How Else Should I Approach This Sibling Living Situation?

Updated on June 12, 2018
M.P. asks from Pikesville, MD
13 answers

My sister moved in with me and my minor children while she was still in University. That was roughly two years ago. While she was in school I wasn't worried about her paying any money towards the household but when she graduated she started working a salaried position, but not making as much as me.

I believe she brings home apx. $900 bi-weekly (after taxes). She's single, no kids, and doesn't pay for health insurance as she is still insured under our parents policy. I should add that as of the mid-July, she'll be starting a new/better job with a government employer so she'll be making more than what she's making now.

However, I became frustrated when I realized she didn't want to help out around the house with anything. Even though I am a government employee, I am not rolling in money and I have minor children to raise - all school age.

I've had a few conversations with her about helping out with chores but nothing has really changed. I am extremely frustrated and I've tried looking at things from her end but my bills have continued to increase.

Before she moved in my family and I were on a budget. I managed my bills according to what I could afford and what family entertainment activities may come up. She moved in and I would notice 30-45 minute showers, or longer...and she wasn't considerate of our time in the morning. Even my children are frustrated at times but I've been careful about how to approach this as she is my younger sister and we are very close.

I've given her more than enough space in the house to the point where I am uncomfortable because in the beginning I wanted her to focus solely on school and graduating.

Now, I feel like the situation is out of control. I get upset when I ask her to do something like take my children somewhere because I can't do it and she gets an attitude and doesn't want to help. That upsets me but I'm trying not to let resentment start up.

There are random moments when she'll buy groceries or treat us to lunch or dinner so i don't want to put her down but those random moments don't pay the bills. I believe I'm at the end of my rope.

She's been working for over a year at the same place and during that time she a brand new vehicle, which I supported, but I don't know...her not contributing or even offering to contribute when she knows I'm having a rough time financially is really bothering me.

Before I ask her to move out, I'm considering other options but at the same time because she is my sister, but I really am stuck on what to do, if I should charge her rent, one set amount, or ask again for her to help out.

Again, she and I have a very close relationship and I don't want to hurt her feelings. But I'm hurt and offended and am starting to feel like she's taking advantage of me even if she doesn't mean to do it. I feel like because she is accustomed to me handling everything, she feels like she doesn't need to do anything.

But also, if I've talked to her about it multiple times already and she knows my current situation, why wouldn't she try to help out? I'm so confused and upset about this entire situation because overall my kids and I do want her to stay with us.

I know this is long but if someone can give me some sort of advice I'd really appreciate it.


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So What Happened?

Thank you to everyone who commented with constructive suggestions. The comments were helpful and thought provoking. She and I settled everything over lunch and it feels like a weight has been lifted.

Also, I know many of you were curious about her salary and yes I was correct which is why she fond another job. She works for a company that pays very little and she does a lot.

To the one person who commented, that stated I was treating her like my child, on some level you are correct. She is the youngest of the girls and for most of her life, I supported her financially just as I do my own children. That was all my doing because I was older and wanted to help her and my parents as much as I could.

She and I have been stuck at the hip since she was born. My parents are so amazed at how close we are.

The mindset I have which I don't expect everyone to agree with is that family should help family when they can. That's who I am. But the comment about enabling was right. I can help but I don't want to enable any longer.

It was never about her taking care of my children because they are my children - but if you live in a home with someone and can help take a kid to softball practice, that's not a horrible thing to do. And again, I don't expect everyone to understand the dynamics of our relationship but I do appreciate the ones who gave advice without any underlying tones.

To the point - This is why I had trouble with what was happening because I know the type of person she is, but as many of you stated, people can take advantage of a situation if given the chance, even if it's not intentional. But I made it clear that me handling everything would have to stop.

Also, I'll always think about her situation, but what I will stop doing is treating her as if she isn't capable because she is. Through our conversation and agreement of her paying the amount I set which is more than fair, I said some things to her that I hadn't said out loud and I think it made her realize a lot of what she was and wasn't doing.

I really do appreciate the comments because I was frustrated and it is confusing when your best friend/sibling relationship may be negatively impacted. I'm just glad it was resolved and there wasn't any resentment about this.

More Answers



answers from Boston on

She doesn't do anything to help you because that benefits her and she gets a way with it. Sit down with her and let her know that she'll need to start paying rent. $900 every two weeks is a pretty low salary for someone with a college degree...that works out to $11.25 an hour if she's working full time. If she makes that little, she may need a push to increase her salary level...that's minimum wage in some areas and a college degree should get her more than that. Having bills to pay may help motivate her to get a better job.

Anyway...25% of income is a reasonable guideline for a housing payment, so even on what little she makes, she should be able to pay you $450 a month in rent. She should really be paying for her own groceries and utilities too. At her level of pay, there shouldn't be any money left over, really (my rent alone is more than her take-home pay). If she's paying you rent, you might feel less put out by the long showers and the space she takes up, and be able to hire a sitter to take your kids places when you can't.

