Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Women and property (of others)


Through the course of writing, unusually much material on tangentially related issues was added (and the text grew much longer than originally intended). These portions might at some point be moved elsewhere, as potentially distracting from the intended core topic and as potentially worthy of greater elaboration. For instance, I find myself strongly tempted to write entirely separate texts on issues around sentimental value and when fiction is or is not a legitimate contributor to one’s worldview; for instance, my long back-log already contains plans for one or more texts around the “Swedish” portions, which I hope to get around to at some point.

I do not see such moves as very urgent, however, and the contents do contribute considerably to an understanding of the core topic. Exactly a missing understanding is, I suspect, a major contributor to the female misbehaviors discussed below.

Main text

The “Close to Home” comic strip featured a daily (1997-07-14) that well illustrates something that I have repeatedly seen in both real and fictional women (including in several other comic strips), namely a presumption to get rid of the property of others, usually of husbands or children, without asking, without considering e.g. possible monetary or sentimental value, and without even informing:

A single frame shows a distraught (likely) wife looking at a newspaper. Headline: “Woman buys rare $50,000 beer bottle at yard sale for 25 cents!” In front of her stands an angry (likely) husband, who points at an almost empty shelf. His line: “OK, what’d you do with my beer bottle collection?!” (With reservations for transcription errors.)

The implication here is that the wife saw no value in or outright wanted to get rid of the husband’s collection, e.g. because she found it an eyesore. Instead of asking for his permission to include it in the yard sale, resp. asking him to get rid of it or to put it somewhere else, she proceeded unilaterally—and, as a consequence, she lost him a very significant amount of money. (For even one of the bottles. There is no guarantee that the others were similarly valuable, but it is possible that they, too, had a non-trivial monetary value—and they might well have had considerable sentimental value, e.g. for “the last bottle from the last six-pack that I shared with my best friend before he moved half a continent away”.)

The joke might be the impending doom of what could happen a few (unpublished) frames later, which, in light of the massive monetary loss and the inexcusable breach of trust, could conceivably go as far a divorce, but the moral lesson and the lessons on human behavior are more important.

(During the long writing, I encountered a second example from “Close to Home”, for 1998-07-01: The scene is a support group for mothers who threw out their sons’ baseball cards. A woman admits her sin and notes that “Today, [the cards] would be worth $80,000.”.)


I have read a great quantity of “daily” comic strips over the last year or so, and can recommend it highly for both the entertainment value and the occasional insight into human behavior and psychology. Many popular strips have years’ or, as with “Close to Home”, decades’ worth of material (legally!) available for free on or over the Internet. (I access over the command-line tool dosage. The two strips mentioned in this text are available over the identifiers GoComics/CloseToHome respectively GoComics/ForBetterOrForWorse. For those who prefer a web browser, they are also available somewhere on the official Go Comics websitee.)

While the insights must be taken with a grain or two of salt, some behaviors, attitudes, whatnot appear with so many different authors (and so often match my personal experiences) that they almost certainly go beyond mere humor. This type of lost property, especially in combination with a yard sale, is a good example. Variations include donations to charity and, even, outright junkings—of someone else’s property! (One of the most common examples, to preempt any Feminist shouting, is a man who insists that he can do something, e.g. fix a leaking pipe, and ultimately fails—often with a humorously exaggerated result, e.g. a flooded basement.)

A particular variation is, as might be the case with the beer bottles, that a wife deliberately acts in secret, gets rid of some unwanted object, and lets the owner face the fait accompli. This, maybe, drawing on the morally bankrupt saying that it is easier to receive forgiveness than permission.

A further variation that matches my personal experiences is discussed later.

An independent source of examples is FMLe, which deals with real-life experiences. (Disclaimer: I have not visited in many years and cannot speak for the contents available at the time of writing, in 2024, let alone the time of reading.) A particularly sad case involved a mother having thrown away an important college project, with the claim that it was (literal) garbage. It certainly was not so in the literal sense and any metaphorical status as garbage would have been for the professor (TA, or whatnot) to judge. Now what? Do everything over, at an enormous waste of time, and hope to have enough time to meet the deadline? Go to the professor and plead to be excused, with something only marginally better than “My dog ate my homework!” as the given reason? (My memory is vague on the details, and the format of FML does not allow many details to begin with, but this presumably involved some more physical work, maybe for an art class.)

