Dear Prudence

My Hoarder Parents Keep Mailing Me Boxes of Junk

How do I get them to stop?

Box on image of a stop sign.
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Dear Prudence,

My parents are definite pack rats and probably have actual hoarding problems. They are moving into a condo, which means they are downsizing. So about once a month I am the recipient of their “treasures.” They pay to send me boxes full of junk, but they put pictures from my childhood in there, too, so I won’t just throw the box away. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve found literal garbage in the boxes, and it’s starting to make me very angry. I’ve tried to talk to them about this, and they play it off like it is a joke and I’m overreacting. I work full time and have three kids of my own. The additional job of sorting through their clutter is driving me crazy. It’s accelerated with the lockdown. Any ideas how to politely get them to stop this weird behavior?

—Stop Sending Me Junk

I’m glad your goal here is to stop the behavior (politely, obviously) and not to try to convince them of the rightness of your position, because that’s likely a losing game. But you can stop it, and here’s how, courtesy of the United States Postal Service: Refuse these deliveries. If they’re sending these boxes as registered or certified mail, it gets a little trickier, and you may have to pay for return postage or make a trip to your local post office. Otherwise just write “REFUSED” clearly on the box without obscuring the return address, put it back on your doorstep, and let the postal service take it back.

This is perfectly polite, by the way. You’ve already made it clear this is an unwanted burden, and you’re merely reiterating what you’ve told them in the past. They may not like it, and they may get offended or even hurt, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve been rude or unfeeling, simply that they have unreasonable expectations. They need to find another solution to their junk problem. You don’t have to find that solution for them or force them to become willing to admit they need a solution. All they need to know is that your home is no longer available as a storage unit, and you don’t need their permission or their cooperation to make that happen.

Help! My Extended Family Is Offended We’re Doing a Virtual-Only Funeral for My Mother.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Nastia Voynovskaya on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

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Dear Prudence,

When my partner and I got married, we both agreed we wanted a large family. We had a little trouble conceiving, but eventually I was able to get pregnant. I hated it. I was terribly sick for the first five months and developed terrible anxiety. I also had a traumatic delivery. When we came home from the hospital, I told my partner that I may be open to adopting but there was no way I could be pregnant again. I know my partner was disappointed, but they said they understood and it was my choice. Then I had postpartum depression. When our child was about a year old, I told my partner I didn’t want any more children at all. They again said they understood, and it would take some time to come to terms with it, but they loved me and our child.

Now our little one is almost 2. I’ve been to therapy and worked through my anxiety and trauma. I’m taking medication for my depression, and I’m doing so much better. Recently I’ve been feeling like I actually do want more kids, but I’m worried about telling my partner, getting their hopes up, and then changing my mind. Should I tell them? Wait six months and see if I still feel the same way?

—Revising and Revisiting

The good news is that your partner has a clear history of openness, flexibility, patience, and honesty on the subject of kids, so I think you have real grounds for optimism here. They’ve been upfront about their own feelings and desires, but also very clear that their priority is your health and well-being and making sure you’re both on the same page. They also understand that you’re the one getting pregnant and subsequently experiencing illness, anxiety, childbirth, and postpartum depression, which means you have both expertise and investment they cannot share, only support. I suspect your fear of “getting their hopes up” comes from  a fear that you are simply an obstacle in the way of your partner’s happiness, that you’ve failed to live up to your original plan of having a large family because your experience with pregnancy and postpartum were painful and traumatic. But your partner cares deeply about you and doesn’t want a large family if it means seeing you in agony and despair.

If you can, try to imagine that your positions were reversed and that you’d seen your partner spend most of their pregnancy terribly ill, developed anxiety as a result, suffered from postpartum depression, and spent years struggling to recover emotionally and physically from childbirth. I think you would respond to any subsequent conversations about the possibility of trying again with love and compassion, that you’d consider this a joint decision-making effort where you were both on the same team, and not like your partner was trying to jerk you around or casually raise your hopes in order to later dash them. That you feel ready to revisit this conversation after time, therapy, medication, and other forms of support is a good thing, and I think your partner will welcome the chance to talk about their own feelings, concerns, desires, and priorities with you. You don’t have to set yourself a test or a time limit before you can talk to your partner about your feelings. You’re not making a commitment to get pregnant tomorrow. You merely want to talk about how you’re doing with your partner, and nothing could be more reasonable than that.

Dear Prudence,

I’m 12 years old, and sometimes I just randomly start crying without knowing why. I have had this problem for a few years, but it’s gotten worse since we’ve been in lockdown. It just happens, and then my parents ask me what’s wrong, and I don’t know what to tell them. Why do I burst into tears at the drop of a hat? And what do I say to my parents when they ask me what’s wrong and nothing seems wrong?

—Confused Crier

At least part of the key to this question lies in the fact that the crying has been getting worse since you’ve been sheltering in place. Lots of things are wrong right now, and crying is a perfectly understandable response—one that many people share with you! That’s not to say life is entirely bad or dangerous or that hope and joy are impossible, but you’re living under conditions of extreme stress, even if there’s not a direct threat that prompts these bouts of tearfulness. Sometimes frequent and inexplicable crying can be associated with depression or other medical conditions. If you find that you can’t get through the day or that it becomes increasingly distressing, you can talk to your parents and your doctor about possible underlying causes and treatments. But it’s also possible to simply be someone who cries easily. Crying is a great reliever of stress and anxiety, and if you find that you feel lighter or more grounded after you’ve cried, it wasn’t necessarily for no reason. Not everyone cries because something very serious or terrible is going on. Just as some people laugh easily, some cry easily, and it’s not always an indicator that they’re upset.

I realize this answer is a bit all over the place, and it may be that all of these explanations are partially true! The important thing is to treat your crying as an opportunity for reflection and exploration, not something you need to stop altogether.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It

Recently, my husband and I accidentally attended a burlesque show. We knew there would be a few burlesque performances, but the advertisements suggested more of a variety show. Of the 10 performances, only two didn’t involve a striptease. My husband offered to leave after it became clear that the remaining show was only going to be stripteases, but I was enjoying myself, so we stayed. I was a little surprised to realize at this point that during the performances he was closing his eyes and listening to the music, but whatever. We weren’t expecting such a sexually charged show.

It wasn’t until we left that I realized how far apart we were in our experiences. I found the burlesque inspiring, and spent most of the show thinking about ways I could incorporate elements of performance into the bedroom with things I already own. My husband absolutely hated it and went on for some time how ridiculous he thought it was. Basically, everything I loved about it—the costuming, the goofiness, the elements of camp and drama—he hated. He never shamed or suggested the women involved were lowering themselves (though he skirted the line with some quasi-feminist objectification comments), but I was a little annoyed to have even the fantasy of bringing some burlesque play into the bedroom shot down so quickly.

Frankly, this is bringing out something ugly in me and I find myself questioning my husband’s sexuality. I know human sexuality is more complex than naked woman = horny man, but still. I haven’t said anything to him about these thoughts and don’t intend to. I do want to explore burlesque further. I know doing a sexual performance for someone who isn’t into it would be no fun for either of us, so I’m trying to find an outlet that would be acceptable for us both. I am planning to start a burlesque class. I’ve been frank in telling my husband that my final goal is to do a stage performance at least once. But I almost find myself changing my mind about taking the classes because I wonder if I might be borrowing trouble and begin to resent that this won’t be something I’ll be able to “use in the bedroom.” What do you think?