DEAR HARRIETTE: A guy who went to college with me has kept in touch over the years, always asking me to do him favors -- for free -- for his various business ideas that he is building in order to make a profit. When he first started with his requests, I tried to comply to be nice. While we were not close in college, I did know him. I figured it's collegial to help each other out. But his requests typically come with great urgency and absolutely never with a paycheck.
He has worked on all kinds of things -- many that have been profitable. Once I told him I would help if he hired me. I put together a proposal, but nothing came of it. I think he was offended that I wanted to be paid. He has come back to ask me to do something else for him. It wouldn't take that long, but I already have other favors that I'm doing for people that have been postponed because of my work schedule. How do I manage this man's constant requests? He is always taking, never giving. But he's so smooth in his requests that I seem to agree to do what he wants without evening realizing it. -- Beware the Leech, Wilmington, Delaware
DEAR BEWARE THE LEECH: It sounds like this guy puts you under a spell, so to speak, and when you wake up later, you've been duped. Rather than feeling like you must fulfill whatever he has asked of you when you realize that he has pulled a fast one again, evaluate what you have agreed to do. If you don't want to do it or don't have time, tell him. In this case, you can let him know via email that you cannot get to his project until you have fulfilled your work obligations and the other favors that are you your list. Let him know plainly that you have put him in a queue, and you will get to it when you can. If he cannot live with your revised timeline, apologize for not being able to comply and suggest that he ask someone else to do it.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently ran into one of my neighbors, who used to invite me over to his house for drinks and social events with some regularity. I realize he doesn't invite me anymore. When I saw him, he casually said to me that he looks forward to me inviting him over for drinks sometime. Naturally, reciprocating is what I should be doing, but I can't. My house looks like it should be featured on that show "Hoarders." I'm serious. I can't seem to get it under control. I constantly work on sorting through things and throwing stuff away, but without success. When my neighbor asked me to invite him over, I thought I would die. How can I climb out of the mess? -- In Hiding, Minneapolis
DEAR IN HIDING: Get help. If you have been trying for years to clean up without accomplishing your goal, you need professional support. Contact a company in your area that helps hoarders clear out their homes. It is not an easy process, but you can get there with the right help. Keep thinking of being able to invite your neighbor over as motivation to take action!
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)