So I asked a family member to nip to my house to get something while I was at work and when I got home they had thoroughly cleaned most of my house except for the bedrooms. I don't mean they quickly ran the vacuum around either, I mean scrubbed the bathroom level of cleaning, it must have taken a couple of hours.

I admit it was overdue a good clean as things have been a bit stressful and I probably haven't done as much around the house as I should have recently, but (most of) it wasn't filthy (in my opinion, they apparently disagree).

I'm a bit insulted that they felt my house was that dirty they needed to clean it, but at the same time, I'm thankful they did it for me, thus saving me time and effort. My problem is now I don't know how to handle the situation when I next speak to them.

  • 11
    This is about the personal boundaries you have with that person above everything else. Who this person is to you is very important in order to answer this question in my opinion. Aug 30, 2017 at 17:03
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum If it makes a difference it was my mother-in-law
    – user2356
    Aug 30, 2017 at 17:04
  • 2
    how close is the family member?
    – Chris E
    Aug 30, 2017 at 17:23
  • @ChristopherEstep pretty close
    – user2356
    Aug 30, 2017 at 17:41
  • 6
    "things have been a bit stressful and I probably haven't done as much around the house as I should have" Were they aware of this? Could that have played into their decision to "help out"?
    – R.M.
    Aug 31, 2017 at 1:11

6 Answers 6


Pretty much echoing what others have said: I'd be so grateful! But I'd also be embarrassed and feel a little bit violated.

Adulthood is complicated. One can assume a house/flat/whatever is a mess because that's how one prefers it. In that case, the person is telling you in action that her values supersede yours.

Or, one can assume - based on seeing the house before, or how you run the rest of your life - a messy house is just something that has gotten away from you. This person had some free time, and thought they were helping you.

Or, the person doesn't care at all why your house is messy; they have a compulsion to clean when they see something untidy. That's about them, not you.

Two things are important to note, and telling: this person feels close enough to you to scrub your bathroom, and this person respects your privacy and boundaries enough to not touch your bedrooms.

How do you feel about it? If you are insulted but don't feel violated, I would be heavy on the "thank you", with a side comment of, "It wasn't that bad, was it?" Then discuss honestly (feelings, not facts.) (My response after the thanks part would be how embarrassed I was, because keeping my house spic and span is low on my list of priorities. But again, thanks!!! It's so nice to come home to a clean house!)

If you feel insulted and a bit violated, I'd go in the other direction: "It wasn't really that bad, was it? But Thanks, I appreciate your kindness. You have a good heart (or something less condescending but true, so they aren't hurt.)" Then, if you want to, you can discuss.


If I stay at someone's house and they head to work the next morning (obviously friends close enough to trust me to do that), I'd give it a clean up as a thank-you (not their bedroom, mind). It's not always out of judgment or anything malicious. There's not much point creating any animosity over it, it most likely came from a good place. In the long run, it's a benefit unless something went missing or was moved out of place.

Just simply say:

Thanks a lot for cleaning up, you didn't have to!

and by her reaction, you can then decide whether to be insulted, I'd take insult if she said something along the lines of:

Well, I hope it stays that way!

Otherwise, don't worry too much. I know my step-mum would happily clean my house without thinking it was dirty but because she doesn't mind cleaning up (and has a whole different standard of clean to me) plus having the time is a factor.

"It's always nice to come home to a clean house", as my biological mum would always say.

  • 3
    +1 to this definitely. My mom always loves sending me home with food and helps me clean up, not because I ask her to, but because she loves me and my girlfriend and wants to make our lives a bit easier, especially at little to no cost to her.
    – Anoplexian
    Aug 30, 2017 at 20:33

This is about personal boundaries you have with that person above everything else in my opinion.

My grandmother cleaned both my sisters' houses a few years ago - one sister didn't talk to her for half a year while the other was thankful. This is more about what you feel comfortable with than something that is objectively bad/good.

You might want to think about that and decide how you want your relationship to look like. Especially since this gets a lot harder with kids when grandparents are really helpful but often have a hard time with boundaries.

Why do you think she went ahead and cleaned your house? I can't read her mind but if I had to guess she was probably trying to help and she thought her son needed help and wanted him to live in a clean environment.

If her help in her terms is something you are comfortable with you should be grateful and thank her. If her terms cause you to feel like a boundary has been crossed - think about a polite way to bring that up while still acknowledging that she probably wanted to help in a good faith.


You said yourself that things haven't been easy lately, now if this person knew this, I'd figure it was them trying to help out.

Be grateful, thank them, but maybe drop a comment that it was a little disconcerting, or confusing when you found the whole house had been cleaned. This should hopefully let them know that it was a bit odd for them to do that.


How to deal with it depends on whether you want it to happen again, and that depends on who this family member is to you and your own feelings about what they did.

I think not asking permission & doing it while you were out are telling.

If it's OK for this person to do it again, thank them and make it clear how grateful you are, so that they feel they have helped you and would feel free to do so in future. Something like:

Thanks, this is really great - it's so nice to come home to a clean house!

If not, be honest with them about how you feel, but still thank them - it may ruffle some feathers but thanking them softens the blow a little. This means that they will understand it's not OK, and hopefully desist.

Thank you for cleaning up. While I appreciate you helping me out, I'm not really comfortable with someone cleaning my house while I'm out. Can you tell me if you think it's out of hand, and I'll deal with it?

It's important to feel secure & not violated in your home, so if you need to ask them to back off, do so.


Why not just be grateful for it?

Probably your family member noticed your stressful situation and decided to help. This person didn't have to, you didn't ask to, but this person decided to spend sometime on making your life a little better.

Maybe that person feels very good about doing something really nice like that. Will you deprive that person of the joy of serving others? Especially a dear family member?

Just be kind and return the favor somehow at some other time.

  • 5
    This approach seems very flawed and even dangerous to me. If the OP feels uncomfortable about the gesture, then it's not kindness, it's forcing yourself on someone. I would never break into a stranger's house and rearrange it as I saw fit, and I don't see how this is any different. Aug 30, 2017 at 20:56
  • There's a immense difference between a stranger breaking into someone's house and a close family member, trustworthy enough to get free access to someone's house at some point. I agree that is dangerous to let a stranger in, but that's not the OP case. More dangerous than that is to live in a bubble of selfish pride unable to accept an act of kindness of a dear friend or family member without being offended or questioning their intentions.
    – dvc.junior
    Aug 31, 2017 at 12:57
  • This is rather judgmental and not constructive in my opinion.
    – Laura
    Jun 12, 2018 at 21:37