If she doesn't like that arrangement, she can always move out into a place that she shares with roommates and pays for groceries, utilities, and has to clean up after herself and pitch in with roommates to keep the place clean. Even with paying you rent, she's getting a good deal. Don't feel guilty about expecting a young adult to actually live like a young adult.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

You are treating her like she is your child - you worry about her emotions, you focus on her schooling, you make sure she has no real-world worries.

You want to treat her like an adult, but you're afraid, because she's your child, not your sister. She acts like a child who thinks someone else is always footing the bill. Yes, she buys a dinner now and then, but that's like a child making a Mother's Day card or picking a bunch of dandelions and thinking you'll be satisfied with and thrilled by their little gesture. This is an untenable situation.

You don't have as close a relationship as you think. You are not equals. You have a relationship in which you take care of her and protect her from everything. She is "close" to you because it's easy - there are no responsibilities (financial or otherwise). But siblings are equals, and you are, I say again, her parent here.

This is so unhealthy, and what's more, you are teaching your children to be takers and to let everyone else do the work. You're teaching your children that nothing unpleasant will ever happen because you they shouldn't get upset. And your sister is learning nothing about the real world either, because you keep her from doing so.

Go to counseling, and figure out why you don't have a backbone here. (Normally, I would say to give her 30 days to pay you a reasonable rent figure or move out, but I don't think you'll stick to it at this point.) You've talked to her, but it doesn't do any good because a) she has no real world skills, thanks in part to you parenting her, and b) she knows you will cave in and not force the matter, instead opting to go broke and be stressed out. It's like parents who say to teens, "I'm not made of money, you know!" But then the parents go on paying for things. Your sister has not had to dead with the consequences of her excesses because you bail her out.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

No no. "She's my sister" doesn't cut it. Stop allowing this. Tell her that it's time for her to move out. Give her two weeks to find a place. She has the money to put down a deposit and pay the first month's rent. She is an adult. Make her act like one.

Enabling her to act like a teenager in your house is not helping her. She needs to get out on her own and take care of herself.

She is acting like a child. No more of this stuff. She is costing you money instead of helping, and you cannot keep doing this with money problems.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

You are not asking a dependent, disabled person to move out and be homeless. You are not asking for caviar and champagne.

Think of it realistically: your sister is a college graduate with health insurance, a new vehicle, a job (and a better job coming in a month).

What you're asking is for an independent, educated, employed person to stand on her own two feet. That's reasonable.

Now, it might be a nice gesture if you were to offer to help her locate an apartment, or perhaps fill out a rental application if all that is very new to her. Show her how to use the many apartment-finding services online. Show her how to check her credit score and what that means. Make sure she understands all the fine points of being an adult and how to budget, and how not to fall for the sales pitches ("you need 450 TV channels" and "you need the best and newest phone every single year"). Show her how to look at her car insurance and deductibles, etc.

Tell her that for the next 60 days you're going to help her learn about being independent and at day 59, she is to have a studio apartment and be set to live like an adult. And don't feel badly about all this: you've helped her tremendously, and by helping her be independent, you'll be helping her even more.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It is hard not to take advantage of family and even harder to change someone's ways and thinking. I think the healthiest thing to do for all involved is to tell her that you are so proud of her and all she has accomplished, but in order to finish growing, she needs to find her own place and take care of herself. Let her know that you will help her (not financially, but emotionally and physically like helping her look, helping her pack) and give her a 3 month amount of time to find something.

One of two things will happen: 1. she will actually move out and perhaps gain some newly found appreciation for what you did for her (don't expect it, but it could happen). Best part is she will get to grow in an area that she is sorely lacking - budgeting and self-care. or 2. she will realize she cannot afford to live on her own and make you an offer of rent and/or help each month. If you decide to take her up on it, her paycheck can be set up so that an automatic deduction for whatever amount you agree on is directly deducted from her paycheck and deposited in your bank account every payday. Do not let her tell you she will just pay you when she can or some other arrangement or only more resentment will grow (she will pay you the 1st month or two and that will be it).

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have my AA in social and human services and when I graduated I was making more than what your sister is; and everyone knows social work is NOT high paying! $900 every two weeks is NOT very much. Are you SURE that's how much she's making?

"Sarah, I have loved having you live with us. I am so proud of you for sticking through school, graduating, and getting a job! Now that you are working full time I need you to step it up a bit. I need you to contribute $______ to the household. You are living here and use the water/food/garbage/power/tv and all of those things cost money. I really hope you can do this. If not, then I am going to need to ask you to leave in 30/60/90 days. I love you and my kids love you...I hope you chose to stay."

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You were very generous to open your home to help her while she was in college.

The problem lies with not having a written agreement when she became fully employed.

Her salary is very low for a college grad. I do not know of any recent college grad, including my daughter, her bf, and their friends who have started a new job out of college for less than $60,000 guaranteed and that does not include commissions and bonuses.

She is obviously using you and does not respect your home or boundaries.

It sounds to me like she needs some tough love and either she agrees in a written statement to pay rent, plus agree to detailed chores and contributions to the household OR she moves out and either gets a roommate or her own place.

