Ask Amy: Cousin marries, invites no one and sends link to wedding photos; ‘Should I send a gift?’

Dear Amy: This past April, my girlfriend of 10 years passed away. She didn’t have a will or any life insurance. Her brother paid for the cremation. He came to the house to pick up some of his sister’s things.

Her daughter also retrieved some items.

I have no problem with any family members receiving anything they want.

My problem is almost the opposite of that: Nobody in the family wants most of her possessions because they don’t have the room in their own homes.

They told me I could do what I want with her leftover possessions.

I know that people say, “Just have a garage sale,” but I don’t really know how to do that!

I work five days a week.

How do I sell this stuff at a fair price?

I’m also worried about people coming to my house and asking about stuff or asking about the price of things.

I guess there are a few nice things, but not that much.

Can you help me get started?

– Overwhelmed

Dear Overwhelmed: Hosting a yard sale can be rewarding in many ways – but the work is made much easier if you have a friend helping you.

There are also individuals and companies who will organize, price, and handle the selling for a portion of the profit. This might be worthwhile for you.

Before you host your sale, go to some other sales on a Saturday to see how things are organized and priced. If you hear about a “multi-family” sale on a specific weekend, you might plan your sale to happen at the same time. (Shoppers like to go from one sale to the next.)

Hold your sale either on the lawn (put things on tables) or in your open garage, with items NOT for sale covered up or behind tape. Keep the house locked. People who attend garage sales will not ask to enter your house.

Advertise your sale well by putting up colorful signs and posting a local notice on your neighborhood listserv and in the local newspaper.

Put price tag stickers on each item – that way you won’t have to answer too many questions.

Have a plan for donating items that don’t sell. After your sale, box these items up and take them directly to your local reuse center, Goodwill, or Salvation Army.

I think of yard sales as a great way to recycle items, by sending your extra goods on to a good home.

Your sale could also help you to move forward after this big loss in your own life.

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Dear Amy: A relatively distant cousin recently eloped.

By “eloped,” I mean that they got married with no invited guests.

She wore a dress, they picked a beautiful spot, and they hired a photographer to document it.

I received an announcement with a link to photos via text message.

Should I send a gift? If so, what would you recommend?

Honestly, I feel more like a “thumbs up” is the appropriate response.

– Distant

Dear Distant: Despite the undercurrent of disapproval I note in your question, your cousin is not trolling for gifts – but merely notifying you of the happy news of this recent marriage.

If you want to send a gift, then by all means – do that.

I think an appropriate response is to look through their linked photos and return their text message, remarking that you enjoyed their photos, that you hope their special day was joyful and noting that you are very happy for them.

A further generous response would be to add, “As a congratulations, I hope you’ll let me take you both to dinner the next time you’re in the area. It would be nice to catch up.”

Dear Amy: “Upset Husband” was struggling with his in-laws forcing money onto him and his wife.

I’ve experienced this situation with my own parents. I’ve worked hard and am successful and self-sufficient. They’ll leave cash at my house, and have put money in accounts in my name.

They’re empty-nesters and it makes them feel good to spend it on their children.

How I solved this: The last unsolicited PayPal I received from them, I let them know it’s appreciated but unnecessary.

I made it clear that I’ll accept this one more time and put it toward my mortgage. From then on, anytime they leave cash at my house or send me PayPal, I set it aside and spend it all back on them with gifts and experiences whenever they come to visit.

– Grateful

Dear Grateful: This sounds like a great idea.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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