What is the statute of limitations concerning how long one is required to keep unwanted kitchen appliances that were received as gifts from dear friends and relatives?
My apartment has a small kitchen and, while I do like to cook, I do not have space for mixers, juicers, bread makers, tortilla presses, pasta makers, tomato mills, french-fry cutters, electric indoor grills, gelato machines, panini presses, R2-D2 popcorn makers (yes, I’m a Star Wars fan and I did receive one of those for my birthday), egg cookers (what happened to using regular pots and pans for eggs?), french press espresso makers, or coffee roasters. I don’t want to appear ungrateful or ungracious, and yes, I have dropped occasional hints: What fun! My own 9-tray vegetable dehydrator! I can’t wait to find space for it so I can serve up some home-made bok choy chips.
It seems churlish to complain about gifts, and I am happy to donate these appliances to Goodwill. But I worry that my friends will drop by for dinner and notice they’ve gone missing. Aside from moving (not going to happen; my place is rent-controlled) or renting storage, is there a solution?
—Cluttered in Cleveland Heights
I think you have to deal with this quintessentially First World problem on a case-by-case basis. If your darling Granny, who lives on Social Security and raised you from a wee tad when your parents deserted you, comes to visit often and takes great delight in watching you make tortillas in that press she saved for months to surprise you with, because she knows how much you love tortillas and is sure her gift will make you happy and save you money, there is no statute of limitations. In fact, you should probably replace the damn thing with an exact duplicate if anything ever happens to it. At the other extreme, if your wealthy former roommate, who lives 3000 miles away and would probably prefer eating out if she ever came to your town, has her assistant order you the latest esoteric small appliance from Amazon every birthday, the statute of limitations is about thirty seconds, and you don’t even have to open the box before repatriating that tomato mill. (By the way: being perplexed about how one would mill a tomato, or why, I just looked up “tomato mill,” and some of those puppies cost as much as my first car. Who knew?)
Although I can’t give you one statute of limitations for every situation, I can list some factors to consider:
- How much thought, effort, and expense (the latter as a function of donor wealth) went into the gift?
- Do you EVER actually use it?
- Could you make yourself like it?
- How much room does it take up?
- How long have you already had it?
—Corollary: Can you credibly report that it was broken or wore out? Can you do so without upsetting the donor?
- How likely is the friend or relative to visit/eat at your place?
—Corollary: For those who won’t or can’t come by without advance notice, how easy would it be to borrow an
- identical appliance for the duration of the visit/meal? (It might be very easy if you have given the appliance in question to a near neighbor, on the understanding that you can borrow it back.)
- How sensitive is the donor? How understanding?
- Have you made reasonable efforts to dissuade the donor from adding to your weird-and-unnecessary-appliance glut, and has the donor ignored you?
- Is the appliance cute (I am thinking of the droid)?
- What kind of relationship do you have with the donor? How much do you owe, love, like, rely on, secretly resent, etc., this person?
I hope that this checklist helps you cull your small appliances. You should also do what you can to prevent any further influx. It can be difficult to get people to stop giving you a certain class of gifts in the future without having them catch on that you were not thrilled with one or more gifts you’ve gotten from them in the past. For friends and relatives with a practical bent, you can probably get away with saying that you’ve run out of room in your kitchen for even a single new appliance. Other people may require more tact, or be lost causes.
Friends and relatives with whom you regularly exchange presents, as opposed to those who just decide to surprise you with some random electric wok or mini donut factory, can probably be steered toward a whole new class of gifts. With them you can accentuate the positive – telling them, for example, that you’ve become obsessed with scarves, or table linens, or wine, or earrings, or something else that you actually like, or is perishable, or at least takes up very little space.
Or you can ask them if they have any on-line wish lists, and direct them to yours.
I do hope you keep the R2-D2 popcorn machine. They are adorable.
