To give you an idea of what’s behind this installment of Block Talk, think of the announcement Goodwill Industries had to make early on in the pandemic: Stop filling our donation boxes with your junk.
What? People discovered that Goodwill didn’t want them deluging the nonprofit with stuff they didn’t want. So did these people suddenly decide that if charities wouldn’t take it, they’d unload it on their neighbors instead? It’s possible, given some of the responses we got on Facebook to the second question for our every-other-week Block Talk column, where readers offer advice on navigating neighborhood problems. We asked:
“Have you ever dealt with a neighbor who keeps giving you stuff that you don’t want? Do you take it and toss, or do you tell them to stop?”
Here’s what happened to an East Haven, Connecticut, Patch reader who didn’t put a stop to it:
‘Normalize Saying No'”I have so much stuff from elderly neighbors that I can open a thrift store. Who knows, things might be worth money. My husband hates it. It’s all in my basement.”
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Before things get to that point, read on:
Smile And Take It
Just be kind and get over it, advised a Concord, New Hampshire, Patch reader, who said she accepts her neighbor’s gifts with gratitude even when she doesn’t see their value.
“I do this mostly because I appreciate the friendship I have with him and someday when he is no longer here I will have the little treasures he has brought to me over the years to remember him by,” she wrote.
Another Concord Patch reader agreed, writing, “I always accept gifts with gratitude, whether the gift is something I need/want or not.”
A Joliet, Illinois, Patch reader has an 87-year-old neighbor who gathers up toys others have discarded and gives them to her kids. “Sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes I don’t want it,” she wrote, adding, “it’s not about me.”
“It makes him feel good. He has a big heart. So I just take it, and if we can’t use it, I give it to other kids.”
“You take it and if you don’t need it, pass it on to someone who could use it,” a Brick, New Jersey, Patch reader wrote. “Giving you things may bring great joy to someone who may not have family, or is just trying to do a good deed, and it may be the one thing that brings them happiness.”
“No need to make someone feel bad about trying to help,” a Tinley Park, Illinois, Patch reader wrote. “You can always pay it forward.”
A Wheaton, Illinois, Patch reader accepts the food offerings from the “sweet old lady” across the street, but then tosses them in the garbage.
“She’s recovering from cancer, and it makes her happy to give her home cooked food to the neighbors,” the reader wrote. “I buy her new [storage containers] and include a gift card. It’s the thought that counts, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings when it brings such joy to her.”
“I was raised that you accept it,” a Lake Elsinore, California, Patch reader wrote. “If I’m given something they obviously thought of me because maybe they thought I could use it. If I have no use for it, I donate it or toss it.”
The readers who advise taking your neighbor’s castoffs with a smile far outweighed those who said there are other ways to handle it without being a complete jerk. Be kind, but direct, several readers advised.
“I would say thank you for thinking about me, I really appreciate it, but it’s really not for me, but maybe someone else needs it,” a Brick, New Jersey, Patch reader wrote.
A Levittown, Pennsylvania, Patch reader’s similar advice was kind, but subtly made a point: “I would say, ‘that is really nice of you to think of me; however, I really don’t have any room for more. I would be happy to drop it at a donation site for you.’ “
But why tiptoe around it? “Normalize saying no,” a Newport, Rhode Island, reader advised. Kindly thank the person, but stand firm. “It’s really not a big deal,” the person wrote. “If someone gets offended, that’s on them, not you.”