Exactly what should be considered garbage is a tricky issue, as even something indisputably broken might contain something of value. A good example is a broken computer: The most valuable thing in a computer is usually the data and, to give a variation of the FML scenario, if mother dearest brings the computer to recycling before the college student has had the time to retrieve the hard-drive, including a finished 12-page essay due on Monday, her acts might do more harm than the original breaking. From another angle, antiques are usually in a much poorer state than newly made items of a similar type, and, on occasion, even something in a very poor state can be extremely valuable. (This is a rare exception, true, but even a single exception can be enough to cause great damage in the hands of e.g. a presumptuous-while-ignorant wife, like the one in the comic strip.) Historically important objects, potentially priceless to some museum or researcher, have on rare occasions been found in attics and whatnots.

Partially, overlapping (and much more likely to be important); partially, independent: Sentimental value should not be underestimated—and it is usually exactly old and worn things that come with the greatest sentimental value. (Also see excursion.) For instance, the object that stands out above all others in my life was a toy penguin that (according to my “baby book”) was my first toy, and which accumulated great wear-and-tear during my childhood. When I (already in my 40s!) discovered that he had been lost, I was on the verge of tears. Most of my current possessions, on the other hand, leave me emotionally cold—the inconvenience of a hypothetical loss and the replacement cost might bug me, but that is it. The exceptions? Mostly other things from my childhood. What might seem worthless to the one might be priceless to the other; what carries a larger price tag is not necessarily more valuable.

A sometime version in comic strips is a mother going through old toys and unilaterally deciding that this-and-that toy should be thrown away (say, because of a poor state or because it does not seem to be regularly used) or, once a child has left home, to unilaterally decide what old possessions should be thrown out when. With very young children, there might not always be an option, but older children should certainly be consulted, if in doubt because the mother might not understand the level of use (see excursion) or the sentimental value, and adult children should certainly have a full say. In the last case, a mother (or, better, the parents jointly) certainly has the right to limit the use of the house as long-term storage; however, this should come with a “We want to clear out your old room. Please come by and pick up anything that you want to keep, so that we can toss the rest.” and a reasonable deadline—not a silent and unilateral tossing.


A specific example comes (likely) from the Canadian strip “For Better or For Worse”.

Here, my encounter is quite a while back and I cannot give the date (and must make reservations for the exact details), but the idea is that mother dearest brags about how she had cleaned the kids’ room and taken the opportunity to junk, give to charity, whatnot, a lot of old and unused toys, how the kids would never, ever notice, and “Yay me!!! Supermom!!!”. A frame or two later, one of the kids learned that she had cleaned and immediately complained that every time that she cleans, things go missing... This particular example has remained with me because it so well illustrates the mistaken assumption that kids would not notice. (Also note remarks on my personal experiences below.)

My own mother seems to have taken a similar attitude, as I have only gathered over time. Certainly, it seems that a great many objects, including various toy animals, that I had assumed were safely stored somewhere, have been thrown out or given away at some point. Many or most of these, I suspect, were in conjuncture with the long post-divorce move from Landskrona to Kopparberg, which might be defended based on costs, space available, and my only being 6 at the time (but I would have preferred to be informed and/or have some say as to what object had what fate). However, there were quite a few later discrepancies, including some that must have arisen after I left for college and was a legal adult (the aforementioned penguin in particular), which cannot be defended in the same manner—items that have not just disappeared, but disappeared without my having any say or even being informed.


A potential complication is that I long assumed that this-and-that item was still preserved, was content with the option to retrieve it, should the need/wish arise, and never made further inquiries, because no sufficient need ever arose, which my mother might have misinterpreted as my having completely forgotten or my not caring about the “old” toys, which could have seemed to validate the decision to get rid of them, which could have brought on more decisions in the same line. (Similarly, cf. excursion, I might have preferred to have various items with me in Germany, but knowing/believing that they were safe and sound in “my” room back in Sweden was often good enough for the time being.) In a variation, there were cases when a wish arose, but I reasoned that it would take my mother longer to find some item than I would, afterwards, use it (at least, on that particular day).