I am sorry you are in the position you are in but you control who uses you and you can stop it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

JB's response is spot on! I agree with her 100%. You were very kind and generous to allow her to live with you while she was finishing school. Now, she's through and the situation is changed. Her responsibilities change too.

I think you need to consider having a meeting with her when you're not irritated (and you're justly irritated by the way). Let her know you would be doing her an injustice to continue this living arrangement because it's not how the real world works. Decide on a rent amount and have her sign a contract, just like she would if she were trying to live without your assistance. Let her know you recognize she may need some time to think about her options and give her a few days (not making her sign a contract with you immediately), but put a deadline down. She may decide after she's explored her options that you're being incredibly generous. If she chooses to not live with you at that point, give her a move out deadline.

Your well being and your children's well being is your focus. I know you love her and don't want to damage your relationship with her, but you also don't want to stunt her adulthood growth. You love your sister and that's why it's hard for you to feel so taken advantage of. She IS taking advantage of you by not helping financially as well as around the house. She may get mad and leave...that's okay too. She will recognize later all you did to help her, but right now she's being selfish and childlike. You need to help her grow up. She can't have it both ways...when you're an adult, you don't get to have the perks without the work. That's just the way it is, it's a total package.

Please don't allow this to fester because it will turn to resentment. It's better for you to lay the parameters down now. Again, if she doesn't like it, that's okay. But she will need to either be pleasant to be around and help out or find somewhere else to live. I'm sorry you're in this position. It's a hard position to be in.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Tell her you are so proud of all she has accomplished, but now that she has finished school she needs to find her own place. [If you (and she) really want her to stay tell her it is time for her to contribute to the monthly, electric, other utilities, and groceries. Figure out what her monthly share will be. If this is what you do come up with a dishwashing schedule, take turns cooking dinner, take turns cleaning up afterwards and make it a rule that stuff needs to be picked up] Honestly though, I would tell her it's time to get her own place. TGive her a month to find one. All of us were once recent college grads and we all had to pay our own rent and utilities and handle things ourselves. It's not normal to mooch off a family member!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

There's nothing to be confused about.
She's graduated and working and an adult.
She needs a place of her own where she can do for herself, pay her own bills, etc.
She doesn't want to help you with your family - because your kids aren't her kids - she didn't get you pregnant and they aren't her responsibility.
She is single, fancy free and has no real responsibilities - you are taking care of things for her.
Stop enabling her.

She's all grown up now and can figure it out.
She'll have to - just like we all do sooner or later.
Give her a deadline (30 days) - tell her it's been great - but it's time for her to fly solo and out of your nest.
Why ever you are having a rough time financially - it will be easier when you don't have a freeloader living under your roof - eating your food, doing her laundry, using your water/electricity (adding to your bills).

She is not - and shouldn't be - a source of income for you - you really don't want her paying rent and still not participating in your families life.
Show her the door - close it when she's on the other side of it - invite her over for a meal a couple times a year for major holidays.
She needs to finish growing up.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Subtlety obviously don't work for her. Saying you are having a rough time paying for things, then paying for them, doesn't compute in her mind. She assumes you just want to save more or want her to contribute, not that you NEED HER TO contribute and you're unable to continue supporting her because she has increased your living expenses significantly above budget. How else have you been paying all this time that you said you couldn't afford it anymore, she reasons. You can mention to her that you thought this would be a temporary arrangement, but it has been over a year since she graduated and that your responsibility to her should have ended back then. The fact that it didn't, shows you love her and want her around and want to open your home to her, but she is abusing your kindness. The least she could do is offer to pay for her own groceries and do chores, if she's not paying a penny in rent or other expenses.

Since she doesn't respond to your subtlety, it is time to be blunt. Tell her that she will need to fork out $400 (or whatever amount every month) and do half of the chores if she wants to continue living in your home. I doubt she will find any place that costs that little, but I don't know how much housing is in your city. You could not even get a studio here for that amount. If she doesn't agree to that arrangement, let her know how her lack of payment all this time has affected you, and that she obviously isn't hurting for money if she has a new car. If she is unwilling to help with rent or with chores, let her know she will then need to find herself an efficiency that would allow her to pay $400 a month, but that you can no longer keep supporting her due to expenses associated with your household and kids, so those are her only two options. Give her a couple of months or so to get her stuff together, look around at different listings, and find the place she'd like to live in.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Have you sat down with her and showed her your bills and income? Show her how much you earn and how much your expenses are for basic needs. You could even go over your expenses before she moved in and how much they have gone up since she is living with you.
She also has to become responsible for cleaning up after herself. Simply stop doing her laundry and dishes let it pile up. Let her see just how much you do for her.

I am sure she doesn't understand how much she is costing you to live there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It’s time to sit her down over a cup of tea and explain that she is an adult, she has a good job, and she needs to be out on her own. If she says she would rather stay with you - and who wouldn’t? - tell her that she is welcome, but she will need to contribute to the family with weekly rent - (make sure it covers what you spend in groceries, power, and water), be more considerate of bathroom time (have a schedule ready), keeping her room clean, doing her own laundry, and providing (and preparing) one dinner a week.
She will either stay or go.

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