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The Family Guide to Dealing with Kleptomaniacs

By Karen Beck



Before we dig into the ABC’s of protecting your home and possessions from Kleptomaniacs, I suppose I should define Kleptomania for those challenged by psychological babble. According to, Kleptomania is an irresistible impulse to steal, stemming from emotional disturbance rather than economic need. Kleptomaniacs seldom face prosecution since they steal items of little value to anyone but the victim. For instance: Uncle Joe hurts Kleptomaniac Grandma Lucy’s feelings. She, in turn, steals his heart medicine. Grandma Lucy doesn’t wish to resell Uncle Joe’s heart pills; she just wants to kill him.

Kleptomania is publicly laughed about, but seldom resolved on the family level. If a K-Maniac is part of your family, you may choose to



(A) ignore factual, irrefutable evidence,

(B) protect him and pray he doesn’t get caught,

(C) pretend the thief’s stash is actually part of an important anthropologic collection, or

(D) Theft-proof the known galaxy around them.

You may also try to get him/her into counseling which, as most affected families know, is laughable. Mention Kleptomania to the thief and you’ll get an award-winning display of innocence: Mention Kleptomania to a Psychologist and they’ll explain why they’re particularly fond of their pens.

Most families faithfully try options A through C before grudgingly arriving at theft-proofing. If your family is associated with, or related to, a Kleptomaniac, the following tips are for you:

All you got to do is act naturally. Kleptomaniacs steal things of importance to the victim. If you’re entertaining and a Kleptomaniac is in the mix, behave like everything you own is worthless. Do not linger lovingly over the gold plated miniature piano, and for heavens sake, don’t prominently display the inherited bust of Beethoven. If the Kleptomaniac gives pause by an accessory, your duty is to summarily dismiss it. You may say: “That old thing? I just keep it there to take up space on the mantel.” If you have animate items you value, the same is doubly true. In other words: if you really like Fido, don’t pet him.

Tread lightly and carry a zipped lip. Many Kleptomaniacs steal because they have hurt feelings. The slight may be totally imagined, but to the K-Maniac, the score isn’t evened until they’ve stolen. Kleptomaniacs may steal spontaneously or simmer awhile before their fingers start burning. The point is this: if you still wish to own a full-set of steak knives at Dinner’s conclusion, don’t do—or say—anything remotely hurtful. On the flip side, graciously accept every criticism the K-Maniac offers. Swallowing your tongue isn’t appetizing, but it could go a long way toward protecting the butter dish.

Invoking the Fear of God Clause is NOT an Option. Do NOT hold a family-style intervention or, Heaven forbid, threaten a K-Maniac with prosecution. This is particularly true when dealing with step-parents, step-siblings or in-laws. If you, the accuser, are also The Spousal Outsider, the rest of the family will hiss, show claws and bite when their loved one is backed in a corner. Yes, sister has a problem, but really, in the big scheme of things, stealing a salt shaker is rather minor. Uncle Burt nabbed your cuff links? What kind of vicious, demon-possessed monster would deny cufflinks to a Vietnam War hero? Remember: you’re only part of their family because some stupid relative said “I do” in Vegas. Push the family’s buttons and you may lose more than a set of Dixie cups, you may get your exit interview.

Hide your stuff, but not in the closet. Kleptomaniacs are big time snoopers. If a K-Maniac plans an extended visit—say, for more than fifteen minutes—by all means hide your personal possessions—but never in the closet! Kleptomaniacs always need to use the Master bath—not because they need privacy—but because it gives them access to you. If you’re downstairs, she’s upstairs riffling the hangers. If you’re in the kitchen, he’s playing five-finger discount in the medicine cabinet. If you’re outside at night and notice an eerily familiar figure filtering room to room by flashlight, make a beeline straight to your underwear drawer. If a K-Maniac home invasion is imminent and unavoidable, remove all personal items to a remote, undisclosed location. Should you elect to store your possession in the attic and expect them to be safe, do not, I repeat, do not oil the squeaky hinges!

I hope you’ve found this list helpful. If you or someone you is ever victimized by a Kleptomaniac, remember this: K-Maniacs have closets too!


Copyright Karen Beck


* * * * *


Karen Beck is a fiction writer who lives in North Carolina with her husband, two cats and one old dog. She writes humor, mysteries, and mainstream fiction whenever she isn't selling real estate. Her goals are simple: live long, laugh without reservation and write. 



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