That I remembered and cared about each item involved, I cannot guarantee, as something forgotten is something forgotten—but I do remember plenty even from before that post-divorce move and even today, more than four decades later. For example, until the move, I had a plastic yo-yo with some built-in lights. Not only do I remember having the yo-yo pre-move, but I also remember repeatedly thinking about it, and the day that it would turn up again, post-move. Had I had a say, at age 6, I would definitely have insisted on keeping it, and it could hardly have overloaded the car. (Of course, that I remember an item today does not automatically imply that I care today. With my penguin, I do; with the yo-yo, I do not. The point is that any claim that a tossing was justified based on my not caring/noticing/remembering/whatnot back then would be horribly and fundamentally flawed.)

Other reasons for a child not immediately running to mother and crying about a lost toy exist, e.g. that that the child simply thinks that the toy has been temporarily misplaced and will turn up after a while. Indeed, if mother has “cleaned” (as in “For Better or For Worse”), the child might initially believe that the toy has just been put away in a chest or cupboard, and have no reason to protest until much later. (Also note a later discussion of how wives/mothers often want things “put back” where they “belong”.)

Excursion on the importance of choice and information

For large parts of the above, it is important to remember that the lack of information, the lack of own choice, etc., make(s) many actions unacceptable, regardless of whether the injured party would have agreed or disagreed with the actions.

Pragmatic factors, like the risk that a presumptuous wife misjudges a situation and drops 50 grand down the drain or that a misguided mother throws away something of immense sentimental value, are important—but the behavior would usually be unacceptable even without such factors.

The core issue is that lack of basic respect for the rights and interests of others.

So far all or almost all cases that I have encountered, be it in fiction or real life, have had women as the perpetrators. If men are involved (as non-victims!), it seems to be limited to performing actions on the instigation of a woman, e.g. in that a wife enrolls her husband to help with one of the aforementioned “cleanings”, so that the child finds twice as many items missing.

A related case is the “accidental” breaking of some detested possession of someone else. Here, too, women seem to be more common as perpetrators, but men do occur. (However, my encounters are rarer, I recall no non-fictional case, and there is the complication that seeming cases often have involved a legitimate accident that was merely taken to be an “accident” by the owner of the destroyed item, or where the accidental breaker feared that the event would be construed as an “accident”.)

Another related case is the breaking of objects in anger (within a family or otherwise normally friendly setting). This in at least three sub-cases, namely: (a) Breaking for purposes of revenge, to hurt the property of the other party as a proxy for hurting the actual party, whatnot. (b) Just destroying things with no particular agenda. (c) Breaking as a side-effect of an attempt to cause bodily harm to the other party, as with the stereotypical scene where a wife throws china at her husband. The (a) and (c) cases are clearly dominated by women; the (b) case might or might not be dominated by men. With (b), there is likely a difference in type of violence, e.g. in that a man might punch a wall and, if the wall is weak enough, “punch a hole”, while a woman might be more likely to throw something or to attack something soft. (Including, at least on TV, the upper body of the nearest man—even when she is not angry at him.) With (b), also, the owner of the item is of secondary importance and that owner and perpetrator are different persons can actually reduce the likelihood of violence. For instance, the stereotypical irate golfer might wrap his own clubs around the nearest tree with a far greater likelihood than those of a fellow player.

(More off topic, there are cases in radically different settings, as with a criminal enforcer who thrashes the apartment of a victim or BLM rioters and looters who wreck public or private property and empty stores without paying.)

Excursion on causes for clutter and whatnot

Before some mother complains about clutter, unused items, whatnot, let alone unilaterally throws the items away, she would do well to ask why. If, for instance, a child has hundreds of toys and only plays with a dozen of them, why is this so? From where do those hundreds of toys actually come? (And: Would he not have been just as happy, had he had fewer toys to begin with?) Chances are that mother dearest will be the explanation, and/or that she could have prevented the issue from arising through communications with various friends and relatives, to, e.g., keep the stream of Christmas and birthday presents to a more reasonable level.

