The Vine: December 17, 2008
I don't ever seem to have great luck with my living situations. I had finally shaken off the curse of the terrible roommates by getting a one-bedroom (and a cat! yay!) and felt like things were looking up. Then I started dealing with some of the apartment's little…quirks. I think one in particular is getting to me, and I need you to tell me if I'm being crazy or not. You have experience with cats, and apartments, and this e-mail is about those two things more or less entirely.
Soon after I moved in, I started to realize that the "musty" carpet smell I noticed at first was less "must" and more "musk" — I think the previous tenant's cat had some bladder issues, in the living room and in the bedroom. I talked to the landlord and he was great, came right over with this enzymatic cleaner stuff and treated the carpet. For a few days the apartment sort of smelled like mint bubble gum — not optimal, but hey, better than pee.
As it's worn off, it seems clear from a sniff test that the cleaner helped some of the less tough spots, but there are a couple Deep-Seated Issue spots. I told the landlord, and he gave me another bottle of the cleaner to put on those spots, but I'm feeling kind of skeptical. My take: I think the pee has soaked through to the backing.
Having recently dealt with this issue from a couch cushion, where I freaking doused that thing with cleaner and let it dry for days and STILL had the smell, I know that the padding can really hold onto it. With the couch cushion, I had to rip off the cover and put it through the washing machine, and take the foam inserts and rinse them in the bathtub with Charlie's Soap (shameless product plug — that stuff is great).
Since I saw such good results with the Charlie's Soap, in fact, I decide to try scrubbing it on the rug spot a little bit. That foam was coming out YELLOW. It was gross. I think I can soak that rug with mint bubble gum all I want, and I will still not have killed the smell. I'm also concerned about starting mold problems, because — it's the south, and it's humid, and it will take a while for that spot to dry.
I feel like I'm expending a lot of time and energy on something that should have been dealt with before I moved in. I'm thinking about buying area rugs just to cover these spots up, and then feeling really irritated that I'm spending money on a problem that's not mine. I'm so grossed out by the carpet that I never walk barefoot in my own apartment. I'm starting to worry that all the chemicals and stuff going into the carpet are affecting my health — I wake up with a sore throat — and if they're affecting big old me, how are they affecting my cat?
On the other hand, I'm a known neurotic. I obsess about dumb stuff that's really not such a big deal. My landlord so far has been very responsive to all the concerns I've had, but I don't want to piss him off by being all crazy demanding, and I'm not even sure what I would demand. That he replace all the wall-to-wall carpeting in the apartment? That he just take it up and I'll get the area rugs because I hate wall-to-wall anyway? That he bring in a professional carpet cleaner to deal with the stains/smell? That he buy me some Prozac?
I think way too much about this right now (well, we all have to obsess about something) and have lost perspective on what makes sense in terms of next steps, and if there's anything else to try that I haven't thought of. This isn't by any means a Bad Landlord situation, so I don't want to march up to him with my tenant's bill of rights, but if it gets to the point where I feel like something drastic has to happen I'd like to be able to reasonably tell him that everything else has been tried. Help me, Sars!
Whoever invented wall-to-wall — really, why did you think it was a good idea?
This sounds sort of like my refrigerator situation from a couple of years ago.My landlord is great, but requires a certain sort of handling that acknowledges that, basically, he doesn't want to hear complaints.He will totally address them when they come up, but he's, like, allergic to hearing them, so in any conversation about an issue in the apartment, you want to get to your proposed solution list ASAP.
What this often means: if I just tell him what I'm going to do about it instead of asking (i.e. "dragging out the complaint call and making him break out"), it usually goes my way."B, I called D about this leak and you'll have to come down and write him a check.""Mehhhhh okay.""B, my fridge broke; I bought a new one, I'm deducting the cost of half of it from next month's rent.""Buhhhhh well okay fine."
Not every landlord is like mine, but you would be surprised at how many of them are motivated by the simple desire not to have to hear from you except via rent check — and if you can come in with a solution to the problem that they can tell means the problem won't come back?This is how you want to play it.
So, tell your landlord the pee is still a problem.Don't get into the evidence; if he asks for it, present it, but otherwise he's not really interested.He wants to know what it will take to put paid to this at the lowest cost to him.Ask him to take out the wall-to-wall and refinish the floors — he won't go for it, but then you can "settle" for a professional cleaning, which you will arrange, the cost of which you will deduct from your rent, up to X amount.
The key here, as in so many negotiations, is to Jedi it — don't ask.Inform.Not "I'm wondering if we can do something about the" blah blah, but rather, "The smell is still a problem; here's what I am doing about it.Take care."You can certainly still apologize for bringing it up again; you don't have to be mean.But you would be surprised how far you can get by just telling people that such-and-so is happening and get on board.
It doesn't always work, so be prepared for that — but I think a professional cleaning is something you should invest in even if your landlord isn't willing to cover the cost.I mean, what you want isn't to win the negotiation for its own sake.It's to feel like you can walk barefoot in your home.You should work towards that regardless of what the landlord is doing about it.
Hi Sars! I am hoping you can help me out with a problem I'm not sure how to deal with.
My boyfriend and I are both in grad school, which is pretty much always stressful. I tend to alleviate the stress with some combination of running and ice cream, and forgiving myself the occasional "omigod I hate writing papers" moment. My boyfriend, however, is really letting the stress get to him.
We live together, are very committed, and I love him so much. I hate seeing him like this. Tonight he COMPLETELY lost it. He had to write a paper due at midnight, and it wasn't coming easy to him. I get that; it happens to me, and everyone I know, sometimes. But he just…freaked. He started yelling, pulling at his hair, punching the couch, going outside to seethe, and just generally really winding himself up.
