Ask Amy

Ask Amy: Husband deals with his loss by taking in stuff

DEAR AMY: My mother-in-law recently passed away. In my opinion, she was a slight hoarder. She would buy things just because they were on sale or because she liked them, even though she didn’t have the money or room to store the items. Her kids threw away a lot and divided the rest after her death.

My husband brought home a lot of her stuff, and it occupies the walls of our sun room. The stuff is a complete mess (a pile of junk, in my opinion).

I am a stay-at-home mom and I look at this stuff all day long.

I am frustrated that it has been sitting there for over five months and he hasn’t touched a thing. He works full time. He doesn’t have to look at it all day like I do, and the few hours that he is home with our kids at night, he wants to spend with them and not cleaning up.

My husband is somewhat like his mother. His garage is full of stuff. He cleans it only once a year.

Unfortunately there is no room in the garage to put all of his mother’s stuff.

I hate living with all this junk and clutter sitting around. Much of what is here is sentimental to him and he plans to keep everything, which we don’t have room for.

Should I be more sympathetic, or demand a cleanup? If it were up to me I would throw it all away.

He says he will get to it eventually.

Surrounded by Junk

DEAR SURROUNDED: You should start “organizing” this on your own. Separate the possessions into categories and put things into labeled bins. Keep some smaller keepsakes out so your husband can see them. Perhaps after the next garage clean-out there will be room for these bins in the garage.

People irrationally attach feelings to all sorts of objects. Your husband is grieving and it is important for you to recognize his feelings and to be respectful. He may be quite paralyzed about all of this. If you take steps that are helpful, rather than punitive, it might help him cope with the prospect of eventually dealing with these things himself.

DEAR AMY: Several months ago I sent my 32-year-old grandson, who lives in another state, a check for $5,000 as a wedding gift.

I have heard nothing from him since, although he deposited my check right after receiving it. I am a widow who worked hard for my salary over my working years.

I have been informed that the new protocol is that a newly married couple have one year to acknowledge wedding gifts. Is this correct?

Patient in Pittsburgh

DEAR PATIENT: Gulp. What an extremely generous gift! There is no protocol stating that people have up to a year to thank people for gifts – though many people seem to take a year and then stretch it to a lifetime. Judging from the letters sent to me, the lack of acknowledgment of gifts is widespread.

If a groom receives $5,000 as a gift from his grandma, the protocol should be: an immediate excited phone call when the envelope is opened, a note written and signed by both bride and groom before the check is deposited, and flowers sent to you annually for the rest of your life.

DEAR AMY: I’m responding to the letter from “Ready to Go,” who had a substantial secret account that he had not disclosed to his wife. As an attorney who has been practicing for nearly 30 years, and as a mediator, it is obvious that her overspending now is a reaction to deep feelings of anger and betrayal on his part.

From a legal standpoint, this account raises many issues that touch on family and probate law. I’m also left wondering what else “Ready” hasn’t come clean about. Given his attitude and failure to take responsibility, I’m sure his wife is entertaining similar thoughts. I wish you had commented on these issues, because this situation and the husband’s lack of honesty are sadly all too common.

Mediator

DEAR MEDIATOR: I agree. I assume you agree with my recommendation that this couple seek mediation and transparency.

Write Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribpub.com.

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