To this note (a) the waste of money caused by buying things and then throwing them away, as opposed to saving the money for a rainy day, spending the money on something more worthwhile, and/or spending on fewer and more expensive presents that actually are kept, (b) how it very often is worse to have something and lose it than to never have had it at all. To elaborate on (b), this does not necessarily apply to the important things in life, like a child’s favorite toys and a Tennysonian “it is better to have loved and lost”, but less important things often seem to grow in importance when they become lost and/or are often accompanied by a sting of loss disproportionate to their importance. The pain of the loss (even if small) might then outweigh the (smaller) joy of the original gift and the subsequent (smaller) benefits of ownership. (With analogies in other areas, e.g. in how a musician, an actor, or, even, a character in a TV series can grow in popularity after death.)

I grant that a more economical take is not always easy, e.g. because it is hard to predict what toys will be used and what unused, or because a toy was greatly used by the child aged four but not by the same child aged eight. Still, a less cavalier attitude and a greater eye at the why would be beneficial. (And is it reasonable that a child, even accumulated over an entire childhood, has hundreds of toys?)


Such predictions can be hard even for the child. I recall a particular own disappointment around seven:

There was toy in a mail-order catalogue, which consisted of some simulated controls and displays in a space setting, similar to (but much smaller than) the driver’s dashboard in a car, which seemed to give an excellent opportunity to play spaceship. To my great joy, mother bought it for me—and I hardly ever used it. Why? I had assumed that the space background would be something changing, e.g. in form of a rolling band of images. Instead, it was just the one static image, which, to me, ruined the whole point. (This was long before digital displays of a non-trivial size became common. Today, we might even have a child of that age playing a fully interactive computer game as a space pilot.)

To stick with the comic-strip theme, readers of “Calvin and Hobbes” might recall the lengthy storyline about the beanie with the propeller, and a similar contrast of anticipation and disappointment in Calvin. (My own reading was in the 1990s, so I can give no details about dates and online availability.)

Excursion on apparently unused objects

That an object seems to be unused does not necessarily imply that it is—and does certainly not rule out that it will be used at a later time. (Or, “would have been used at a later time, had not someone gotten rid of it”.) Consider that spare tire in the trunk of the car—and the potential consequences, should Mrs. Car-Owner sell it at a garage sale, because “You never use it!”.

(A great number of similar examples can be found in the area of cars, e.g. jumper cables and first-aid kits, which might go unused for many years—but have a definite purpose and are owned for good reasons.)

For a more subtle example, consider my smartphone: I do not like being on the telephone, I detest texting, the screen is too small for reasonable surfing, etc., and there have been months when I only ever unlocked it in order to top up my prepaid balance—so why not just forego it and the costs for the prepaid connection entirely? Simple: Contrary to superficial impression, I do use it every day, and often extensively, as I access the Internet by means of tethering. Without the smartphone, I would need some other, and likely more expensive, solution to connect my computer to the Internet. (And, just like that spare tire, it has potential other uses in exceptional circumstances—up to and including a life-saving call in a dire emergency.)


In situations dealing with wives and husbands, male and female colleagues, whatnot, it can be extremely illuminating to turn the roles around. This especially to expose female hypocrisy or blindness to the interests of others, how much women get away with that a man never could, how women (in stark contrast to Feminist lies) often get a better deal than men, etc.

Imagine e.g. that some husband threw out a pair of shoes that his wife had worn once, five years ago, or that he sells off that collection of throw pillows that serves no practical purpose but does block the sofa.

Excursion on objects owned by third parties

A particular danger is that objects that belong to some third party are thrown out, something borrowed, something temporarily held on behalf of someone else, something accidentally left behind today that would have been picked up tomorrow, whatnot. Such issues could easily be avoided simply by discussing any actions beforehand, instead of just unilaterally or, even, covertly throwing things out.

Excursion on lost evidence

In some cases, a presumptuous removal can lead to a loss of critical evidence. For instance, I once heard of a poor teen who had been sent a joke file with a name like “cock and pussy”. This file contained an image or video clip of a rooster and a cat, but mother dearest had deleted it without investigating the contents, had hysterically berated him for being a pervert (or whatnot), had refused to believe him, and, through the act of deletion, had left him with no means to prove his innocence. (This was likely also on FML. The same disclaimers about details apply.)

