Ask Unclutterer: Other people’s stuff cluttering up our space

Reader Mip submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I checked the archives, but couldn’t find anything quite like this. My boyfriend and I are moving into a room in an apartment that has two other roommates. Despite the consolidating of two people’s stuff into one room, we have a problem: my boyfriend has three siblings, and they’ve accidentally left a lot of their stuff.

There’s very little chance that they’re going to come by and pick stuff up since one’s deployed with the Navy, and the other two live a minimum eight hours away, and are extremely busy. A lot of this stuff is just not useable to us — for example, they left us a guitar that neither of us can play. It’s taken up the whole room, and it’s just a mess. What’s the best way to store this stuff so that we can have a room of our own, but still keep all of their stuff out of the way?

This is one of those times when I will give advice and the majority of the commenters to the post will strongly disagree with me. Mip, you may even have a negative reaction to my response. However, please know I’m not an insensitive troll. I understand how this sort of thing happens, but it’s hard enough to deal with our personal clutter. Voluntarily taking on another person’s (or, in your case people’s) clutter — when that person is alive and well and of sound mind and physical ability to care for his or her own belongings — it is completely unfair, in my opinion.

So what is the advice you’re likely to deem heartless? I believe your boyfriend should contact his siblings and let them know that if the stuff isn’t picked up by X date, he’ll sell the stuff and send them the money minus a small fee for handling the sales. The date he chooses should probably be two months in the future, so his siblings have a realistic amount of time to retrieve the items. And, with the holidays coming up on the calendar, it is more likely their paths will cross in that timeframe.

For the two not in the Navy, if they really want the stuff, they’ll ask him to send it to them (at their expense) or come and pick up the stuff in person. If they don’t retrieve the stuff, they do not want it, irrespective of what they say. No one “accidentally” leaves a bunch of stuff at someone’s house and then makes no effort to get that important stuff back. It is not a priority for them if they cannot figure out a way to get their things or to pay for them to be shipped in a two-month period. (Again, I’m assuming they are mentally and physically healthy and are fully functioning adults. Different standards would apply if one of them were in the hospital or a rehabilitation facility, for example.)

The sibling who is in the Navy is a bit more difficult of a situation, but if he/she is on active duty, it will be years before he/she will likely have room to store the items. The items should be sold or the sibling needs to start paying for a storage facility for the items. Living in the Washington, D.C., area, I know numerous active duty members of the Navy at various ranks and types of enlistment, and all of them use storage units when they are deployed. When my father was on active duty in the Navy, he had one trunk of stuff at his parents’ house — but his parents lived in a giant farm house, and not a single room. If the person in the Navy is responsible enough to protect the people of our nation, he or she is responsible enough to take care of his or her personal possessions in such a way that it doesn’t burden his sibling.

Also, it’s not hard or all that expensive to ship a guitar (usually under $100) to the sibling who left this with your boyfriend. There are numerous sites on the Web that detail how to ship musical instruments safely, if your boyfriend is unaware of how to make this happen.

Simply stated, your home is not a place for other people’s clutter. His siblings are being disrespectful and if the stuff really mattered to them, they already would have it with them or in a storage unit.

Thank you, Mip, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Please check the comments for more insights from our readers, as they will very likely be different opinions than mine, and certainly worth considering their viewpoints.

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45 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Other people’s stuff cluttering up our space”

  1. posted by Hollie on

    Erin – I think you’re absolutely right. If they want the stuff, they’ll find a way to get it/keep it. Otherwise, there is no reason for Mip and boyfriend to treat it any different from other stuff that they don’t want or have space for.

  2. posted by Jenn on

    I don’t think that Erin is tough enough on this one. Anything that they left, won’t come and get by a reasonable date, you get to sell/donate/throw away and keep ALL the profits. Not only does your space have value, but your time, that you have to spend dealing with this stuff has value.

  3. posted by Stephen on

    I agree with Erin completely. My family has struggled with this issue many times over the years as brothers and sisters move here and there and leave a garage full of stuff or a closet full of stuff for years. I left a double closet completely full of my stuff for almost 4 years after college before my mom finally insisted I clean it out… and good for her! It is always easier for the junk-leaver to insist they don’t have time or space for the items, and for you to just leave them where they are. Putting a deadline on the move-out and a plan of how you’ll get rid of the items should work.

