own and be an adult. She'll still have issues and fail sometimes and it's up to you as to how much support you give her but she'll succeed in living on her own with support.

She'll also qualify for food stamps and medical assistance if she's getting $600 or so per month.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Los Angeles on

If she receives SSI she can go into an assisted living group home. They actually work with the people living there to learn to take care of themselves and their surroundings and to live with other people. They know how to help her. If she has a case manager with SSI (she should) start there for recommendations, you have options.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

(sigh) been there, lived through it.
At age 6, our older son was diagnosed with a degenerative hip disease. 3 surgeries thru childhood, with a hip replacement at age 23. Long, hard haul & misery/drugs/booze/depression to boot. Teen years were Hell. He did manage to graduate from H.S., took a year off, & then tried college.

The whole hip/depression issue was too much for him to handle, so he quit school & moved back home. All in all, we had him back home for almost 5 years or so. At age 25, he just recently found his way to move out...& we're all thankful!

What we learned is that living with chronic pain completely depletes your coping skills. There were times when his depression was so ingrained that he went weeks without showering, without leaving his room...except for food. & that food was not mealtime, but ususually thru the middle of the night. He stunk, his room stunk. We all were living in Hell.

& then one day, he saw the light. He became interested in the world & became motivated to find a new world for himself. Until that happens, as parents, all we can do is support/push/shove/help (without enabling/belittling) their existence. It is a tightrope, which at times feels like a noose. My heart goes out to you & I wish your daughter Peace.

I would pursue depression counseling. I would also consult with a Life Skills facility. & I would gut her room as much as possible to ease her responsibilities without making her feel inadequate.

& here's what I don't get:
1. you say her mobility is not affected, & yet she is in pain. The two are connected! Don't see how you can have one & not the other!
2. you say it's not mental. But it took 7 years for her H.S. diploma. If it's the pain, then it's got to be affecting her ability to move!
3. with 6 firm dx, there's obviously a lot going on & it possible that you're in denial as to the extent of the affect this has on her?

To me, this all screams depression. Hers & yours. You both need to break out of the mold you're in....mother & child, & move into adults living together. :)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Someone very close to me (no specifics, since this board isn't quite private enough for my tastes) suffers from debilitating fatigue and chronic pain. That person suffers from social isolation and depression as (understandable) secondary symptoms. And, guess what, newsflash, this person is a terrible slob right now. Wasn't always, just has to conserve energy and sometimes chooses to connect with people online rather than clean up, b/c that person is conserving physical energy and making a rational choice to privilege human connection over a clean living space. For a parent (or anyone) to kick that person out of the house over these issues would be borderline abusive, IMO. I'm sorry to be harsh, but it's great and wonderful and admirable to work WITH your daughter to get her to pick up after herself as much as she realistically can. But that needs to come of a place that's equal parts realism, compassion, and understanding. That's just part of being a parent. You get the whole kid, not just the easy parts.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Downsize her possessions till she has a level that's easier for her (and you) to manage.
She might be living with you for the rest of your life.
Try to have a plan in place for what will happen to her (where will she live) when you eventually pass away.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I was thinking of some sort of group home or section 8 housing too.

Yes she has disabilities, but she IS an adult. What is the plan for when you're gone? You won't live forever. You might be doing her a favor by helping her figure out a long-term solution which isn't so closely tied to Mom.

I know it's tough and I hope this doesn't sound harsh. Good luck - <<hugs>>.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

If she lives with chronic pain and fatigue, she's very likely also suffering from depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, these things feed off of each other and make each worse. I know this from experience. Painful, emotional experience. It's very discouraging and upsetting to not be able to do some simple things that others can do.

It's hard to make new friends if she's fatigued and sleeping all the time. And if she's afraid to leave the house because she's afraid of what could happen to her with the pain and fatigue issues, there could even be some agoraphobia going on.

I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and after working even just a few hours a day a few days in a row, since I'm also a parent and wife, by the time I'm mid-week I sometimes almost fall asleep in the car on the drive home. I've had to call out of work once in the past month because I was in so much pain I couldn't even turn the steering wheel of my car, and it hurt to text my boss to tell her I wasn't coming in.

Just writing this down makes me teary-eyed. One thing I do is frequent talk therapy. It does help a lot. It helps with the depression and anxiety. I'm also treated for the depression and anxiety with appropriate medication, and the doctor keeps close tabs. I try to get as much sunshine as possible. As little junk food as possible and as healthy a diet as possible.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I second the superbetter recommendation. Little triumphs may help her a lot.

Does she belong to a support group? Somewhere not her mom where she can share her struggles and get support, ideas, etc? That might help as well.

Part of the sloppy could be the pain. Traditional places to put things, like dressers, high hooks, etc., would be difficult to handle if your joints hurt. Perhaps thinking outside the box for different storage solutions might work.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Do you have any type of adult day care locations which house someone her age?