Now, what if something similar happens with something more serious or with higher stakes? (Say, that a husband receives a perfectly platonic letter from an old girl-friend and that said letter lands in the hands of an overly jealous and destructive wife; or, with a different angle, that some old papers that the wife threw out contained an important proof of payment.)

Excursion on women, property, and ethics

Generally, I have an ever strengthening impression that women tend to have a poorly developed sense for property, the need to respect the property of others, and, throwing a wider net, the interests of others and other ethical concerns.

A good example is the typical over-focus on “sharing” between children. For instance, if child A does not want to share one of his toys with child B, a good and ethically-minded parent would tell child B that this-or-that toy belongs to child A and that child B has to respect his decision. The typical female reaction? Force child A to “share”... (Thereby not only risking unfairness and resentment in the now, but possibly installing a flawed long-term attitude in the children. I stress the difference between such situations and e.g. attempts to “hog” what is more naturally shared, say, a literal or metaphorical “commons”, be it by children or adults.) Another is how women are more likely than men to vote for political agendas, even when destructive and unfair, that involve taking money from the one, against his will, to give to the other.

Even in real life, I have encountered some truly perfidious attitudes, be it in personal observations or told by others. For instance, somewhat common wifely positions seems to be that the house and/or the children are her property—and never mind what interests the husband or the children, themselves, might have. (Note, for the children, the difference between a mother, or father, seeing herself as “the boss of the children” and as “the owner of the children”. Here, I point to the latter.) I have heard at least one telling where a housewife took up a part-time job, and the money that she earned, she insisted, were her money—while the money that the husband earned, before and after, were “our” money. A more general attitude of “What is mine is mine; what is yours is ours.” seems disturbingly common.

Indeed, as so often is the case, fiction tends to trail reality, because reality is simply too absurd. (Much of Kafka’s works, e.g., ring so true because so large parts of life, and interactions with the government in particular, truly are Kafkaesque, and he simply was one of the very few who dared let the absurdity of his fiction approach the absurdity of reality.)

To nevertheless return to comics and other fiction again, there are issues like wives unilaterally deciding that “we” are on a diet (instead of being content with “I”), wives unilaterally dictating what chores the respective husband should do when, what husbands are allowed to wear in public, and similar. One comic strip (I do not remember which) saw a wife hand her husband a list and tell him “Here are your New Year’s resolutions!”. Consider what women’s reactions might be, should a husband try any of these things with his wife. I see torches and pitchforks. Here we can also see a recurring issue of women treating everyone else as if they were children—and even by women who themselves are not much more than children, in terms of intelligence and intellectual development.


In the immediately preceding, I am to some degree limited to fiction, as I have never been married and some things simply have not featured in my real-life sources. The usual disclaimers about fiction apply the more strongly. Note the difference between (a) fiction as one source among several or many concurring sources and (b) fiction as the single source.

A particular case is the unilateral decision that something “belongs” somewhere very specific, often somewhere highly unexpected, and often somewhere out-of-sight, without regard for practicality and unpracticality, e.g. that the remote control for the TV “belongs” in a drawer and that everyone else would have some duty to “put it back” there after use. But why?!? It makes much more sense to have it immediately available on, e.g., a living-room table, or, if a separation between use and non-use is absolutely wanted, to put it on the TV when not in use. (At least in the past, some TVs even had a holder for the remote attached to them.) Using a drawer is a highly impractical and “value subtracted” decision and certainly not one that one party should unilaterally impose on those more practical.


There are many objects where “a place for everything and everything in its place” makes sense, e.g. in that a can opener is often best put back in a particular place in a particular drawer after use, so that it is easily found by the next user. Ditto tools in a garage. Here, I have no objections.

The can opener, however, might be used some few times a week, usually be the same person, is somewhere (the kitchen) where there, without a convention, would be a-thousand-and-one places to look, and/or is somewhere that would be cluttered beyond belief if most items were not restored to their original place (be it after use, as with a can opener, or after washing, as with a spoon). Here, it can also make sense that the most typical user (be it of the kitchen as a whole or of specifically the can opener) makes placing decisions. (Remember that the unilateral decision and the disregard for others is central to the big-picture topic, while the irrationality of the preference is secondary. Of course, the stereotypical user of a remote control in a comic strip is the husband or, sometimes, son, giving an additional reason for why the comic-strip wife should not decide.)

