#1038: “Is my sister stealing my stuff?”

Dear Captain,

Since I moved in with my sister three months ago, I’ve been….missing things. Things that are important to me, things I wouldn’t normally lose. My boyfriend’s $700 camera. My only/favorite pair of sunglasses. An Adderall prescription.

I’ve complained about this to my sister. I’ve wondered aloud to her if our third roommate has been going in my room, or if one of the friends passing through isn’t as trustworthy as we think. I’ve talked to her about how weird it makes me feel to worry that people are in my room when I’m gone, about how much I hate to distrust anyone, about how I try to convince myself that there’s some innocent explanation I’m not seeing. It did not occur to me that she could have anything at all to do with the situation–I trusted her completely. Until the day before yesterday.

The day before yesterday, we found the camera. Well, I shouldn’t say we. She found it. We weren’t even looking for it. We were trying to find the bottle of adderall. The adderall had been missing for days, the camera had been missing for months. Within minutes of us starting the adderall search, she opened up the cabinet under the silverware drawer, moved the paper napkins, and said, “Hey, is *this* your boyfriend’s camera that’s been missing so long?” It was.

Normally that wouldn’t seem suspicious to me, just weird that it showed up in a place that neither I nor my boyfriend would ever put it, and weird that I’d been using the cabinet for months without noticing the camera. But I had just watched the episode of Mad Men where [spoiler!] Sally steals the $5 from Grandpa Gene and then “finds” the money when he makes a bigger deal of it than she had anticipated.

Pretty soon she was asking all these questions…didn’t my boyfriend already get a replacement? What was he gonna do with this one now that we found it? Did he want to sell it? It probably wasn’t worth as much as he paid for it, the case wasn’t made of great material, good but not great, could she buy it for a couple hundred dollars?

It all made me so, so uncomfortable.

And today I remembered that around the time my sunglasses went missing, my sister bought me a new pair. They were old-fashioned and had that tortoiseshell look, like the ones I lost, but they were cheap and much too narrow for my wide face. (Part of the reason I’d been so bugged by losing the first pair is that finding cute wide-framed glasses has always been difficult for me, and I’d spent a fair bit of money when I finally found a pair I liked.) Now that interaction seems tinged with weirdness to me…like, was she trying to make up for taking or breaking the sunglasses in the first place?

And the Adderall never showed up, which is such a huge hassle.

I don’t know. Obviously none of this is 100% proof that she took these things (or that anyone did! maybe I just lost them!). It would be so much easier if I knew for sure….even if I knew for sure that she did it, I wouldn’t be super mad. But I would feel justified in taking action to move out and protect myself. As it is, I’m stuck in a state of uncertainty, having to live with someone I don’t totally trust, and feeling guilty for being distrustful when she might be totally innocent. In fact, the only things that make me feel suspicious of her, are good things she did–finding the camera, buying new glasses.

Help me, Captain! Did she do it? And, given that you probably can’t answer that, how do I live with this doubt without being unfair to her or myself?


Lina McLaidlaw

Dear Lina McLaidlaw,

You might never get the full story of where your stuff went or if it’s your sister’s fault, but here’s something you do know:

  1. You didn’t keep “losing” valuable stuff this way before you lived in this place with these people.
  2. It’s okay to take care of yourself around this by finding a new place to live even if you aren’t 100% sure what happened.

Like, maybe you don’t need beyond-a-reasonable-doubt legal case to say that something is off about the situation and to get out before it gets worse? If it is your sister, remove temptation. If she’s protecting or covering for a friend or roommate, or if she’s oblivious to what they are doing, remove yourself from that shitty situation. If your sister is totally innocent in all of this? You still get to move. Your reason can be as vague as “It’s not working out” or as specific as “My stuff keeps going missing and it’s really bothering me. I don’t want to blame anyone or accuse anyone, especially you, but I can’t live somewhere I don’t feel safe.” You’ve already talked to her about the missing stuff so it shouldn’t be a surprise.


Your boyfriend should not sell the camera to your sister or to anyone associated with her or anyone who lives in that house. Either keep it or sell it to literally anyone else. That whole situation smells.

While you live there, get a lock for your room’s door and a locked cabinet for things like meds, computers, camera equipment, jewelry. If your sister or roommates are suddenly offended by the idea of you locking things away, that is what is known as a telling detail. If you find yourself really resistant to the idea, like, I should NOT have to lock up MY THINGS inside MY OWN HOME, then…that’s one more argument for moving out.

This is so awkward, I’m sorry. Your instincts, especially re: the camera + controlled substance prescription drugs, are spot on. Trust those instincts and find a new place to live!


267 thoughts on “#1038: “Is my sister stealing my stuff?”

      1. Mmm-hmm. Somebody was maybe figuring if The Number of Famously Disappeared Things were reduced by one, the pattern would crumble and suspicions could be made to safely lower. I’ve been gaslit like that before, where a list of objective bad things done to/at me was subjected to rules-lawyering so that the list appeared less daunting and I appeared more petty in my complaints and less sure of myself about asserting myself in future. It’s a neat, awful trick.

          1. Rules lawyering is when someone uses the letter of the rule to go around or against the reason the rule exists in the first place (like at a pool where there’s a “no running” sign so somebody is skipping instead. Technically they aren’t running but they’re engaged in an activity that is just as likely to hurt someone in this environment as running is). Young children make amazing rules lawyers but thankfully most people grow out of it.

          2. Probably, “Well, TECHNICALLY, this thing is only a misdemeanor, so you can’t be as angry about it than about someone actually murdering you, because that’s a felony, and you weren’t felonied. You were only misdemeanored twenty-seven times in the last month, so how dare you complain about it, at all?”

            Or something along those lines.

          3. You can tell you’re dealing with a RulesLawyer because, funnily enough, they always argue the RulesLawyering to suit their own interests and protect themselves. There’s also an abusive/gaslighting habit where RulesLawyers try to argue that you have to tell them every single thing they cannot do, in specific detail, because how can they be expected to reasonably extrapolate from a general rule?

            eg You say somethig like “Don’t take my stuff” and the RulesLawyer agrees, but then the very next day, they “just borrow it” (without asking) – and then try to argue that it’s unreasonable for you to have hurt feelings or be angry – because you never said “don’t take my stuff OR borrow it OR [insert thesaurus here]”, so obvs it’s all YOUR fault!!!

            Dealing with a RulesLawyer feels like arguing with a toddler, honestly: “I told you to stop licking the pavement!” “I didn’t! I tripped over and my tongue fell out!”

  1. LW, that sucks, I’m sorry.

    If I was in a situation where moving out was really complicated and hard, and things went missing after there had been casual acquaintances over, I might see about setting up a Nest Cam or something. I can totally imagine a situation where your sister isn’t guilty, but she knows one of her friends does that sometimes and she’s treating them like a “missing stair” and just dealing with it because they hadn’t taken anything *serious* or *valuable* or *not hers.* (Like, this happened to me in college. Goodbye external hard drive!)

    That said, it is totally not your responsibility to do detective work, and you shouldn’t have to then have a Conversation with someone you’re living with. I think locking stuff up and then moving out is the best and least risky way to go.

    1. I had that happen to me, years ago – a roommate had a boyfriend who was a thief (and a creeper to boot) – but since he never stole from HER, oh well, too bad so sad. I moved out, and so did Roommate #3. My sympathies! Missing stair enablers who don’t care because the missing stair is only creepy with/steals from/etc./Other People And Not Meeeeee are everywhere. I try to avoid them.

  2. My brothers used to do this kind of thing. It was small stuff, like eating my birthday cupcake and totally denying it, even though the wrapper was in their bedroom trash and that suspicious frosting colored stain on their t-shirt. Or the soda I was saving for after school or when the $10 I won when one of my essays was submitted by my teacher and won first place in contest went missing and my brother suddenly had candy money.

    I learned quickly to hide my stuff better, lick the frosting on the cupcake and hide my soda inside an empty orange juice box. Your stuff is much more expensive *and* prescription drugs are missing. That’s definitely “lock stuff up until I find a new place” seriousness. Don’t feel bad about it! Someone is stealing your things!! And your boyfriend’s things!!

    1. Did your parents enable this?! You say “Brothers,” not brother. Was this a case of you being the scapegoat of the family, and so anyone was allowed to do anything, or was it because they were boys and you were a girl, or was it because your parents were just too blind to see, or what?

      Over the years, I can see all three of those things happening, while the children learned from each experience, and grew out of it. But this was such an on-going thing that you “learned quickly to hide my stuff better, lick the frosting on the cupcake and hide my soda inside an empty orange juice box. ”

      Hiding your soda inside an empty orange juice box, in particular, just really got to me. How could your parents let this go on to such a point that you were literally hiding one sort of food inside another?

      I can’t even with this.

    1. Additionally – possibly she sold the Adderall already and has money. And plans to sell the camera for more than the bargain-basement price she intends to wheedle out of Sis.

  3. One of the best things a therapist ever said to me is “This isn’t a court of law.” You can move out without “proof” of what happened, you can move out without even really knowing what happened. You know that something weird is going on, you know you feel uncomfortable with it and that is 110% enough reason to take care of yourself. If it helps for you to have permission to leave, you have it from us!! *stamps the paperwork with a big clonky stamp”

    In terms of living with the doubt, having it be “that weird thing that happened a few times” rather than “that weird thing that keeps happening and may happen again soon” will make it much easier. So yeah, I agree with the Captain that securing your valuables and moving out is the way to go.

        1. Whenever I see a big clunky stamp I think of the German military officer in “Top Secret” who has a stamp that says “Find Him and Kill Him.”

    1. Even if you just feel “icky” in that place, and there’s absolutely nothing you can put your finger on to explain why you feel icky, you have the right to move out!

      Same for relationships. Just “I don’t like this,” is a good enough reason not to date/marry/commit to/stay with someone.

  4. Obviously we can’t know for sure, but your sister’s behavior sounds very suspicious and it’s also very suspicious that of all the things you’ve “lost” they have all been high-dollar items. An expensive camera, expensive sunglasses, and a prescription drug that people are known to abuse and likely has a high street value. Trust your instincts here. You should absolutely take steps to lock away your valuables and do whatever you can to move ASAP. Is there some reason why your sister might suddenly need money, or is she in a relationship with someone who could need money or isn’t super trustworthy? Are either of those things true of your other roommate? That could give you a clue about what’s going on – but again, this is not your issue to sort out. You know your things have been disappearing and it has to be someone you live with, so your best choice is to change your living situation.

    1. Not to mention a prescription drug that is essential for functioning for those taking it and can’t be replaced by law because of shits like whoever stole it from OP! Argh I’m so upset for OP!

        1. Where I live too. Completely ancillary to LW, but something I’ve found helps me with this problem: I have enough Medical Things that make me forgetfully misplace important stuff throughout my house that I actually split stuff like this into several (properly labeled, old) containers that I start in the Proper Place and use up. When I inevitably misplace one, then I don’t have to start the rigamarol/be extremely late due to frantic searching, and use of old, properly labeled containers means that I don’t feel nervous about legal questions as to their legitimacy.

    2. I personally take the lowest dose Adderall that exists, once a day, and out of pocket my prescription would cost around $150 for 30 pills. The street value has to be higher than that or people wouldn’t be getting fake scripts and selling it.

  5. SOMEONE is stealing from you, that’s obvious. You didn’t just start losing extremely valuable stuff out of the blue. You need to protect yourself; you don’t have to feel guilty about that.

    1. Agreed. If you were actually losing random stuff…it would be more…random…you’d lose a stack of post-it notes or scissors and maybe also something expensive…this is specifically valuable stuff to hawk. Either your sister is doing it or covering for the person doing it. Get out stat.

      1. Yeah, this. I once lived in a dorm with a kleptomaniac. Her thing was clothes. It didn’t matter if the clothes were her size, or if they were new/old, pretty or ugly. I don’t think it even mattered if they were clean.

        If they were cloth that had been sewn into a shape that could be worn on a human body, she would steal them. At the end of the year, her roommate found a huge pile of random clothes on the floor of her roommate’s closet (the roommate was already gone), and had the fun task of trying to figure out how to return them all.

        When you live with a thief, whether it be because they want valuable stuff to use for themselves, or sell, or if you’re living with a thief who takes things because that’s what they do, you are definitely living either *with* or *in the vicinity of* a thief. Maybe it’s just a visitor, but that person still comes into your home with some sort of regularity, and takes your things.

        I hope it’s not your sister, LW, but as far as protecting yourself, I don’t think it matters. You need to lock-up your stuff until you can remove your stuff to a safer place.

        1. Something similar happened to my sister and her housemates at university, although it was sillier and much less intentional than what happened to your dorm. Everyone’s socks kept going missing, until they had almost no socks left between. They called a house meeting to discuss The Incredible Mystery of the Disappearing Socks, at which point one of the girls (who was sweet but extremely daffy) said “Oh, it’s weird that this hasn’t happened to me, because I’ve got *loads* of socks!” It turned out that she assumed everyone else’s socks were hers and had been taking them off the laundry line, so she ended up with all the socks…

  6. Move out, your sister took your stuff. It all sounds suspicious. Even if she didn’t, covering for a thief she lives with at the expense of her own sister sounds like a situation to avoid.

  7. LW, everything the Captain said is spot on. I’d make plans to move out if you can. And in the meantime, yes, I am also 100% for either getting a lock for your room and/or getting a cabinet with a lock that only you have the key to. Put any meds and super valuable things in it. HOWEVER, you can’t lock everything away forever. You aren’t going to know if it was your sister or another roommate. What you do know is that things started to disappear (and then reappear) while your sister was living with you. That’s not solid proof, and I don’t blame you at all for not jumping to conclusions or cutting off contact (it could be someone else after all). I think moving out as soon as you possibly can is a good idea.

    Also: If you can, get a safe deposit box at your bank, and put any important documents (passport, birth certificate, etc) in there. (TBH I think this is good practice no matter what your living situation is; I’m in the process of doing that now, and I live alone.)

    1. I’m going to add a yes, but to this: putting something in a safe deposit box trades convenience for safety. (Even if the bank is next door to your home or office, they have limited hours.) My safe deposit box contains my birth certificate and some other documents that would be difficult or complicated to replace and that I won’t need on short notice. I keep my passport in my apartment, so if I got a call on a Friday night that I needed to go to Montreal or London ASAP, I wouldn’t be delayed or stymied by bank branch hours.

      That possibility may not be relevant to you or the OP, depending on where you have family or close friends, but it seems worth mentioning.

      1. Passports are far easier to replace than birth certificates and some similar documents, too. There seems to be SOME level of expectation that people will lose passports (or have them stolen, or forget them in a hotel room halfway across the world…). That is less likely to be the case for other ID-establishing documents, which governments seem to think are magically safe from those things judging by how often only originals are accepted.

        1. Really? This may depend on jurisdiction but in the state. I was born, you can get you OR either parent can just wander into the county clerk’s office with $5 and a smile and get a birth certificate or submit a very simple notarised form. A new birth certificate is hands down the easiest thing I’ve ever had to replace (although I can imagine circumstances that would make it difficult).