She could very well be depressed with all the issues she has going on.

I also encourage counseling and hopefully the counselor can help you get her into some sort of group setting where she can make some friends and hopefully increase her self esteem and confidence.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I recently saw a lecture from the Game Designer of this game, called "Super Better." Her name is Jane McGonigol.
(you can Google Search her and watch her lecture online. It is not long. It is amazing).

She herself, had had a very bad medical problem that affected her entire life. And she even felt suicidal as a result and was depressed etc.
Long story short, while bedridden, she designed this game, to help herself overcome it, and for people who are ill for whatever reason.
This is the link for the game:

The game, has proven to be very helpful. And has turned around the lives of many people, who are sick.
Jane McGonigol and her experience with it, is amazing.
Google search it. Listen to her lecture.
It is amazing, what this game has done, to help people with chronic illnesses and/or even cancer.
It is an outside-the-box, way of helping people.
And it has, helped many people.

Since your daughter does do online activities, perhaps get this for her. It is an App. And I think it is free.
Might as well try anything, to help her.
She has a medical problem as well as it affecting her emotionally and mentally.
Perhaps, this game, will reach her. In ways that others can't.

She has a medical problem. And that is affecting her entire self. She can't work. And obviously, her medical problem is impacting her emotionally.
So, her whole behavior is affected too.
And she is isolated.
I would try the 'Super Better" game. Why not.
There is nothing to lose.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

Have you thought about looking into some sort of group home situation for her? I used to work at one, 4 girls with similar issues lived together and then there was a staff member there also. They had cleaning chores that were shared, group outings. Some of the girls had part time jobs, ect. They had programs set up to help them learn to be responsible with money and things.

Your daughter cant live with you forever, and at some point you wont be around anymore (sorry I dont say that to be mean at all). She has to learn to take care of herself.

If you just want her room clean, I would just go in and start cleaning. Maybe she will get sick of you touching her stuff and start cleaning it up herself. Also, if she gets SSI, theres no reason she cant pay rent or help out with utilities.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Cheyenne on

Does she have any hobbies? Maybe she could join some sort of a choir, or scrapbooking club, quilting club, bird watching club....whatever she is interested in. That gets her out meeting people, socializing, making friends with people who have common interests. And if she's out with them, she's not home making a mess. And someone in the group could come get her and bring her back if she doesn't have transportation.

But how can she be medically disabled with pain and not have mobility problems? Either she's in too much pain to function, which causes problems with mobility, or she is perfectly capable of working and just doesn't want to. If she can't work, then it's bound to mean she can't do the household chores, either right? I'd say you're either expecting too much or too little of her. If you are expecting her to do physical labor (laundry requires a lot of mobility) when she isn't able to function because of pain, that's not realistic. But if you know she's CAPABLE of doing the laundry, picking things up, etc, then why is she unable to work? There are jobs out there that don't require much physical work and in a lot of cases, companies are anxious to hire those with disabilities because they can get government subsidizing for it. Not always, of course, but there are some. So it sounds like you need to maybe re-assess her situation and adjust your expectations of her according to what she CAN do. Don't let her be lazy because you feel guilty about what's been dealt to her in life and what she has to go through. Expect her to do what she CAN do and have consequences if she doesn't.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

A few questions for you to explore. Has she always been sloppy? Has she always had little to no friends? Does she have a counselor to work with? Can she hire a cleaning service to help her with the cleaning?

Some people are not naturally neat, some have not inherited the gene for neatness and cleaning, while others haven't learned how to be clean or neat.

I'm learning how to be better at not keeping everything and I was raised by a mother who was a hoarder. I thank God that in her final years she only had one room instead of an entire apartment or house full of things but that room was pretty bad. Being raise by her I caught onto some of her bad tendancies. It is difficult to learn how to be different.

Eventually we will get a housekeeper to keep up with the house but for now I'm downsizing things because we really do have too many things and I'm learning how to do and be better.

There is so much going on with her, I believe that finding a trained professional to help her would be a great place to start. Please for her sake and yours get the help she needs as well as have someone come in and help her get it clean and neat.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Is she that sick that she can't do anything? Not even try to find a job that will allow her to work a few hours a day - even from home.

Sometimes depression hurts. It can make your whole body ache. Is she on a antidepressant? Does she have therapy/counseling? Seems that if she is truly sick, she would need ways to cope.

Is she in bed all day? Can you help her to clean up and then make sure she continues to keep her area clean.

The best thing you can do for her is to help her become self-sufficient.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

If she has a lot of fatigue and pain, carrying her laundry to and from the laundry room might be very difficult for her. Have her sort it into proper baskets, you carry it to the laundry room. She handles it until it's out of the dryer, then you carry it somewhere and watch tv with her while she folds it, then bring it to her room where she can put it away. Have a certain day of the week that you do it and that will help manage expectations and ensure that it actually happens.

