Whatcha gonna do with all that junk; all that junk inside your trunk?
July 13, 2006 3:29 PM   Subscribe

[Break-up Filter] What do I do with all this stuff?

Yesterday I ended a ten-year friendship with my closest friend.

He was extremely surprised and unhappy to learn that I never want to hear from him again. But as I told him, as he kind of knew already, I was in love with him, and if I ever wanted to have an actual relationship, I needed to just stop this. He refused to believe that that was that, but what choice does he have?

I want to emphasize that he never used me, misled me,
or was a dick in any way; I don't want to hurt him, I just need to get free.

Well, now I am purging my apartment of all the stuff he has given me over the years. A few things are valuable: one of a kind antique tchotchkes from distant lands.

What do I do with them?
It seems melodramatic to send them back to him, but I can't just throw them away -- maybe he would want them back, I don't know.
Would you want them back?
If I send them to him, should I send only the valuable things and toss the coffee cups, etc, or should I send him everything?
Include a note of explanation, or not?
I definitely don't want him to send me the stuff I have given him; though some things are valuable -- an iPod, a first-edition of an out-of-print book, etc. If he did, I would throw it all in the trash without compunction, but if memories of me are not painful, I would want him to keep those things and use them and be happy.
How on Earth would I say that without sounding like a martyr?
posted by Methylviolet to Human Relations (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Put it in a box in the closet. Open it a year later and see if you still can't stand having it around.
posted by Loto at 3:31 PM on July 13, 2006

Put all the stuff in a box. Put that box somewhere that you won't see it often. Open that box a year later and see if it still bothers you to see it.
posted by Loto at 3:32 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with Loto. Don't make any decisions you'll later regret until you've had time to get some perspective. Definitely don't send anything to him-- he's not a boyfriend that dumped you. And don't throw anything out.

If you need to, put all the stuff in storage or in your parent's basement.
posted by justkevin at 3:35 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you can't stand having the things in your house right now, box them and give them to a person you trust to hang on to for a while.

It might be horrible and you just want to get rid of them right now, but as time passes and emotions settle, you will be glad you still have them.
posted by mckenney at 3:37 PM on July 13, 2006

I can't just throw them away...

Why not?

I definitely don't want him to send me the stuff I have given him...

Obey the Golden Rule: Treat others as you'd want to be treated. Since you say that if he returned items to you, you would trash them irrespective of value, this would seem to support the argument that you should throw away the items in your possession.

How on Earth would I say [that I would want him to keep those things and use them and be happy] without sounding like a martyr?

You can't. Don't try.

Throw everything in the garbage and move on with your life.

By the way, I have absolutely no idea what you're trying to say in that third paragraph, but it doesn't seem relevant to your question. If that's wrong, then you might consider clarifying.
posted by cribcage at 3:38 PM on July 13, 2006

I agree with Loto (both times!). Get some distance from the stuff and the relationship before making any decisions.
posted by occhiblu at 3:38 PM on July 13, 2006

I agree with loto . . . and loto. Some items might be too painful to look at now but if you throw them away, you might regret it in the future.
posted by necessitas at 3:44 PM on July 13, 2006

And here I thought that the first comment didn't go through.
posted by Loto at 3:49 PM on July 13, 2006

I had the same glitch, Loto.
posted by cribcage at 3:52 PM on July 13, 2006

Bonfire party!

Seriously. Time to move on.
posted by frogan at 3:54 PM on July 13, 2006

Once you are free, which will take some time, you may look fondly back at the time the two of you spent together, or you may not. Postpone the decision, box and think about it later. For now, the entanglement [do you want your things? do you want to give me my things? what to do with all these things?] is going to cause you more anguish than just putting things away. Make a clean break, get the stuff out of your sight, think more about it later.
posted by jessamyn at 3:56 PM on July 13, 2006

Agreeing with loto.... I have boxes of stuff from past relationships that I've slowly re-integrated into my life. Now that the drama from the relationships is long gone, I can look at these things and think of the friendship and the good parts.

I did burn a lot of stuff with one particularly bad break-up, and though we haven't patched things up, and probably won't ever patch things up, I do miss the loss of those items that were once very important to me.

So, yeah, I did what Cribcage recommended once, and I've only regretted it. I recommend packing it all away, label it, and drop it off with your parents or somewhere else you'll be unlikely to go through it at a moment's notice.
posted by hatsix at 3:58 PM on July 13, 2006

Whether you keep the stuff or not, definitely don't send it back to him. If those are things he gave to you (rather than things of his that you just happen to have in your possession), it's likely that you will hurt his feelings by giving the stuff back. I know it would hurt my feelings if I were in that position, anyway. And since you say you don't want to hurt his feelings....

