Dear Blake,

Whenever my husband, kids and I go away, my mother-in-law insists on staying at our house. She then rearranges the rooms in my house, moving things to where she thinks they should be. She also manages to leave behind her toiletries in the bathroom.

More than once she has thrown a party for her friends during our absence. It drives me crazy. Going on vacation stresses me out because I have no idea what I’m going to come home to. When my husband tells her I don’t like when she rearranges things, she gets defensive and cries about how she “can’t understand why I hate her.” I don’t hate her; I just wish she would respect my boundaries in my house. Advice?

Signed, Olivia
From Seattle, Washington

*                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *

Dear Olivia,

What your mother-in-law is doing is outrageous. You may not hate her, but you must display some actions that would suggest that you do. Here are some suggestions. Don’t tell her you two are leaving town until you have returned and are pulling up in your driveway. If she calls and asks why she wasn’t informed about your absence, start laughing at her and hang up. Or, tell her that you and your husband are going on vacation, and if she plans one of her parties, contact all of the guests and telling them that the party is now over your mother-in-law’s house, and send them her address, along with a copy of her keys. Or this idea. Change the locks on your doors, and warn your neighbors that there is a burglar in the area, give them a picture of your mother-in-law, and tell them you got it from the local police. Also give them her vehicle description and license plate number. And finally, maybe you should give her a taste of her own medicine. You and your husband should go to her house and rearrange furniture while she’s at your place. But in this case, do things like putting her bedroom furniture in the kitchen, or placing all of her living room furniture in the bathroom. For the large items that won’t fit, put them in piece by piece by using a chain saw… or even dynamite if loud noises don’t bother you. I hope this helps.