Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gifts from the hoarder parents and more money wasted

I learned a long time ago to never admire anything in my mother's presence, because she would immediately run out and buy it for me. Exhibit A:

I stopped by my parents' house last week, just for an hour. My mother made excuses about how there are still piles of things that are headed for the thrift shop (sure, I'll believe that when pigs fly.)  But it wasn't the stuff in the living room that bothered me. No, it was the "care package" I got without asking for it.

My mother sent me home with a box of gluten-free pasta (no problem, I'll eat that). Next was a huge box of coffee filters, a brick of coffee, and a ceramic coffee maker.
For the record, I vehemently dislike drip coffee. This incredible disdain for coffee ran so deep within my soul that when I was at a family party at the age of two, I snuck a sip of my uncle's coffee, then promptly spat it back all over him.

At this point I only drink lattes. But apparently my mother thought I needed all of this coffee-making stuff. The multiple times I said "I'm really okay without it" were ignored. Finally I gave up and went home with the bag of stuff. Nevermind the fact that I have NO SPACE in my cabinets!

In fairness, I did give the Melitta coffee maker thing a try. It just didn't work out for me. It was too watery, the water drained too fast, and I had to waste two filters and two tablespoons of coffee to get 2 ounces of strong espresso-style coffee each time I tried.

I will see my parents again this weekend as we have another wedding to attend. I will return the coffee maker, filters, and coffee. If she refuses to take it, I'll drop it off at the thrift store. Gosh, I hope she didn't spend a lot of money on this stuff. Is it so hard to call someone first and ask if they really want a particular thing, before going right out and buying it? Why continue to pour money down the drain when a simple question could solve that problem?

Do your family members randomly give you stuff you don't want/ask for?

**For those of you who remember that I stopped talking to my parents last year, here's what's happened since:

I'm back on vaguely speaking terms after enjoying nine months of freedom from the hoard and all of the absurd behavior that accompanies it. It finally seemed to click with my parents that if they want me in their life, I expect them to get a little bit of help for their disorders. After nine months, they are far more stable than before. I feel safe enough for short visits. Thanks to everyone for their support during that time.


  1. Zoe -- if you have any drip-coffee friends who are ecologically minded and thus hate the plastic cone, that ceramic cone makes a wonderful gift! I was the recipient of one several years ago and I love it.

    I totally agree with and support your getting those unwanted gifts out of your house, but with something as ubiquitous as coffee I just thought you might more easily find a friend who would appreciate them. On the other hand any coffee-drinker would be thrilled to find those at the thrift store as well!

    Good luck with your renewed relationship with your parents -- stay strong in yourself!


    1. Excellent suggestion, Sue. All my friends seem pretty content with their coffee makers, but we do have a "free" box at work where I can share it with someone who would enjoy it.

  2. Ha! Here I've been thinking that I wanted one of those ceramic Melitta cone thing-a-ma-bobs for a while now. I have a plastic one, but you know... plastic is an eco sin and all. But... my plastic one only has one hole which is much smaller than each of those three holes, so I'll bet the ceramic ones really do make watery coffee. Saved from buying another thing!

    In terms of the gifts, I think that in some twisted sort of a way, your parents are trying to express their love by giving you things... although, I'm sure there's more baggage to it than that - kinda like an alcoholic offering their friend a drink or something. But my tact would be to try to treat them as if they were "normal" people in this regard. You can always tell a little white lie and say something like "Oh, that is so sweet of you, but I just took one exactly like it to the thrift store because I didn't like the coffee that it made. Do you think you can get a refund?"

    You could also just set a blanket policy with them - probably best to do it at a time when they haven't just given you a gift. Something like "You know, I'm trying really hard to get rid of things and de-clutter my home. So I'm just letting everyone in my life know that I'm officially no longer accepting gifts. If you want to do something nice for me you'll have to think of another way." Or something like that. You don't have to point it specifically at them, just let them know that not accumulating things is important to you.

    Good luck with it...

    1. shame it didn't actually work, because then I would've just re-gifted it to you! lol I'm coming to realize that this is just her trying to share her own love of coffee with me. Perhaps I can convince that that love can be best shared at Starbucks!

  3. Oh my, this is such a familiar story! Many of my clients have at least one person in their life that constantly gives them stuff. I completely support EcoCatLady's last paragraph. I often advise my clients to enlist the support of their family and friends by asking them not to give them gifts. If they're from a very gifty family, that can't bear to cease Christmas and birthday presents for example, I suggest that they suggest that they are given only experiences (a spa day, a meal out, a theatre trip) or stuff they can easily use up (food, toiletries, cosmetics).

    It's unkind even to give people who struggle to let go of packaging stuff they can use up (and greetings cards), in my opinion.

    I think the key is to get across that you appreciate the love and kindness they're expressing through giving you stuff, and that it would actually be kinder and more supportive if they found another way to express that love.

    Good luck everyone!

    1. Excellent thoughts, Rachel. My mom has definitely been learning some of the things you mentioned-- my last birthday present from her was a donation to Heifer International and Lutheran World Relief. My Christmas present was dinner together at a fancy restaurant. I'm starting to realize that she may have given me the coffee because she absolutely loves the stuff and can't live without it, and this was just sharing that love with me.

    2. I also second ecocatlady's words, and Rachel's too. I think when you tell someone you don't want gifts because you're decluttering, it's a very good idea to tell them what kinds of things you *would* like -- ie those "experiences" or which places you would love gift certificates to, or as you say, places you'd be pleased to have donations made in your name. That way it's a lot harder (hopefully) for them to twist "no gifts please" into any kind of personal statement. Or like you also said, if you have a shared enjoyment such as coffee, suggesting getting together for a coffee experience rather than loading you up on coffee *gear*. I really like all these ideas. I feel fortunate that my parents, one a hoarder and one just very cluttery, were both amenable to sending "just checks" when they wanted to give a gift, and didn't feel the need to send 'stuff' (after some chats with Mom about it).

  4. Lol sounds like my mom. Every time I leave her place she gives me very random items I dont need. She buys needless things in clearance sales thinking she is getting such a good deal when the items are just crap. I keep telling her I dont need of this crap but yet she keeps handing me it time and time again. Its an addiction i tell ya!

  5. Even after moving a couple thousand miles it still took years to stop my mom from sending me crap I didn't want in the mail. It's terrible. Growing up around that it's hard to get rid of stuff sometimes, but I have gotten much better at refusing entry to new crap - saying no from the get go.

  6. At some point I had to make a point of returning my dad's gifts or discarding him and telling him they'd been discarded. Eventually he stopped bringing me stuff.

  7. We had this happen to us also. When I told my parents that we were getting rid of stuff and moving towards minimalism my dad bought me a mini tool set. They also tended to bring over stuff that they no longer wanted, and told us to donate anything we didn't want.

  8. My mom buys things all the time for me and my wife. Mostly items from the thrift store, like a shirt acquired on a bag day (like $5 for a bag of clothes). It's not a big deal, but I'm old-enough to pick out my clothes, and I'm trying to keep the amount of clothes I have down.

    So ultimately, they go back into bags headed to the thrift store! I'm not sure what to do; I just go along with it because it makes my mom happy and it's only a few things a month.


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