          1. There are different ways depending on where you are.
            where I am it’s possible to Make a copy of your original birth certificate and get it legally verified by a solicitor or relevant authority. So if a fire happens or something it’s still valid.

          2. In Cook County, Illinois, where my son was born, you can get as many copies of your (or your child’s) birth certificate as you want. It’s $15 for the first one, but then only $4 for each additional one you get at the same time. Same with your marriage certificate. I think we got five. One lives in our suitcase so we always have it when we’re traveling.

            This is getting super off topic but if you are worried about losing your wallet-sized ID card, look into getting a gun license (you don’t need to know anything about guns, or ever have anything to do with them). It’s a state-issued photo ID card and in Illinois they cost $10 and are valid for a decade. I keep mine in a cabinet at home and if I ever lose my wallet, I have an ID that’s valid for getting on a plane, getting into a bar, or going to the DMV to replace my license.

      2. Typically, I agree. BUT if someone is taking her meds that have a high a street value, they may not be above trying to do identity theft. Unfortunately. 😦 Though YMMV.

      3. Thank you for mentioning this Vicki, this is a great idea! I am going to copy your fine example here and also add a small hard drive with my most important files.

    2. I recommend a combination lock, instead of a key lock.

      I was amazed at how easy it was to pick a lock, that one time. Now mind you, some locks are easier than others, but if a rank amateur with a hairpin can pick a lock, then someone who has had some practice thieving can do it.

      Key locks are for when you need to make sure no one gets in there accidentally, or as my brother says, “to keep honest people honest.” Combination locks are what you use with known thieves.

  8. “Like, maybe you don’t need beyond-a-reasonable-doubt legal case to say that something is off about the situation and to get out before it gets worse? If it is your sister, remove temptation. If she’s protecting or covering for a friend or roommate, or if she’s oblivious to what they are doing, remove yourself from that shitty situation. If your sister is totally innocent in all of this? You still get to move.”

    So much this! Clearly, this current situation is putting your belongings at risk of theft, regardless of who’s doing it, you get to leave that situation to one less risky, where you can feel more comfortable that your boundaries are being respected and your things are safe.

    This summer I suspected my roommate of pilfering some of my alcohol, because the bottles seemed to have less liquid in them than I’d remembered, despite me not drinking any of it for quite some time. He’d been bringing a ladyfriend over and they would drink, and he had his own booze but mine might have been preferable to her. I knew asking him about it would sound like an accusation, there wasn’t really a way to get evidence and it didn’t matter. I felt my liquor stash would be more secure in my bedroom, hidden behind furniture so you couldn’t see it if you peeped in the door, and it was my stuff, I could put it wherever I wanted, so that’s what I did.

    You don’t have to leave your valuables, or medicine, or booze, where they’re at risk of being stolen just to make someone feel trusted. She should understand why you’re feeling suspicious of people right now, including her.

    1. I lived in an apartment with an Eater of the Food of Others for a while, and I learned pretty quickly that keeping the stuff he was likely to take (booze, juice, PESTO FOR GOD’S SAKE, chips) in my room was kind of the only way to handle it. I will give him this–he never entered my room, so as long as it was out of sight he wouldn’t rummage, but if it was in the kitchen he would eat it and then deny it. I literally left a bottle of rum on the counter for 45 seconds to go back into my room for a lime, and when I came out he was sharking around eyeing the bottle. I grabbed it, shot him a dirty look, and went and put it back in my room.

      If living with roommates taught me anything, it’s that taking strong steps at the first sign of an issue regarding thievery is so important. I don’t care if LW’s sister’s feels are hurt about this–a sturdy locking cabinet is going to be the best possible step to quell this behaviour until the LW can GTFO.

      1. I lived with an Eater Of Others’ Food too! It was “how he saved money.” FFS, the rest of us were pretty poor too, on food stamps and everything! I wound up doing the same thing – keeping my food in my room, because Eater would snarf down *everything* and in quantity. Thankfully he wasn’t a roommate for very long.

        I don’t mind sharing food or helping out someone who is really broke and hungry, but I do mind selfish users a whole lot.

        1. Mine was an Insult-to-Injury eater. You’ve got tasty leftover stew put up for tomorrow’s dinner? Insult-to-Injury guy will eat all of the chunks of meat and potatoes and whatever out of the stew, leaving just a bit of liquid in the container and then putting it back in the fridge. Now you’ve got no stew AND a dirty container.

          1. The same Little Brother who my husband and I eventually kicked out of our home for theft and vandalism was a similar flavor of Insult to Injury food thief. He’d eat or drink nearly all of Whatever, leaving just the smallest, most useless amount behind. I assume for good-intention-deniability. “But I left you some!”

            No, Elbee. 1/28th of a slice of pizza and a quarter ounce of expensive vodka is not “leaving me some”. Or, I suppose it is, in the same way that donating all of a person’s clothes except for one sock and an XL Tasmanian Devil shirt grandma gave you for Christmas ten years ago is “leaving some clothes to wear in the meantime.”

          2. Whoever drinks the last of the ice tea or coffee has to make the next pot. A quarter cup at the bottom of a tw gallon pitcher of tea? srsly?

        2. Three of us lived together in adult housing during our final two years of uni, which meant we always got a new random roommate every semester. One of them came with absolutely nothing, meaning she had to use all my dishes, towels, cleaning products, etc. Usually not a problem! Well, she’d leave stuff dirty, squirrel it away in her room, so on and so forth. She was also an Eater of Other’s Food. And not within reason – like, someone made a batch of 12 muffins, and an hour later came back to discover there were only two left. When we finally had a house meeting about it, she argued that she’d been living in a “communal village” during her year off and wasn’t used to everyone being so rigid about ownership. Okay, cool, except she wasn’t sharing, she was just taking. You’re not breaking free of the shackles of capitalism if you’re actually just stealing from other (equally poor) people; you’re just being an asshole.

          1. I had a roommate for a while that similarly ate food, pilfered utensils and bowls in her room, and would then deny the situation entirely. We lived in a three bedroom, so when my other roommate and I would go into the kitchen and wonder where *literally every spoon in our apartment was*, it was pretty clear that only one person could mathematically have them. She’d deny it vehemently, but 30 mintues later every spoon would magically reappear in the drawer.

            Same went for my food. I had my good day/bad day cookies (for when I’m in a great mood or a really shit mood), and she would open them, eat ALL OF THEM, but put the plastic trays back, as if I somehow wouldn’t notice that the container was empty. She did this with everything in the apartment until I sent an email to my roommates telling them that I had some very strict dietary restrictions so could no longer share any food.

            It escalated to a point beyond return when I realized that she was using my razors and them putting them back in the package under the sink in our shared bathroom to make it look like she hadn’t used them when they were VERY clearly used. I wish I had spoken up about it, but fortuitously work took me to another city so I relocated and made note that she was not the roommate for me ever again.

      2. I have been an Eater of Others’ Food when my compulsive eating crap flairs up. You know, you’re just going to grab one cookie, one eensy bite of that casserole… but five minutes later, you need another itty, bitty bite, and then another, and-

        And an hour later, you’ve inadvertently macked most of someone else’s food. It’s very shameful, and I haven’t done it in decades, and I NEVER would’ve rationalized it as “saving money” or “you weren’t going to eat it, so-” or anything. But yeah. I’m sorry.

        1. The difference IMO is if you own up to and apologise for it. Preferably before being found out. And that you offer to rectify it somehow.

          Ate all of their cookies? Offer to make another batch or buy some new ones. Ate their dinner? Offer to cook them something else, or buy replacement ingredients if it’s not an urgent “that was tonight’s dinner and I won’t get home until it’s too late to cook” situation.

          I think everybody has engaged in a little bit of food sneakage before, and a little bit is OK provided you’re only nibbling bits that don’t add up to a noticeable amount. Anything else should be asked beforehand (though you should probably ask every time…but in my defence, a couple of pretzels out of a giant Costco jar isn’t that much)

          1. I really think this is why I’ve now turned into my own Sicilian grandmother, and almost obsessively offer to feed people homemade food. Making up for past contretemps!

        2. I have a tendency to be a Drinker of Other’s Booze, but that’s because my roommate just…stockpiles. So. Many. Drinks. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We do not have room for them all. I recently convinced him to get a fair-sized mini-fridge, and even with that full, half the bottom shelf of the large fridge and a good chunk of the counter-space is STILL bottles and 12-packs of “special” soda.

          So…I’ve kinda stopped feeling that bad about popping open a no-longer-limited-edition (because they brought it back permanently since the time he stockpiled the first batch) blueberry ale that passed it’s sell-by date some time ago, if I’m out. I just want the mess gone, and he doesn’t drink them nearly fast enough…

      3. I had an Eater of the Food of Others *neighbor*. I couldn’t identify which one, but I did know that not one of the people who lived in my apartment ever ate ice cream with a fork, so they couldn’t have been the one to leave fork marks all over my Cookies and Cream!

        What’s worse, I didn’t know if perp actually scooped the ice cream out of the container (with a fork?!) and ate it from the bowl, or if they just forked it right out of the carton and into their mouths, then went back for more with the contaminated fork.


        Although, as bad as that was, it was not nearly as infuriating to me as was the roommate who used my cast-iron skillet (OK, I was willing to let them use my dishes), and then PUT IT IN THE DISHWASHER! And after that, PUT IT ON TOP OF THE HIGH CABINET TO DRY! without telling me, so that after three days of searching, I finally found it there, and it was absolutely covered in rust! And then, tried to pass it off as, “What? I cleaned it! I was doing you a favor!”

        After spending I don’t know how long scrubbing the rust off, I oiled it up and timed it right before *I* had a class, and SHE was home studying. So she had to deal with the seasoning smell. MOOOOHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAA!

        1. Noooo, not the cast-iron skillet! No jury would have convicted you had you brained your roommate with it.

          And speaking of ice cream, I had *another* roommate who would methodically pick out all the goodies like chocolate chunks, cookie dough balls, etc. out of everyone’s carton of ice cream. As my mom said when I told her about it, “He took the Chunky and left the Monkey!”

          1. OK, I’m trying not to vomit, now. That’s a really awful thing to do.

            But, yeah, I was really very upset about that skillet, and the room-mates (none of whom had ever seasoned cast-iron anything) just didn’t understand why. Until after the seasoning process, when they were home studying, and had to smell it. For hours.

            They still maintained, though, that they didn’t get why it was so upsetting for me to have someone put my personal property up on top of a high cabinet, when I am SHORT, and can’t see it. They were all tall.

            These were the same women who moved *all* the cups and glasses to a high cupboard above the sink, even though I literally had to climb onto the counter to reach them. I had put them down low when I first moved in (and by first, I mean I was first in the apartment), and they moved it “to be more convenient for everyone,” and I tried to convince them to move them to where I could reach them, but “that wasn’t convenient, and this was more convenient for everyone.” I was still young and foolish, and didn’t realize, yet, that I didn’t count as part of “everyone.”

            If I could do it over, I would have skipped the part, upon my roommates arrival, where I showed them my dishes I had bought, and said, “Everyone is welcome to use them.” I would have said, “These dishes here are mine, and nobody else gets to use them, and this is MY cabinet, so there!” And then, they could have bought their own dishes, and stored them wherever they wanted, to be convenient for “everyone.”

            Wow, I didn’t know I was so bitter about this.

        2. To be fair – and I’m not diminishing the destruction of your skillet – I would literally never have known you can’t just wash a skillet. I grew up in the ‘burbs eating Kidz Cuisines. All the same, I would apologize for ruining your skillet and ask how I could fix or replace it.

          1. Ah, but I specifically told them all about it, before I allowed them to use it, and they all agreed on the proper care and maintenance procedures. So she KNEW. She just didn’t care.

            And, no, she never apologized, either.

  9. It might be informative to take the memory card from the camera and use software that can recover deleted photos on it. I’d guess there’s a very good chance whoever took it used it, and the recovered photos will likely make it obvious who took them.

    It might also be interesting to see who gets nervous if you start talking about filing a police report on the stolen prescription medication. Adderall is an amphetamine, and will show up in a drug test for up to a week after a single dose.

      1. Yeah, most people don’t realize how easy it is to recover deleted photos. Sometimes even if the card had be reformatted.

    1. This was my exact thought. Camera has been missing for months, but not sold. Sister then wants to buy camera. If she’s had the camera, she’s almost definitely used it. There will be info on the camera.

      If I lose a scrip for my concerta, I HAVE to file a police report before I can get another script. It’s a class B restricted drug. LW, file the report and make a big noise about doing so.

      1. I’m not even sure a police report is enough in some areas. Some are so worried about staged thefts that you don’t even get a first chance!

        1. Good point. Adderall is a schedule II drug, same as cocaine. I was only half serious about threatening to file a police report to see how the various roommates would react, but if that prescription bottle turns up in some druggie’s pocket, if LW hasn’t filed a report of it being stolen, some very unpleasant conversations might well take place (in an interrogation room). Never mind getting a replacement prescription.

          I’ve just remembered how popular a street drug it is, and am now wondering if whoever stole it – sister, other roommate, or visitor – did so to use themselves, or to sell. It apparently sells for anywhere from $5 to $40 per pill on the street.

          1. The fact that the Adderall went outright missing tells me someone sold it. If it was someone within the house with a pill problem, they’d be more likely to sneak a pill here, a pill there, which would be less noticeable at first. But I think it might be a good idea for LW to consider reporting the meds.

          2. Re: sneaking pills:

            When I was in college, I had a friend in another dorm, who was prescribed birth control pills for medical reasons. This was a church-run college, with codes of honor, including no sex outside of marriage, so nobody had any form of birth control, except about two young women who needed it for the hormone treatment to stop the months-long-bleeding or whatever their issues were.

            Well, one day, my friend tells me that birth control pills come in a packet with numbered sections, so you know exactly which pill to take, and you can see at a glance if you missed one. Her pill for that day was missing!

            She told me later that it happened two more times.

            “Someone is in for a rude awakening,” she told me, and then explained how The Pill worked. I never got that information in Health class.

            It was spring, though, so if anyone in her dorm became “inexplicably” pregnant, it didn’t show up until summer, so I never found out.

          3. She needs to report it as soon as possible. Stealing someone’s medication is extremely dangerous. Some medications can have serious effects if the user abruptly stops taking it.

  10. Note: I’m DEEPLY hesitant to post this because I really genuinely am onboard with the no diagnosis rule. I THINK the potential value outweighs the risk, but I understand that this comment may be deleted if I called it wrong.

    LW, since you have an Adderal scrip I’m going to assume for the purposes of this comment that you, like me, are likely ADD/ADHD.

    I’m bringing this up only because I suspect it adds an extra layer to the “did I just lose the stuff?” question, and is maybe making you doubt the evidence of your senses and get caught in self-doubt, because in my experience life with ADD is a continuation game of “Did I leave it somewhere, let me check that everything is in my purse, let me double-check the oven …” I swear if I God Forbid came home to find my house burnt to the ground my first thought would be that I must have left said house on the bus. I actually did leave my husband at the mall once. Forgot he was with me.

