Annie Lane: Unwanted heirlooms

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, June 30, 2021

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Dear Annie: I’m 20 years old and from New York. I’ve been in and out of my house since I was small because my mom and I would get into small arguments and she would just decide to send me to my dad’s house. This takes a toll on me because I feel like she doesn’t want me here.

I came back a year ago, and she promised everything would change. But it’s still the same, only worse. I want to go to college, but she won’t let me because she’s worried she won’t be able to afford rent on her own. To me, that’s not fair because I have an older sister, and she has already graduated from college. So, why not me?

I feel like the black sheep in this house, and it’s not fair that she wants me to get a job and contribute to rent. It’s so hard to find one. She thinks it’s so easy, but it’s not. I’ve had so many negative thoughts, but I won’t complain because that would make me weak. Please, I don’t know what to do.

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— Black Sheep

Dear Black Sheep: The way your mother is treating you says everything about how she feels about herself. You are 20 years old and sound like a thoughtful and capable young person. If you want to go to college, then go to college. Don’t let your unhappy mother spoil your dreams. The fact that you wrote this letter shows that you are halfway to success and liberation from your mother. Continue to look for a job for yourself, not for her, and continue to look into ways to go to college. Ask your older sister and your father for help in keeping Mom at bay.

• • •

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 with 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.

— Minimalist

Dear Minimalist: You and your husband need to have an open and honest conversation with both of your parents. If you tell them you don’t want their items but decide to keep things that are heirlooms when they leave them on your doorstep or in your garage, it is no wonder everyone is confused. While you are correct that families should not unload their stuff on you, it is also traditional for families to give you heirlooms.

Perhaps you and your husband should go over to each of your respective parents’ houses and decide what is an heirloom and what is trash. My guess is that it might be unclear. One clean sweep of everyone’s stuff will prevent this constant dropping off of unwanted items.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to