What to Do About In-laws Who Give Us Stuff?

Updated on April 09, 2016
S.N. asks from Colorado Springs, CO
24 answers

I love my in-laws, they are great. Except for the fact that they are always giving us things I don't want. They brought over 5 huge boxes of stuff from my husbands childhood. Whenever there is a special occasion she sends presents and knick knacks. When we told them we were pregnant his Mom got really excited about all the toys she had saved that she wanted to give us. I wouldn't hesitate to toss them out expect I think it hurts my husbands feelings. He likes to save momentos like his Mom, but I can't stand clutter or storing things for the sake of storing them. I will take any suggestions you can offer to get rid of these things without offending anyone

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answers from Oklahoma City on

You can't. They're not yours.

They are your husbands and if you can't live with him the way he is and that he wants to keep his things then perhaps you can think this through in terms of it's his house too and he has just as much right to have his own things there as you do? Or that if you keep nagging him to get rid of his things that he wants to keep then perhaps he'll pick them and get rid of you?

I like having my own things too so I don't get you at all. So what if you don't want his stuff, it's not your stuff to like or not like. It's his.

Sorry if this seams mean but you want it all your way and he can't have his own things. If he wants to keep stuff then you have to accept it or do something else.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Hi S.,

This is a tough one, the in-law questions always are. I know this is an oversimplification but in my almost 20 years of marriage, I've found, with in-law issues, what works best is he handles his people and I handle mine.

What I believe this means for you, in this case, is to sit down and have a problem solving conversation with your DH, find your common ground and negotiate a solution with respect to quantity and type of item you can both accept into your house. This will be a compromise so don't expect either of you will get everything you want but hopefully you'll both get what you need.

Once that's done, he approaches his parents and explains your agreed parameters with love and patience. Make sure he uses lots of "you" statements. Example, You are so generous and attentive to think of us and we appreciate it so much. Our space is limited and will be even more so with a baby on the way.

I don't think your goal should necessarily be to get rid of stuff but to stem the tide before it breaches your front door. I would also have him suggest to them that perhaps there are other families at their house of worship or neighborhood association who might make great use of their generosity.

Congratulations on the baby!! S.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Don't throw them out now. You will end up causing hard feelings. Not worth it. Hopefully one day you will understand how they both feel. When the time comes to toss things out of your kids, you may find yourself getting a bit sentimental.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My mom told us when we got married, all the stuff from our childhood got married to the new family too :) I think they want to clear their clutter too, and yes, we have boxes of stored trophies etc, but I seretly hope to dump all of my children's things to them when they move out and are married :) I think any presents are a sweet geture. Too bad your hubby likes to keep it all, but hopefully he will start to see the clutter and weed things out too. But I LOVE having my kids play with the toys i played with. It brings back so many good memories and I hope my kids pass on some of the special toys I have kept too. I definitely would not get rid of keepsakes, but keep them or even keep them in a box and pass them on to the next baby in the family :) I would support whatever my hubby wanted to do with his childhood things.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I have a springy horse that was a gift for me from my grandfather.
We have pictures of me riding it.
My Mom saved it and gave it to us when our son was about a year old.
He LOVED it!
And we now have pictures of him riding it too!
We're saving it for his kids someday.
I hope that horse stays in the family for generations.

Certain toys are classic.
You have no need to buy new if your husbands toys are fine to be loved/used again.
We certainly didn't save everything - but we did save some.
Look, you're pregnant - and big changes are coming.
Like it or not - your clutter comfort level is going to change.
You de-clutter when they are off to college, and even more so when they have a home and/or kids of their own.
Welcome to parenthood!
Roll with it!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I am in this boat. I have a toy box that is full of my son's Tonka metal trucks. Yeah the ones that they don't make anymore which are like 40 years old. I also have Dr. Seuss books in a series that have never been opened that are this age as well.

They are still in my home but I would love to give them to my son if he has another son or my daughter if she ever has a son. The quality is something that is not in toys these days. Yes ebay or something like it would or could be plausible but I don't want to break up the collection. I think of American Pickers and all the toys that they find and sell. Many of those toys I recall from my childhood.

I understand your not wanting to fill up "your" home with stuff from his past but it is also his home as well. Do go through all the other things and compromise. You want to put your baby things in your home and one day you will be in this same boat of downsizing.

My son does not want his trophies for sports and neither do I so I think they will be going to the dumpster.

You two will find a happy medium and stick to it.

the other S.

PS I still have a few of the original Star Wars toys from the 70s and my son wants those and I won't turn them loose yet. But the day is coming that I will dig them out of the closet and give them to him. I guess you can call it a generational thing from those of us that didn't have anything to those of us that hadl/have everything.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Can you suggest your in laws keep the toys at their house for your child to play with when you visit?