    If either of these assumptions is wrong, please write this whole comment off. Also, I don’t think you DID lose the stuff. This is offered strictly as the sort of reality check I would find useful if I were dealing with something like this, so I could deal with the “did I just lose it?” question and move on.

    So, let’s see if we can eliminate you as a factor, okay? This is all based on my experience as someone with ADD who lives with two other people who are ADD. Your mileage may vary.

    You obviously don’t normally lose stuff, or not stuff this valuable this often, or you wouldn’t be seeking an explanation. So if it were you, there’d be a solid reason for the change.

    Have any of these changed radically lately:

    New living situation?
    New job?
    School stress, if you’re in school?
    Health issue?
    Different meds?
    Serious outside stress like money problems or a death or estrangement from someone close?
    New pet?
    Other manor new responsibility?

    Also, are you losing pens and socks and lip balms and keys and other small, cheap items that you carry around and have lots more chances to lose? Or is it just the big-ticket stuff that you make serious efforts to keep track of?

    Are you also running late for everything, sleeping on a pile of clean clothes, and trying to read six books at once, or whatever your particular signs of not being on top of things are?

    It would take quite a big thing to throw you off to the point where you were suddenly losing multiple valuable things at a huge rate, and in that situation you’d be noticing a lot of other issues. ONE big-ticket item, sure. My personal ADD Tax when I’m on meds and all’s well runs at one expensive thing per year, roughly, plus buying lip balms and socks and things in bulk.

    ALL those things? No.

    1. What? No.

      I have ADHD, and even without medication and even after a big change, I can still tell the difference between having left something in a weird place, and something very likely having been stolen. Like others have said, if this were ADD or ADHD at play, LW would be misplacing everything, not just big ticket items that are likely to be stolen and sold for cash. LW is pretty sure things are being stolen, let’s not use their disorder to second guess that.

      What is an issue is that LW’s is missing their much-needed medicine because some jerk is stealing it. If someone was taking my pills (which really does happen) I’d probably go through unpleasant withdrawal and be unable to get stuff done in the process.

      1. Allison, my read is that Marna was trying to use the symptoms of ADHD to rule out the items being lost, not to second guess whether they were stolen.

        I think Marna’s saying that if the big-ticket items (camera, meds) were, in fact, lost, LW would probably be seeing other symptoms/factors, like big life changes and losing a lot of small items as well. Since those things are not happening, signs point to the camera and meds being stolen.

        1. Yeah, I have ADHD too, but the Really Important Things don’t get lost, because I have very rigid Thing handling protocols. The scripts for after spouse’s foot surgery? Yeah, I know RIGHT where they are, and I have a note where I’ll see them about starting the preauthorization process tomorrow. My keys? They are on a carabiner attached to my purse for a good reason. Kindle? Beside me at desk, beside me in bed, in the purse. One of three places. Period. I was like that with my meds when I had them. When losing the Thing is seriously problematic, you don’t so much lose the Thing. It’s the small stuff that’s a problem. Oh, yeah, I made that tea earlier. I’ll drink it cold, too. (shrug)

          1. Historically, people have got on my case about needing to have my phone with me all the time. But if it’s not, I can’t find it. At all. Even if it’s plugged into the charger, if it’s not with me, it could be anywhere, and I will check all the likely places it could be before remembering that it’s charging.

          1. No worries. And yeah, I’m basically saying that when one has ADD there’s always that self-doubt/fret of “is it me? Did I lose it/space/forget?”. And in this situation, that inside voice is gonna add a tonne of stress.

            So I posted, basically, the checklist I use in that situation myself.

      2. The self-doubt around AD(H)D when things disappear is the worst. Thank you for addressing that potential factor. It’s like self-gaslighting, and family members/etc. who know you have a tendency to lose things can play it up.

        1. My ADHD causes the same problem and it’s the worst. If anything is missing I’m constantly trying to remember what I did with it, or if someone else moved it, or if I’m losing my mind completely and never had the thing in the first place.

          Thankfully I haven’t had anyone stealing things from me since I was a kid and had a terrible friend, but I did recently have a roommate who liked cleaning and keeping order a little too much. So I would leave things out in places that made sense to me and where I could see and find them quickly, and she would move them ‘out of the way’ without telling me. It was… frustrating, to say the least. I never knew if it was me or if the thing actually had been moved.

          At least those things were pretty random and while sometimes important, they were rarely expensive. If only expensive stuff got misplaced, like it seems to be for the LW, I would be seriously suspicious.

          1. Same here. I have duplicates of so many things because I’ve lost an item, gave up searching, bought a replacement, found the original… Not expensive items, though. I manage to keep them in sight.

          2. I once packed up to move, and found out that I had *seventeen* headsets. And I had just been thinking that I needed to buy a headset, because I couldn’t find one. Mind you, I only had the one Walkman. Never lost THAT.

            I don’t have ADD (at least, not diagnosed), but I do have issues, so I can totally understand the worry about “Is it me?!” If you can clearly say, “No, it is not me,” then you can move on with dealing with the actual thief.

            But, if the thief if your sister, and she knows you have issues, it’s more likely that she’ll try to pin it back on you, so yes, please do clear yourself before confronting her, if you choose to confront her.

            Interestingly, I never do have this happen with really important things. If I care about it, or use it all the time, I know where it is. I have places for things. Not necessarily “put away” places, but places, nonetheless.

            “Piling system” is a real thing, and I can find things.

            Remember that song, “She Blinded Me With Science”? I loved that bit where the guy says, “I can’t believe it! There she goes again! She’s tidied up, and I CAN’T FIND ANYTHING!”

        2. and it’s likely that the sister *KNOWS* these things and so she is using that as a way to steal from LW without suffering consequences to boot.

    2. I had to this same thought. I am not neurotypical, and one of my “tells” that things are starting to go amok (onset of hypermania, in need of med adjustments) is losing things, big and small. You gotta trust your instincts, though, while knowing your tells.

      1. I have seizures that sometimes wipe out entire days worth of memory. Agreed, knowing your tells and trusting your instincts is important. I also well understand the internal dance of “is this my brain being glitchy or is Thing really gone?!” and the ensuing panic and spiral of self-doubt. Knowing what I would do/eliminating the uncharacteristic helps a lot. For example, no matter how glitchy my brain is being that day, it never thinks napkins and cameras are two of a kind. It takes additional effort to put a thing in a cabinet, underneath a drawer, behind other things. Setting it down on a convenient surface is far more likely – path of least resistance is usually what my brain is going for.

        Thankfully, nobody in my family would ever use my condition to gaslight me about my memory – they’ll help me make whatever adjustments necessary to make sure I can cope. So I wanted to say, LW, if somebody who knows about your need for medication is feeding your self-doubt, hand-waving away your concerns with “you probably just don’t remember where you put it,” or fights you about making the changes necessary to keep up with your stuff, then I’d be very careful around that person. If you have to, just own it, “Yeah, you know I’ve been misplacing all kinds of important stuff lately and it’s been a real hassle, so this is my new system.”

    3. Agreed. As an ADHDer I always go into self-blaming mode when stuff like this happens, but since getting treatment it’s been hard to get that off my back.

      Take for example going to a psych appointment last week but going to the wrong office. I blamed myself as formerly usual but it turned out her schedule had recently changed and I’d made what was previously the correct assumption with a lack of clarifying information – it wasn’t my fault at all!

      Don’t let doubt stop you from taking action OP!

      1. This gives me the worst problems at work when my supervisor will ask me a question about why I did something a certain way or if I did something, and I just go into a tailspin of doubt, because, like, I’m sure I had a good reason, but dang ok if y’all are asking me about it then I must’ve done it wrong, hang on I can fix this…

        meanwhile, my supervisor really just wants a straight answer about what was really a basic question.

    4. Oh man, I wish I’d had this list a few years ago when I was dating Useless Ex and things I kept at his place kept being damaged or going missing. I blamed myself so much for months before I realized it was a combination of Useless trying to be helpful but failing (classic white male laundry incompetence syndrome) and his weird-as-shit roommate being passive aggressive about my presence in the apartment.

  11. Wow, this situation is horrifying, LW. I’m sorry you’re dealing with it.

    What’s horrifying me about it even more than the expensive things going missing is the gaslighting. The way you’re feeling like “well what if this is my fault? What if I just happened to lose these items?” I don’t want to make assumptions about your situation, but I’ve got ADHD and I have to maintain systems to keep me from losing my things. This thing you’re dealing with would drive me up the wall. We’re talking meltdowns and panic attacks as I beat myself up over ‘losing’ the missing items.

    I 100% believe someone is stealing from you. And you absolutely should not have to lock up your things, but if that’s what makes your living space safe for you until you can get yourself to a situation where people don’t steal your medication, then it is worth doing. The only thing I’d add is to be careful about the key. A person who repeatedly steals from you (including stealing your meds, sorry, I can’t get past that) and gaslighting you about it isn’t going to be above stealing your keys and copying them. Even a photo of a key is enough to make a copy, and it’s pretty hard to secure your keys from people you live with.

    I may be being an alarmist and I don’t mean to freak you out, but I am seriously heebie-jeebies-if-this-was-a-movie-I’d-walk-out horrified that someone is doing this to you. I’m glad you’re concerned with being fair to yourself here as well as your sister. Having to worry about your things going missing is exhausting and you have every right to your discomfort and suspicion.

    1. Yeah, especially if her sister is maybe using her knowledge of the LW’s ADHD against her – either to discount that she’s right that her things are going missing to a weird extent, or worse, to actively use that to cover up her own theft. Anybody who is inclined to gaslight is probably even more inclined to do it to people with ADHD because they’re often intensely self-aware of their own organizational challenges. More vulnerability is a draw to those people. {:(

      1. Not to mention stealing AMP-class medications from somebody with ADHD is an INCREDIBLY shitty thing to do, because they often can’t be replaced (if that was the first thing stolen and this took place over a couple weeks I’m extra mad).

        (If they stole my Strattera I’d just laugh at the thief and any nincompoop who may have bought it off them, but that drug doesn’t work for everybody)

        1. And when they can be replaced, there’s a whole circus full of hoops to jump through to get it done; I didn’t even lose mine, I just needed to refill early before I went on a trip out-of-province to visit family, so that I wouldn’t run out and involuntarily cold-turkey during the trip (because that *had* happened on another, earlier trip due to me mis-counting how many pills I had left and not having any refills on the prescription I had at the time). I still got told “nope, your prescription’s locked under doctor’s orders for another four days unless we get permission to release it early” and I still had to email the doctor and plead for him to give permission, and then hope that I wasn’t going to end up down to the wire on trying to get my refill before I needed to get to the airport.

          (I’m pretty sure, though, that the ADHD meds are just the most recent thing to have been stolen; LW mentions that the camera was missing for months, while the bottle of meds had only gone missing a few days prior. Which feels like, to me, that the thief has been testing the boundaries of what they can get away with stealing.)

          1. OMG! I just had a horrifying thought!

            The camera went first, then something else, and now meds that are associated with ADD/ADHD. Could be that the person was testing what they could get away with, and now *plans to up the game* by getting the LW off her meds! With them, gone, and before they can be replaced, there’s a good opportunity to steal a bunch of things, and blame them on LW being “off.”

    2. This is more of a process comment, but Annalee, I think this is a really lovely way of bringing in your experience of ADHD in a helpful, relevant way, without getting into armchair diagnoses. I’ll be thinking about it as a community member here.

    3. That is literally what security systems were invented for. For only a couple hundred dollars, you can get a notification on your cell phone every time your door is opened. The peace of mind would be well worth it.

      1. That’s useful to know, but for a lot of people “only” a couple hundred dollars would still be completely unaffordable, especially for someone already facing replacing several expensive things.

      2. Installing a system on what? Her bedroom door? Still requires doing a lot of things suggested by other commenters, like moving things to be secure in her room.
        Putting up a whole house system is useless if the thief lives with LW or is a frequent guest of someone who does.

        Also? Maybe keep the condescending assumptions and sales pitches out. This comment just stinks to me.

      3. Second-hand baby monitors are often much cheaper than ‘real’ security systems, but many of the newer ones have cameras & audio pickups that are noise- or motion-activated, and will also record/forward to cellphones or computers. If you have any friends or family that have had babies recently, you might even be able to borrow one

        I’m only suggesting it in case knowing something for sure might help you settle your anxiety; it’s absolutely your decision.

    4. Perhaps a combination lock would be a good choice, if keeping the key safe is a concern? It is worth noting that for standard combination locker padlocks it’s not as difficult as one might like for someone to just work through the possible combinations. But other sorts of combination locks might be better.

      1. I said it upthread, but it bears repeating – cheap padlocks are relatively easy to pick.

        Combination lock, all the way! Even the cheap ones will at least present a bit of a challenge.

        Unless it’s so cheap that a good yank will open it, anyway.

    5. I came here to write something very similar to this. I have ADHD and whenever anything gets lost, I automatically assume it’s my fault. Even if I KNOW it wasn’t. Even if I’ve searched literally under everything. Until it is found, I am living with a vague sense of guilt and misery, because I do have such a history of losing things. If, in your family or friend group’s history, you have — as I have — been cast as the family scatterbrain, I could very easily imagine someone figuring you would just assume you’d lost it.

      Do whatever you need to feel safe and secure. Sending all kinds of sympathy and jedi hugs.

  12. These are all really smart, practical suggestions. If you feel like having some fun and playing Nancy Drew, however, how about this:

    1. Buy a cheap but realistic looking pair of fake pearl earrings.
    2. While your roommate is out of the house, tell your sister how nice and expensive they are.
    3. Leave them out conspicuously, but not too conspicuously. Like on your dresser in your room but not on the counter in the keitchen where your roommate would see them upon returning.
    4. Wait and see what happens.

    1. Also, feel free to substitute something else for the pearl earrings if you are not a earring wearing type of person. I should have chosen something more gender neutral. I apologize.

    2. Lol, I was just thinking of something like this! Maybe a bottle of what looks like fancy booze. Or an old scrip container with tic-tacs in…”Oh, thank goodness I was able to get my prescription refilled after filing that police report….”

  13. I’m sorry this happened to you, LW. I agree that it’s unlikely that you misplaced the things. I once had some clothes mysteriously disappear – so not valuable, but annoying, and I had a small room and so little stuff (those were the days) that it was pretty easy to establish that they couldn’t be anywhere. A pair of jeans identical to the ones I’d lost appeared in my room mate’s possession and she was a bit touchy about it, though of course I had no proof and made no accusations. I started locking my room and the room mates were a bit funny about it, and I moved out. Good luck!

    1. It could be useful but it could also be extremely stressful – what if nothing goes missing for months? You gotta buy it, set it up, maintain it, monitor it all the time, live being suspicious of people you live with.

      1. Aren’t there legal implications about setting up a hidden camera inside a home that you share with others? If I found out I was being secretly filmed by my roommates in a place where I had a reasonable expectation of privacy I would go wild, thief or not.

        1. Depends. Last I read, you were fine in your own room but not in a bathroom, you can’t record sound, etc.

          But my thought was, what if the camera goes missing?