I have been with my boyfriend, “Tim,” for almost three years. We moved in together a year ago, when we both started grad school. Life, including our sex life, is good. He is smart and kind and cute, and I trust him. I’ve even started thinking about marriage. But there is this Economics student, “Lazlo,” in an interdisciplinary seminar I’m taking (I’m in Anthro) who’s just blowing me away. The other day all three of us happened to meet at a party and it was as if Tim suddenly faded and shrank when he and Lazlo were in the same room. Just sitting next to Lazlo in class yesterday and seeing the way the sunlight glints off the hairs on his forearm almost made me pass out.
So anyway, yesterday we met at Starbucks, ostensibly to discuss this small presentation we are paired on (totally by chance—I was even thinking maybe it was Fate, but I am a basically rational person and do not go in for that kind of thing). And we did discuss the presentation, but we also just talked for a while. I told him about Tim, and he mentioned that he had recently broken up with his girlfriend. Then we talked about books, movies, our likes and dislikes, and our families back home. Everything he said struck me as totally delightful, and the way he listened to me gave me this feeling that he understood, you know, the pilgrim soul in me. That we would have plenty to talk about for years and years. On the way home I kept wanting to sing, or skip. Tim and I had what I guess was a normal evening—spaghetti and studying—but it just felt so deadening. And then, in bed, I kept fantasizing about Lazlo. What should I do?
Straying in St. Paul
Despite the name you chose, you are hardly straying at this point, except in your head. You have yearned, admired, and fantasized, but so far the only conduct you’ve actually engaged in with Lazlo, other than simply being a fellow student, is that long personal conversation at Starbucks.
What you should do right now is continue living your life. You may be about to face a dilemma, or you may not. It is too early for you to tell whether your feelings for Lazlo amount to anything beyond a crush, much less what Lazlo has in mind.
I assume you’re only about halfway through the semester. This should give you time to get to know Lazlo a little better. At the same time, I would pay closer attention to Tim. Talk to him, listen to him, and reflect on your relationship: think about why you moved in together, and whether you still value your shared life the way you used to. Your susceptibility to Lazlo’s charms may be a sign that all is not well with you and Tim. Or you and Tim may be just fine, and the attraction to Lazlo may simply be a case of your mind and hormones giving you a little pushback now that you’ve started thinking about marriage. (You have to admit that the timing of your attraction is suspicious.)
It is, of course, possible that you and Lazlo may be falling for each other in some meaningful way. This is not necessarily a thing to be discouraged. I would counsel extreme caution, and advise you to stay away from Lazlo as much as possible to avoid temptation, if you and Tim were married or otherwise committed for the long term – or if you had kids, or perhaps even if you were older and had been together for many years, since your relationship seems basically happy and healthy. But—although moving in together was a commitment of sorts, and three years does give you a past to consider— you and Tim have not promised to stay together, and the few years you have spent as a couple do not require you to turn away from a relationship you think could bring you greater happiness.
You say that Tim is smart, kind, cute, and trustworthy, and that you have a good sex life. This is a rare combination. On the other hand, you never say that you love him. Unless you took time off before grad school, you must be quite young—22 or 23? That is too early to be chafing, or settling. Of course, you have only been chafing for a matter of days or weeks, since Lazlo came on the scene; and, for all either of us knows, he may turn out to be uninterested, dishonest, or caddish— those men who listen attentively, at first anyway, and make you feel like the only woman in the world, often are. You may even discover that, under all that conversational glitz and arm hair, Lazlo is actually rather pedestrian. There are many reasons why somebody you have known for a month and spoken to for a few hours total may turn out not to be the guy for you.
I don’t think you need to “confess” anything to Tim at present. Talking about Lazlo at this point would probably blow things all out of proportion. I also think it would be unkind. And there may never be anything to tell, not really.
Cleaver’s in-house advice columnist opines on matters punctuational, interpersonal, and philosophical, spinning wit and literary wisdom in response to your ethical quandaries. Write to her at [email protected]. Find more columns by June in her attic.
Image credit: Karin Viva on Flickr