  4. posted by K. on

    Aside from giving some leeway to the deployed sibling, I agree with this.

    Growing up, my house was already messy because my parents kept everything. To add to that, other family members would use the space as storage instead of taking their stuff to their own homes or paying for a storage facility. There’s a certain peace of mind that comes from knowing that your “important” stuff is safely stowed in somebody else’s space. It’s like the ultimate hoarder trick.

    Now that I’m an adult, we don’t tolerate any of these shenanigans in our own home. It’s bad enough that we still get mail for relatives who used to live with us (thereby giving our address to dozens of mailing lists we’re not interested in at all).

  5. posted by Alix on

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I wish my dad would give my sister a deadline on the junk she left behind at his house when she moved away — he has enough problems with his own clutter.

  6. posted by Sassy on

    Years ago, when I came home for a visit after law school, my Dad told me “we have plenty of room — we can keep your stuff in the attic for as long as you want.” At dinner –that very same day–Mom announced to my sisters and me that she was cleaning out the attic as soon as the cool fall weather arrived so if we had anything up there we wanted we had better get it out of there pronto! I packed up and shipped a bunch of boxes to my new place and all but perhaps one box of stuff is long gone.

    My husband and I have now downsized and are currently storing a bunch for our college student sons — I’m looking forward to the day when I turn into my Mom and pass their stored stuff back to them!

  7. posted by susan on

    Agree 100% with Erin and also with Jean. I wouldn’t sell it and send them the profits. No reason to reinforce bad/rude behavior. You stored and did the work selling it, you get the money for your time and effort.
    Mip ,you do not have to store other peoples stuff. You only have one room! They need to pay for you to ship it or come get by the date you specify, after that it is either sell it or donate it.
    I hope your boyfriend can go along with this.

  8. posted by Stephanie on

    I love your view Erin! I wish I could get my husband to agree. We are storing several boxes of stuff belonging to his best friend/former roommate. I even sorted through it and put it in rubbermaid containers to protect it better, but he’s shown no interest in actually getting any of it, and my husband refuses to push the issue.

  9. posted by ninakk on

    Hear hear.

  10. posted by Jude on

    Wow, this sounds just great except that I did something similar to my brother and lost my best friend. That was roughly twenty-five years ago, and I’ve seen him 5 times since. So, really, what you’re balancing here is friendship or love vs. clutter. Maybe he would have abandoned me anyway, but knowing what I know now, I would choose friendship and love (and store the clutter somewhere else).

  11. posted by Dede on

    Erin, you are 95% right in how to handle the situation – but like Jenn, I would keep the cash. Or at least 75% of it (document everything!). And if my sibling said “send me ___ and sell the rest”, I would say “no – it’s all or nothing”. I don’t have time to sort, etc. And I would keep a copy of all correspondence so that if my siblings objected or whined in the future I would have proof of their compliance. The only one to get any slack is the sibling in the Navy. I might ask one of the other siblings to store it at their place, if they have a larger place.

  12. posted by KJM on

    I totally agree with Erin!

  13. posted by Lesley on

    Jude – if you lost a “best” friend because you didn’t want to store his clutter, he wasn’t your friend to begin with, he was using you as a storage facility.

    And I agree, keep the money. If it really bothers you to do it, pack and and ship it to them, if you are willing to pay the cost of that. It could be your Christmas gift to them!

  14. posted by Anna on

    I agree with this advice. Though if you give a firm date or make any other agreements, be sure to honor them! I left a lot of books at my parents’ house when I moved away (too far to pop back for a visit). My mom agreed to help me go through them over the phone and then send me the ones I wanted. A couple weeks later I found out that she apparently forgot the conversation and just – got rid of them all. I love my mom…but I don’t think I’ll ever completely forgive her for that.

  15. posted by Dex on

    Hi all. Perhaps I missed it, but don’t you think the first thing to do is to KINDLY contact his siblings? Just explain the new situation to them and that you will not be — by circumstances! — able to handle their stuff. Ask them what THEIR proposal would be. Most likely, they will come up with a good solutions, you might help a little with a good proposal. You also might explain that you do not have the time and energy to handle their stuff on top of your own move to the new location. Only if they are not cooperative at all, consider Erin’s ideas, that are all of valid then!