Objects like remote controls are in much more intense use, are used by a wider range of family members on a near-daily basis, and/or are usually easily found when put somewhere (not that specific) that makes sense with an eye at active use—like a living-room table (a natural place and one where it is usually immediately spotted) but very much unlike a drawer (an unnatural place where it is not visible and a search is required).

Note that the example might work better in, say, a 1990s’ setting than it does in 2023. (For instance, I have not even owned a TV set in ages. Comic strips, however, can be timeless.) I do not recall the exact objects involved in other cases, but consider if someone demanded that the soap dispenser that naturally tends to stand on the kitchen/bathroom sink be “put back” in a drawer where it “belongs” after each hand-washing (and, by implication, brought out before). Or consider if, even in a kitchen, the coffee maker is to be “put back” in some cupboard where it “belongs”, after each and every use, instead of, much more sensibly, just being kept in the open in a semi-fixed spot. Certainly, a much better case for where the object “belongs” could be made for such a semi-fixed spot, the sink, and the living-room table, in the corresponding examples.

Or consider the more general idea that this-and-that should be neatly stowed away, regardless of practical issues, like the ability to find what one is looking for. Take e.g. a desk with on-going work, a handful of important and immediately relevant papers, and some woman (e.g. a wife or a mother) who simply stores away the papers in an unordered pile, from which they later have to be extracted again. (To confuse e.g. “neatly stacked” with “ordered” or “organized” is a common mistake, especially among women, and a strong sign of intellectual limitation. A particular issue is that the actual users of some objects often have a mental map of sorts, which tells them where a particular object can be found and easily accessed, while the stacking destroys the old map and makes it much harder to build a new one without extracting the objects again.)

Or consider children being pestered into making their beds—a more or less pointless activity. Excepting, just possibly, instances where visitors could happen to see the beds, there is no practical reason to make beds. It is, in fact, outright counterproductive and a waste of time; and that I, as an adult, do not make my bed is a question of sensible use of my time—not e.g. lack of self-discipline or laziness. (The military might be keen on well-made beds, but that is a matter of keeping a particular military mindset, which has little application to, or is even harmful in, civilian life and focuses on discipline-for-the-sake-of-discipline. To boot, any discussion of the military should keep in mind that the military is often effective but rarely efficient.)

Excursion on unintentionally presumptuous removals

Speaking of cats, relatives, and common themes in comic strips (which include the missing pet), I am reminded of my step-father and his move (after the death of my mother) to another town—with the cat that had adopted him.

In his case, there were almost certainly no issues around this, but it is easy to imagine a scenario where a cat, unbeknownst to the humans involved, has more than one home/family/human/whatnot, e.g. because it is an abandoned cat that has been welcomed into two different homes, or because it legally belongs to the one family but prefers to spend time with the other. (With reservations for local laws concerning registration and whatnot of pets.)

Now, imagine that there is such a sharing, that one of the “owners” moves away and, understandably, decides to bring the cat. (If nothing else, leaving it behind would, without prior knowledge about the other “owner”, seem to risk its well-being, potentially life.) We might then, for instance, have children crying their eyes out over a missing cat, fears that the cat has met with a lethal accident, a neighborhood filled with signs requesting information—all while the cat is safe and sound with its other family, now the next town over.

We might even have a risk that “owner” A is accused of theft (or whatever might apply) by “owner” B, say, if a neighbor points out that “Mr. A moved away last week and took a cat just like yours with him”. This especially if B actually is the legal owner.

Similar problems can occur in other areas too, e.g. because ownership is unclear or misunderstood, that something intended as a loan is misinterpreted as a gift, or similar.

