DEAR KELLY: All my friends talk about how they like to borrow shoes and clothes from their moms. I have the opposite problem. My mom borrows my stuff all the time and I hate it.
I went to a store with my own money and bought a great pair of jeans and flannel I had seen and wanted. Later that week I couldn’t find it. When I looked, I found it all crumbled up and dirty in my mom’s closet. Apparently, she had “borrowed” it from me. When I got mad at her, she yelled at me that I’m selfish and she lets me borrow her stuff, buys me things all the time, does the laundry and puts gas in my car so she should be allowed to wear my clothes, too.
The last time I borrowed something of my mom’s, I asked her first and then it was just a pair of boots that I put back when I got home later than night. I find my jackets in her car, my flip flops in her yoga bag, my earrings in her bathroom and my sweatshirt by her bed. None of these she asked me to borrow. Sometimes it takes me 10 minutes to find what I’m looking for, and it has made me late in the morning because I can’t find what I want to wear.
I love my mom, but I can’t handle her stealing my stuff all the time and never taking care of it. What should I do?
DEAR BROOKE: There are few things more frustrating than having to hunt down your stuff when you know you left it one place and it miraculously moves somewhere else. Your mom isn’t doing a very good job of modeling respect for your stuff or your time by taking things and not returning them. A long talk with mom is needed so you can clear the air and set good boundaries around her borrowing your things.
The first and most important part of showing respect for others is asking to borrow their things. Asking to use something before taking it is basic Respect 101. If your mom just goes in your closet and takes what she wants without asking, this might be the root of where things go wrong. This works the other way around as well: If you borrow, you must ask permission first. Why is this so important? Because it allows someone to say no, because perhaps they were planning on wearing or using it and it lets them know where it will be if they are looking for it.
Sit down with your mom and create a new standard of respect in your home. Share your concerns with her taking your things without asking. Ask her to please check with you first before she takes anything from your room and offer to do the same with her. Then ask her to please bring back whatever she borrows. If she borrows a coat, ask her to hang it back up by the next morning. If she takes earrings, please return them to my room after you have worn them. And if she uses your clothes, you would like them returned clean and ready to be worn to you.
These simple rules can make the borrowing process less stressful and easy to define the correct way to use each other’s things with care and regard.
Tell your mom that you are grateful for all she does for you, but that doesn’t give her the right to take your things and not return them. If you need to do your own laundry so she doesn’t pick through your things, it might be a decision worth doing. Also, if you spend your own money on an outfit, she needs to honor your money by treating the outfit as yours, not “ours.” Tell her that neither of you will make assumptions that you can use the other person’s things without double-checking with them before.
If she continues to take your things without asking, talk about either putting a lock on your closet or putting things that you don’t want her to take in a special place she can’t find. As simple or petty as that might sound, it could be the only way to stop her from taking your things.
One quick reminder: Everything I have suggested is a two-way street. If you borrow your mom’s stuff, you need to treat it with the same care and concern you want her to do with your stuff. If you don’t return what you take or ask permission, she won’t do the same.
You are not being selfish. You are asking her to honor your stuff and return it so you don’t waste time every day looking for your things. Have a conversation with your mom and establish mutual boundaries on borrowing from one another. This is a great life lesson for you to treat other people and their things the same way you wish to be treated.
And remember that to get respect, you have to give it first.