          1. Clarification – as noted, the legality of setting up a camera varies wildly by where you are. You may not particularly care if it allows you to figure out who is actually doing the stealing, but you’re still left with getting the stolen item back then, and encouraging illegal behavior isn’t wise.

          2. This feels incredibly creepy and intrusive to me even in your own room when that room is located in a house that you share with other people. I know that when I was living with same-gender roommates, people casually hung around the house in pajamas in the morning. If I had been filmed in my nightgown because I went into someone else’s room to say “you told me to wake you up for your exam at 8:00” (or whatever) and they had a hidden camera, I would not have reacted well.

        2. The legality also depends on where LW is from. In Germany, for example, it is illegal to record people without their knowledge (e.g. dashcams in cars are illegal, b/c you need someone’s explicit consent to film them). So depending on LW‘s location, they might be getting themselves into legal trouble.

        3. It depends on a) where LW lives, b) where in the home the camera is places, and most important, c) whether or not it’s recording audio (which comes under various wiretap laws, and is *far* more restrictive than video only recording). Nanny cams are pretty common everywhere in the western world, but that doesn’t mean they’re legal.

          If the letter writer can afford to consult an attorney about it, she can likely afford to move, which is a far, far better solution anyway.

        4. Yeah, especially if people occasionally walk around in any state of undress – not cool!

      2. Far better to simply move, if possible. Less stressful in long run, and that actually *solves* the problem.

        It doesn’t matter who is stealing, *somebody* is. That is the only fact matters at all.

        1. I want to sympathize in that LW wants to know if Sis is the thief or not. But Sis is remarkably uninterested in the high-value items disappearing until suddenly she becomes a magician and makes one reappear. So if she’s not the thief, she’s probably helping the thief, and should be treated as one regardless.

        2. The problem is, if LW sister is actually the thief, then moving out will only solve the problem of having things stolen while living with her. It doesn’t prevent Sis from stealing whenever she visits, as she probably will, being LW’s sister.

          I’m hoping it’s someone else, but I do recognize the stress, if it does turn out to be Sister.

          1. If Sister was the thief, and she visited before the LW moved in with her (three months ago, and the camera has been missing for months, so probably fairly close to the start of the move), LW would probably not have noticed the things

            Either LW was not previously in visiting range of Sister (in which case LW need not be in visiting range of Sister after moving out), or it’s not Sister and Sister visiting won’t cause problems, or LW may simply decide Sister won’t visit at home. (Which is perfectly within the range of normal. My sister and I technically live in the same city and are at each other’s house… uhm, I’ve been to hers once per year in the last two years, she’s been to mine once in the last decade?)

  14. Oh I just remembered something like this happening to me. When I was getting my degree my cohort had a HUGE capstone project to complete as a team. Months of planning, everyone assigned different responsibilities, it was going to be presented to the public including the president of our university! We’ll one day a very specific object went missing. It was something I was in charge of and I had left it in what I thought was a safe place (in our locked classroom that only we and professors had keys to.) Everyone helped me tear the room apart looking for it to no avail. Luckily it ended up not being that big of an issue but it kept bothering me, I know I put in in X spot, who would take it? I even talked to everyone in my class saying “Hey if you accidentally picked it up just leave it on my desk, no questions asked!” Since we could get into the room any time they could just come in at like 3am when no one was there to avoid embarressement.

    Well it didn’t show up until just a few days before we were all leaving school. One my classmates, Jerkface Ahole, as I like to call him *just happened* to spot something under our classroom printer (which me and three other people had looked under while tearing the room apart looking for it). Base on other behavior I had seen from him I am convinced he is the one who took it just to make my life more difficult.

  15. A friend of mine has been dealing with a sister who is problematic for years now. The sister managed to steal many valuable items, and also completely ruin their mother’s financial situation within probably a year of living with her. Initially they all ignored a lot of the warning signs about how she never seemed to have enough money even though she was working. When she finally was forced to move out and the bills were taken over they found out she’d taken a reverse mortgage on their mother’s home, and that all of her mother’s utilities were on the verge of being shut off.

    it’s very very hard to face when your family member might be doing something awful. You feel horrible because this is a person that you love and care about and it should be one of the people you can trust the most in the world. And if you’re not used to thinking that way seeing this as a sign of some kind of addiction or major behavioral problem is really hard to do. It is a completely different worldview.

    I have an… unfortunate question that I have to ask now. How are you handling rent and utilities right now? Are you all paying your own seperately? Are you paying one person who pays?

    If your sister (or your roommate) has run into some financial or other trouble, it’s possible they might be finding other ways to cover the gap. I hate to sew further distrust but I have seen how this can play out and it took years for things to semi recover.

    Once you do find a safe living situation it might also be good to try to provide a non judgemental ear for your sister. She could be struggling with personal issues that are leading her to do this, or she may have her own issues with roommate or friends. Once you are safe maybe you can provide her with a helping hand out of whatever problem she’s in. But you have to prioritize your own mental and financial security, there is no shame in that.

    1. Good point, good point. Definitely suss that out and make sure everything is getting paid and if not, talk to anyone you can about what is happening for things that are in your name and affect your credit. Talk to your landlord if the rent isn’t getting paid. Talk to the cable company if your name is on that bill. Let them know you have an issue with one of your roommates not paying their share and you will be sorting it out ASAP. Get extensions for bills if you need to, etc. I hope things haven’t gone that far but if they have it’s better to find out sooner than later.

    2. Oooo, excellent point about the rent and utilities. I was in a living situation like that once, where a bunch of us living in a house were giving one roommate utility money and he was (supposedly) sending in the checks. He was usually home during the day so he always caught the mail before we did, until one fine spring day when we was working and two other roommate happened to be home to receive the envelope with WATER SHUTOFF NOTICE printed on it an inch high. Turned out he’d been pocketing the utility money for months, paying just enough to keep things from being disconnected so no one would notice. (Luckily for us, the utilities were either in his name or in the landlord’s name and none of us were family members.)

  16. Oh gosh, this is bringing out feelings for me. When I lived at home, my sister stole my stuff. Nothing big enough for me to notice immediately, but a camera, my favourite fluffy socks, jeans, a boxed 1990s game console (she took it out of the box and left the box there for me to find when I wanted to play it).

    I chalked it down to me being forgetful and a bit messy but one day I forgot to do laundry and had run out of socks. I went to borrow a pair of socks from her. There, in her sock drawer, underneath my favourite pair of socks, was my camera.

    Needless to say that kind of paranoia is really unpleasant to live with and I urge the LW to move out if at all possible. My relationship with my sister is cordial these 7 years later but I do not trust her alone in my house 🙂

  17. Story time:
    When I was a preteen/teen, my mother used to frequently take my possessions (mostly books and toys, sometimes clothing). When asked, she’d know nothing about it, until I would find the items had been given to others, mostly the children in her home daycare. The books and toys were typically totally or partially destroyed by the time I found them; the clothing sometimes came back and sometimes didn’t.

    In addition to many life-long issues this has caused for me, the denial of knowledge was the most hurtful. I knew that my mother kept the children contained in one area of the house. They were not allowed to wander into our private rooms, and though one or two napped in my room, they were limited to playpens and couldn’t climb out. Because there was the possibility a parent would come to get a child, my room had to be kept clean. These weren’t things that were lying around on the floor. Toys and books were kept on the upper shelves of my closet, and on my top bunk, not places that toddlers and preschoolers could reach on their own.

    When I was 17, I tried installing a locking doorknob on my door, when small children no longer slept in it. I was forced to remove it the same day, in case my room was needed for a child anyway, my mother argued. Or if there was a fire, she said. Things continued to go missing. Sometimes they’d come back, and my mother would tell me I must have just lost them, or left them out. Except, by then, I was paranoid about my stuff, and always made sure the stuff that was really important to me was put away properly.

    It wasn’t until years later that I found out there’s a name for taking someone’s things and then pretending it didn’t happen: gaslighting. Knowing it had a name, and knowing that it is an abuse tactic really helped me move past it. (Though I’m still terrible about loaning things out. I just… can’t.)

    The fact that the camera was found in a frequently used cabinet in a high-traffic kitchen makes my gaslight sensors go off with big red lights. Take the steps you’d take to protect yourself from an abuser, even if you’re not sure exactly who it is. I’d start by locking everything up right away, today: front door type doorknob (with a key) for your bedroom door, small safe for valuables, locking cabinet for jewelry, electronics and medications. Keep all your stuff, even the small stuff, in your room, so there’s no excuse for people to poke around in there while returning items left in common areas. If you’re able to, keep your room neater and more uncluttered than usual – in a tidy room, you can instantly see that something’s missing or out of place upon your return.

    If you are on a lease, and you can reasonably and affordably break it, do so. If not, keep yourself and your possessions safe until you can save up enough money to get your own place, or at least a new set of roommates.

    Scripts for moving out if your sister argues Family Should Stick Together and you don’t feel like explaining the Missing Stuff issues: “Friend Q REALLY needs my income right now, so I’m going to help her out by living with her a few months.” “I want to try just living on my own for a bit.” “I’m moving to XYZ city to shorten my commute.” “I’ll always be your sister! We don’t have to live under the same roof for that to be true.” If you can afford it, offer to pay for the room for one month, time for your current roommates to find a new tenant for the room.

    With any of those scripts, you can tack on coffee/movie/shopping/hobbie dates weekly or monthly, anything that isn’t in your new living space. You can still be sisters and good friends, even if you aren’t living in the same house!

    1. Wow. I thought there was a law or something that prohibited using a house for a daycare. That already sets some red flags for me.

      I’m sorry that your mom cared more for the kids under her care than her own kid. 😡

      1. In-home daycares are pretty common in my area; I think it depends a lot on local laws. Run properly, they can work really well.

      2. Huh, in-home daycares are really common where I live. (Northwest corner of the US.) When I was house shopping I looked at a couple different ones that had been used that way.

      3. Around here home daycares are pretty much standard, though the town has 2 bigger more institutional ones. The home daycares are inspected and regulated and such, though – it’s not a horrific free-for-all kind of deal.

      4. Like other commenters said, in-home daycares are pretty common, at least in my area; my kids go to one. Where I live (NY), they’re pretty strictly regulated. Properly run, they work great. It doesn’t sound like this one was run properly, though…

      5. There are laws about how many children you can have, but there’s really nothing shady about home daycares on their own. Some can be bad places, but it’s also a way that a lot of people bring in extra income while staying with their children.

      6. Home daycares are really common where I live too. My mum works for the local government in the childcare department and they regulate home daycares as strictly as any other childcare facility.

      7. in home daycare is not only not illegal but is one of the best options available for most working parents. Unless the in home care is being done for cash under the table they are regulated the same way separate facilities are, have much lower limits of the number of children you can have in your care, and are far less expensive since the care provider is not having to pay rent on a separate space.

    2. My husband has stories very similar to yours without the home daycare element. He remembers quite vividly the Christmas that he got this really big toy. It was a Transformer that was made up of different Transformers. All of these different robots linked together to make one giant robot. He remembers going to his Grandmothers house and getting one of the small robots, then an aunt came with a gift and he got another, and so on and so on until the end of the day when he had all of the robots needed to make the giant one. He went to school one day in March…not even three full months later…and when he came home he found out that his mother gave it to the child of one of her friends. My husband was 8 years old when this happened. He’s 41 right now and the anger of which he speaks of this moment (one of so many similar moments!) is as strong as when he was a kid.

      I’m sorry that your mom did this to you!

      1. My parents did that with my stuff too. What even the hell is wrong with people who give away/throw out their kids stuff!

        1. When my mother had to be put into a nursing home, my Dad asked me if I wanted the 3 huge boxes of things that she had that had at some point been mine. Most were things she had accused me of losing. Turns out she was taking my things and putting them in boxes for years and years, then accusing me of losing them and often punishing me for it. Some of those things had been taken when she visited me after I was an adult.

        2. My mom did that to me once, with an old stuffed animal. She was getting rid of some of our old toys, and gifted it to a nursery school. When I found out, I was reallly upset. My mom said that she didn’t think it was so important to me, which was why she gave it away – since I wasn’t a little kid anymore. Well, it was still important to me…
          The difference is that my mom genuinely felt very bad, and it had been a mistake. For years the story of Getting Rid Of Chippy made rounds in the family, until several years later she bought me a similar small stuffed animal as a replacement and apology.
          Some of the stories here are absolutely terrible.

          1. I once tossed a raggedy old secondhand doll with pieces missing that had been lying under some furniture for weeks, gathering dust–only to find that that it was my middle child’s special friend. She broke down in tears, missing “Clownie,” at random intervals for three years. Lesson learned: I never did anything like that again.

            (I couldn’t find a replacement–and anyway, it wouldn’t have been Clownie.)

      2. My mum would do this to “teach me a lesson” about my stuff, and tell me she’d give me back whatever it was when I “learned to respect my things”. I vigilantly kept my room clean as a 4-5 year old for over a year after my beloved toy sheep was taken, only to be told that the box with all the stuff she’d taken away had been “lost somehow, probably burnt by accident”. I was *devastated*. We were very poor, and what money we had went to the cult, so I didn’t get toys very often that were actually what I wanted. (My one set of grandparents gave toys but they were weird and often very disturbing–creepy doll type stuff–and I didn’t get to pick them out.)

      3. It’s such a terrible thing to do to someone, but especially to a child, who lacks the autonomy and power to “fight back” or remove themselves from the situation. It’s really a betrayal of trust and respect, and a truly cruel thing to do.

      4. My mom did this too. When called on it, she would say, “oh goodness, you didn’t want that old garbage anyway!” In high school, I often thought of giving half her clothes to Goodwill, and then laughing patronizingly and saying she didn’t want that old garbage anyway. I never dared, though. I started keeping my very favorite clothes in my locker at school. (I am not a fan of the recent fad for removing lockers from high schools.)

        1. Having experienced this myself I became very upset when daughter in law told me she was going to go through grandson’s toy box and get rid of things he didn’t play with any more while he was gone to school. I did not yell and scream or call her bad names because she suffered a different style of abuse as a child so I explained that it was stealing. Then we talked about the value of having him decide what to keep and what to donate. It was so hard to be reasonable because as old as I am it was still stinging me.

          1. If you do it *with* the child, and have *him* decide what to keep and what to give away, you do several things:

            1) You respect his rights to his own property (in other words, you *don’t steal from your own kid!*)
            2) You teach him about sharing (giving away)
            3) You teach him the art of de-cluttering
            4) You teach him to let go

            You turn it from a chore into a valuable teaching opportunity, AND you’re not stealing from your own kid and running the risk of your child hating you for a very long time over it.

            Yeah, seems like a good idea to me. How is this not obvious to parents?

            I mean, I totally get that the abusive jackasses are doing this to their children, but the ones who are merely misguided, and just want to declutter their kids toys? HOW?! HOW do they not realize that it is a very bad idea to do this on the sly?!