  16. posted by Miss Lynx on

    I think Jude makes an important point – something like this has potential to seriously damage the relationship if mishandled. Just telling someone bluntly to come get their stuff or you’ll sell it or throw it out is fine if you aren’t intending to see that person again – if it’s an ex-lover, ex-roommate, or someone else you have no real interest in maintaining any connection with. But if it’s someone you care about and intend to maintain any kind of relationship with, you need to tread a bit more carefully.

    That’s not to say you can’t still get rid of the stuff, but I do think you need to be diplomatic about it. I’d go with something more along the lines of “As you may know, we’ve still got a bunch of your stuff, and while it hasn’t been a problem until now, we’re moving into a smaller space now, and we just don’t have room for it any more. We’re sorry to trouble you with this, but we really need it dealt with by [name a date], so please make arrangements to come pick it up before then, or let us know if you would like us to ship it somewhere. Alternatively, if there’s nothing there that you’re particularly attached to, let us know and we can donate it to charity. Thanks for understanding.”

  17. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Dex and others — Where in this advice does it say to be a total jerk about the email the boyfriend sends or phone call he makes to his siblings? Have we really devolved so horribly as a society that suggesting giving a sibling a deadline is assumed to be done with as much prickish behavior as possible? Gah. I hope we haven’t come to that! OBVIOUSLY the boyfriend would be kind in the way he approaches the communication. Just because the siblings are being disrespectful doesn’t mean Mip and her boyfriend need to behave poorly, too. There should be no reason to have to say such obvious things. Kindness is always implied in my advice.

  18. posted by laura on

    Go ERIN!! I also think that much of the stuff is forgotten. Whenever I go through a box in storage I always find surprises and then usually wonder why I even kept it. (Thanks to places like this blog, I rarely put anything away to be stored, but I have boxes from the past that I’m slowly purging!)If it is that important they would be making arrangements to have it sent!

  19. posted by Julia on

    I agree with Erin 100%. I even agree about the money aspect.

    Even if you do this very kindly, it still might provoke an argument. That’s when you have to pick your battles.

    I believe home should be a sanctuary. And I’m willing to pick a fight with my siblings to keep it that way.

    I’m not willing to pick a fight with my siblings over money.

    My initial offer would be send them the money from the sales minus any costs I incur while selling their stuff. If they argued the point I would send them all of it. If they really put up a fight I would send them the stuff at my own cost. The purpose (for me at least) is to rid of the stuff.

    Somebody who is in a tighter financial situation should probably just give them a deadline and tell them after that, they’ll get rid of the stuff (keep money out of the equation). That gives you the option to donate it to Goodwill, which shouldn’t cost you anything.

  20. posted by Julie Bestry on

    Yay, Erin. I can’t imagine why or how anyone could have extrapolated from what you wrote to assume Mip (or we) would NOT introduce the topic with kindness. However, it’s not like this was a matter of trading favors. The siblings took advantage of Mip’s boyfriend’s kindness, which he was happy to grant until the situation made it no longer tenable. Surely he’ll contact them and ask their preferences — but just as surely, he and Mip are under no obligation to go any further out of their way to continue doing extra favors.

    My sister’s college friends often stored things in our basement. Long after she graduated, my mother dithered over letting go of abandoned things. It’s been 35 years and strangers things are probably still in my mom’s basement, untouched. Doing a favor does not obligate someone to continue doing favors forever, and it shouldn’t be considered unkind and impolite to give people alternatives that least inconvenience you.

  21. posted by klutzgrrl on

    I was actually one of those people who left stuff. In my early 20s I left a trail of belongings at my parents’, at share houses, and finally at a good friend’s house as I went on my merry thoughtless way. I wish someone had given me a wakeup call; it was just one aspect of my general lack of respect for others and poor self-management.

    As Erin said, there’s no need to be insensitive about it, but there comes a point where people need to be grownups, and that means not expecting others to clean up after you or take care of your stuff. You aren’t their mother, and they aren’t ten years old.

  22. posted by RebeccaL on

    I can’t imagine someone being upset with their sibling, when they say “Hey, we’re moving into one room-after DATE, we just won’t have space for your belongings. What would you like us to do with them?”

