Abby: Mom out to attach strings to hand-me-downs

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: I come from a large family. We are not wealthy, but always loved dressing our children up for holidays. Because the outfits were expensive, as our children outgrew them, we passed them on to my sister-in-law.

When my youngest daughter was born, I asked her about the dresses, and she informed me they were not her style so she had given them away. I was heartbroken, but I never said anything.

My older daughter is not a practicing Catholic, and my younger daughter is not having children at all. I saved their christening gowns, but they don’t want them. I would love to pass them on to another family member so they can be used instead of sitting in a trunk, but I don’t want them to leave the family or be sold.

Is it OK to put stipulations on something that you are passing on?

Unsure in New Jersey

Dear Unsure: You can stipulate whatever you like, but there is no guarantee that the garments will remain in the family. Once a gift is given, it becomes the property of the recipient to keep or dispose of.

Dear Abby: If someone did something “nice” for you, but it turned out to cause such a hassle that you didn’t appreciate the gesture, how do you politely tell the person not to do it again, or that you wish they hadn’t?

An example: Someone gives you a box of chocolates or cupcakes when you are trying to lose weight. Or, the baby sitter folds all the clothes that were sitting in the laundry basket, but puts everything away in the wrong drawers. (And you didn’t ask her to fold the laundry in the first place.)

Don’t Do It Again

Dear Don’t: Here’s how. Thank the person for the thoughtful gesture and explain that you are watching your diet, cannot have candy and won’t be able to for the foreseeable future. If the person is someone who cares about you and is not a saboteur, he or she won’t tempt you again without asking first.

As for your baby sitter, while you thank her for trying to help you by folding and putting away your laundry, explain that this isn’t something anyone can do for you because you have your own way of doing it, and please not to do it again.

Dear Abby: I have a good friend I always invite to attend parties and events. She invariably RSVPs accepting the invitation, but never shows up or explains her absence. This has been going on for years and it hurts my feelings.

Do I have to keep inviting her to my parties?

Colorado Hostess

Dear Hostess: Allow me to offer you some insight: The woman’s behavior is extremely rude. “Good friends” do not treat each other this way. If you’re asking my permission to scratch her off your guest list, you have it.

Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.