          2. Out of nesting, this is for Michelle C. Young: …I mean, sometimes parents just get rid of stuff because it’s a lot of work to go through kids’ stuff with them and convince them to purge things. I 100% believe that it is hugely valuable work, a great teaching moment, etc. for basically all the reasons you list, and that’s why I usually do it that way. But sometimes your kids accumulate random junk (cheap toys from fast food places, stuff like that) or cheap toys get broken and aren’t worth fixing, or toys have a built in expiration (like balloon animals), and it’s just easier to throw that stuff away without an argument.

            I am not in any way suggesting throwing away beloved toys or special gifts, and I absolutely think that parents should make a solid effort to teach those values around stuff and to respect their kids’ property, but like, every moment is a potentially teachable moment when you have kids and no human has the energy for teaching every teachable moment. And that doesn’t get into different kids’ personalities and ages and their differing abilities to learn that stuff (especially about letting go) at different points in their childhoods.

            I don’t want to dismiss the very real trauma of parents throwing or giving away their children’s valuable things, but even good parents might have reasons to get rid of things without a potentially long, drawn-out, traumatic goings-on beforehand.

          3. Out of nesting, this is to HistorianNina: Sure, and that’s totally understandable, but you at least tell the kid before you do it. My mother threw out my shit when I was a kid and what bothered me isn’t the loss of my adored and treasured McDonald’s Polly Pocket; it was that my belongings automatically did not matter unless my mother saw it regularly. Just because I’m four doesn’t mean I’m oblivious or stupid. I was still a person, I was just a person who lacked the tools to communicate my emotions. She did not tell me she was getting rid of my shit because it was garbage and I never played with it; as far as I knew, anything in my room was up for grabs.

      5. Mine was a blue RC car that I’d had on my wish list for two years. I got it for Christmas the year I was 9. While I was visiting my father out of state over Christmas break, it was given to a 4-year-old to play with. I came home New Year’s day to find that the 4-year-old had been using it as a trampoline. It was smashed and unusable. To this day, my mother insists I shouldn’t have left it out… except that I remember distinctly placing it on my pillow, where I’d be able to see it immediately upon arriving home. It was never replaced.

        It’s not just the giving away of possessions; the blaming and the gaslighting are what really did in my relationship with my mother.

        …So when my seven year old asked for an RC car for her birthday, you know she got the best one I could find.

      6. A classmate in junior high told me once that his mother had given away all of his first edition Star Wars toys because she thought he didn’t like them anymore. He was trying to take good care of them after he found out they could be valuable, and she gave them away.

    3. The script for moving out is “Someone is stealing my stuff. It doesn’t matter who is it, *someone* is stealing my stuff, and has been since I moved in here. I’m gone.”

      I will never understand why people are so terrified of confrontation in all forms. (I understand that most people *are*, but I will never get *why*.) I will also never understand why people put up with crap from family members that they would call the cops on from anyone else. There’s an inherent double standard there. “You have to tolerate xxx’s anti-social personality disorder because they’re family, but no member of the family will tolerate you protecting yourself from the abusive behavior.” That’s not about family, that’s about *taking* *sides* *with* *the* *abuser*. Why anyone would tolerate that (the taking sides or the abuse) from *anyone*, much less family, is beyond me.

      People are complicated, and often self destructive.

      1. Uhm. Maybe trauma triggers from abuse? Is a pretty big reason why conflict might be terrifying? Or difficult practical circumstances like being poor or disabled which means you might be more dependent on others? Calling it self-destructive is pretty pathologising and deeply unfair.

        1. Unfair or not, it’s factually true in many cases. Living in circumstances that cause harm to oneself is, in fact, self destructive, no matter how one arrives at that point in life. Living in a place where someone is stealing Schedule II prescription medication (that gets sold on the black market a lot) and running the risk of legal problems by not reporting it to the police *is* self destructive.

          Like I said, I know there are people like that, and I’m sure there’s reasons for it, but I’ll never understand *why*.

          1. We are literally explaining why, and you are being *super* victim-blamey right now. Please stop.

          2. There was no way LW could have known in advance that her sister (most likely) or sister’s room-mate (possibly) would steal these things. LW has ADHD, which frequently leads to misplacing things. It probably took a while to realize that the items were actually missing, not just mislaid. So calling LW self destructive is really unfair. Would you immediately think that your own sibling was srealing from you, if you had no previous history of that?

          3. “Like I said, I know there are people like that, and I’m sure there’s reasons for it, but I’ll never understand *why*.”

            “Reasons” literally are the answer to *why* people do things. If you can understand the reasons people have for fearing confrontation with their family/someone else, you literally understand *why* they fear it. You might not feel those reasons are adequate for you personally to fear confrontation, but you should be able to understand why someone else would fear it.

      2. Also confrontion doesn’t feel good and anxiety exists???? Most people don’t want to pick fights with their living companions and make the place tense.

        1. Sounds like it’s already pretty tense for the letter writer. The issue is not wanting to make it tense for _everyone else_, including the thief.

          The solution is to move. Solves all the problems. Whether or not it’s possible is another question.

          1. “The solution is to move. Solves all the problems. Whether or not it’s possible is another question.”

            If it’s not possible for LW to move it is quite literally *not* a solution to their problem.

          2. So if it’s not possible, it’s the LW’s fault if it continues? Sounds like you do understand “why”, you’re just dismissing that.

            No. Just no. LW, none of this is your fault!

          3. Just wanting to point out that while moving gets the LW out of the immediate vicinity of person-who-steals, it doesn’t solve the ‘need to replace medication’ problem, and if the LW’s sister is the thief, it doesn’t solve the problem of their sister having stolen from them, because even IF they’re willing to cut off all contact, there may be other family repercussions/other people sister is stealing from/other complications.

            So your statement is, in fact, missing several points.

      3. When standing up for yourself (which is what confrontation often begins with) is punished, harshly, it tends to make people avoidant. This isn’t a “I’m deciding to be self-destructive” reaction, it’s a reaction that begins from self-preservation.

        1. Yes, this! I was never allowed to stand up for myself growing up. It was a huge revelation that I could, when I became a stroppy teenager, but it still feels very stressful to do it.

          1. This.

            Every time I stood up for myself I got knocked down, whether it was bullies at school or my mother at home. There were a very few exceptions, which I still remember and am ridiculously proud of. Decades later, I still avoid conflict and go totally silent if someone starts yelling. I have recognized this pattern, I can see it when it’s happening, and confrontations are still very, very hard for me.

    4. My mother also did this, and reading the other comments from people who experienced the same thing is kind of depressing. In my case it was usually gifts or stuff that I really liked – a book that was a present from my dad, toys, etc. My mom would never tell me she took it and gave it away, I would have to ask about it and then she would say something like, “oh, you never really liked that anyway, so I gave it away” but it was always stuff I really liked? I don’t understand why she did these things but she was really strange in other ways, so IDK. Some of the items were reappropriated as items for my younger sister, which I wouldn’t have minded if they were hand me downs or things that I couldn’t use but frequently they were nicer things of mine that I had either been gifted or purchased myself. Its a horrible thing to do to someone and I wish it wasn’t as common as it seems to be, at least among the commenters here. Do all horrible moms have the same playbook?

      1. From all that I’ve read about toxic parents and narcissists, it really does seem like they all take their behaviour from a shared playbook. It’s often bizarre how such unusual and specific behaviour is perpetrated by so many people in exactly the same way. I guess it’s a way of displaying dominance and control? And punishing the non-favoured child, or scapegoat. And stemming from their fundamental lack of empathy, where they see other people as tools for their use, not actual human beings like them.

        I’m sorry your mom did these horrible things. 😦

        1. I think it’s a matter of brain patterns. Narcissists are great at picking up on ways to get what they want, and with a parent child relationship what they want most is for the child to focus all of their attention on them at all times. The books and the toys take attention away from the narcissist and so they are obviously a problem and have to go.

      2. I’ve been frequenting r/raisedbynarcissists recently and it’s remarkable how similar all the stories are, it’s like they all read the same “How to be a terrible parent” guide

      3. This happened once when I was a kid. My brother and I put some toys away “for storage”. Then the next time I went by the dumpster on the way to the store, I saw my dolls strewn around it (something must have gotten at the bag).

        The difference is, my parents saw how upset that made me and they never did it again. (Presumably they were acting out of a sense of, “well they’re not using them and won’t ask for them ever again”. Which is so not the point, and anyway, how is seeing your things in a dumpster supposed to make you feel?)

        The thing is – my brother and I were kids, and it never happened again because my (and presumably my brother’s) feelings were respected. Reading all these stories about people having their toys taken away as punishment breaks my heart.

        1. When they told you it was for storage, were you, by any chance, entertaining thoughts of passing on your old, beloved toys that you had outgrown, to your own children, someday?

          Because, you know, you hear about people inheriting toys that had been passed down through the generations, well loved and cared for, and, um, ‘stored’ through the years?

          That’s what I would have thought, because even at the age of 6, I knew about family heirlooms.

          1. I don’t think so. I think it was more so that there would be more space in the room. I recall (very faintly) that my parents were saying there was no-where to put anything down and there were always so many toys on the floor and couldn’t we put some of them away for a while. That was a long time ago, though. My memory’s jumbled.

            They were not heirlooms, and they weren’t very good toys (objectively speaking) but when I was even younger than when I was then, we had a lot less money, so I tended to hoard my stuff. I knew the concept of “we can’t afford shiny trendy things” so I found it very difficult to part with things. To this day, I still think that if I haven’t gotten full use out of an item, I cannot get rid of it, no matter how nasty or ill-fitting it is. Maybe they thought they were doing me a favor, helping me let go of things. It didn’t really work.

      4. Yep, mom and sis would “borrow” my things without telling me because “families share with each other,” but if I dared do the same, all hell would break loose. And then I went to college, and left some well loved toys (gifts from my paternal uncle) behind. Lo and behold, when I came home on break, those had been given to some kids mom worked with. Fury doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction. Those were MY dinosaurs, darnit. She’d also had her mother go through and “clean” my room with garbage bags once when i was 6 or 7.

        As glad as I am to know that I’m not alone, it is awful to know that other people had/have parents like this.

        1. My Dad had a time or two threatened me with, “Clean your room, or I’ll clean it for you,” and one time, he even went so far as to start filling garbage bags, right in front of me.

          You know, I got right up and hopped to it, cleaning my room at that point, and he did not throw out my property.

      5. My mom’s little cousin had a weird, domineering stepfather who decided that having “too much stuff” was “damaging” to a human being. They’d give her presents for her birthday, and the next weekend, the presents would be for sale on the front lawn, out there with the winter clothes she had outgrown. So my mom and my aunt started “personalizing” her gifts, e.g. learning to crochet so they could make her doll a blanket, and writing “MARLENE” in marker on a toy truck. He never sold the “personalized” things because no one would buy them. Funnily enough, he never sold his own shit.

    5. Oh wow, that’s really messed up. I’m sorry your mother did that to you. ❤

      If it helps at all, this kind of gaslighting and giving away a child’s prized possessions is a really common experience of many people who post on a toxic parents forum I follow. So you’re not alone. Xx

  18. Dear LW,
    Yes, she probably took it, and maybe, once you’re elsewhere, talk about that.

    Meanwhile, follow the Captain’s advice. Until you’re living elsewhere, lock up your stuff.

    This is dreadful.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

  19. Whether or not your sister stole your stuff is not Doesn’t matter. What truly matters is that your expensive stuff is getting stolen.

    You need to lock your stuff up and find a new place where you know your stuff will be safe, even it means moving back with your folks.

    Also, don’t sell the canera to your sister. She is either the culprit or an accomplice.

  20. LW: your sister is either a.) responsible or b.) covering up for the person who is responsible. Either way, you’re not going to get what you need from her. Liars and thieves don’t miraculously stop being liars and thieves. Don’t sell the camera to her. She might have messed it up just to get a lower price and lower the value. Dishonest people suck. Stealing your pills is also super concerning to me, because now you’re going to get flagged at the pharmacy for needing a second prescription of a widely abused drug that you need.

    When I was a kid, my mother would randomly steal my things and give them away, or throw them out. When I pointed this out, she would lie and say that she had done it “weeks ago”, and given my things to a kid who would “appreciate” them more. It has impacted our relationship to this day, because I can’t trust her and because she cared so little about my feelings. Your sister is doing the same.

    I think the advice to GTFO is good advice.

    1. Same. I mentioned a couple of instances up thread. There are more, and they’re only one manifestation of her lack of respect for me and my things/boundaries. To this day, she doesn’t understand why our relationship is as superficial as it is.

  21. If you want something cheap for locking up your stuff, locking file cabinets are usually widely available on Craigslist/your local equivalent. Just make sure that you get one that has the keys with it, most people never use the keys and lose them. And maybe take a friend and/or a hand truck to move it, even the small ones are heavy. It’s also fairly easy to pass off as ‘just trying to get my paperwork in order, oh hey, also a good spot for storing a camera, oh hey, it also locks.’ If you want to let everyone else maintain plausible deniability.

    Like everyone else, I strongly suspect theft, and I’d bet a high-quality camera that your sister is the guilty party or knows who is. I’m so sorry, it’s a painful experience.

    It might also be worth checking your credit report and bank statements. Unfortunately it’s very, very common for family members to commit identity theft, and if your sister (or someone else you live with) is willing to steal valuables they may be willing to go after other forms of theft as well.

    1. file cabinets are pretty easy to unlock without the key unless full. just tip them back so you can push the leaver underneath and they open without a key.

  22. That camera was so not there those 20 times you looked in that drawer before. So chances are 100% that someone is stealing your stuff. Chances are 85% that it’s your sister, and not just someone she’s covering for.

    No, I’m going to say chances are 95% that it’s your sister. The tortoiseshell sunglasses are the tell. They’re the kind of weirdly personal thing a sister would notice, envy, and steal. The camera and the Adderall, anyone with a thieving inclination would steal. But the sunglasses don’t have the same resale value. The value they do have is suiting your face perfectly and making you look cute and proving how everything you do turns out right.

    Why is your sister stealing Adderall, though? Adderall is a class A drug. She could serve jail time for stealing it for her own use, and if she’s reselling it? Even worse. Those are big risks to take. Some uncontrollable impulse may be driving her. The stealing in itself, a drug habit — who knows.

    Anyway. Your sister’s problems are not yours to figure out or fix. You only need to fix your problem, which is that your home is not a safe place for your property and you feel mistrustful of the people you live with. I’ll join the chorus of those urging you to take concrete steps to protect yourself, like buying a lockbox or (better yet) moving out. I would be prepared, though, for the possibility that your sister has some major stumbles ahead. Again — not your problem to fix, but it may be upsetting to witness.

    1. Replying to my own post to add: I know why I fixated on the idea that your sister may have a serious underlying problem. It’s because it may be the kind of problem that will eventually cause her to demand a lot from family members. Money. A place to crash “for a few months.” The use of your car, because her car’s gotten repossessed for reasons that don’t quite make sense the way she tells them. It’s definitely the worst-case scenario, but I’ve read too much captainawkward to discount it entirely.

      In any case, it’s always good with family members to be mindful of boundaries, even when the relationship is on good terms. I think this principle applies with double force when the family member is behaving in an untrustworthy fashion.

