The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

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

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Several years ago, my parents faded and entered assisted living. My siblings and I quickly had to sell and empty their house. What made the most sense was giving their furniture and home goods to my sister who lives four hours away, for her children to eventually use when they move out. My parents and I talked frequently about how nice it would be for them to have practically fully furnished apartments right out of the gate.

My parents died in 2020. A few weeks ago, I visited my sister and asked to see the stored furniture. She told me that she had taken what she could fit in her car but that it didn’t “make 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 to it, she said she just wanted to get Mom and Dad’s house empty.

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

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

— Betrayed

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

But I’d argue this was an act of pragmatism and compassion, not betrayal.

First, a reality check on old furniture: When this happened, boomers had been downsizing for years, and there were more hand-me-downs than hands to receive them. Plus, tastes, lifestyles and needs change.

Moving and storage, meanwhile, are pricey. Years of it would probably cost many times over what new stuff would cost when the kids launch. Plus, stored furniture doesn’t always fare well unless fussily packed and cared for — a job you fobbed off on your sister.

Yes, there’s sentimental value — but you valued it, for others.

Second, this stuff had to go “quickly.” Yikes.

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

Fourth, you were done with it all. Any saving was for others.

So I’d wager your sibs told a lie of compassion. It’s like the pet dog who “goes to live on a farm.” You got to feel assured and see your parents at peace that their possessions “went to a farm,” too. It obviously backfired, but can you embrace any part of this as proof of sibs’ meaning well under duress?

Re: Furniture: My sympathies, but oh, yes — this, a million times. After I called a dozen charities, one agreed to take the dining room set my mom practically worshiped as a sign of middle-class respectability. They wouldn’t take the china cabinet. (Too many they can’t get rid of.) I finally called a junk hauler.

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

— True Story

True Story: That parting paragraph, though, will always have a place here.

Readers’ thoughts:

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

· Can you imagine being 23 and being told you have to take Granny’s dresser because Mom has been saving it for you for 12 years because otherwise Auntie will be sad?

· Please send me the porcelain dolls. I’d like to arrange them around the homes of my enemies.