I'd also agree with the box idea too, FWIW. If the stuff still bothers you down the road, get rid of it, no harm done.
posted by Brak at 4:03 PM on July 13, 2006

You could do what a friend did with her engagement ring: Sell the stuff and buy yourself something nice.
posted by nyterrant at 4:07 PM on July 13, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, you guys.

I have always been constitutionally unable to take the long view on emotional stuff, but maybe you are right about keeping it, out of sight, against some future day. Hell, I'm 36 -- I may grow up one day. And if I don't, I can toss it then.

As far as that third paragraph, I'm just saying that his only crime was his inability to return my feelings; I would not be justified in hurting him to make things easier for myself. I might not care about that if I could think he had not cared about me.

A bonfire wouldn't work, as most of this stuff won't burn. But I have just spent some very cathartic quality time with my computer's delete key.
posted by Methylviolet at 4:18 PM on July 13, 2006

Ah, "the box." Lots of people do this (it was the subject of an older AskMe, as I recall) — and yes, one possibility is that someday you'll comb through the box with detached resolve and you'll be glad you saved X, Y, and Z. Other possibilities include the chance that having the box around will hinder your emotional recovery, or the chance that sorting through the box on some future date will re-open an old wound and hurt even more than if you simply dealt with the items today, or the likelihood that your future partner/spouse won't appreciate your ExBox haunting some attic corner of your (plural) house.
posted by cribcage at 4:20 PM on July 13, 2006

You only have a limited number of options:

1) trash it
2) save it
3) sell it
4) donate it
5) give it back

Double this if you split it into all/some.

make a pro/con list, make a decision and implement it. As far as not giving it back becasue it would hurt his feelings, well kind of late for that I think. If I was in a relation that broke off suddenly I'd like any valuable stuff back that the other person was going to trash.
posted by edgeways at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2006

Agreed -- return any valuable stuff. Standard method is to place the box on his doorstep late at night or real early in the morning.
posted by Rash at 4:37 PM on July 13, 2006

Cribcage is so right. I would add that you might want to smash it up, burn it, deface it before you throw it away.

if you throw them away, you might regret it in the future

Simply untrue, I do not think you'll regret not having more stuff years from now, you'll eventually forget.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:52 PM on July 13, 2006

eBay the interesting stuff. Write up a nice story about it. You know how people love that.

Then take the proceeds and do one of the following:
a)buy a bottle of Captain Morgans and guzzle it down with a bottle of Coke

b)go out and get a nice porterhouse steak

c)give it to the Red Cross
posted by drstein at 5:03 PM on July 13, 2006

Don't give the stuff back. It is just pouring salt into the wound from the suddenly ended friendship. I agree with the box idea, or just selling it and moving on.
posted by tastybrains at 5:22 PM on July 13, 2006

Since this happened just yesterday I'd put the matches away and not start auctions on ebay.

I was in an extremely similar situation. I was in love with her. She wasn't in love with me. I decided I had to lay all my cards on the table and tell her how I felt and that if the feelings weren't mutual, I'd have to end our friendship.

6 months later we ran into each other. In that time I got over her. She and I remain good friends. She married some dude. I'm dating others and don't even consider her anything else than a platonic friend. She didn't give me a lot of gifts. The gifts she gave me from far off lands or that livened up the place, I kept. Just as I would if another friend got me. I didn't see them as symbols of our relationship. I saw them as gifts. Yes, sometimes I'd see something on my mantle and think of her, but not enough to put it in a box or throw it away. Over time, you'll look back at the good times with the guy and these gifts can spark memories. Sure, he got away, but fuck him.

Breaking away and moving on was the best thing I did. I'd still be pining for her even though she is now married and I would be holding out for her to love me back. Yes it hurts at first. But with time you'll find you can move on.
posted by birdherder at 5:35 PM on July 13, 2006

I've done The Box before, and it's honestly nice. I mean, I really, really thought about throwing away all of those love letters, but honestly? I'm incredibly lucky to have had a romance during a time when someone would still write letters, rather than just emails. It's been . . . gosh almost ten years now, but I still have the stuff, stuck in a tin under my bed at my parents' house. I thought I'd never be able to look at it all again, but probably five years ago I drug it all back out and re-read it, no harm done.

