Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: Fall has begun, and the holiday season is fast approaching. I am a recovering hoarder, and I'm digging myself out from all the stuff I own. I feel like if anyone gives me more "stuff," I'll want to scream. I want to know if it is polite and appropriate to send the following letter to loved ones: "Dear Loved One, I am glad you care enough about me to gift me at Christmas. However, I need to get rid of many of my possessions, which I don't have room for. I don't need any more. I don't want to upset you, but I don't want you to waste your money on something I'll have to give away. I don't need any more clothes, jewelry, books or knickknacks. I have too many already. I can't use any soap or lotion unless it's unscented for sensitive skin. Otherwise, it will break me out in bumps. I am allergic to wool. Red is my least favorite color. I can't have sugar anymore. If you still want to give a gift, please ask me what I need or give me something I can use up." Can you give me your opinion?
DEAR RECOVERING: First of all -- hooray for you! You are tackling a very challenging life change, and you are wise to be proactive about the holidays, which could trigger a hoarding cycle for you.
My suggestion is that you keep your letter very brief, explaining your situation but eliminating your list, which is a little snarky. In your note, say that you would truly celebrate if your friends and family members contributed to a worthy cause of their choice. Let their generosity toward others be their primary gift to you.
DEAR AMY: My lifelong best friend was recently dumped by her fiance. He has been mentally and emotionally abusive throughout their relationship. This behavior has only escalated since the breakup. They are currently still living together while she waits for her apartment to become available. She demands all my free time. She doesn't want to spend time at home because he's there, which I understand, but she doesn't have any other friends she can turn to. I am also frustrated by the fact that she expects me to be at her beck and call because she's sad about the breakup, but I am out of empathy. I cannot talk to her about how to save the relationship when I don't support the relationship. She has asked my honest opinion, and I gave it to her but do not want to keep repeating it because I know that won't help. I have encouraged her to find new hobbies, join clubs, make new friends and see a good therapist all to no avail because she's too heartbroken right now. This is causing tremendous stress on me and my husband, who has been wonderfully supportive but misses his wife. I don't know how to handle this with her.
DEAR OVERTAXED: Never stop giving your honest opinion, but telling your depressed friend to join clubs, make new friends and see a good therapist is only going to overwhelm her. During this period of extreme need, it might be best if you reassure her that you will continue to be in her corner, but on something of a schedule that is more predictable and thus easier on your own marriage.
Can you two meet for a walk outside, or for a side-by-side session on a treadmill at a local gym before or after work a few times a week and on Saturday mornings? Exercising together will benefit both of you and will regulate your contact.
DEAR AMY: You missed the boat on the response to "Gary," who wished to keep his friend's cremated remains at his house. Too many people do not think this process through. Over the years working in the bereavement sector I have witnessed many sad endings to cremated remains not being given a final resting place. Two generations down the road are not going to want the urns of all of their ancestors sitting on a mantle.
DEAR LINDA: Great point! Thank you.