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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I know some people are obsessed with hoarding things. Is it possible to have an obsession about throwing things away? My mother seems bent on removing every item from our home. Every time I went away as a kid, boxes of books and toys would disappear from my room. I resorted to hiding things I wanted to keep.

Since I have left for college, 90 percent of my belongings have been thrown out or given to Goodwill. She even gave away two dolls I have had since I was a baby and which were of great sentimental value to me. Mother was well aware of it.

She recently became adamant that I get rid of some dresses and a pair of winter boots to "prepare for the change in seasons." Abby, the boots were less than six months old, and the dress was brand-new! Could she have a serious problem? -- EMILY IN ATLANTA

DEAR EMILY: Yes, but it's not what you think. It appears your mother regards you not as an individual, but as an extension of herself. Therefore, in her mind what is yours is really hers to do with as she wishes. She should not be giving away your possessions unless it's by mutual consent. And yes, it is a serious problem because it will negatively affect your relationship in the future, if it hasn't already.

DEAR ABBY: "Susan" and I have been married for many years. After our sons left for college, my wife began experiencing "empty-nest syndrome," so I surprised her with two cats. I'm not wild about cats, but I knew she'd be pleased. Big mistake!

Susan is constantly doting on her "babies" (as she calls them). Her time is spent brushing them, talking to them, playing with them and photographing them. When we do have a little feline-free time, it's spent talking about them. I have grown more and more annoyed with these spoiled cats who have 100 percent of her attention.

I have tried expressing my feelings, but she reminds me that I was the one who "adopted" them in the first place. Any suggestions? -- HUBBY IN PURR-GATORY

DEAR HUBBY: You may have been the one who adopted the cats, but your wife has gone overboard. Tell her that unless she reorganizes her priorities and makes some time for her husband, her husband may adopt a "kitten" of his own.

DEAR ABBY: I am an 11-year-old girl. My brother, "Jason," and I have always been close friends. Summer, for me, means wearing tank tops and shorts, but Jason doesn't like the idea. He tells me I'm showing too much skin and that boys will stare at me.

I used to think Jason was silly. So far, he has liked only one of my outfits this summer. Now that I think about it, my shorts are pretty small. Is my brother just being protective? Or do you think I should try to wear clothes that don't show a lot of my skin? -- STAYING COOL IN HARRISBURG, PA.

DEAR STAYING COOL: Not knowing your brother, I don't know what may be motivating him. I assume that when you are shopping for outfits, your mother has some input in what's being purchased. That's why I think you should address this question to her. She can tell you whether your brother is being overprotective or if his fashion sense is on target.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)