I recently moved into my sister’s apartment, which she no longer lives in. I’m extremely grateful for her generosity, as she’s giving me a pretty decent discount. The problem is that she’s left a lot of her stuff in the apartment – it’s filled not only the spare closet, but is also piled all over the apartment. I don’t want to step on her toes since she’s doing me a favor, but I also have to live here! How to I make the apartment feel like my own? Is it OK to ask her to move some things? – Sally, New York City
What a great question! Yes, if you are planning to stay there for awhile, it’s definitely OK to let your sister know that you’d like to customize the space.
A good first step is to think carefully about what you’d like to change. Before you speak with her, make a list of exactly what you’d like to adjust. This will help you to clarify your points.
Once you know what you need, gently let her know that you want to customize your space and you’re not sure what to do with some of her stuff. Remind her that her things are both out in the apartment, as well as filling up the spare closet. She may not have realized that she has so much stuff in the apartment still, so bringing this to her attention will raise her awareness on this issue.
If part of the arrangement was that she could store things in the apartment, then ask if it would be OK if you put all of her things in one place, like perhaps in her main closet (so you can free up the spare closet, and use it for your things), or in one corner of home.
When you have this conversation, get your request out, but also make sure that you give her time to answer. Depending on her life, she might be more than happy to compromise, or she might feel a little bit vulnerable on this issue. In the end, I am sure your sister wants you to enjoy her apartment, so give her space to feel anything she needs to feel, and don’t be overly assertive when you reach out.
Keep in mind, as with most storage, there’s probably a lot of stuff she doesn’t actually need and forgot she was even holding onto. If she lives nearby, see if she can come over, and offer to help her sort through her things. You might be able to get everything of hers into one closet, or one enclosed space, but if not, store any overflow things outside the closet in a decorative bin or pretty box. This way, you won’t have cardboard boxes in your new, improved space!
Good luck with this, and when all’s said and done, send your sister a thank you note, or express your appreciation in some way that is unique to you. She’ll appreciate your consideration in this process, and enjoy your new space!