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Ask Ellie: Monthly visits might curb neighbour's nosiness

If he tries to chat with you in between visits, just apologize and say you’re running late

Dear Lisi: My neighbour has very strong opinions on everything I say and do. A perfect example is if I put my garbage out the night before, I’ve put it out too early. If I put it out the morning of, I’m holding things up.

He’s always stopping me on my way in or out to discuss something. I don’t want to be rude so I always say hello. But I also always have to cut him short.

I managed to get one planter decorated for the holidays but forgot to do the second. Wouldn’t you know, he thinks the one I did is horribly ugly but is annoyed that the other is fallow.

I know that’s none of it is his business, but how can I get him to leave me alone?

Nosy Neighbour

It’s the start of the new year (gotta love January!) and a good time to make peace. Perhaps you can find 10 minutes one day and knock on his door with a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine. Ask him about his family, his holidays and keep the conversation about him. Then say something like, “It was lovely chatting with you. I’ll pop by next month.” And walk away.

He may or may not get the hint. If he tries to chat with you over the next few weeks, just apologize and say you’re running late. You’ll catch up with him later. Stay true to your word, and pop over for ten minutes next month. You don’t have to bring a gift each time. Just yourself and your attention.

FEEDBACK regarding the roommate who can’t stand the odour of the other roommate (Dec.15):

Reader – “Your reader and her roommate are both young and need encouragement to develop healthy responses to life’s situations rather than avoidance of sticky situations. If the writer moves out of the apartment without giving kind feedback to her roommate, neither the writer nor the roommate have learned anything. The roommate may be confused, hurt and at a disadvantage economically and no further ahead in making and keeping friendships. The writer will probably feel uncomfortable with herself for not being honest as well as being equally economically disadvantaged.

“I suggest a cup of coffee together, and then say something like, “A group of my friends were discussing the important things we learned from our mom and dad. What was your parents’ most helpful advice to you?” The writer could then neutrally bring in that her mom was a stickler for hygiene as a way of being kind to your friends and made her shower every day before school.

“The other consideration is that the odour is coming from unwashed clothing, either worn too many times on the person or lying about the room. Often jackets that have been used in sport activities can turn quite rancid and don’t make it into the laundry basket.

“This is a small but extremely life-shifting experience for both. The writer will feel empowered for having thought out and solved a problem with honest diplomacy, and the roommate will feel inclusiveness rather than rejection and she in turn may pass on such honesty and kindness to the people in her life. It may even save her future work opportunities.

“Neither suffers.”

Lisi – Your thought process regarding dirty laundry is a good one. But I still think that it’s a tricky situation for the new roommate to be in. The two aren’t friends; they’re barely acquaintances. Even if they have the strength to say something, it won’t be a comfortable living situation for either.

FEEDBACK regarding the mom who tossed her kids’ items (Dec. 15):

Reader – “I read your column religiously daily and the advice you give is generally spot on. However, I think you didn’t solve the mother’s problem at hand.

“By replacing the items that got trashed, the teens are not learning a lesson. They are thoughtless, unhelpful and, dare I say, spoiled. Instead of replacing the items at Christmas, these teens need to be given chores to earn an allowance. They can save up to buy these luxury items for themselves.”

Lisi – Many people disagreed with my advice regarding this mother who, out of frustration, threw away the items that were causing her distress in the moment. If it hadn’t happened right before Christmas, I wouldn’t have quickly suggested she replace the items. I believe children should do chores around the house, and I believe an allowance system works for some.

But this woman was frustrated and reacted in the moment. Her children didn’t sound like spoiled monsters, rather, like regular teenagers.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: or