      1. Tepid, I think you’re spot on. If sister is a toxic leech the favors-requests-demands will only escalate.

    2. The Adderall was a flag for me and immediately made me think the sister is the culprit. A close friend has a child with ADHD and she’s on Adderall. The child’s father (friend’s husband) was stealing the pills a few at a time and then gaslighting my friend when she started noticing the pills were disappearing. It very nearly ended their marriage.

      1. Wow. Stealing his own child’s medication and then lying to his partner about it? I hope your friend and their child are alright, I don’t know if I’m glad that that didn’t destroy their marriage.

        1. Yeah…I took a lot of the crying phone calls from her so there was a time that I was rooting for her to dump him. She’s been with him for a long time. As soon as she figured it all out she was angry and wanted him out, but he told her he was willing to get help. They went into counseling and he got into a recovery program.
          What I thought was interesting was when they went to see the counselor he told them that the trust was dead in their relationship and that her husband shouldn’t expect it to come back anytime soon, if ever. He said that my friend had every right to question him about anything she thought was suspicious because he’d not only violated the trust, he’d tried to make her think that she was crazy for being suspicious. He said that if the marriage was strong trust would come back but that there would likely be times that the distrust would rear up and that he shouldn’t get defensive since he’d brought them to that place. My friend said that when her husband agreed to this she knew that they could work on things.
          I still don’t like him but he makes her happy (for whatever reasons!). It’s been just about 8 years.

          1. Well, no wonder you don’t like him, he doesn’t sound like a very good person. But if your friend is happy, that’s what matters! I’m glad I was wrong.

    3. The fact that drugs are missing sent up a big red flag for me. If sister isn’t the thief then she damn well knows who is, and either put the camera back or got it back from whoever took it in the hope of keeping the LW from making more of a fuss.

      LW, get out of there immediately. If someone even *tangentially* related to you is selling drugs, you don’t want to be anywhere near it.

  23. LW, I’m so sorry that this is happening to you! I’ve had this happen a few times and what I will say is, once the trust feels broken, you need to move on. The line I’ve always drawn for myself is this: “If I need a lock for my bedroom door, then it’s not worth it.”

    When I was living with my father, I started noticing that things were going missing, including a bunch of money I was saving for charity (upwards of $1000). I opened the piggy bank where it was, only to discover that all but $7 was missing. I immediately asked my dad about it and he denied everything, but I still felt unsafe. I was starting to have a look at how I could rig up a bike lock for my door so that the cat could still get in, but my stuff would be safe. Realizing how far gone the situation was, I called the police and what the officer said stuck with me. “A random person entering your home to steal money doesn’t just leave some behind. They take all of it and maybe even the piggy bank too. You usually never see it again. Trust your instincts on your father.” I ended up kicking him out shortly after.

    So, LW, trust your instincts and move on. I know it’s not easy, but you’ll pull through. Jedi hugs if you want them.

  24. Just wanted to tell you that as a fellow haver of a sister who takes things, this is the worst. Mine grew out of it (at nearly 30!) but every time something went missing for 20 years, it was almost always her. I felt so bad the few times I guessed wrong and found my favorite lipstick in the wrong purse, etc. But, you do not become a loser-of-things overnight (maybe mid-move, you misplace things, sure but your medication? and a camera? Precisely the types of things opportunity-stealers take? no). My sister is still the person that first comes to my mind when I can’t find something that might interest a raccoon, even weeks after she has visited, and then I feel guilty about it.

    IMO, your reluctance to blame her is all the proof you need to know it’s her- you aren’t jumping to that conclusion, it is coming to you. It sucks. Agree to remove the temptation, which probably means removing yourself, and then you can hopefully go back to have a relation unburdened (as much as possible) by wondering if she took you stuff.

    But mostly just- sorry, friend. I feel you.

  25. I’m so sorry about this. I had a situation like this on a much smaller scale at a place I stayed at for a couple months a while back; small things kept disappearing, and whenever I brought it up with my live-in landlady, she got on the defensive even though I’d never accused her, and she never even offered to help me look or keep an eye out. I have absolutely no clue why they would have stolen any of the things I lost (essential oils from a photography client, I sort of get, but the rest of it I feel would have been garbage to anyone else, like an old towel), which makes everything even more confusing, but it did stop when I moved out, even if I never recovered anything.

    Best of luck with the situation, LW.

  26. Maybe this is relevant, maybe it isn’t, but my skin started crawling with the visceral memory of the last days my husband’s little brother spent living in our home.

    He would take our things and deny having any knowledge about those things, then make “helpful” suggestions about how we could go about finding those things we “lost” before miraculously finding them. He wasn’t clever enough to “find” them in places like a dish cabinet though, he’d find them in his room or his car and just cheerfully announce that he had no idea how they got there but here you go!

    It was infuriating enough having our stuff vanish, but the gaslighting via “helping us look” pushed me over the edge. During the long, terrible kicking him out conversation he kept trying to rules-lawyer us into letting him stay. We didn’t have PROOF that he stole from us. Think of all those times he tried to help us! Why would he try to help us look for things if he had stolen them? And besides, it’s not stealing if those things were ultimately found or given back, right?

    He seemed to be under the impression that we needed incontrovertible proof that he was a thief before we could kick him out. Unfortunately for him, that simply isn’t the case when you’re not in a court of law being judged by a jury of your peers.

    LW: you don’t need proof your sister (or roommate, or their friends) are stealing from you in order to decide to change your living situation. It’s enough that the set up is making you uncomfortable, let alone that your things are going missing.

  27. The theft of the Adderall (especially since it never showed up—possibly meaning it has been consumed) makes me think there could be some serious substance abuse and addiction issues at play. It might be your sister, it might be someone else close to her. If it does turn out that your sister has an amphetamine use problem (and I think and hope that’s not true but it is a possibility), then please don’t feel obligated to “support” her by letting her live with (or even visit) you. The best thing you can do for someone in that situation definitely does not involve allowing them to continue to have access to a supply of drugs, or stuff they can steal and sell for more drugs.

    1. Or gambling. If there’s a casino nearby, or a bar with a lot of fruit machines, you can bet that’s where money is going.

  28. Thank you for your advice and for answering so quickly!
    I don’t know how I’m gonna handle this yet. Y’all can probably imagine that it’s kind of an emotional maelstrom inside me right now. No story that I can come up with to explain what’s going on explains all the facts…assuming that she took the stuff also leaves me with questions, not just emotional but detail-level questions. Like, the more I think about it, it just doesn’t add up that she could have taken one of the items, bc of a trip she took–&, a little more weakly, I would have questions about her hiding things, because for a couple months I had blanket permission to be in her room when she wasn’t home,
    to help her with a long-term project.
    Like, no explanation makes sense. But woth or without a narrative of what the fuck is happening, I still have to figure out how to protect myself…and my guests (esp my boyfriend, who’s monetarily the worst victim of the whole thing).

    1. It’s a sticky situation for sure. It sounds a lot like she has an accomplice/is working with a partner somehow. She absolutely knows what happened to that camera. Recovering any pictures that were taken with it would probably help a lot.

      How do you think your sister would react if you confronted her about it? Definitely don’t do it if you think she might get angry and try to retaliate somehow, but if you think she might just be honest with you if you told her point-blank, “I know someone has to be stealing my things and it’s very suspicious that you just happened to find the camera where it wasn’t before. What’s going on?” Of course that conversation can also wait until after you’ve left. I hope you get some answers soon (and your stuff stops disappearing.)

    2. In the end, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to say “I’m accusing you!” You can say, “I don’t want this to happen again” and put a lock on your door.

      1. I agree with the poster who said “If you have to lock your door, you know you should no longer be living there”.

    3. Ugh, I can’t even imagine the thoughts swirling through your head right now. But, like everyone else, I think the Captain’s advice is spot on. And, like you say, it ultimately doesn’t matter if you can definitively prove it was her or not.

      In these types of situations, I find it best to first strip the situation down to its essentials. Here, I think that is: You do not feel safe living in this environment, therefore you need to protect your valuables, and find another place to live. Next [and this is especially true if, like me, you DO have ADD] I would write out a step by step, action-based, plan for securing your valuables and finding a new place to live.

      In your shoes, I would be tempted to obsess and question this situation to death, and procrastinate developing a plan, for as long as possible. I also know that this response would be the worst possible thing I could do, because I’d be exhausting tons of mental and emotional energy with no possible gain. And that’s before you take into account the mental toll that living in an environment filled with distrust will take.

      My point is, you can muse about the whys, hows, and wherefores of this situation when you are sitting peacefully in your new place. Right now, focus on 1) developing and executing a plan to get you there and 2) practicing self-care to protect your mental health until you do.

      Good Luck!

    4. I can understand that you are upset because… well… no matter what is going on it fucking sucks. Your stuff is missing, you can’t trust anyone in your apartment, I get that this all really fucking sucks.

      So you know what? Let’s take the “talk to your sister” option off the table and out of mind. Instead, focus on protecting yourself and your stuff. Invest in a lock and a safe. Store everything in secure places and keep the key on you and no one else.

      Then find a place to live away from roommates and sisters. Maybe your folk’s place? Your boyfriend’s? Maybe a cheap as apartment until something better comes along.

      And if your sister and roommate question ya, be blunt: “Shit is going missing and I’m not tolerating this anymore.”

    5. Well, one thing you might want to think about before you assume “sister” and not “roommate” is whether or not this has happened before. I mean, assuming you grew up with your sister, you’d probably have noticed if she stole stuff.

      1. + 1 There are some questions about the sister, but the sunglasses replacement could have been just meant as a nice gesture but it didn’t really make up for things, the camera could have been stashed by roommate 3 if they knew there was going to be an Adderall hunt and opportunity to “find” it (who suggested the Adderall hunt, BTW? And when and in what context?) How seriously is the sister taking this as an issue? When you told her, was she shocked and upset for you? Did she react like someone whose sister – a person they are close enough to live with – had experienced something bad? Did she instantly offer to help (even if not to help that moment if she had a commitment to go to), because she knew this was really important? Did she, in short, behave like you losing these things was a problem for YOU and that she wanted to help get sorted at once, and not that it was an “Oh dear, these things happen”. Likewise how has the roommate reacted?

        I’m not saying that LW is wrong to suspect her sister – she knows the character of the people involved. But for the sake of their own feelings, it is worth making sure that they’ve considered the roommate option fully. Especially since there is a potential question around the timing of one incident.

        1. Admittedly, the sister could have developed a drug/gambling/both habit, financial difficulties, or a number of other problems that led her to start stealing more recently. It doesn’t have to be that she had to be a thief forever for there to be any chance of it being her now.

    6. Maybe sister didn’t steal anything. Maybe she stole some of the things, and someone else stole others – someone else might be roommate 3 or a guest or someone it hasn’t occurred to you to suspect.

      But, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t a detective story, this is about helping YOU get out of a situation where your stuff goes missing because of other people. It’s OK that the details don’t add up, you can still move out/start locking things in your room/do other things to alleviate the stress. Unlike a 90s video game, real life doesn’t need you to click the right clues in the right order to proceed.

      1. Well, I’m going to say that it *does* matter. Not for LW leaving – that’s a given. House isn’t secure = get out of house. However, you’re going to have to see your sister around a lot. How much can you trust her to care for your parents in their old age – especially considering the medication issue. Do you have to be extra careful with your stuff every Christmas and Thanksgiving family dinner? If you have kids, can she babysit? A thief in the family isn’t an issue you can solve by a single move. It’s an issue that’s gonna come up time and time again, so you probably should put some effort into figuring it out.

    7. For what it’s worth, LW, you have the Captain and the entirety of the Awkward Army’s permission to move out without trying to soothe anybody’s conscious or make up excuses or come up with a 100,000 word case about why you must do so.

      I can’t add anything that hasn’t already been said on this thread, but I would like to reiterate that:

      – you deserve to feel safe in your home
      – you deserve not to have things disappear in your home
      – you deserve to have access to your medication when you need it; or, if it wasn’t your medication, then your friend/boyfriend deserves to have access to their medication and you deserve not to worry about it going missing in your home

      I hope you are able to find both a short-and-long-term solution to this problem (locks and moving out, as the Captain suggested). I know it’s not always easy and it’s a lot of work but you deserve to have that peace of mind.

      Since you mention you’re worried about accusing your sister wrongly or insulting her, here are my two cents:

      You don’t have to give your sister a reason for moving out besides “I feel like it’s the right thing for me.” Emphasis on the “I” and “me”. It sounds like you’re worried your sister might interpret your moving out as some sort of value judgment on her as a human being, which is why it helps to drive through the point that you are an adult and your decisions are not about her. (This is presuming she has nothing to do with your things going missing and she is just stuck in the middle of a bad situation with no answers to give.)

      If your sister doesn’t take this as the face-saving gesture that it is, feel free to tell her “I’m sorry but I don’t feel safe in here anymore.” It sounds like you have a good relationship with each other, so presumably she should be able to set her feelings aside so that you can look after your own wellbeing (financial and mental). It does not matter whether you are actually objectively safe in the flat – you don’t feel safe, which is enough.

      If she insists there’s nothing wrong, (when it clearly is, and is making you distressed) then that tells you something is wrong beyond things going missing. If she cannot accept your feelings of distress as genuine and won’t take your stuff going missing as a problem, then it sounds like you both could do with some space… which living apart will allow.

  29. I thought I’d share my personal list for these kind of situations, in case it’s useful for anyone:

    Things you have to be in your own home:
    – Safe
    – Comfortable
    – Happy

    Things you don’t have to be in your own home:
    – Everything else

    Fairness and justice are great for many places, but I think you don’t actually need to be fair or just in your own space. It’s nice if you can, but it’s not your duty. You don’t need anyone’s permission or agreement to set rules and boundaries around what is and isn’t allowed in your own living space. Your sister’s potentially hurt feelings (because she broke your trust in her) don’t hold a candle to your being able to feel safe in your home. They just don’t.

  30. Sooo…. I was a stealer of things when I was a teen (I got better), and yeah, this is spot on. Either your sister is stealing OR she’s covering for someone.

    This is how my brain would be working if I were in your sister’s shoes (notice it doesn’t immediately go to “I will steal my sister’s stuff):

    “Oh man, I really want a digital camera like my sister’s, I could just ‘borrow’ it for a while to see if that’s the type I want.”
    “Damn, I forgot to put it back before she noticed. I’m screwed. How do I fix this?”
    “I know, I’ll wait a bit and then I’ll ‘find’ it.”
    “Oh, she’s gotten another camera, I still haven’t ‘found’ her old one for her. I should really do that.”
    “Yes, today is a good day for ‘finding’ her camera. Hey, I wonder if she’d be willing to sell it to me.”

    The Addrall alarms me though. Unless she has ADD herself there’s no good way that she can justify it in her head. All the ways I can think up have an underlying sharpness that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Because the thief thinks that they NEED the money more than you need your meds. So GTFO please.

  31. I think this is very much one of those situations where the LW knows what she need to do, but needs permission to do it.

    Like CA and @bostoncandy said above, you don’t need a standard of proof that would convince a judge and jury – you already have the information you need to know your current living situation is not okay for you, and something needs to change.