You can keep it out of sight and return to it later with some perspective -- you might even learn something about yourself when you do.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:39 PM on July 13, 2006

don't give stuff back -- it could be very hurtful, and you don't seem to want to hurt him. I'm definitely in The Box camp. I've done exactly that in a couple of cases after ending relationships (both romantic and platonic), and am glad I did. Eventually I wound up keeping some objects and getting rid of others.

The few times I have out-and-out destroyed stuff immediately following the end of a relationship I've regretted it, because I robbed myself of the chance to make the decision with a clear head and a full heart.
posted by scody at 5:41 PM on July 13, 2006

Giving stuff back is a way of communicating, and also hurtful, so no. Store it with a friend, at your parents, or in a deep dark corner of the attic. Someday, you'll be able to cherish those reminders of a good friend. Really.
posted by theora55 at 6:47 PM on July 13, 2006

In the following order (for the "basic" items):
    1. Make sure he doens't want them back 2. Give it to a local church - having worked within a church since I was a kid. You would be amazed to know the number of folks who simply swing by just for a tshirt or blanket. 3. Salvation Army - The Salvation Army will sell the items you give them for free... hence, why I suggest a local church over the SA.
For the valuable stuff:
    1. Keep it 2. Ebay 3. Yard/Garage Sale

posted by bamassippi at 7:42 PM on July 13, 2006

Pretend you will die tomorrow:
*what things would he want back?
*what things would you give to friends/family to make them happy?
*what things would you want to be buried with you for eternity?
*and what things are just meaningless junk?
posted by peeedro at 8:38 PM on July 13, 2006

He was your best friend for ten years. If it was me, I would put the stuff in a box and put the box away and not look in it for a long, long time. There will be a time when you'll be able to open it and feel good about the memories. One of my favorite quotes is: "all that remains is the love given and the love received." You will eventually move on emotionally and will be able to remember all the good times you guys had together.
posted by gt2 at 8:56 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

No, but seriously—closest friend, ten years? I'd think after so long you could guess which of these items he would value having. I'd think you'd have some idea whether or not he would junk a thing you gave back. And even if not, I'd think you could both handle the conversation that would ensue if you just asked him. Or does 'friend' not mean what I think it means?

If you, um, how do I say this nicely? Can't, I've got no gift for tact. If you don't have the guts to talk to him about it, if and only if you're certain that you don't have the guts, could not develop the guts, and would prefer regretting your insecurity to taking the chance of holding a sensitive conversation—you may take the following advice: It's a safe bet to assume he gave you 'one of a kind antique tchotchkes from distant lands' as gifts because he wanted you to have them. If ten years of friendship have left valuable memories in your soul, keep the souvenirs as the material tokens thereof. Box them up if you like, but don't smash or burn. You'll be glad of them later.
posted by eritain at 11:03 PM on July 13, 2006

Insert into first para before "and even if not": I'd think you could figure out how he'd take your returning his gifts.

Insert at close: Davaal's first two paragraphs. And a big helping of tough love.
posted by eritain at 11:07 PM on July 13, 2006

Response by poster: Right, that's true -- if I returned his presents he'd be bewildered and unhappy. I guess I knew that.

I have boxed it all up and will send it to my dad's.

Thanks all.
posted by Methylviolet at 11:45 PM on July 13, 2006

I Nth the box. I've had both relationships and friendships end over the years (I'm your age) and eventually all the pictures and things stopped hurting. Some of the relationship folks became friends later and pictures can hang on my wall. Some of the friends I never wanted to be friends with again and I see no reason to have pictures up.

But I never pulled any of this stuff back out (or more honestly, stumbled on it) and thought "wow, wish I'd thrown that away before now."

The landfill will always be there.
posted by phearlez at 1:57 PM on July 14, 2006

(long-time reader first-time poster here, MeFi)

Like lots of people have said already, please do NOT give the stuff back.. that would definitely hurt him more - it would me.

Also i just want to add to the discussion, that i was once very much in love with my best friend. to say i "got over it" would be insulting to us both. i told her eventually, not that it was much of a surprise by then, though she was still quite flattered. we took no 'time off' from being friends to let that scenario settle, we just carried on as before - mostly because we didnt' treat each other differently, because there's no reason to, IMO.

Perhaps too little too late, but I think people are perfectly capable of remaining friends after the 'coming out' of one being in love with the other. They just have to realise that the way you behave around each other doesn't have to change.

Anyway good luck. I hope you keep the things he gave you! They are valuable memory-holders you will appreciate in years to come.
posted by cmetom at 8:06 AM on July 17, 2006

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