A particular problem is when some object has been gifted repeatedly, with a resulting confusion as to who is the owner and/or where possession and property need not coincide. For instance, my maternal grand-mother had once gifted me a big stuffed toy-dog that I, during my frequent visits, used as a headrest when reading on some type of bed-like couch without built-in head-/back-/armrests, and which I left with my grand-mother so that I could continue to use it. However, the dog had been in the house since long before the gifting and my sister claimed that our grand-father had gifted it to her at some point before his death. (If so, she had not taken it home either.) A few years later, my grand-mother eventually moved from her old house to an apartment—and the dog was never seen again. Maybe, grand-mother forgot the gifting; maybe, my sister stole it away; maybe, it was gifted to yet someone else; maybe, we had yet another case of throwing someone else’s property away; or, just maybe, this particular toy actually was stored somewhere. Moreover, if the dog had not disappeared, what would have happened upon my grand-mother’s eventual death? There is a more than fair chance that someone, e.g. my mother or uncle, would have tossed it under the assumption that it was the property of my grand-mother and that there was no further use or value in it after her death.


Fortunately, the sentimental value of this toy dog to me was much smaller than with some other items (and sentimental value is not the topic currently under discussion). With the simultaneous disappearance of the “bed-like couch”, the practical use of the dog was gone, and I am not certain that I really reflected on its fate until writing this text.

As to my sister, she might have been truthful, but there is a considerable chance that she was just (for the umpteenth time) being obnoxious or trying to provoke a fight, as she was probably only four when our grand-father died and is unlikely to have had many true memories from that age (but the example stands in principle, regardless of her truthfulness/correctness).


The toy-dog example began with the issue of repeated giftings and the uncertainty created by them, but drifted in the implicit direction of possession vs. property. (Also note the following example and an earlier addendum at the end of the overall text.) The two sub-topics are different, but to disentangle them might require a different example where the interaction of the issues is less strong. With my increased awareness of how relevant possession vs. property (originally mentioned only in the immediately following example) is to this text, I have slightly re-written the above to be more explicit.

A similar-yet-reversed situation involves my paternal grand-mother—and one that my mother repeatedly complained about over the years. (Which shows that it is not always the big things that are important to others. Her issue, however, was likely less one of ownership, let alone value, and more one of defeated purpose.) My mother had brought a Parcheesi board from home for one of our visits. When we returned home, she deliberately left it behind, with the stated idea that it would be something to do, when we visited. However, before our next visit came one by my paternal aunt and her family—and grand-mother promptly gave the board to her. After all, opined grand-mother, what was the point of having a Parcheesi board without anyone to play against? Much better, then, to give it to someone who actually could use it. (A secondary point is whether my mother intended a transfer of property or only one of possession and, if the latter, whether my grand-mother misunderstood it to be the former.)

Excursion on reversed removals

Some time after the original writing, I encountered a comic strip with a reverse scenario:

In the first panel, a woman is seen buying a set of 1,000-dollar “premium” bed sheets. In the second, a young child is cutting holes in a bed sheet, with a pumpkin in the window. (Implication: Halloween.) In the third/last frame, the woman has a reaction of panic (or some such) as she is approached by a pretend ghost. And, no, I doubt that she found the pretend ghost very scary.

(See GoComics/BerkleyMews for 2018-10-15. Whether the original purchase was a good idea is doubtful, but it was her money to use as she wanted and, later, her sheet(s).)

A similar, if much less costly, misstep of my own involved a visiting friend of the family: She had bought the Christmas edition of some magazine (possibly, “Allers”, which I know that she read). The cover of this magazine was unusual in that (a) the outside was quite fancy, (b) the inside contained the playing field for some role-dice-and-move-figures game. Wanting to play the game, being very young, and being unused to hearing a “no”, I detached the cover without even thinking of asking for permission. As it turned out, our friend had intended to keep the magazine and to do so intact, because she found the cover (or some combination of magazine and cover) particularly enjoyable. She was now sad and disappointed.

(I do not remember what happened next, e.g. whether the cover could be reasonably reattached or whether a replacement was bought for her.)

Such deeds by children are much more understandable than corresponding deeds by adults. (A mother or wife should know much better than a young child, e.g.) Nevertheless, they can do great harm and this is yet another reason why it is important to teach children about ownership and the need to respect it—and important to lead by example.

