Carolyn Hax: Family treasures in ‘storage’ actually went to landfill

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Caroline: Several years ago, my parents faded away and moved into an assisted living facility. My siblings and I quickly had to sell and empty their house. What made the most sense was giving their furniture and household items to my sister who lives four hours away, for her children to eventually use when they move house. My parents and I often talked about how great it would be for them to have apartments that were practically fully furnished right out the door.

My parents passed away in 2020. A few weeks ago I visited my sister and asked to see the furniture in storage. She told me she took what she could fit in her car, but it made “no sense” to rent a truck and store furniture until her kids needed it, so she took the rest to the dump.

I am so shocked and hurt. When I asked why she agreed, she said she just wanted to clear Mom and Dad’s house.

She lied to me, to our parents, and denied her children things to start their lives with. My other brothers and sisters refuse to discuss it with me. My sister sent me flowers and a note, but it’s clear she doesn’t think she did anything wrong.

I’ve always considered my family close, but now I don’t know what to think.

Betrayed: Your brothers (I suspect them all) lied. I won’t pretend it didn’t happen or that it didn’t hurt.

But I would say it was an act of pragmatism and compassion, not betrayal.

First, a reality check on old furniture: When this happened, baby boomers had been downsizing for years, and there were more oldies than hands to accommodate them. In addition, tastes, lifestyles and needs are changing.

Moving and storage, on the other hand, are expensive. Years of that would probably cost many times what new things would cost when kids launched. Plus, tidy furniture doesn’t always fare well unless it’s carefully packed and cared for – a job you left your sister to do.

Yes, there is sentimental value – but You appreciated it, for others.

Second, these things had to go “quickly.” Yeah.

Third, you were obviously upset and very emotionally invested at the time.

Fourth, you were done with all that. Any economy was for others.

So I’d bet your brothers told a compassionate lie. It’s like the pet dog that “goes to live on a farm.” You need to feel assured and see your parents at peace that their property “went to a farm” too. It obviously backfired on you, but can you take any of it as proof of the significance of coerced siblings?

Subject: Furniture: My sympathies, but oh, yes — that, a million times over. After calling a dozen charities, one agreed to take the dining set my mother practically revered as a sign of middle-class respectability. They wouldn’t take the dresser. (Too many of them can’t get rid of.) I finally called a scrap hauler.

I still don’t know what to do with porcelain dolls. Even local heavy metal bands don’t want them for videos because they say they’re too scary.

True story: This farewell paragraph, however, will always belong here.

· If you value something material, YOU are responsible for collecting it, storing it, refurbishing it, and finding a home for it.

· Can you imagine being 23 and being told you have to take grandma’s dresser because mom kept it for you for 12 years or aunt will be sad?

· Please send the porcelain dolls to me. I would like to place them around the houses of my enemies.

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