    If you don’t feel that you can be open with your sister right now, then don’t. Tell her something that’s vague on whys but definite on the decision (like “Boyfriend and I are looking for somewhere with a bit more privacy/I need to be closer to !Activity/My friend got a really good rent deal”, whatever, the whole CA site is great for scripts), and move out.

    And keep an eye out for sketchy behaviour on her part (or those close to her) going forward. This is not a random collection of things that have ‘gone missing’: this is stuff with resale value, which means someone needs money, which means… yeah.

  32. Well, it sure seems like SOMEONE is taking your stuff. Either that, or your new residence has a particularly active-yet-subtle poltergeist. Either way, I think that’s plenty of reason to 1) look for alternate living arrangements, and 2) lock your valuables down in the meantime so your ‘poltergeist’ can’t interfere with them. (This is especially true of meds–you need those, and they can be a serious pain to replace.)

    That should take care of the immediate problem of stuff going missing, but it doesn’t help with potentially longer-term issue of feeling like you can’t trust your own sister. Unfortunately, nothing will help that but time. Either she’ll prove herself generally trustworthy once you’re out of this situation (in which case, maybe she was covering for someone, maybe she was just super over-optimistic and in denial about you guys’ third roommate being a thief, who knows)…or she’ll continue to be untrustworthy (in which case it would be reasonable to assume she’s at fault here too, and you should feel no guilt about treating her as untrustworthy).

  33. I’m so sorry that this happened (and might be happening still) to you, LW. The Captain and her army are right – you need to protect yourself, your sanity and your stuff, in that order.

    While the drug in question is not one I know (I live in the EU), a quick look into wiki told me that this is used as an euphoriant. As I said, I’m really unfamiliar with this particular drug, but there might be another problem looming on the horizon, as addiction of Sister or the person she is covering for is also a possibility. That is just another reason to remove yourself from the situation asap, but it also means that it might happen that your sister will need help in the future.

    It might not be an issue, though, as the comments clearly showed that this drug has a high street value. One of my acquaintances got caught regularly stealing money from his friends as well (it booted him out of several P&P-groups and while nobody is really angry anymore, he is still blacklisted and generally uninvited into other homes). In his case, he did it out of a really warped sense of pride, since he was genuinely in financial trouble and really just trying to find a way to buy groceries. At the same time, his pride demanded that he could not show how bad his situation really was and had to maintain this facade. Hence the stealing.

    The irony is that he stole mostly from the most generous people I know, who would have gladly borrowed him the small sums that he stole. Sometimes, people just do stupid things out of flawed reasoning.

  34. As someone who used to steal my sister’s snacks out of her room / “borrow” her jewelry and make up (eventually guilt caused me to try and replace the items before she noticed, then I stopped altogether.) Your sister is stealing your stuff, or covering for the person who did. The sudden search and find of the camera is the kind of shit that I pulled. Your medication going missing throws up a thousand red flags, and you should definitely be looking for a new living arrangement. There is zero reason why anyone should even be touching your medication let alone taking it.

  35. The meds thing is what really gets me. My MIL has a prescription drug problem, and she’s stolen pain medication from both my husband (post-surgery) and his sister (post C-section). This is a woman who genuinely adores her children, but she still stole pain medication that they needed from them, and kept stealing after having been directly confronted about it and admitting to it. She ‘couldn’t help herself’. Any time she visits now, any and all medications are locked up, because if she finds them, she’ll take them. If she gets caught, she’ll apologize, and then she’ll try it again twenty minutes later.

    The thief in your case (and yes–like other posters I’m quite sure these things were stolen) may be selling them, but if there’s an issue with addiction involved, even confronting the thief directly is unlikely to result in the situation actually being resolved. I agree with the other posters: secure your things and start thinking about ways to remove yourself from that situation.

  36. “cabinet under the silverware drawer, moved the paper napkins”
    Looking for a missing pill bottle? Why in the hell would anyone look in a place like that for a missing pill bottle? The fact that your sister even looked there while searching for a pill bottle is suspicious to me.

    If something is simply missing, then it’s going to be some place it could have ended up accidentally, put down somewhere mindlessly and forgotten, fell off behind furniture, between cushions, pockets, a drawer even, but a cabinet? hidden among the napkins?
    The only way a pill bottle could end up in a cabinet hidden by napkins is being carried there by a human hand.* Why would you look in a place the pill bottled couldn’t have gotten to accidentally, unless you knew it wasn’t missing on accident? Or unless you weren’t actually looking for the pill bottle?
    I fear the hunt for the pill bottle was merely cover for “finding” the camera.

    And that’s not even getting to the question of how the hell your boyfriend’s camera could have accidentally gotten into a cupboard hidden by napkins.

    That seriously sucks.
    As others have said, either your sister is messing with your stuff or she’s covering for someone who is. Either way, she’s not a safe roommate for you.
    I’m sorry. That really really sucks.

    *I assume that you would have mentioned it if you have a klepto cat who hides things in bizarre places.

    1. Oh, I am an absent minded person who would grab my pill bottle, go to the kitchen to get water, notice a spill, grab some paper napkins, and put pill bottle down to get paper napkins…..then two days later freak out about lost pill bottle.
      BUT! Knowing this about myself, things I really care about go in same place all the time because then I don’t lose them. (Like my camera. My camera is either in its home or in my hands.) It would be highly unusual for me to lose high value items – usually it’s small things like that pen I liked or my lip gloss.

      1. Yep. I tend to become restless, harried, impatient, and easily distracted when doing household tasks, and I always try to carry as much as possible so I can “drop off” and “pick up” things, as needed, while going about larger projects. I find the weirdest things in my freezer, like utility bills. One time I left a remote control in my pet rats’s habitat. But they understand my bad habits, so they just buried it in litter for safekeeping without doing any experimental biting first, thankfully.

        1. I was going to ask which programmes they recorded during that period, and whether you’d find the channel mysteriously changed…

      2. Oh yeah, I have a pal who does that.
        But I assume LW would have said so if she had a history of putting things down somewhere mindlessly and forgetting them.
        Since she doesn’t have that habit, the chances of its being in a cabinet are so small that I find it hard to believe that *within minutes* of starting a search a person would look in the cabinet, behind the napkins.
        You’d be looking in the logical places: pockets, purses, under furniture, etc.

    2. Yeah, an absent minded person like me totally does this. I have no idea why LW needs Adderall, but I am a person who needs stimulants to deal with a (non-ADD) illness that has cognitive effects, and most people who are prescribed aderall do as well (even if it’s being prescribed off-label for vascular weirdness stuff that affects the brain, like for me, there’s typically a cognitive reason). So I’m guessing that LW may have some absent mindedness with regards to stuff sometimes.

      If LW is like me, LW may misplace stuff in weird places all the time. I, for example, couldn’t find my engagement ring for 2 weeks until, on a whim, I opened the cabinet where I keep my used-once-a-month vitamins and looked inside a bag of chocolates that was in there, and voila, my engagement ring was found.

      All that is to say–while I totally hear you on the sister probably not actually looking for stuff in the kitchen in good faith and am in no way saying the LW should question their instincts about someone stealing because LW needs aderall, your specific comment about nobody reasonably looking for stuff in weird places because normal people don’t put stuff in places THAT divergent from where it belongs struck me as having some underlying assumptions about neurotypical=how everyone thinks packed in, and that seems particularly out of place when making a statement about where someone who needs Adderall might reasonably loose Adderall in their home.

      1. I think my comment came out sounding more general than I meant, for which I apologize.

        At the asterisk re klepto cats I left out my line of thinking which was that I assumed LW doesn’t have the habit of leaving/losing things regularly or she would have mentioned it, so it seems highly unlikely LW would have put the missing pill bottle in the cabinet. If LW did regularly misplace things in weird places, it *would* be reasonable to search weird places.*
        But she doesn’t, so why did sister *start* her search in a random place?
        It’s the sister’s finding the camera in an obscure place “within minutes” of starting her search that makes it suspicious to me.

        * you search weird places if you have already looked everywhere you think lost item could reasonably be and go into ‘rip this place apart til we find it’ mode, but that doesn’t seem to be the situation here, given that the quick find raised LW’s suspicions.

        That was my thinking, which I failed to articulate in my first comment, in part because I’m having a hard enough time articulating it now.
        Was that making gross assumptions? I’m genuinely asking, since I know I can do that, and I would like to stop. To me, this line of thinking isn’t out of place in this situation, but of course I’d think that if that’s what I’m doing.

        1. Since you’re genuinely asking (not because I want to jump up and down on you…)

          I don’t think you are making gross assumptions, but they seem a little uninterrogated. The assumption that someone with a known cognitive focus condition doesn’t have the particular symptom of misplacing stuff, as the default, unless otherwise specified, is the assumption that I have a slight problem with. It’s a form of neurotypical=default assumption, and it’s bothering me particularly because it’s being applied to someone who has self-identified as needing a medicine that, more often than not, is used to manage a non-neurotypical condition. (its not, like, an awful horrible bad person form of this unconscious bias, but still a form). In a situation like that, I think the least gross assumption to make is to assume that there is an equal chance of neurotypical and non-neurotypical behavior, rather than assuming one or the other.

          Your use of the assumption definitely seems benign, well-intentioned, and deployed to help someone feel safer trusting their instincts, which is good, but I think this particular element is an instinct that shouldn’t be trusted, absent more information. Again while I don’t think you were doing this in this instance, your assumption basically went “looked in a weird place -> probably lying and looking in the weird place to find the hidden camera, because nobody reasonably would look there.” And in this case, it wasn’t a harmful assumption because all of these other flashing red flags make it look a lot like the sister is lying.

          But I personally have experienced non-benign versions of that assumption, and have been accused of lying about stuff like this either because I am a thief or I am trying to cover up that I didn’t do something I was supposed to do. For instance, I’ve been asked to perform a repair on an object, put the object somewhere inexplicable, had the person ask whether I’ve repaired the thing, told them I had but couldn’t find it, found it and told them where it was (a couple of days later), and been told something to the effect of “that’s a ridiculous story. Stop lying to cover up that you didn’t have the thing done when I asked you.” Now, I would totally deserve a conversation about keeping track of other people’s stuff better, because it’s not cool to misplace other people’s things, but that’s a different conversation than “you are a liar,” which is a pretty hurtful accusation. Again, not what you did here, but it’s a result of the same assumption you made.

        2. Sorry for the double post, but again, since you asked:

          “* you search weird places if you have already looked everywhere you think lost item could reasonably be and go into ‘rip this place apart til we find it’ mode, but that doesn’t seem to be the situation here, given that the quick find raised LW’s suspicions.”

          I can’t speak for all absent minded people, but for me personally, this approach is way less efficient for me. If I’ve misplaced a thing, the first places I look are the reasonable places near where I remember the last time I remember using it, but if I lost my phone between getting home and finishing baking dinner and it’s not in my bag or on the counter, the third place I look isn’t my phone charger, it’s the refrigerator or the silverware drawer, because I know that *for me,* those actually ARE the reasonable places it could be.

    3. Hah hah, I actually did have a klepto cat years ago, but she wasn’t sophisticated enough to ope cabinet drawers. If she took it, we could find it in the bedroom closet, same spot every time.

  37. Yes! This is what I came here to say. Check your credit score in case some identity theft is going on. It’s not a bad idea to check this anyway, and it’s easy to do, so peace of mind if no one has thought to run up credit debt in your name. Before getting a safe deposit box (which isn’t a bad idea anyway), get a post office box. No sense having all those tempting credit card offers coming to your address. The important thing is to move out, but you can get a post office box this afternoon and before looking for another place. It can come in handy when moving anyway since it adds continuity to changing addresses.

    Bottom line is that someone is stealing, and while I can’t hazard a guess as to why, I can guess that if they’ll steal something you’re likely to notice right away like medications and a camera, there’s a reasonable possibility that they’ll steal something you’re unlikely to notice right away too.

    Another hint since you have the camera back– Go around and take photos of your room and everywhere you keep your things. Take a photo of your desk. Open each drawer and photograph the contents. Same with shelves in your dresser and your closet. Write the date on a slip of paper and photograph that along with the contents. Hopefully you’ll never need these photos, but if you do start wondering where you mislaid that nice letter opener or the one good pair of scissors or your latest electronic device, it can be nice to refer back to the pictures. This isn’t a bad trick even when someone’s not stealing and you’re dealing with the sort of normal absentmindedness that makes anyone wonder if they’re losing their memory.

    I also suggest not talking to your sister or 3rd roommate about your plans to move. Basic politeness says you should give notice if they’re counting on your for rent, but don’t go into any more detail than you need to. Find your new place. Say nothing about it. Then have your friends over to help you move, and that’s it. The more you talk about your upcoming move, the more time you give the thief (whoever it is) to remove a few more items in the hopes they’ll get lost in the flurry and confusion of moving.

  38. 1. Definitely get the lock for your door as others have said.
    2. Get a locking file cabinet for the important stuff that you have to keep with you, as others have said.
    3. Get a small storage unit. Are there times when no one else is home? Use those to bring in boxes, pack up boxes, move them out, etc. Even a 5×5 (feet) unit or thereabouts can do for many items, and at that size, they aren’t that expensive. Though I’m aware that if you’re really strapped for cash, that still might not work.

    I mention the storage unit because it gets your stuff out of there now, and it makes it easier for you to clear out if things truly go wrong.

    And yes, file the police report for the Adderall and notify the doctor who prescribed it for you. Get it on record that a prescription bottle with your name on it has gone missing.

  39. I’m a former thief who was raised by a thief (my mom stole my vibrator, to give you an idea how compulsive this stuff can get). Even without the adderol red flag, that camera thing and glasses thing reminds me very much of something I did once after I stole something.

    I was in drama club in high school and stole another girl’s fundraising money out of her backpack. Then I claimed I had money stolen out of *my* bag, so when she came forward, I would be pre-cleared. Then a couple weeks later, someone *not me* actually stole something out of someone’s bag in choir – bags were left in cubbies in a foyer. I had a guilty conscience and was still afraid I’d be blamed, so I made a big show of jumping out of my seat and going to comfort her though I barely knew her. And then I made up that OMG I’d had something stolen from the cubby as well! Again!!! Which, you know, the choir/drama director is now getting suspicious.

    Then I tried to start a fund to replace everyone’s lost money. I told everyone that I wasn’t so much concerned about *MY* stuff, but these poor other two girls. Oh, and look how Not Guilty I totally was!!!

    The rest of the school was more savvy about these things than I – my grade school experience before this was a tiny little Pentecostal school with like, 4 other students my grade and I just did not know how to make my lies convincing to people so worldly as the public high school kids. So everyone figured it out. But I denied that shit till I graduated anyway, because of course I did.

    My point: Your sister sounds a lot like me. She sounds like she’s new to theft and lying and doesn’t know how to play it cool.

    This is not the only possible explanation. One reason lie detector tests aren’t always accurate is that some people have an unhealthy amount of shame and guilt that manifests itself in a belief in one’s inherent guilt. I mean, I probably would have felt like there were a spotlight on me even if I was totally innocent in that high school story. I probably would have acted guilty even if I weren’t. I was constantly gaslit as a child, and also did a lot of stealing and lying. Either of those things would have made me want to make a show of being Not Guilty if shit like that happened around me.

