Social Question

Aethelwine's avatar

Am I wrong to feel a bit violated (please read details)?

Asked by Aethelwine (41739points) November 2nd, 2010

I’m asking this question in social because I don’t want it in the federated network. Please, no jokes.

My husband and I recently lost our house to foreclosure. We were unable to get everything from our house, but my husband and I are trying to make a fresh start, which includes not holding on to things we won’t need.

I had a bad habit of accepting things from my mother, because I had trouble telling her no, and we stored a lot of items in our home. Things that were broken, but if fixed, could be useful. We never had the time or money to fix these things.

I told my mother we left a lot of items at the house. We just didn’t have the time, or vehicle, to haul these items. the house is 60miles from our new home Some things I wanted, but I knew I couldn’t return to get them.

I just learned that my mother and father went to the house “treasure hunting” and took many items to their home. My sister told me this, she was invited to go. No one asked, or told me before they went.

I feel a bit violated that they went through my personal belongings. Should I say something to my parents, or is it best to just let go?

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36 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

No. That is perhaps one of the most terrible things that I’ve heard. Whether or not they took you telling them that you’d left some stuff behind as an “invitation” to go get it is up for debate, but the only reason they should have gone is to grab things that they thought you would have wanted to keep for you. I would ask them if that’s what they did, and if it was to keep themselves, you should tell them that such an action seems very much like them taking advantage of you in one of your most desperate times.

I’m all for forgiveness…but this seems like one of those times it would be very, very difficult for my family to make it up to me. Think of it this way – if it were strangers who knew the situation, it would be despicable. The fact that it was your family is almost unthinkable.

janbb's avatar

They are your parents and I know you are close to them and have supported them emotionally. Definitely talk to them about how you feel. I think they have a right to get back the things that were theirs that they stored with you, but you should have a right to take back from them the things that you want that were yours. Don’t let this fester; deal with it.

CMaz's avatar

I’m confused…

1. Your foreclosure should have taken so long. Allowing you plenty of time to get everything out of the house.

2. It sounds like you abandoned what you could not get out “in time”. So your family took it upon themselves to get what you left behind.

I do not understand why you would feel violated? Because you threw the trash out and family went in your trash to see what was good to keep?
They in a way helped you out. You should be happy that those things that you thought were a lost turned out to be saved.

Aethelwine's avatar

@ChazMaz My mother is very sentimental and holds on to items (and feelings) forever. We do not have a reliable vehicle to travel the 120 miles round trip (we got a uhaul for one day and could not fit everything in it), and my husband is working 6 days a week. I did not want my mother going through the things that I left there. She already has a problem with keeping things that she doesn’t need. Knowing her, she will be hurt that I left the things that I did. She’s a constant worrier, always needs something to worry about. She’s in bad health as it is, she didn’t need this on top of everything else she worries about. I specifically told her to
not worry about what was left. She went over there against my wishes. That is why I feel violated. If she would have asked, that would be different. She hasn’t even called me since she did this. I heard about it from my sister.

iamthemob's avatar

@jonsblond – With that explanation, it sounds more like this is about your mother’s psychological issue (which is why I guess you tagged it with hoarding) than any violation. You’re right to be upset, as I mentioned in my first post this should generally be considered an extremely hurtful thing…

…but it definitely sounds like your mother is putting her own obsessions in front of most things in her life – particularly, her health and your feelings. Consider whether it’s actually time to force help on her, depending on how bad it’s gotten, and this example may be just the thing to jolt her into understanding how much she’s hurting herself and others around you.

Aethelwine's avatar

@iamthemob Thank you for understanding. She wastes nothing, which can be a good thing, but she takes it to the extreme. For example, our entire family went to a Chinese buffet. My son and my sister made a little concoction of ketchup, soy sauce, mustard and other condiments when we were done eating. My mother threw a fit and made my son eat it because in her mind he was wasting food. I was so upset with her for that. :/

marinelife's avatar

I understand why you feel hurt that they did not tell you they were going. I suspect that since you had already told her to let it go, she thought it would upset you to know that she went. I can see why you feel violated at the idea of them pawing through your stuff.

I think you have to take a deep breath and let this go too.

1. You had already decided to let those things go so you don’t have any claim on them emotionally.

2. Your mother has issues with hoarding, which you know about and can’t fix.

3. Your mother is in ill health.

4. Think of the new house as a whole new start in life. Letting go of one thing to be upset about will be part and parcel of that new start with the holidays coming.

