DEAR MARY ANN: I moved from Pittsburgh about 10 years ago but had lived there in a small, lovely neighborhood for a long time. There were three women (I'll call them Nancy, Patty and Kathy) I knew fairly well, and one (Nancy) also moved around the time I did. I have stayed close friends with her. She gets telephone calls from one of the two remaining neighbors (Patty), and this woman is now and always was a vicious gossip. Recently, Patty called my friend and told her an incredibly terrible, lengthy and detailed story implying illegal activity about Kathy. It could cost Kathy her position at a well-respected university and her children. The "information" is so stunning and destructive that I have debated contacting the target (Kathy) and warning her (without using names) about what is being said. If I were in Kathy's position, I would hope someone would tell me. Please advise.
-- VICIOUS GOSSIP
DEAR VICIOUS GOSSIP: Let me make sure I understand. A story being spread by a known vicious gossip is so destructive you are considering contacting the targeted woman after 10 years and warning her about what is being said. How very kind of you. Give it a rest.
You are giving credence to negative rumors. By repeating or listening to vicious gossip, especially when you know the source is unreliable, you are lowering your own self-respect. You both know very well that the rumors have a high likelihood of being false or exaggerated. It doesn't feel good to take part in spreading or discussing gossip that deliberately demeans another person; regret and guilt soon set in. This may be the real reason you are losing sleep.
DEAR MARY ANN: I don't hoard like some of the hoarders shown on cable TV, but I do have too much stuff. I often have a hard time parting with belongings I know I will never use. I don't want to burden my loved ones with sorting through extraneous junk after I am gone. One of my biggest problems is letting go of useless stuff that might qualify as personal "nostalgia." Can you offer a simple guideline on what to throw away and what to keep?
-- TOO MUCH STUFF
DEAR TOO MUCH STUFF: You are on the right path: You have acknowledged that you have too much stuff. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Start simple; make a few new rules. Nothing new comes in the house unless you really need it. Don't buy on impulse. Extraneous stuff becomes useless clutter, and too much clutter can control you, drain your energy and depress you.
Sorting your own baggage (keep, donate, trash) is far preferable to having your loved ones do it. Several large plastic bins should be fine for "treasure box" nostalgic items and family keepsakes. No bowling trophies, please.
The weeding process should get easier as you make progress. Don't second guess yourself; have local charities on speed dial. Make the decision, and then get the item out of the house. Once you achieve the feeling of freedom that having less junk generates, you will be well on your way. If you hit a snag, visualize your heirs holding up __________ (you fill in the blank), and laughing as they ask, "Why did he ever save this?