Dear Abby: Family keeps giving me junky stuff that belongs in the trash

They get defensive when the person says no to a half bottle of shampoo, an incomplete puzzle or a toaster oven full of crumbs.

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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.

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DEAR ABBY: I am writing because I’m in a tough situation and not sure what to do. I was recently told by a family member that my 24-year-old son is gay. (He hasn’t given me any indication that he is, other than not dating anyone for several years.) He had a bad experience with a girl in his teens and I assumed that was why he hasn’t dated.

My question for you is, should I confront him about it or wait until he tells me? I have come to terms with the possibility and will stand by him no matter what. I am also concerned that his father (we are divorced) will disown him if he finds out. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. — MOM IN OHIO

DEAR MOM: It would be interesting to know why this relative thinks your son is gay. Did your son tell the relative? I don’t think you should “confront” your son. In time his sexual orientation will become apparent whether he’s gay, straight, bi, asexual, etc. It should be his choice to reveal it — or not.

P.S. If he is gay, your ex-husband’s inability to accept his son, regardless of his sexual orientation, may be the reason he hasn’t spoken up.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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