Take care. Remember that we can’t control others’ actions, but we can control our own reaction.

iamthemob's avatar

@marinelife – my one concern about letting this go fully is that, if @jonsblond‘s mother really is hoarding or this is affecting their lives negatively, it needs to be addressed – carefully, yes…but in the end, if someone is drinking heavily, you shouldn’t let the stuff they do when they’re drunk go because they were drunk – you use it to show them they need help.

marinelife's avatar

@iamthemob If @jonsblond wants to tackle her mother’s hoarding that is a separate issue. I am betting with everything going on in her life, she is not prepared to confront her mother right now. In the end, no harm was done by her mother’s trip.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I can see how you feel that way, but personally i would be ok with it. Its the kind of thing i would do anyway. When i came back to Spain after 5 years of living in the UK, i had a lot of stuff i could not take with me, so i went to a local church that had a help the homeless and help the poor charity, gave them a key and told them to take what they wanted and leave the rest for the land lord.

Even as i was reading your story, i was thinking “no way i would leave anything” and was thinking already along the lines of having someone go there to take it, or do a yard sale before i even read that this is what the question is about.

As for making you feel a bit better about it, i assume there was no porn left behind or anything you would not want anyone to see. so really, nothing incriminating there, and you not living there anymore, its a bit hard to call it personal belonging. its more like abandoned stuff.

Aethelwine's avatar

@poisonedantidote We fought for the house until the very end. We came across a rental at the very last minute and decided to quit fighting and moved. We didn’t have time for a garage sale. Everything was last minute, and I did all the packing myself with no help. Obviously I have no problem with strangers going through these items. Someone will eventually when the house is taken over. If my mom was doing this to help me, she would have called and asked if she could go there and get what I wanted, or called when she was done and told me she grabbed this and that and asked if I needed them. I’ve received no phone call. She did this for herself.

Your porn comment did make me laugh. :)

Aethelwine's avatar

Thank you everyone. You have given me a lot to think about. I appreciate you taking the time to read my very long story.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I can’t add to the excellent responses above.
However, I do want to say, I am sorry for your loss. I don’t know you two from Adam. But in a small way, through here, I do. I consider you both some of the nicest folks around. This is too sad for me to contemplate. I cannot imagine how bad it is for you.
A very special couple is moving into your new neighborhood.
Good luck.

nebule's avatar

I would feel violated too and yes I think you should talk to them about it x

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Is it wrong to feel a bit violated? No, IMO. If you had asked, “Am I wrong to feel completely violated?”, the answer would be ‘yes’. It seems to me that there has been a lack of communication and assumptions made between you and your mother.

Should you say something to your parents? Yes, if you can keep the conversation neutral and objective. Let’s face it; it is highly unlikely that she is going to change her ways. Letting her know that you were surprised that they went ahead and collected some of the items and leave it at that, you are more likely to get her reasoning in a non-defensive manner. You might not agree with it, but it might make it easier to forgive her.

Aethelwine's avatar

I just thought of something. When she passes away, I’ll come across these items and have to deal with them again. ugh!

Mom2BDec2010's avatar

I think she should of at least told you she was going to do that. I would bring it up to my mother if it made me feel violated.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@jonsblond I thought of that, too, and didn’t want to bring it up. Our mother has similar ‘hoarding’ tendencies as yours. For example, she has a closet full of three daughters’ worth of old prom and bridal dresses that will never, ever be worn again by anyone in the family. Hang in there friend. This too shall pass if you allow it.

nicobanks's avatar

Well, I think this is a messy personal situation, and your emotions are understandable. These were your things that you felt forced to leave behind. That’s upsetting – the thought of anyone rifling through or taking those things must be painful – I can see why you feel violated. Then there’s the fact that your parents decided to do something about this situation without telling you about it. I think it should have been obvious to them that you would’ve liked to hear about this beforehand, rather than after-the-fact. So, either they simply didn’t consider their own daughter’s feelings on the matter, which isn’t very nice, or they actively went behind your back, which also isn’t very nice. I can see you feeling hurt and betrayed by this.

On the other hand, from a rational standpoint, you abandoned those things. Yes, you were forced to leave the property, but if it was possible for your parents to return and claim things, it was possible for you, too. Since you didn’t do that, the items became up for grabs. And your parents happened to grab. It could have been anyone. They were no longer your “personal belongings.” If you feel any loss about them, that’s your own fault: you should have done something about it when you had the chance.

Summary: You have not been thinking things through or acting logically, but under the circumstances, I think your behaviour and emotional responses are totally understandable – which is why I think your parents were callous to do what they did.

Super-summary: You’re both wrong.