Maybe she needs more organizers in her room. Help her find places for her stuff and evaluate what she needs, then get her room clean (do it together) and have her try harder to maintain it from there. Doing the initial cleaning might be so overwhelming to her that she doesn't even know where to begin.

Try to find some fun classes that might interest her - art, music, etc - through your local rec center or YMCA. It will help her meet people and feel better about herself.

She's probably depressed. Have you thought of having her talk to a therapist?

Also, why don't you help her look into work from home opportunities? There are a lot of online writing jobs that she could do at her own pace. I think she needs to feel like there is some meaning in her life. It's probably hard for her to make friends when she can't relate to them. Find ways to get her involved - maybe volunteering (something low key) so she feels like she's contributing to society and not just sitting around doing nothing all day.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I honestly don't know what will work.
What I do know is the less stuff you have, the less mess it makes!
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I agree with Heidi: she sounds like she could be depressed. I would try to add counseling/psychotherapy to her regimen.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

She needs to get out and do something. Even if it is walking two blocks. She should apply for affordable or low income housing. Getting out on her own would do wonders. How debilitated is she. Does she drive. How about volunteering at the local library even a couple of hours a week. Getting her mind off her illness would work wonders. I know. Trust me.
She also sounds depressed. Does she see someone to help with that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

It takes just as much effort to throw something on the floor as it does to throw into a hamper. Put a hamper in her room and one in the bathroom, if you haven't already. Clothes that aren't in the hamper, won't get washed. When she ends up with nothing to wear, maybe she will be more motivated.
I would also have trash cans in every room where she spends time. No excuse for leaving trash laying around. If she is throwing magazines or books on the floor or coffee table, have a basket close by for her magazines. If it doesn't make it to the basket, it goes into the trash. You get the idea. Just make it easier for her to keep things picked up.

Have you looked into having her get a job working online? I know someone who works for a hotel chain making reservations from her home office.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My kids are all ADHD. Thing is organization is like crack to someone with ADHD, once you have tried it it is addictive.

Not sure if that will transfer over to other issues mind you.

I just picked parts of the disaster and helped them figure out how they wanted it organized. Once everything has its place it tends to go in it's place. The key is being organized yourself and knowing how to guide, not order. It has to be their system for it to work.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

I think in this specific case, and just for now, you need to add it to your list of weekly chores and help her keep it clean. Not necessarily doing it all for her or without her being present. You two could chat while you clean up.

She needs a psychiatrist, because I'm seeing depression in this description. It is possible that she can't work up enough will to do anything about the mess on her own, but then living in the mess makes the depression worse. It is a cycle that can send one on a downward spiral.

I'm making the suggestions based on what you've said and making assumptions. I hope you get it figured out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

E., I'm sorry for you both. I truly am.

I do think that if she isn't in counseling, she needs to be. She probably needs to be medicated. If she is on medication, it isn't helping and needs to be tweaked.

She is probably happy to live like this (part of her condition) but you should NOT allow it.

Start by cleaning out her room and boxing a huge amount of stuff up. Her room needs to have all the clutter taken out of it. It should NOT be spartan - that could depress her more. She needs to have some happy memories in her room, but only to the extent that she takes care of them.

She needs to have one week's worth of clothes in the closet. Anything that lands in the floor disappears to a box. When she has no clothes, then you give her the week's worth and she has to wash them. At night time when she goes to bed, the clothes need to be in the hamper or hung up, or she loses them.

No food in the bedroom. I would also not allow the computer to be in there. She either is online in the family room, or doesn't get the computer.

You need to get her counseling that will help her see that she has a future that she HAS to manage. And as others have pointed out, if that includes her getting into a group home with other young women who have health problems (NOT drugs or alcohol), it's something that needs to be looked at.

It enables your daughter to allow her to just live like this forever. She needs to learn to be somewhat self-sufficient. She shouldn't be living with you for the rest of her life. Start now to push her to contribute to the home by taking care of her room, doing home chores and fixing food. Then you work with her on public transit and teach her about a budget. You have to prepare her for life outside of mom and dad.

Please don't enable her to be a hermit in your home. Start now to put these demands on her. Your goal should be getting her out of the house and on her own, even if that means a group home.

Good luck


answers from New York on

Have you tried making her a schedule and posting it and insisting she follow it? Sunday is laundry day. Mon put away laundry, Tues is clean surfaces bureaus, shelves, desk, straighten and dust, Wed is pick up the floor day. Thurs is vacuum day. Friday take out the trash. Very simple, small tasks but daily. Help her the first week. then take a few months to remind her of the schedule.

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