Trouble With Purging

By Annie Lane

September 11, 2018 4 min read

Dear Annie: Next month, I'm moving into an apartment that's smaller than my current one. So in the meantime, I've been going through all of my stuff, trying to purge anything I don't use. I have been donating a lot of clothes, books, DVDs, knickknacks and the like to Goodwill. I used to have trouble letting go of things because of sentimental attachment, but after a few moves, I've gotten pretty good at detaching feelings from objects.

The one place where I'm running into problems is when it comes to gifts. Anything a friend or family member has given me, I have a hard time throwing away. I feel guilty. I think about the person excitedly picking the thing out for me. For instance, my aunt always sends me jewelry, but I only wear it when I see her, a couple of times a year. I don't really wear much jewelry normally. And my mom and dad have gotten me countless T-shirts from their travels over the years. They're great T-shirts, but I must have over 30 T-shirts. My dresser drawers are overstuffed. But every time I put one of the T-shirts in my "donation" bags, I end up digging it out a few hours later. How can I get over this, Annie? — Can't Give Away Gifts

Dear Can't Give Away Gifts: Perhaps a little thought exercise will help you to clear this mental hurdle. Think of a gift you gave years ago to a loved one — your aunt, let's say. Now think of that gift sitting on her closet shelf, gathering dust and giving her pangs of guilt every time she sees it. Would you want her to keep it just because you gave it to her? Of course not. You'd want her to donate it and make space for things she loves. And she'd probably want you to do the same. You might also let her know you have plenty of jewelry now, to save her from spending money on it in the future. As for the T-shirts from your parents, you could repurpose them into a quilt or simply keep one or two of your favorites and donate the rest.

Remember that just because you don't love a gift doesn't mean you love the giver any less.

Dear Annie: I read your response to "Sad Stepmom," who is concerned that her son, with a history of addiction, may be drinking and using drugs. Thank you for recommending that she return to Al-Anon and also for saying that Al-Anon is not a program you graduate from.

In my 35 years of active involvement in Al-Anon, there have been many times when I've seen people return to a meeting after not coming for a long time. And none of them has ever said that it was just to pop in and see how we were doing and that life was going great.

Although I have not lived with active alcoholism in many years, actually decades, I attend meetings because I live in this world and still have to deal with others and myself. — Daphne F.

Dear Daphne: I'm glad to hear that Al-Anon has been of help to you over the years. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm going to use this opportunity to once again promote the benefits of Al-Anon for the families of those with addiction. Visit for more information and a database of meetings across the country.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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