In particular, children are very likely to be unaware of the value and price of this-and-that, as things usually are just there or appear out of nowhere (being bought by adults in the past or, in the now, out of sight of the children), or as children might witness a purchase but have no grasp of what is cheap and what is expensive. Certainly, few children would even contemplate the idea of bed sheets that cost as much as several hundred comic books. Teach them never to take or damage someone else’s property without permission and the risk is lessened considerably.

Excursion on own decisions to throw away or leave behind

With the move of my step-father (cf. the previous excursion), I had to make many hard decisions about which of my own old things to keep and throw away, what of my mother’s old possessions I might want to take, whatnot. In the end, I had to leave most behind, even of the things that I valued—but the decision to do so, and the decision to take or not to take any individual item, was mine. I decided for me—I did not presume to decide for someone else.


Not only do I not have that much room to spare in my apartment, but whatever I took would go from Sweden to Germany, which is much different from moving within a single town or over some distance that can be comfortably driven in a day. For similar reasons, I have had a far smaller past transfer of objects than if I had remained in Sweden.

I mitigated the loss by taking a few dozen pictures, including of various decorative items that I had known since my early childhood. It is not the same as having the actual items, but it is far better than having nothing. I also brought several hundred older (printed) photos, which depict various relatives, rooms, objects, and whatnots at various times in the past.

It is particularly telling that many of the things that I did take were exactly what a meddling mother might have thrown away, because she, as with my beloved penguin, did not understand their actual value. (But, of course, these items were still there, or I would not have been able to take them.) A good example is an old Monopoly game that has been in the family (on my father’s side, however) since, maybe, the 1950s, which had been an endless source of entertainment when I, as a child, visited my paternal grand-mother with my father over New Year’s, and which had ended up with me after her death, some 25 years prior to my step-father’s move. It might be torn and tattered, but it really means something to me, through the memories and the connection to my grand-mother and those visits.


While sentimental value (in a wide sense, including e.g. various photos) was by no means the only criterion that I applied, it was by far the most important—but how is someone to judge the sentimental value for someone else?

Tellingly, my step-father often had assumed very different priorities from what I actually had, e.g. that I would be happy to see my old stamp collection again. In reality, I had no interest whatever: It was the result almost entirely of gifts for a single birthday or Christmas, I had dutifully put various gifted stamps in one or two gifted albums, and I had found the experience so boring that I never revisited the topic.

(In fairness to stamp collectors, I suspect that this did not have that much in common with “proper” collecting. A twist, however, is that the location was Kopparberg, where the famous “Treskilling Yellow” stamp was cancelled.)

Also note how the Monopoly game had remained with my grand-mother over decades, much unlike the aforementioned Parcheesi board. I can only speculate about the why, but the presence resp. absence of sentimental value is certainly a possibility.

Addendum on possession vs. property

After publication, the above Parcheesi discussion remained in my mind, and a potential partial explanation belatedly occurred to me: What if women simply have troubles with recognizing the difference between possession and property or otherwise have a problem in the same area? (A potential example of such a problem is the mistaken belief that a transfer of possession automatically implies a transfer of property, even when the difference between possession and property otherwise is recognized.)

This could be the more problematic as the distinction between the two is important to keep a functioning and just society, and might be one of the key differences between the world-view of adults relative young children, humans relative most animals, the law-abiding relative criminals, etc.

The idea is interesting, but I lack the time and energy to pursue it at this particular time.


What then is the difference?

With some oversimplification, “property” is usually taken to imply actual ownership, e.g. in that buying a pen transfers ownership of the pen from a store to a customer. The pen was the property of the store; now, it is the property of the customer. This while “possession” points to a (usually, but not always, physical) “having”. If the customer takes the pen with him, possession has also been transferred; if he leaves it behind to be engraved, possession temporarily remains with the store. If he later lends it to a colleague, possession is transferred, while ownership remains—the pen is still the property of the lender.


At least some animals do seem to have a sense of ownership, especially when the defended territory is concerned. Whether this can extend to objects is another interesting question. From what I have seen, myself, I am open e.g. to a dog considering a particular toy as “mine”. Then again, I lack the knowledge to judge what is a true ownership feeling and what might be, e.g., a transferred behavior from protection of food or of puppies.