Thoughtful suggestions ease hard times

Dear Abby: With so many families moving in with relatives because of personal struggles in their lives, I thought it might be helpful to offer a few suggestions to help this work for everyone. If you move in with relatives:

1. Do not assume they won't mind if you store everything you own in their garage. Get rid of it or pay for a storage unit.

2. Help with the housework, even if they say, "Oh, don't bother." And keep your space clean and orderly and assist in keeping a shared bathroom tidy.

3. Show you appreciate having a place to stay. Feed pets, carry out the trash, rake leaves or shovel snow.

4. Do your own laundry. Ask when is the most convenient time to do it. Don't leave clothes in the washer or dryer, which prevents others from washing their own things.

5. If you are paying something toward your stay, don't think that precludes your helping in the home.

6. Work out the food arrangements. Maybe you have a shelf or drawer in the fridge for your food. Prepare your own meals unless everyone agrees to share cooking duties and food budgets.

7. If you don't have a job, keep looking. Don't lie around watching TV, sleeping or playing on the computer.

8. Never gossip about the household. You owe it to the family who took you in.

9. Do try to set a departure date. If things change, discuss it. When in doubt, talk it out.

To those who are going through this, I wish you luck and better times ahead. —LOVING FAMILY MEMBER

Dear Family Member: Your letter is timely because, for various reasons, millions of Americans now live in multifamily and intergenerational households. For some of them, the arrangement will be temporary. For others, it is cultural, practical and will be permanent. Whatever the reasons for cohabiting, the suggestions you submitted are thought-provoking and worth space in my column. Thank you for raising the subject.

Dear Abby: What does it mean when someone signs his/her name with a "Just" in front of it? I received a Mother's Day card from my in-laws (with whom I don't have a good relationship) and it was signed, "Just Bob and Diane."

I have not seen anyone do this before, and was curious if this was another form of my mother-in-law's cattiness or my ignorance. —SINCERELY YOURS IN SAVANNAH

Dear Sincerely: If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that Bob and Diane may have a bit of a self-esteem problem. Or they're telling you you don't make them feel very important. Could that be true?