Redecoration Domination

9 Jan

Woman peering around net curtainDear LetterBalm: My mother-in-law has taken it upon herself to go into our house when we’re not home and “redecorate.” She moves furniture, buys lamps, pillows and other accessories and reorganizes our shelves and bookcases. We come home to find our possessions rearranged or missing. This is driving my husband and me crazy. She’s been doing it for years. We’ve asked her many times to stop – she knows how upset this makes us, she promises to stop, but she keeps on doing it. Help!

–Martha Stewart She Isn’t

There seem to be a combination of factors at work here. At the least, your mother-in-law’s insecurities are prompting her power grab. At the most, she is in the early throes of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Review the situation with her doctor and get her there for a checkup, if you haven’t already. Meanwhile, take practical steps. Stop discussing your mother-in-law’s behavior with her extended family – that only fans the interior decorating flames. You and your husband quietly change your locks and make sure your mother-in-law has no access to the keys. Whenever you leave home, everyone must know to secure all entrances, including cellar and garage doors and accessible windows. Sit down with your husband when the two of you are alone and not distracted and have a talk. Ms. L.B. says your goal is to convince him to level with his mother that she’s no longer allowed to enter your home when no one’s home, nor will she be allowed to redecorate. Tell him this:

Darling, I know you hate this, and so do I, but we must talk about your mother. Her going into our house unannounced has to stop. If, heaven forbid, she fell or hurt herself or started a fire, we wouldn’t be able to forgive ourselves. She may mean well, but her behavior is alarming. If I didn’t know your mother better, I’d think she was losing her faculties. What person goes into a home without permission and redecorates? It might be a good idea for you to tell her you’ll talk with her doctor and get her tested. Meanwhile, I’m glad you agreed that we needed to change all the locks and make sure the kids know that whenever nobody’s home, everything is secure, including the garage door and first-floor windows. I’ve made arrangements to give all the stuff your mom gave us to charity. Sweetie, please tell your mom that we love her, but she is no longer allowed in our house unsupervised. She’ll get the message when her old set of keys won’t work.

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