He's done stuff like this before, and I know I'm making him sound like an abusive asshole, but he isn't. He is sweet to me even when he's having these fits, saying that he really loves me and hates that I have to see him like this. He never yells at me or makes me feel bad, and he doesn't hurt the pets or anything, but he DOES say things like, "If you dumped me, I'd understand" and go on about how worthless and stupid he is, which is bullshit. Dumping him is not an option I'd consider, and I don't think it would help his problem. I just want him to get help, because he is not dealing with school well, at all.
I've tried to suggest to him that he get counseling; he says he doesn't have time. I think he should MAKE time, because he loses a lot of time throwing temper fits, and it's bad for his health. I want a long life with him! What can I say to him when he's in the throes of one of these meltdowns? How can I help him get some help? I don't think I or the animals are in danger here, but I do think he's going to hurt himself. One day he slammed his head against his desk and hurt himself to the point that I took him to the doctor. I'm really worried. Please advise!
Shuddering to think what will happen when it's time for qualifying exams
He slammed his head against a desk?Okay, this is where you have to decline to deal with his drama from now on — because he does it for a reason.He's not conscious of it, most likely, and it doesn't make him a bad person generally, but he does it because it gets a reaction.It gets sympathy and attention from you.That dynamic is not good, and he can get help for himself or not, but the only thing you can change in the situation is your own behavior, which you need to do.You need to stop reacting when he does that kind of thing, and you need to put him on notice that that's what you're doing.
After the next meltdown, pick a quiet moment, after the storm has passed, and tell him how his inability to cope makes you feel."I" statements; you know the drill."When you freak out like this, I feel anxious that you're going to hurt yourself and tired of convincing you that I'm not going to dump you.I can't deal with that anymore, and I think you should see a counselor to help you deal with it, but if you choose not to do that, that's your choice.I choose to remove myself from these situations from now on.I love you, I want you to be able to manage your stress, I can help you manage your stress, but this isn't 'managing' it, so: I'm done."
More nicely than that, maybe, but he does it because, on some unconscious level, he's getting something out of it, and that something is probably your attention — so you need to let him know that you're happy to help him relieve his stress in productive ways, but if he gets into a punching-the-furniture, I-hate-myself cycle again, he's on his own."You'd be right to dump me!""We talked about this.I'm going into the bedroom now."
So, either he's going to see that his best option is to go to a behaviorist a few times and get some tools to help him deal with his anxiety and his compulsions in times of stress…or he's not, but you don't have to be around it."I'm such a worthless person, I'm going to kick this table!""Okay.Don't break it.I'm going to a movie."I'm not saying don't take it seriously; I'm saying don't participate in it as much, because when you do, it tells him that he can keep doing it and keep getting what he thinks is helpful attention for it, when what he needs is to go to a therapist for a few weeks and examine root causes.
You can make your own choice here; it doesn't mean you don't love him.It means that this behavior isn't okay with you so you're not going to play anymore.
I've been puzzling over this for a few months, and wonder if you or your readers can offer some advice.
Around six months ago my beloved 96-year-old great-grandmother passed away. It wasn't a big surprise to the family as her health had been declining over the last few years.
A bit of background here; for the greater part of her life my great-grandmother lived with her daughter (my paternal grandmother), who took care of her every need. (My great-grandmother suffered from a mobility restricting disability.) My grandmother passed away suddenly in 2002, my two great-aunts (her sisters) took over the care of their mother, and eventually the decision was made to put Great-Grandmother into a nursing facility.
Now that Great-Grandmother has passed, I've found myself wishing I had some kind of heirloom. I have several personal items of my grandmother's, including some earrings that I plan to wear on my wedding day. I don't necessarily want any diamonds or jewels, just a little keepsake that I can have with me when I walk down the aisle, or to show my future children.
There was no mention of divvying up her personal items at the wake, and I'm not sure how or even if I should ask for something. I mean, it seems awfully tacky to ask my great-aunts for some of their dead mother's belongings. I've asked some friends, and no one is sure what the proper procedure is here.
So am I being heirloom-grabby, or is this a legit request?
I don't think it's grabby…but it's probably going to go over better if you have a specific item in mind, because then it's more about her, and your relationship with her, and less about wanting stuff.Alas, the kind of thing you take down the aisle with you is usually jewelry, which can get contentious in situations like this, but again, if you have a particular bracelet or brooch of hers that you admired, you might reach out to your great-aunts and see what became of it.
It's unclear to me whether your wedding day is actually approaching or whether you're speaking theoretically.If you're getting married soon, that may sugarcoat the request somewhat, but if you're just talking about when you get married one day in the future, well, you can cross that bridge when you get to it.
It does seem to me generally as though, if you did have a good relationship with your great-grandmother, that a token or two should have been left to you, but you never know with this stuff, so my advice would be to have someone from a previous generation inquire on your behalf — one of your parents, an aunt who's close with your great-aunts, something like that who's closer to the situation.It doesn't sound to me like you're in regular contact with your great-aunts and a request like this could seem kind of abrupt if that's the case, so you may want to identify an emissary that could give you an idea of how it would go over with them.
And you could also just send your great-aunts a note, asking how they're doing and not mentioning any heirlooms, and just wait a bit longer.Six months is actually not a ton of time when it comes to organizing and distributing a lifetime of things and memories; some of my grandmother's things are still in my parents' attic, waiting for someone to want them, and it's been 16 years since she passed.It's hard to say based on what you've told me whether you haven't received anything because that's how your great-aunts want it, or whether they're waiting for you to ask, or whether they just haven't thought about it because they're still trying to get deposits back on medical equipment.
So, maybe send a little card; ask someone closer to the situation what they think, or to ask on your behalf; and keep in mind that the people who wind up tidying up after a death are often overwhelmed and distracted by other issues.
Tags: boys (and girls) cats etiquette roommates the fam