    They could always go into a storage unit that the other siblings pay for, if they are that “important.” (But again, if they were important, the siblings 8 hours away would still have these items in their posession.)

  23. posted by Jacquie on

    After several requests to come and take the rest of her belongings, wanted, two years after my step-daughter left home I carefully packed up all her bits that were left in what had been her bedroom, down to the last scrap, filling four or five boxes in the process.

    In due course they were delivered to her, and the next time we saw her DH said did you find some treasures in your things? No, she said, it was all rubbish and I threw it all away.

    Aaaaargh, and we had pussy footed around it and her for all that time, just because she couldn’t be bothered to have a quick look at what she’d left behind and give permisssion for me to throw it away.

    As others have said, if this stuff was important to them, it would have been collected already. Do any of them play the guitar I wonder!

  24. posted by ChrisD on

    Clutter clutter clutter. I thought I was doing quite well getting everything into my current smallish space and not leaving ANYthing at my parents, but I recently found my school papers in the attic, in a big box that has broken and spilled out a bit (but everything is dry and clean). Considering the moderate piles of junk my parents have I’m not planning to volunteer to deal with one single box until I am asked OR I can decide what to do with it. Keep it in case I want to compare hypothetical future childrens schoolwork? (as my friend has done) Scan it? (far too much work), Chuck it? (too much of a wrench, but if the house burnt down I wouldn’t worry about the papers).

    Regarding the letter to family, perhaps a photo of the tiny cluttered room, artistically posed to make it look impossible to live with (instead of merely difficult).

  25. posted by Jude on

    Perhaps I should explain my situation in more detail. My father died and my mother moved to stay with her parents in another state, so my brother and I were sharing the family home and all the expenses. He fell in love (at age 39) and moved out. I hired someone to move his stuff to the basement and let him know that I had to do that because my cousin was coming to visit with her sons. He didn’t come to claim any of it. A couple of months later I needed another space he’d left cluttered. He’d been out of the house for about 6 months by then, so I told him that he needed to come get all the stuff. He didn’t respond, so I hired a kid to help me move everything into the second driveway (acres of stuff, really–e.g., old computer parts) and secured it under very large tarps so that I could finish cleaning. I emailed him to tell him that I’d done this and he said I didn’t need to give him an ultimatum. I replied that it wasn’t an ultimatum, that everything was protected under the tarps and he could leave it there as long as he needed to, and it would be fine, but I just needed to get those two areas clean, and I couldn’t do it with all the stuff there. You can’t judge the level of our friendship, but we were very close. He came the next weekend and hauled away everything (much of it to the landfill), and the next time I saw his wife, she hit me with her purse (in front of my grandmother). She chose to hate me because of the “ultimatum” (which I didn’t think *was* an ultimatum); he chose to hate me because hey, he had a wife by then, so he didn’t need a sister, and so no, it wasn’t worth it. I suppose it’s even more complicated than that, but to be told that he wasn’t my friend–he was just using me–is really leaping to conclusions that aren’t anywhere in the story. Dex has the best idea–ask them what THEIR idea is to solve the problem, and how they would handle it. I wish I’d thought of that then.

  26. posted by Irulan on

    Jude, your brother’s behavior sounds even worse now that you’ve explained the scenario in more detail. You went out of your way to accommodate him and his stuff at least twice, and he responded by ignoring you, then starting a fight, hauling his stuff away in a huff, and then encouraging his wife (who had nothing to do with the situation) to literally hit you. Do you really not see how bizarre and inappropriate his behavior was, especially in the context of a shared home that was being modified for more relatives? You weren’t in the wrong there, he was.

    Back on topic, I like Erin’s advice. As someone who left stuff at my parents’ house for several years (several boxes worth of wedding gifts while my husband and I were away at graduate school), one of the things that I and other stuff-leavers should be aware of is the expiration date. We took the boxes when we bought a house, which was our stated goal expiration date. In the intervening time, I checked in with my parents periodically and offered to take the stuff early if it was inconveniencing them in their own space.

  27. posted by Tina on

    As someone who’s left stuff at my parents’ house while I was elsewhere…you have to be aware of mitigating circumstances…

    When I first moved away…I couldn’t afford a u-haul and a trailer for my car. I drove my Saturn and my dad borrowed a pick-up. I had to leave stuff because there was no room.

