FULL QUESTION: My teenager's a slob and it's driving me crazy – their messy room, leaving dirty dishes all around the house, and the bathroom looking like a disaster area! And now they're home for the summer. Help!


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Moms everywhere know exactly what you're talking about! And although people told me not to worry, this phase will pass, that didn't make it any better while I was in the midst of it. (I wish I had understood why teenagers have messy rooms and what I could have done to manage it better.)The good news was I was able to set expectations (and help maintain them) for the common areas of the house, but dealing with their rooms was very different. Especially with my eldest daughter since nothing would work – not bribes, not threats, not rationale conversation. I tried all the tips and "tricks" without success, and eventually decided to stop nagging her because all it did was get me upset while she seemed perfectly content with the mess.

At that point, I realized my primary concern was that I'd ultimately need an exterminator and/or plumber (for those of you that have lived through this, you understand), so I'd periodically go in and selectively clean that which would create problems for the rest of us. The rest I left alone. Hey, if she wanted to wear smelly clothing or have a bathroom that should be declared a national emergency zone, so be it.

My younger daughter, in comparison, was so much better. And since she's more social and likes to have friends over, that has been the best thing to keep her room habitable by humans, as she'd never have them come into a pigsty.


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I do not have children, but there was a time I did have stepdaughters, and not knowing what else to do, I decided to treat them like I would new employees. I knew employees basically wanted to please management, so I figured kids wanted to please their parents. I created a "Rules of the House" document (small, basic, easy things) and presented most of them as things to do versus things not to do, and looked at the rules as an opportunity for them to achieve and succeed, not as a set of restrictions. I always found it more effective with employees, and then the girls (and even their father), to reinforce positive behavior rather than punish bad behavior. It can be as simple as a "thank you," complimenting them on their efforts, or maybe even reward a job well done. It seemed to work, and along the way, improved communications and helped us set priorities.


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OK, before I saw this question, I had absolutely no idea what "greenwashing" was. I mean, not a clue. So Black sent me two good "overview" articles (American Scientific and UL) that helped me understand it's when a company makes an unsubstantiated claim to try and convince us that its products are environmentally "friendly" when they're not. Obviously, they're taking advantage of the fact most of us want to do whatever we can to help protect the environment and support businesses that do (although sometimes it's difficult if the products are significantly more expensive).

I'll admit, though, that once I began reading various claims about sustainability and "supposed" benefits, it became very confusing. And, in general, the topic gives me a headache, which is why I had to laugh when Black sent me a statement issued by Advil about its sustainability efforts.


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I first became aware of "greenwashing" years ago when I stayed at a hotel that asked me to help "save the planet" by not having the sheets changed daily and reusing my towels instead of tossing them on the floor after a single use. Maybe I am cynical, but my initial reaction was they wanted me to help them "save money" since they would have less laundry to do. And, as I looked around my room and the hotel, I saw numerous ways they could be "green" – but were not, thereby supporting my initial impression. (Curious how consumers react to hotels that greenwash?)

Nowadays, many companies are rebranding themselves as well as renaming and repackaging products to demonstrate their "commitment" to the environment. But, just because they make a claim does not make it so. However, determining who is green versus "greenwashing" can be done, it just takes a little time and effort.

FULL QUESTION: Given all these natural disasters, what would you grab if you had to evacuate your home?


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Well, it really depends on how much time I have. For example, it wasn't a natural disaster, but several years ago, a gas line at my house was accidentally cut when foundation work was being done. All I did was run in, grab my daughter and dogs, the cars keys, and got the "you know what" out of there. You hear stories of people taking photos, computers, and perhaps a beloved stuffed animal, but in that moment, all I cared about was saving the lives of my loved ones.

A few years prior, when Hurricane Harvey was quickly intensifying and heading toward Texas, I had about six hours after getting a mandatory evacuation notice to get out of the house. So, at that point, I was able to not only pack my bags but gather important documents and a few sentimental items (and move things to the second floor in case the first floor flooded). Granted, it was all in an incredible rush/panic, but I still had those few precious hours. Now, copies of all my important papers are in a binder, ready to grab. And I created a master "evacuation checklist" based on this hurricane checklist (as that's the most "common" natural disaster in Texas) if I'm lucky enough to have time to pack.


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Given natural disasters do not always give you lead time, everyone should have an evacuation checklist. I based mine on this evacuation list (but, the Ready Campaign has lots of great planning tools) as well as experience, since Hurricane Harvey resulted in a mandatory evacuation of my high-rise. (The basement, where all the building's mechanical equipment is located, flooded and left the building without power and uninhabitable for almost two months.)

I have always had digital copies of key documents on my primary computer (a laptop that I would grab), but now I also have them on two portable hard drives – one in a safety deposit box and the other in my "evacuation time capsule". And, what I mean by that is … imagine you were going to lose everything in your home – determine what items would you want to "save" (whether for sentimental or practical reasons) and put them in a small piece of luggage or carry bag. The interesting thing is when you do that, you will most likely find the items you consider irreplaceable are not the most expensive ones (those become your insurance company's problem, anyway.)

We saved this question as we thought it was perfect for National TV Dinner Day. Yes, believe it or not, it's a real thing.


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Oh, yes, definitely! As a kid, I LOVED TV dinners. My favorite was the fried chicken. I remember them having four compartments – a meat, two veggies, and dessert. Usually apple cobbler. But as long as there were mashed potatoes, I was happy.

For me, the compartments were perfect because, as weird as it might sound (and as much grief as Black gives me about this), I used to have a "thing" about different food touching. Not to mention, I had a habit of eating the food on my plate one item at a time. But I have to admit, they may be called TV dinners, but I used to love to eat them at any time of day. Or night!


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Of course, I remember them. They are an example of brilliant marketing. In 1953, frozen meals were not a new idea, they just had never gained traction. However, television was a new phenomenon. Meanwhile, Swanson, the frozen food company, had greatly overestimated demand for Thanksgiving turkeys that year, and the story goes that in desperation, they put out a call for ideas to its employees. A salesman suggested turning the turkeys into frozen dinners using three-compartment aluminum-foil trays similar to what airlines used for in-flight food service. Regardless of who came up with the idea, tying frozen meals and TV together was brilliant, and TV dinners quickly became a huge market.