I'm not particularly sentimental and the clutter would drive me insane. I couldn't store stuff for the sake of storing it either.

Best of luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My husband deals with his side, I deal with mine. A family counselor told us that years ago when we were dealing with his mother. Best advice ever.

You tell your husband what you're ok with, and you compromise. Then he deals with his mom.

I agree - if she could keep all the toys at her house for when the baby arrives (congratulations) all the better for you. That's what we did.

My MIL is exact same - she kept everything, buys a ton, and is into nick knacks. If she asks me straight up "Do you want this?" something she no longer wants (which is really what this is, she just wants to get rid of her stuff) I just say "Thanks, but you know, we're decluttering..". Or I will say if she catches me off guard "Hubby will flip if we bring more stuff into the house". That's not necessarily true, but I stick it on him if it's his mom. And he's totally ok with that. That way she can take it up with him and not me.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You "think" it hurts your husband's feelings? Why can't you just ask him how he feels? If he wants to hold on to things then fine, let him pay for and transport the stuff to a storage unit.
I really don't understand how people can be married and not know how to talk to each other about such basic stuff :-(

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

You have to wait for your husband to get rid of them because they are his belongings.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I like the response of saying we don't have space for any extra stuff. Let your husband have a plastic bin or two to store the momentos of his that his parent brings to him. They likley don't want the stuff in their house either. Or you could keep/use the items for a short while then move them on to another home (donated them). I agree, it is simply not possible to keep everything. The older I get, the less stuff I want to have. It becomes too much to manage, store and organize and 50% of the stuff, you don't use, forgot you had or really don't need.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

It sounds like these are your husband's things from when he was a child and MIL no longer has any wish to store them. Good for her, clearing out her space. It's not her responsibility to store his stuff - he can keep or toss. As for gifts for special occasions you could try talking to her and suggest more experiences - memberships, tickets for events, etc. You could suggest something like tickets for her and your child to something they could do together. However gifts are something from the heart and you definitely risk offending her. Think hard before you decide.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think part of it is the "saving of the childhood stuff" and the other part is perhaps your in-laws don't want the burden of storing the stuff either. I am slowly making the kids (adult ones) take their childhood items. In my case, I really don't care if they keep it or toss it, but there ARE a few things I do care about. However, I ask about those items separately.

I would involve your husband in the planning portion of WHERE these items would be stored, as well as going through the items. They do belong to him and honestly if he wants to build a shed to store them all in, by all means let him :) Marriage is about compromise and if he needs to store things for the sake of storing them, then I would let him.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

make your husband go thru his childhood and keep whats important then have him decide to donate or toss the rest. and if there is still a ton of stuff then consider a storage facility to keep the stuff in so its not cluttering your house.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm an enormous believer in tidiness. "A place for everything and everything in its place is my big motto." Thankfully, I have the reputation in my family as someone who dislikes clutter and I'm rarely offered other's junk anymore! My grandmother used to be the one who would give me extra "stuff"(mostly things from her church's thrift shop) and I'd tell her that what I couldn't use or didn't have a place for that I would give to charity--this eventually stopped her junky "gifts." I would mention that your space is limited and I would also tell her that you are leery of older toys because many of them aren't up to proper safety standards

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

My hubby and I are in the same boat. He feels that when something is a gift you have to keep it but I feel that when someone gives you a gift it becomes yours to do with as you see fit.

With the 5 boxes of toys from your hubby's childhood I'd go through it with him and donate whatever you don't want. If he wants to keep everything then throw it in storage and in a year drag it out with the understanding that what hasn't been touched will go to someone who can use it.

Gifts and knick knacks I'd probably give it a week to see if hubby notices them. If they aren't going to be displayed then I'd donate them. Your inlaws love to give things but you are not obligated to keep everything they give.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Well, I'm on the road to downsizing. However, I had this happen with my ex-in laws. They would buy cheap dollar store items for the kids not appropriate for their age at the time and not only could they choke but if it happened to be age appropriate, it would break.

I flat out pointed it out to them on the package..."not for kids under age 3". I told them I could not give it to them if it wasn't age appropriate. It kept happening. I remember one xmas my son got a 160 piece construction set. He was like 3 and we had pieces all over. My husband was like WHAT THE HECK??!! After they left he was the one that said we are not keeping this....threw it in a bag and it was donated. We did that from then on.

Now, I have my stuff from when I was a baby. Literally my crib mobile is hanging in my room...it's almost 50 years old. LOL But I decided I can't hold on to this stuff anymore so I'm going to contact the antique consignment places and see how that works.

