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Miss Manners: When my loved ones do favors for me they turn into hassles

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: Lately I’ve found myself in a position where loved ones decide to do me a “favor,” and the result is more hassle than it would have been otherwise. For example, my family kindly brought us dinner during a medical emergency, but asked me to set the table, serve drinks and clean up. They also hassled me about my ice maker not working, and just generally called on me to host in every way when I needed to rest.

I’ve been given castoff items from “downsizing” family members, and overwhelmingly, its junk that just needed to be thrown in the trash or donated. I find it hard to believe these donors really think I have a use for their hoarded items, or that they don’t realize it becomes a chore for me to dispose of them.

I could name other occasions: a party ostensibly thrown in my honor that completely disregarded my (solicited!) additions to the guest list and misspelled my husband's name on the invitations; “free” furniture that was “rescued” and stored without asking if we wanted it, which we then had to pay to transport.

I find my heart sinking whenever I am asked, “What can I do to help?” because experience has taught me that the “help” will only be a hassle. I dont consider myself a controlling person, but I deeply dislike being put in this position; it makes me feel entitled and ungrateful, even as I feel intruded upon.

Does Miss Manners have any suggestions for gracefully declining offers of these “favors?” What about when the well-wisher insists?

For unwanted donations, Miss Manners suggests you practice a firm, “No, thank you, I’m afraid we simply don’t have the room.” And for the unsolicited help, an equally firm, “We really do not require anything right now, but we will certainly let you know if we do.”

If they persist, Miss Manners suggests you come up with practical, simple and hard-to-screw-up tasks for them: a ride to the hospital, perhaps, or a trip to the grocery store to pick up ginger ale. Small and specific is the goal.

But if your loved ones inevitably come up with 38,476 questions about directions to the store, the location of the beverage aisle and the various brands, flavors and prices of ginger ale, Miss Manners is afraid that even she cannot help you. She advises you to get more competent and self-sufficient relatives.

Dear Miss Manners: I moved to the South, and people in my area are very religious and go to church regularly. I have no issue with this, but the problem is that folks around here ask which church you belong to.

I am at a loss as to how to answer to this question; I am not religious and was brought up in the Jewish faith. What is a good response to this question?

“Thank you, but I am not attending services at the moment. I practice privately.”

You need not specify what you practice — it could be the violin, for all Miss Manners cares — but the hope is that by virtue of its sounding vague and mysterious, the inquiries will abruptly cease.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2023 Judith Martin