Solution: Talk it out. Explain to your parents how you’ve been feeling about this whole foreclosure thing. Explain how you felt when you found out about the treasure hunt. Stay away from blame language and just talk about your feelings. If you do this in a humble, sincere way, ideally your parents will realize the hurt they caused you, realize that maybe they should have predicted your being hurt by the treasure hunt, and apologise for not talking to you about it before-hand. Then, ideally, they’ll offer to you any of the items that you still want. If it doesn’t go this way – if your parents remain adamant that they did nothing wrong – well, at least you’ve expressed yourself, and now you know a little something more about your parents: they’re callous. Chalk it up to a learning experience, mourn the loss, and move on.

P.S. I don’t see what the hoarding thing has to do with any of this?

Aethelwine's avatar

@nicobanks but if it was possible for your parents to return and claim things, it was possible for you, too

My parents live 5 miles away from the house, I live 60 miles away. We have one vehicle in the family that is on its last leg and is already being used by my husband to travel 60 miles round trip 6 days a week to go to work. Plus the fact that we have very little money. We can’t afford the gas or the extra mileage on our car. So no, it was not possible for us to return to the house.

You have not been thinking things through or acting logically

Um, yes I have. I got what I could from our house, and I told my mother to not worry about what was left behind. She went behind my back.

I don’t see what the hoarding thing has to do with any of this?

My mother hoards. For the 16 years I lived in that house I accepted items from my mother because I had a hard time saying no to her. I ended up hoarding, creating a terrible cycle. I wanted to break that cycle when we moved from the house. She is very emotional and does not let go of things easily. She is in bad health. I knew that if she saw what I left behind, she would be upset. This would not be good for her high blood pressure. I’m trying to let go by moving on, and I was hoping my mother would do the same.

trailsillustrated's avatar

no it was their stuff remember.—ps you all sorta sound like hoarders?—sorry just sayin

trailsillustrated's avatar

ps foreclosure in itself is a violating feeling-I’d let it go. good luck to you and I am sorry you went through this- I too lost a house to foreclosure along with some very good antiques and some nakey pictures of myself, personal letters, papers, etc. Do I feel violated? oh well

Aethelwine's avatar

@trailsillustrated When someone gives you something, doesn’t it then belong to you? How is it still their stuff? And I did say that my mom is a hoarder and I was repeating the cycle by holding on to stuff she gave me. You aren’t telling me anything I don’t already know. I’m trying to break the cycle by moving on.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I can easily see both sides. I understand how you would feel a little betrayed maybe, but I can also see that she would want her stuff back. I still have a few things left at my parents’ house, simply because our house is so tiny and we don’t have room for everything. If they were forced to leave that house and couldn’t take everything, you bet your ass I’d go over there and get my stuff.

nicobanks's avatar

@jonsblond As I’ve said, I appreciate the emotional circumstances here. I also appreciate the message you sent me. I too apologise if I’ve been harsh. I’m not trying to hurt you, I don’t think you’re being stupid or anything like that, not at all. I’m just trying to look at this from an objective angle and be fair.

Knowing as you do that your parents live 5 miles away from the house, and apparently have a car of their own or have access to one, if you’d wanted to go back for your stuff, you could have asked them to help you. I’m not saying it would have been convenient for you to get your stuff. I’m saying it was possible. Because it was possible, and because you chose not to bother, you thereby abandoned your belongings – they were no longer your belongings when your parents went for them. When you told your mother not to worry about them – as in you weren’t going to worry about them – you gave up ownership. It’s painful, that much is clear, and reasonably-so, in my opinion. But that’s how it is. Otherwise, if you want someone to know how you feel about something, it’s entirely on you to tell them. Like I said, I think if your parents had thought about it, it should have occurred to them you’d be upset about this. I think they’ve been callous. But the fact is you didn’t tell them, you didn’t express yourself – that’s no one’s fault but your own.

“She is very emotional and does not let go of things easily. She is in bad health. I knew that if she saw what I left behind, she would be upset. This would not be good for her high blood pressure.”

It sounds to me like even hearing you’ve left things behind would upset her, under these conditions. Knowing your mother as you do, don’t you think so? Isn’t that why she went back – because of these problems you’ve described?

“I’m trying to let go by moving on, and I was hoping my mother would do the same.”

That is very laudable, but if you have hopes for someone else’s behaviour, you really must tell them about it. Otherwise your hopes surely will be dashed.

I still think the answer to this problem is to talk it out. There’s obvious emotional issues on both sides: unless you’re both honest with yourselves and each other, you won’t be able to resolve this.

Cupcake's avatar

@jonsblond It doesn’t matter if someone thinks it’s “wrong” to feel some way… that’s how you feel. You have lost your house and some belongings, felt OK about the things because they were getting in the way of the collective mental health of your family, and then they were salvaged by other family members without discussion. Let go of the wrong/right. This is what happened… and this is how you feel. Can you decide to detach and let go of these feelings? Yes. Can you decide to discuss this with your mother? Yes. Can you decide to let it go? Yes.

