DEAR ABBY: Like many people in this country, my family has an aversion to throwing things out that might still be useful. Rather than load up the van and head to Goodwill, they give the stuff to me -- partially used bottles of shampoo, a half-used pack of wipes, hair conditioner that smells too awful for them to use but they're sure I'll like, unwanted change purses and jewelry I would never wear, even puzzles with missing or dog-chewed pieces. They have also tried to offload old sewing machines, DVDs they won't watch and craft supplies for projects I don't enjoy.
Once, a sister tried to give me an old toaster oven filled with burnt breadcrumbs. (I have celiac disease.) Another time, Dad gave me a gift certificate for an oil change my mother won in a raffle after telling me he and another sister won't go to that auto shop because they damaged my sister's engine and did a lousy job working on my parents' car!
It's not like I'm so poor I can't afford my own toaster oven or wipes, but if I turn down their unwanted items, as politely as I can, they become defensive with me. So I usually just say thanks and either toss the stuff in the trash or load it into my van and take it to Goodwill myself. But I'm tired of feeling like the family dump, and wish I could find a way to get it through their lovingly muddled heads that I'd rather not be "gifted" with their junk. Any thoughts? -- THANKS BUT NO THANKS IN MISSISSIPPI
DEAR T.B.N.T.: The next time your parents and siblings call to tell you they're coming over with more discards, tell them you know they mean well, but NO. And keep repeating it until they finally get through their lovingly muddled heads that you mean it.