Hallie Burton

Q. My cousin, who lives one state away, is a terrible hostess. Her home is such a mess (think soiled clothes and piles of paper in the hallway) that I’m not comfortable having my family stay there when we visit. However, I don’t want to hurt her feelings by confronting her about her bad housekeeping. What should I do?

Name withheld by request

A. You’re right to shy away from chastising your cousin. Unless your family’s health or welfare is directly affected (for example, your child has an allergy to dust), it’s not your place to critique her homemaking.

Of course, you are under no obligation to put up with it, either. Why not simply stay with a friend, if you have one nearby, or in a hotel? If she asks why you’re bunking elsewhere, avoid hurting her feelings by saying, “You’ve been so generous to host my family and overlook the disruption that a lot of guests cause. I want to see you, but without creating so much hassle.” With any luck, she’ll thank you for being so considerate.


— Michelle Slatalla