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Messy Sister in Law

  • 22-08-2022 3:36pm
    Registered Users Posts: 9 rosietee

    Im looking for advice on how to handle a family situation. I get on well with my sister in law, shes a great person. There is one problem though - her house is gone out of control. Its messy, dirty, cluttered and uncared for. She lives with her husband and 4 kids.

    She was always been a bit messy but its got really bad over the last year or so. When we visit now we cant even sit down because every chair ( and shes got lots of chairs) is covered in clothes papers etc. We dont use her bathroom - its disgusting, dirty and full of dirty laundry. Both her and her family dont seem to realise how bad their living situation is. She was raised in a clean tidy home and all her siblings have well kept houses. None of her siblings visit her at home anymore, my husband is the only one but now we are at the stage where we no longer want to take our kids there. Something else is that she has gained alot of weight and is now morbidly obese. It would appear she no longer cooks because the kitchen is a mess and the family just eats takeaways. The fatter she gets the messier the house gets and the messier the house gets the fatter she becomes it seems. Possibly she could be depressed.

    He parents have tried to raise these issues with her but it hasnt gone down well as you can imagine. They are disgusted and embarrassed by her. Her husbands family live close to where she lives and they no longer speak to them because of the situation. We are so worried about her and want to help get their life sorted

    Has anyone else ever been in this situation and how did you handle it?

    Post edited by HildaOgdenx on



  • Registered Users Posts: 5,866 ✭✭✭SouthWesterly

    Had a sister who was morbidly obese. My mother was tired saying it to her over the years.

    We got a call from her son one morning that he found her dead in bed after a heart attack.

    Have you tried talking to her husband. Maybe he's just given up at this stage.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9 rosietee

    No I havent given him a free pass at all. I agree that it is the whole familys fault. Her husband is a farmer so works long hours and also is carer for his mother so he does have a lot on his plate. My Sister in Law doesnt work so does have the time to do more around the house than the husband and kids. The husband knows there is a problem and seems powerless to deal with it. The kids worry alot about her weight and her health. Its like watching a family self destruct - its very frustrating. We would be willing to spend a week getting the house into order as a starting point to help them get on track as I dont think they can do it themselves. I think kids and husband would be open to this but SIL will not.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 9 rosietee

    We are really fear that this could happen. Husband knows its a bad situation but she wont listen to him.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9 rosietee

    No I havent sat down with her so yes that is worth a try. We are willing to do whatever it takes to help - both myself and my husband are willing to take a week off to get the house sorted as a starting point if she would be agreeable to this. We are worried though that the suggestion wont be received well but thats a risk we are going to have to take.

    She is an excellent mother so I have no concerns about the kids. They are well looked after, dont miss school and have everything they need. She does look after their needs but neglects herself and the house.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 12,375 ✭✭✭✭Sardonicat

    OK, very overwhelming situation so. I suppose the key is to be non judgemental while emphasising that the way the house is currently is not the right environment for the kids to be living in. A very difficult balance, I know. Are the kids clean?Are their clothes clean? If they are old enough to do their own little bits round the place are they allowed do it? The reason I ask that is, if a parent is deliberately putting obstacles in the way of the children keeping themselves and their environment clean, this is a form of abuse, whether it's a result of an underlying health issue or not and is often missed as such.

    Its great you're willing to help out practically. Gently does it with the suggestions and gauge your response from her reactions. You could invent a friend who got into a similar state and found she had depression after a visit to the doctor. You could try something like that? If I were you, I'd assume the root of this problem lies in her being completely overwhelmed for whatever reason, but keep a keen, subtle eye out for the kids, just in case.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,860 ✭✭✭Pissy Missy

    To be fair she's essentially minding a family, and 4 kids by herself. I'm not too surprised she's let herself go and the house is a pigsty. I'd say both parents could do with the support when they're both as busy as they are.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9 rosietee

    The kids are clean and always are presented well. The only concern I have for the kids is that they can never have their friends over which is a shame. They are of an age where they should be helping her out with bits around the house but they have never being shown how to do these jobs so their clueless - kids do as they see. If its not sorted it could affect their future life and relationships. If my SIL is agreeable to a big clean up and clear out I think I will get the kids involved aswell and show them how to do the basics. I agree with you in that a gentle approach is the way to go. If she rejects the help than we just have to wait until she is ready herself to change - nothing else we can do.

    I truly believe that if we get the house sorted she will have more headspace to get herself help. I think that she is overwhelmed and has just let the situation go to far and now she doesnt know where to start. I think small changes in steps could make the world of difference for the family.

    I care for all of them and would like to see them function as a normal family once again.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,184 ✭✭✭Furze99

    Who buys all the takeaways? Someone must be organising that, putting in orders, collecting or arranging delivery etc. Can't be a great diet for the husband and kids either. Maybe that's an angle to come from too, talk to the husband - your husband's brother I think from description. Or ask your husband to suggest that it'd be good to have more fresh fruit and veg etc.

  • Registered Users Posts: 12,375 ✭✭✭✭Sardonicat

    If the house is so bad the kids can't bring friends round then, if all else fails, tusla is the way to go. Not in the sense that she's a bad mother and you're reporting her, but in the sense that she and her partner are overwhelmed, she's possibly struggling with her mental health and needs some support. Might be the motivation she needs to go and see a GP. Only as a last resort. You sound like a very caring person and I apologise for my initial, harsh reply to you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 12,375 ✭✭✭✭Sardonicat

    I did say as a LAST RESORT. Simply put, the kids cannot be left to live like that, whatever the reason for it. . I grew up in a house like that and it's no fun, believe me. Tusla aren't going to go in all guns blazing and take the kids away. Nothing like that will happen. It's about support, not blame and shame.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9 rosietee

    No way would I ever report her to Tusla . Both her and her husband are excellent parents to their kids and love them so much. Shes lost her way in taking care of the house and herself and just needs help getting back on track.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 12,375 ✭✭✭✭Sardonicat

    I don't doubt they are excellent parents and love their children. But at the moment, they aren't coping. You wouldn't be "reporting" anyone. She hasn't done anything wrong. It's not a crime to become overwhelmed and unable to cope. Tusla offer supports for families in sumilar situations.

    You wrote that the kids can't bring friends back, that the bathroom is so unhygienic that you won't use it . Is it fair on those kids to be living like that? Again, I meant it as a LAST resort.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,866 ✭✭✭SouthWesterly

    He needs to get a handle on the house and rope in the kids to tidy up.

    My brother in law was in the same boat and gave up trying with her. Sometimes people just won't listen and there's not much can be done

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,334 ✭✭✭Nothing surprises me now

    Perhaps I've read it wrong but I assumed when you said SIL, it was your husband's sister, but a couple of posters have said her husband is your husband's brother so if that is the case would your husband not be helping out also with his/ their mother? Apologies if I've read this wrong.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,130 ✭✭✭Deeec

    I thought the same - it's the husband's sister.

  • Posts: 0 Korbin Vast Beach

    If he can make time to look after his mother, he can make time to look after his own family.

    Maybe his siblings could take on more of their mother's care instead, and take some of the pressure of him so he could then pay more attention to the problems within his own home.

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