    When I came home for Christmas, I only had enough room to take a box or two. I couldn’t fit the furniture in my car…

    The second time I moved out, I was so depressed that I only managed to move a car load…Had someone managed to help me I might have managed more stuff…

  28. posted by Cyn on

    I advise not to bring money into the, er, negotiations. Sell it or ship it, but don’t get into details about prices if you sell it, because you are guaranteed to hear “You sold the Thingy for only $50! It was worth $475!” And then years of bad feelings, even if the Thingy was worth really only $20.

  29. posted by Elizabeth on

    Way to go, Erin! The only thing that surprised me about your response to Mip was that I was sure you were going to suggest BILLING the siblings for the time and effort it took to box up/donate/sell their stuff! LOL!

  30. posted by Anna on

    Excellent suggestions and points of view.

    My only contribution: the term an old friend uses for other people’s stuff left behind:


    I love it.

  31. posted by Jeanette on

    Jude: Your explanation only further serves to show that the problem was NEVER your behavior. But your brother and sister-in-law.

    You acted fairly and appropriately. They, alas, acted like irresponsible people. Not to mention unloving. I am sorry that you were hurt this way but these people, despite your love, must be loved from a great distance.

    Family or not, someone who does not 1/Respect your polite request and 2/Tries to bully you and 3/Disses you by not trusting that you were speaking the truth and 4/Distracts you by trying to make you the “bad” guy and 5/Fails to accept any responsibility for their own lack of actions is

    a. At fault
    b. Not acting like a loving or compassionate person, let alone family member.
    c. Better out of your life than in it, despite the pain to you.

    I suspect there are a lot of other issues behind this and something else going on with your relationship of which this incident is just a symptom.

    And if someone HIT you, that is a sign that someone is truly “off” and has a serious problem. Plus, it is assault. (Personally, I would have called the police. I would not stand for anyone physically attacking me. That your brother either knew of or had no problem with his wife hitting you is simply unconscionable.)

    We can all disagree, have serious disagreements over small or large family matters, but your brother and his wife’s behavior is totally inappropriate and unacceptable. I’m sorry it’s been so painful for you, but the truth is, anyone who would treat you that way should not be in your life as they are not worthy of your love and concern.

    It is very hard with family members especially because family members often use guilt and all sorts of stuff against each other. But family members do not get a pass from acceptable behavior.

    When we finally got our mother to sell her house and move to an apartment (because all three of us simply could not afford to keep the place well-maintained and get it repaired after years of neglect), there were some tough moments among us, but we talked it through. THe same with moving our mother from her apartment to assisted living. It was not easy and there was pain but we had to focus on what was best for our mother, and not cling to the past. (My brother did not want the house sold because he tearfully admitted that the house was his last connection to his deceased father and contained all his memories. We had long talks about this and he was finally able to come to terms with this. )

    One would hope that some day your brother will come to his senses. Someone who holds a grudge about what you described is holding you responsible for something else. Remember: It is NEVER about the stuff.

  32. posted by Jeanette on

    Anyone who would think, for a second, that Erin would advocate someone to be rude or mean or thoughtless, has not been reading this blog for long.

    Erin is the voice of caring and reason in tough situations.

    It’s unfortunate that some folks either didn’t read carefully or misinterpreted (based on their own internal thoughts!) her intentions in this column.

    Erin, I have not always agreed with your POV on some topics but never, ever questioned the integrity of your intentions and your true compassion for those struggling with clutter. You have never judged and that alone is a wonderful thing. You act and speak out of genuine concern. thank you for being strong enough to post something like this column especially knowing some folks might have issues.

    It’s what people need to hear.

  33. posted by Another Deb on

    It might be helpful to photograph the contents of boxes and e-mail them to the owners asking for options.There might be one or two things they want shipped but nothing else.

    An active guitar player would have TAKEN that thing with them!Maybe they decluttered their fantasy self as “rock star” along the way.