If I were you, first, I would TALK to my husband and see how he really feels. My husband HATES clutter and now so do I so I'm working on it. Ask your husband if he likes how nice and organized the house is and see if he understands the issue. Maybe go through the boxes and keep a few things your husband really loved or is in really good shape and save them for grandbabies just for fun. I'm doing that with my daughters Transformers collection and my son had all the Thomas the Train sets. They are in the garage.

There is nothing wrong with saving a FEW things...so you and him need to decide what that is. And it sounds like your MIL isn't local because she "sends" stuff? If she isn't local to see if you keep it then don't. =0) Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Ug! This is my MIL!!! She has report cards from 1st grade, and art projects from 3rd grade and ... I don't even keep that stuff from my own kids. The last time we were there she pulled out this 2nd grade art project and ask my husband if he made it or one of his brothers. I looked across the table at my BIL (he married my husband's sister) and just rolled my eyes. BIL & I have the same attitude. Why the hell are you keeping this stuff???

I understand that some people are sentimental and think the idea of you throwing it away is just horrible. But I completely disagree. I think you would be doing him a favor. If he never knew that stuff existed, he would never miss it! Until your MIL brought it over, he was completely unaware.

I don't have a good answer, but I'm working on my husband. Our kids have so many toys that they don't need toys from my husband's childhood. And the truth is, they don't want them. So many of those toys are so outdated that our boys don't appreciate them anyway.

As much as possible, I try to get my husband to either toss them or give them to Good Will. Otherwise they would just take up space and drive me crazy!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

If your husband didn't want these things, I'd hang on to them for a bit in a bin in the garage then get rid
of them. However, it sounds like your husband likes these things. If so, they are his things given to him
by his family, so I'd let him dea with it. You could always ask him "Are all of these things sentimental
items you want to keep, honey?". You're jogging his memory that there's stuff to go through AND you're
letting him deal with it. I would definitely not say anything to MIL. If it was your mom, that would be

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Just give her a list with the toys or things you would like. She probably will be more than happy to get your wishes fulfilled and stop buying stuff you do not cherish.
However, the boxes from you husband childhood has attached memories . Check with him what he wishes to do with it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

Wow. I'm in your camp. I have purged so much lately that if it were me, my husband would understand me purging his stuff as well. I like someone's idea below of leaving the toys at their house and the kids could play with them there. I'll bet you could reduce those 5 huge boxes to perhaps 2 small ones? Maybe see if that's doable?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We had to talk to my mom about it. Or have your DH talk to her. Or let it be HIS choice to keep or toss, but take all the bins and put them in your room to sort when they arrive vs giving them straight to the kids. If MIL objects to this, tell her that you need to sort the toys first, end of discussion. Depending on the thing, he may choose to rehome it to a shelter, school or other charity.



answers from Wausau on

MIL sounds like gift-giving is how she shows love. If that is the case, then rejecting the gifts outright might be hurtful, but you're not obligated to keep everything. Your husband gets the final word about his childhood mementos, but all the new stuff is up for discussion.

If your MIL is also the type to ask "Where is the ____ I gave you six months ago?" or she asks to have something back two years later, then you have no choice but to take the path of "Please, no more stuff. We don't have room for it and can't keep it all." it won't be pleasant but it will be less drama than if you get rid of something and have to tell her later.



answers from Miami on

Let me tell you a story about a friend of my family. He is like your husband, but doesn't have a wife. He could NEVER throw away his mom's stuff. Three years ago she died in a nursing home at the age of 91. Her stuff is ALL OVER his house. It's in boxes and laying around, in the middle of the floor, stacked up against walls, everywhere, from floor to ceiling. He has two rooms in his house without her stuff - his bedroom (astonishingly) and the bathroom. It is truly depressing to walk into my friend's house.

You simply do not owe your mother-in-law or your husband in regards to keeping all this stuff. You don't. It's your home, too. Your husband isn't the one stressing over what to do with all of this. He doesn't deal with all the logistics of where to keep stuff, how to organize it, etc.

You need to just decide what you will and won't keep and just deal with it on your own. No discussing it. If you know something is extra special to him, keep it. Display it. But don't keep junk and don't keep things that have nothing to do with your husband.

Clutter is subjective. One person's clutter is another person's comfort. If you are a "minimalist", decide how much you can take without it making you constantly anxious and unhappy. And don't let it get to that point. That's a way of making it so that you can control it, without letting it control you. Be sensitive to his comfort level without letting it veto yours. You are the one who has to manage stuff, so YOU get to make the decisions.

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