    So even if your sister didn’t steal that stuff – and my instincts tell me she did – it sounds like she’s not in a great place mentally. That’s totally not your responsibility to deal with, but you’re not wrong to suspect, at all.

  40. Okay, I offer this advice with the major proviso it will probably only work if you’re white enough and middle class enough to carry it off in the USA: start by reporting the “loss” of the Adderall to the police. Be open about the fact you’re going to have to report this to the police to your sister and any other people you live with before you do it. Make it clear this is important, that whoever is “helping” your things “disappear” has taken a step too far this time. Because I suspect at least part of the whole mess is you’re dealing with at least one person who hasn’t ever considered their actions have consequences, and sometimes the consequences of their actions may be disagreeable.

    You may be surprised how fast you “find” your Adderall after that. But report the “disappearance” none the less.

    In any case: lockable storage, keyed lock on your bedroom (or a bolt with a padlock, for real “I wish I didn’t have to do this” chic – if someone bitches about “how it looks”, then they need to be thinking about how things “disappearing” unexpectedly looks too), and find somewhere else to be living quick smart.

    (Clueless Aussie/Divided By A Common Language OT note here: when I read “prescription for X”, I was thinking of the actual script that you hand to the chemist to get the medication, rather than the medication itself. I gather from wider context the US usage means “the medication” not “the paperwork for getting the medication”.)

    1. Yes, in the US ‘prescription’ is commonly used to refer to the med as well as the paper used to get it. (These days, we don’t always even get a piece of paper–the prescribing doctor may offer to call it over to the pharmacy or send a message via an electronic system instead.)

  41. This letter brought up a lot for me, so perhaps I’ll just tell my story. I grew up with a little brother, and struggled getting along with my parents and brother.

    After a challenging year living at home between undergrad and grad school, I had a summer job abroad. A week before I had to leave I could not find my passport. While I’ve never been the tidiest, it made no sense and ultimately I had to pay (at great expense) for a rush new passport. To add insult to injury, the day I arrived abroad I lost/had stollen my wallet. As a young adult it was a frustrating moment of feeling incompentent and unable to take care of myself. Three or so years later when my parents were cleaning my brothers room ahead of a renovation and found that passport in his room.

    I have reasons to believe that maybe he took it, and maybe it ended up there some other way. My anger and vindication at the time was regarded as crying over spilt milk because at that point I’d had the replacement passport for years.

    My only recommendation for this situation is to leave the housing situation. If it truly is sibling theft then a locked cubboard for traditional valuables or keeping food in your room may just not be enough. Taking a prescription may mean that someone (especially your sister if you look vaguely familiar) could take your license to fill it? While the prescription and camera may have “street” value – used sunglasses don’t. And if it’s a case where she’s (or a roomate’s) coveting your things and feels ok just taking them…..I don’t see it being so easy to judge what’s valuable.

    If it’s possible to lock your door, that would likely help but I don’t see it as a long term solution. Particularly if there are any other family issues at play.

    In closing I can add that before this letter, I hadn’t thought about the passport issue in years. It is something I’ve been able to get past and move on from without any familial resolution or conclusion. These aren’t small amounts of money or hassle and the feeling of being stolen from is miserable, especially family. But there is no winning in pushing this to definitively determine if it was done by your sister.

  42. If you are in the US, file a police report about the meds. When you have a scrip for a controlled substance (amphetamines, narcotics, etc.), there are all kinds of consequences to “losing” or “having stolen” a bottle of pills. To protect yourself, you need to be a le to demonstrate that you did the responsible thing and reported the theft.

    Filing the police report protects you if the bottle turns up in someone else’s possession. It gives you the best chance of being able to get a replacement. And doing it noisily so all your roommates know may act as a deterrent to future thefts.

  43. That sucks, LW. I would say start making plans to move out. Whether your sister is stealing stuff or covering for someone who is, it seems like something funny is going on and it’d be better just to get away from it.

  44. A lot of people are wondering whether she would steal the Adderall to use for herself or to sell or just to fuck with you… I don’t know much about Adderall but it seems like if I wanted to steal from someone who had a condition that made them lose/forget things, making it impossible for them to manage that condition with medication would make it much easier for me to get away with the theft.

    1. Adderall (and its siblings) are basically legal cocaine. For someone who has ADHD or something similar, all it does is boost functioning enough that the brain starts operating on the level it would without the normal impairments. For someone without that sort of disability…well. There’s a reason why, as miserable as it is, both Canada and the USA have rules in place to try and discourage people from ‘losing’ their prescriptions and needing an early refill; it’s a very, very popular drug among university students, in my experience, especially any who are under significant academic pressure and feel like they need an “edge” to stay competitive – my Matesprit’s fellow law students were pretty open about discussing how to get hold of a medically-unnecessary prescription and the benefits of having one during exam season.

      1. More meth than cocaine, but yeah. It’s world changing if you need them, and getting my prescription filled included a discussion with the pharmacist to report if they went missing.

    2. Eh, briefly messing with someone’s ADHD meds wouldn’t make them that much more likely than they already are to lose things or to worry they might lose them, especially if the other things started going missing way before the meds did. And Adderall’s street value is high enough that it’s more likely someone would steal it to sell than steal it to mess with the prescription owner.

  45. I’m really late but I wanted to speak up because I’ve recently experienced something like this at a much lower level. There is no good answer here. The truth is, regardless of what is going on, your relationship is at a point where you don’t trust your sister. My advice? First move out. This will not get better unless you have space. Second confront it head-on. Ignoring this will not make it go away- it will just fester. You need an honest conversation about it. It may blow up in your face- that is why moving out is step 1. In my case, first things blew up and then we had a difficult and honest conversation. Things aren’t perfect now- but we have a path forward. And ive also cleared the air enough that if things don’t change or improve I’ll have a clearer path forward/conscience.
    This sucks and is tough. I hope it works out for you.

  46. LW, I think the Captain’s advice is spot-on.

    I don’t want to diagnose your sister or your roomies from a distance but as a former kleptomaniac myself, I am seeing parallels. I would take smallish things, or even biggish things that didn’t look like the owner regularly used, and if the owner noticed them missing I would ‘return’ the items by hiding them in plain sight, help to ‘find’ the missing item and act all “well how about that! It was here all along!” when the item was officially ‘found’.

    It was a behaviour that I developed after a pretty traumatic event as a teenager (I got ‘surprise! You’re adopted and we didn’t know how to tell you before!’ as a birthday present at 14) and it took the love of some good friends and teachers to help me out of that behaviour. I didn’t enjoy being a thief, my friends didn’t like me stealing from them, and for a while I wasn’t allowed into their spaces unsupervised which hurt but I understood why.

    I no longer have the impulse to steal things and I am still friends with the people I stole from, incredibly.

    If you’re unaware of your sister or friends going through an event that could trigger a change in their normal behaviour regarding ownership boundaries, it’s probably just ‘normal’ theft but there may be another angle to it, especially considering the missing Adderall. LW, it not your responsibility to get to the bottom of who the thief is and whether they do have a kleptomania problem, and personally I think it would be healthier to move out than continue in an uneasy environment, I just think there may be more to this than simply ‘I want that x belonging to you and I’ll take it.’

  47. I had a roommate that went in my room and rearranged my stuff. Having one’s personal space violated feels… pretty violating.

    Also, as a photographer, I would just lose it if my camera went missing. That’s absolutely horrifying. There’s tons of affordable lock options out there. Get one. I wish I had.

  48. LW, I have been victim of and witness to this story countless times. Your sister is a drug addict and is stealing from not just You, but literally everybody in her life. She is toxic with sticky fingers, and for your safety you need to change Your address and don’t tell her (or lie!). She WILL case your new place and she WILL steal from it.
    Your sister is in a state where she feels no empathy for anyone, and will steal and even go so far (eventually) to physically harm someone to get money to get her fix. She feels she needs your boyfriend’s camera, your glasses, your meds more than you. She feels she will hurt you worse if she does not ‘maintain’, and it’s easier for your sister to live with herself if you think your other roommate might be stealing or that your stuff just ‘disappeared’.

  49. LW, I’m going to second what everyone else so far has said: it doesn’t matter if your sister is stealing your stuff or if she’s covering for someone else in the house. What matters is, high-value things that you wouldn’t normally misplace are going “missing”. *Your medication* has gone missing. You no longer feel safe in your own home.

    Start making a plan to move out. In the meantime, get a firesafe or something that locks and is too heavy to easily lift (but not a filing cabinet, those are pretty easy to jimmy open) and start stashing your valuables in there, and swap out the current doorknob on your room’s door with one that needs a key to lock and can’t easily be jimmied open. And do a credit check, for paranoia’s sake.

    If anyone objects or gets squirrely about the fact that you’re taking steps to protect your stuff? “I can’t afford to lose stuff like this. Replacing my ADHD meds is nearly impossible, if I don’t file a police report. It doesn’t matter why my stuff’s been growing legs, what matters is that it needs to stop.”

    If anyone objects to or gets squirrely about you moving out? “I don’t want to live somewhere where I need to lock the door to my own room, just to feel confident that my things won’t go missing. I can’t live like that, and I can’t afford for my stuff to keep vanishing.”

  50. You don’t need proof, but I understand if the desire for some is strong.
    1. Move out.
    2. Tell your sister that there might be some emergency that she’ll need a key to your place for. Be explicit that she’s not to use the key unless you tell her you need her to.
    3. Give her any old key, something that doesn’t fit the lock to your new place.
    4. Wait.

    In a short time, your sister is likely to concoct some excuse for why she needed to drop by your new place and how she discovered that the key doesn’t work. There’s your proof. From that point forward, never invite your sister over.

      1. Possibly. But I think it equally possible that she’d jump on the opportunity to come up with some plausible deniabilty excuse in an effort to get the real key. Plausible deniabilty has been her method so far so it’s not much of a stretch to think she’d use it again. It doesn’t really matter. The real point is to get out of the house. The future relationship with Sister with whom one doesn’t know for certain is stealing is another topic that I jumped ahead to.

  51. Oh snap, LW. You’re roomies with Mr. Nobody? That sucks. I lived with that dude for a while. He breaks shit and takes things without asking, and when you ask who dun it, it was nobody…Mr. Nobody.

    If you can move, do so. Screw Mr. Nobody’s ego. That elusive jerk can deal. Good luck, LW.

    1. Or else maybe Ida Know and Not Me from the Family Circus cartoons have grown up and become roommates (or ex roommates) with some of us!

    2. Erma Bombeck also had a joke about her third child, I. Dunno, always responsible for breaking things, dirtying things, and eating the cookies.

  52. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. My sister (who I am now no contact with, but that’s another story) did this growing up. Unfortunately I shared a room with her. My clothes would get trashed by her, all while she made fun of my outfits. She would use my makeup (admittedly only drugstore, because that was all I could afford, but still) without asking and put it back smeared or broken, or never put it back at all. She almost completely used up my favourite perfume. Any time I bought chocolate for myself, I had to hide it or she’d eat it and make fun of me for getting upset.

    The worst part? She would never, ever admit to any of it, even when I held up my missing lipstick poking out of her makeup bag. She would say that she’d bought one too, or it had always been hers and I was trying to take *her* stuff.

    If you don’t have conclusive, cast iron proof, LW, this stuff can be head-wrecking. And if you don’t have conclusive, cast iron proof, that’s okay. Even if I’d confronted my sister with time stamped HD video evidence of her stealing and trashing my things, she would have still denied it, or asked me why I was making such a big deal out of it. You know what’s up. You know that these important valuable things didn’t go missing until recently. Your gut is telling you that someone is messing with your things, and it’s okay to believe it.

    Unfortunately I never managed to get it to stop with my sister, I just got better at hiding my things. The Captain’s advice is great as always. Again, I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

  53. I find it interesting and odd that so many commenters are quick to assume the thief is anyone but the sister.

    I have a family member who has engaged in such behavior (suddenly finding the missing item in the unlikeliest of places: buried beneath piles of items when it was left on the kitchen counter last night or stuck in the back bottom corner of an overfull food cupboard) to try to cover seemingly compulsive thieving for YEARS, but they will lie til they cry (when it’s obvious beyond a doubt that they took it) and will CONTINUE to lie about having done it.

  54. When my instincts are trying to tell me something I don’t want to hear, that’s when I know they are right. You have a few options:
    1) Trust your instincts without proof and protect your stuff/be silently wary of your sister without apology. This isn’t a court of law which means you don’t need proof!
    2) Get proof. A camera in your own room isnt violating anyones privacy; rather it would protect your privacy. You needn’t even confront her if you don’t want to. Just use the proof for your own decision making process. I’ve been in this situation and my I’m outta here speech was “I know. I know everything and never mind asking ‘how’ because I know you know too” you actually get extra intel this way!
    3) Just move out into a place where you get to secure stuff better. You could be totally frank as to why. My bet is your sister will ramp up the “OMG you just lost that stuff” gaslighting. Hold firm to your plans “Probably! But at least I’ll know it’s me!” Or just make a vague excuse and skip the drama. Scenario A: you keep losing stuff = you’ll at least know it wasn’t sis. Scenario B: you stop losing stuff = youll at least know it wasn’t you.

    But she’s being super weird in a way that you can’t ignore, even though you want to. The biggest red flag is how unconcerned she is about a thief in her sisters room/her own apartments.

  55. Dear Lina,
    You might never know whether your sister is the thief. Unless you move out, go somewhere else, and then find stuff *continues* to dissapear when she comes over. But yes, your awkwardness is that, suddenly, you don’t trust your sister. What an awful place to be. What I do when I have a really uncomfortable feeling and need to get it out is I’m just blatantly honest but I mitigate it by adding things like “it’s just me,” or “I could be wrong” or “I know I’m crazy.”

    So, you could say something like, “Hey I know this sounds crazy but I’m afraid you’ve been taking my stuff.” The key is DONT ARGUE about whether she really IS taking your stuff, because that’s not the point. The discussion is about YOUR *feelings.* Make it all about you, not her, sort of a “Hey sister I’m in trouble here because I’m not trusting you and it’s really bothering me, can you help me with this?” This way, you get to get the feeling off your chest, out of your mind and into the air.

    The other details of your conversation depend on your relationship with her and on what kind of person she is. If she’s super sensitive and you’re afraid you’re going to horribly hurt her feelings, you can say “I really don’t mean to hurt your feelings it’s just this has been going round and round in my head and I just needed to get it out. I love you, you’re my sister, but these thoughts have been making me crazy.” If she blows up and tries to make it all about her, use the broken record technique, keep repeating what you just said. You can even apologize for your feelings, in this case, because your objective has been met: you’ve gotten those thought-feelings out.

    Warm hugs, and good luck!

  56. I once had someone in my life where a constant string of statistically impossible events kept occurring, while being met with denial after denial. I could never prove anything, but once I cut this person out of my life it was funny how those events stopped. Also, motion activated video camera are only about $30 now, so make the investment and stop the madness.

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