  34. posted by jennifer wallington on

    Totally agree with Erin. It is very unfair to leave unwanted/unused possesions with others. These things dont end well as either you resent the space they take up and they resent you for dealing with the situation. We had a similar situation with my brother. He had stored furniture in my grandmothers garage in London. It had been driven from Belguin by my dad who had a bad back when it should have been sold/donated/left there. A year later my grandmother downsized and we bought the house from her as my grandfather went to live in a care home. My brother was given several months to get rid of the stuff as we had major building works commencing at the house.This also involved converting the garage. Deadlines came and went he dithered we offered help numerous times which he declined. Eventually I built the furniture, photographed it put it on gumtree and offered free local delivery to buyers to get rid of it. This worked immediately and I got rid of everything in 1 afternoon/evening. My brother was furious but my gran was thrilled as she had an awful lot on her plate with her own move including downsizing her possesions and furnishings. I sent my brother a cheque for the proceeds which he said we wouldnt accept, however he banked it shortly after! People are very selfish and inconsiderate in these matters and are taking advantage of your good will. We live a simple and minamilist life which we love.

  35. posted by Another Deb on

    At one time my ex-DH did a favor for his sister who lived in FLorida. He drove out to get her beloved family heirlooms(sofas and dressers), drove back to Texas and paid to have them stored while she went through some hard times in Florida. Year after year, the materials sat in a humid dark storage facility, as we paid the fees. Finally, not having the gumption to burn the stuff, he drove it back to Florida, where she decided to leave it sitting on the curb to give away.

  36. posted by Joyce on

    Hi! We are in the same situation. My paternal grandmother left a wooden bed and two wooden chairs in our old house. Before we moved, we asked her if she wanted to get them. She said yes and told me to ask my father or my uncle to transport them.

    I asked for their help, but neither did anything. My father who does not live with us even told me to dispose them. The furniture stays in the garage because our new house is smaller. My mother said that we should wait for them to move. We keep the furniture in the meantime so that my grandmother could not say anything bad about us.

    My grandmother lives twelve hours away from us. I do not plan on going there any time soon. I used to call her every week, but since we moved I just call her once. So the bed and the chairs stay in the garage while our car is parked along the road. Thank you.

  37. posted by miggiepdx on

    The most difficult time in a family surfaces a couple of years after a sad event, when it’s time to move parent(s) to a new home. This is when people you are related to show their stripes. How your family treats one another during this transition is who they really are. If you are from a family that was fundamentally unhappy, expect people to behave badly. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating. You have to buck up, feel your sad feelings and your mad feelings honestly. Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and then cling to the relatives who turned out to be good people. God bless everyone who has to go through this transition. I am heartened to see that not every family is a bloody mess, and that there are good families who speak fairly, thoughtfully and honestly with kindness towards all. You are our guiding stars.

  38. posted by Ginger on

    I like the idea of taking pictures and giving descriptions of the items in question. There’s a good chance that they won’t want most of it.

    If they want most of the stuff but can’t get it right away, offer to put it in a storage unit (1 unit or separate units) that they pay for directly. That way, they decide how important the stuff is to them.

    BTW, shipping boxes of stuff using FEDEX ground isn’t that expensive especially if you ship it to a business address. The boxes can weigh up to 50 lbs. each. It was less expensive for my friend to move to another state doing that instead of renting a UHaul. He took most of the heavy stuff in his truck and mailed a lot of the bulky lightweight stuff.

  39. posted by EthelQ on

    I agree with Erin, though the previous commentor had a good point about putting the things in storage on behalf of someone. This seems like an especially good option for the brother in the navy. If you’re feeling really generous, you could even pay for the first month or two, and let the owner of the stuff deal with things from there.

    I’ve had stuff stored at other people’s houses, and it felt great when I went through it all to unburden them. I did throw a lot of it away, but I’m glad I did it myself because I couldn’t fault anyone for getting rid of my “treasures” before I realized they were just trash. Honestly, people are probably stressed about keeping their junk at someone else’s place (I know I was), and so may welcome a deadline to get it out. Sadly it was my parents’ divorce that served as my deadline, but I’d still say I’m more glad for it (stuff-wise) than put-out about it.

    And Jude, your brother sounds like he definitely has some problems that aren’t related to how you handled his stuff. I would definitely find someone to talk to who can give you perspective and help you come to some sort of conclusion.

  40. posted by squibby on

    I also agree with Erin but I wouldn’t sell the items – because it would take too much time and effort in the midst of moving to do that.