These are things that were not important enough for you to keep. Your family has moved on and has a new start in a new house without the physical or emotional clutter of your mother’s hoarding.

I think boundaries are important here… especially with the feelings of violation. Your mother is a hoarder. You are not. You cannot control her hoarding. She cannot force you to take her excess things. Consider whether it would be most helpful for your mental well-being for you to tell your mother, “When you went to my old house and took things I left behind without discussing it with me, I felt violated. We don’t need to have a discussion about it because I am trying to let it go. I just wanted you to know how your actions made me feel.” Would that be more helpful or harmful? Only you can know.

P.S. it’s easy to feel powerless in this situation. Find a way to frame it so that you can see your power instead of your powerlessness.

MilkyWay's avatar

you know what, seeing as your mother’s not in good health it think that you should let it go, the way i see it the stuff that’s yours that you would have lost anyway, is safe with your mother now. to confront her now may hurt her feelings just like her action hurt yours.
good luck buddy xx

Aethelwine's avatar

Thank you everyone. All I was trying to do was not hurt my mothers feelings. The sale date for our home was the end of Sept., and as far as we know, the house has not been sold. We have not received an eviction notice, and the mortgage company started sending us statements again. I’m assuming the freeze on foreclosures has something to do with it. The house is a money pit and it was depressing living there. We left when we found a great deal on a rental the week of the sale date. We thought it was a sign for us to move on, so we did.

We talked to my sister about retrieving a few items for us, we just didn’t know when she would be able to. This is why I didn’t ask my mother to help, also I didn’t want my mom going through my things. Once I told my mom to not worry about it, she assumed things were up for grabs and she told my sister this. No one communicated with me about it, that’s what upset me. My sister apologized, saying our mom told her I didn’t want any of the items, and that she should have checked with me first. One huge misunderstanding.

I’ll give her a call once I calm down. Thanks again.

YARNLADY's avatar

I would feel very hurt that I wasn’t invited to come over. As for who it belongs to, once items are abandoned, they belong to no one.

Maybe they were hurt that you didn’t ask them to come over and help you move. There are most likely at least two sides to this story. Perhaps the communication was not as open as it should be on both sides.

You have been through a very trying experience. Every little thing is bound to loom much larger than life. Try very hard to accept there was a mis-communication here, and probably no slight was intended.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

You’re not wrong to feel uncomfortable because you didn’t abandon your things willingly but you also know your mother’s nature and so it’s a bit different than if neighbors or strangers had gone through and helped themselves to your things. Because of the way your mom is then she probably took a little offense at things left behind and obsessed to get them back- I mean how dare you not magically transport everything!

You know I joke. We too left things behind my mom actually cried over and in our scramble then a few things broke and I cried. The whole experience kind of makes you feel like a kid being forced to give up toys, eh?

Joybird's avatar

This is an opportunity. You stated that you have difficulty saying no to things your parents have been passing along to you and that those are the items you left behind. Take this time to realize that you have the opportunity to leave this old pattern behind. If they went and retrieved things you abandoned then collecting and hoarding “the stuff” is their problem. It no longer has to be yours. This is the time to begin to tell them “no, I don’t want that.” And then mean it and if they leave something anyway take it right to the curb for the refuse collectors, preferably while they are still visiting. Eventually they will get the message that you aren’t into hoarding what you have no resources or time to repair or refinish. This all means that you can let their impropriety go. You are changing your life to live within your means and to live more simply. When you clear the stuff out on the outside sometimes life gets amazingly clear on the inside too and you start to feel really good about the lack of clutter in your life. Clutter free equals stress free.

Aethelwine's avatar

I talked to my parents. I calmly let them know that I was a little disappointed that they didn’t let me know they were going to the house. I told them I still did want some of the items, but I didn’t want to bother them with the hassle, and I was also ashamed at the state we left the house in. They understood, and said they would do anything to help.

I could tell my mom was upset about a certain item I had left, but knowing her like I do, she didn’t express her feelings. I could tell in her voice, and I’m sure my sister will get an earful about it. This is how my mom handles things. I’m not going to worry about it though. I would be repeating the problems my mother has with worrying, and that’s another cycle that needs to be broken. I need to move on.

Thank you all, even those that I disagreed with. This gave me an avenue to vent, and also gave me the opportunity to hear what others thought of the situation. It helped. I appreciate you all taking the time to help me through this.

iamthemob's avatar

@jonsblond – thank you for the update – I’m glad that you were able to talk it out.

Communication, once again, is king! ;-)

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