Dear Annie: My parents and my in-laws have a habit of cleaning out their houses by bringing their unwanted things to my house. When we first moved in together, my husband and I thought they were trying to help by giving us things so we wouldn’t need to buy them, but it’s been over a decade, and it continues.
When asked if we want items from their homes, we always decline. More frequently, though, things are left on our porch or in our garage. Unless it is something we think they may want back (something we know is an heirloom or expensive), we throw everything away. The things we feel like we have to keep go into the attic.
Obviously this is a minimal issue compared to most, but we are tired of being responsible for their unwanted items. Please encourage your readers, especially those downsizing, to manage their own belongings and not push them onto family without asking, and to respect the response.
Dear Minimalist: You and your husband need to have an open and honest conversation with both your and his parents. If you tell them you don’t want their items but then keep heirlooms when they are left with you, no wonder everyone is confused. While you are correct that family members should not unload their stuff on one another, it is also traditional for families to pass on heirlooms.
Perhaps you and your husband should go over to your respective parents’ houses and decide what is an heirloom and what is trash. My guess is they are unclear. One clean sweep of everyone’s stuff will prevent this constant appearance of unwanted items.
Dear Annie: I can empathize totally with Sucker-Punched in Indiana, having had a similar experience years ago when my then husband told me he didn’t love me and never had, not even on the day we married.
However, he did not want a divorce since we had two young children. I lived with that pain and bitterness for years, feeling trapped, hopeless and depressed.
Eventually, though, friends talked me into seeking therapy, which, like Sucker-Punched, I resisted at first. However, when I finally relented, it was the best decision of my life. I came out on the other side stronger, more sure of who I am and what I want, and realizing I am worth far more than what my husband made me feel I was.
Like you, I strongly advise Sucker-Punched to find a good therapist who will help her learn to view her situation with new eyes, make wise decisions and value herself again. I cannot state strongly enough how positively life-changing therapy was for me.
— Stronger and Happier From Therapy
Dear Stronger and Happier: I’m sorry you coped for so long with a terrible, mean husband, though it’s wonderful therapy helped you turn your life around. Love your letter!
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to email@example.com.