    Instead I would offer my relatives 3 options to consider – 1 put the goods in storage at their cost, 2 ship it to them COD, or 3 donate the goods. Each person could choose their preference but I’d explain that there’d be no time to sort through everything, so ‘ship these 4 things and donate the rest’ would be OK but I wouldn’t sort through a pile of books to find certain titles.

  41. posted by EngineerMom on

    I totally agree with Erin.

    We’re currently storing quite a bit of furniture and items at my parents’ house, but it was at their invitation, and most of the furniture is being used in their guest bedrooms and living room, since they just moved from a 2-BR apartment to a 3-BR house. They had given me a bunch of furniture when they moved into the apartment a few years ago, so some of the furniture that I left at their house is actually their old stuff!

    When my mom invited us to leave some things at their house, she created a separate area in the basement for our things, to keep them separate from her and my dad’s items and to limit the space used. I knew how much space was allowed, and purged appropriately. We were paying our way through a 2500-mile move that will likely be less than 5 years, so shipping all that furniture didn’t make a lot of sense. We have a deadline that with my husband’s next job (hopefully a permanent move), we’ll have everything at my parents’ house shipped to our new location. This was all agreed upon before a single item showed up at my parents’ house.

    Anyway, the whole point of this is that if you choose to host a relative’s items, or if you’re the one doing the storing, be very clear up front about the space available and the time limit, since it should never be a permanent arrangement!

  42. posted by chacha1 on

    Another one in near-complete agreement. I’m not in favor of offering to sell the stuff, simply because the market for used goods of ALL kinds is pretty much saturated. It’s going to be much more trouble than it’s worth.

    To me the difficulty that stands out is that these are not the LW’s siblings. They are her boyfriend’s. He is the one who has to make the decision and then take action. If he doesn’t, what’s she going to do – move out?

    Frankly, if I were the LW, I would have said “I’m not moving into one room in a shared apartment with you until and unless all we have to move is the stuff that is OURS.”

  43. posted by Julia on

    Circumstances don’t give permission to take advantage of somebody else’s space.
    Circumstances force you make decisions.

    Last time I moved, I couldn’t afford to take anything more than I could fit in my truck. I made some decisions and got rid of a lot of stuff. All I left at my parents’ house were 4 boxes of textbooks. When I went home for a visit several months later, I brought those books back with me. Because they were heavy boxes, it was cheaper to take them as checked luggage ($20 each) than to ship them. So I got to haul them from the luggage carousel out to my car and into the house without any help from anybody.

    If it matters, you find a way to take care of it. If you can’t make room for it/can’t find time to move it/can’t afford it, then you probably don’t need it.

  44. posted by Emmers on

    Another option for MIP is to take the “nicer” route — this is what I would do if I were in this situation and had the cash: Put all of the things into a storage unit. Prepay the storage unit for 6-12 months. Send the combination and instructions for getting in to your siblings. Easy! (Also see about getting refunds if it’s emptied earlier than that.)

  45. posted by PaulT00 on

    Eventually you just have to take a stand. Sometimes that will upset people, however reasonably you do it. Sometimes you get the blame even if you’re not the person who forced the issue. In my own case, in my mid 20s my mother and grandmother died within about 5 months of each other. My sister and I each inherited 50% of each house. At the time my sister was living with her boyfriend at his parents’ house, and she ended up moving into grandmother’s house while we sold mother’s house. I dealt with most of the work involved and also paid for both funerals etc.

    Fast forward a year or so – during which time my sister and her boyfriend had been living entirely free of charge in grandmother’s house (which was the more valuable of the two and also in much better condition) – and my great aunt (who was the executor) told my sister that she needed to finalise the estate. This meant that either sister needed to make arrangements to buy out my share of the house (the will specified a 50/50 split), or move out so that it could be sold and the proceeds divided – and incidentally repay me for sister’s share of the funeral expenses and such. She was given a lot of leeway but dragged things out until eventually great aunt Peggy had had enough.

    Sister moved out, house was sold, I got repaid. Everything went quiet. A few months later I got a letter from my sister telling me that I was evil, mean and money-grabbing and that she never wanted to see me or hear from me ever again.

    That was 20 years ago. I have not seen her or spoken to her since…

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