Keep Calm And Carry On When It Comes to Dividing All That Stuff From Your Marriage.
by Kate Kennedy
When you decide to divorce there are many, many tasks that loom over our heads such as selecting a mediator, looking up legal advice, processing emotions, going to counseling…and dividing your things. While this appears to be a very daunting task, divvying up stuff can be a fresh start and quite simple, if approached the right way. Here is a guide to help you split your things in a stress-free and drama-free manner.
Step One: Stay Calm
This advice sounds like it should be obvious, but in a time of crisis, it is definitely not. You must remain calm in order to keep a clear head. No one makes their best decisions when their mind is running a hundred different ways. Take control of your emotions in order to concentrate and feel at ease. This too will pass.
Step Two: Schedule a Day and Time to Sort Through and Divide Everything
Whatever you do, don’t pull a spontaneous “Come get your stuff today!” or “I’m just leaving and taking my stuff right now!” This is neither mature nor productive. Calmly talk to your soon to be ex-spouse and tell them you both need to set-up a day and time to go through everything together in order to decide who will keep what. This manner of communication will keep the lines of communication open and is leaps and bounds better than storming out with boxes of things you really didn’t want.
Step Three: Head Through By Yourself First
Before going through everything with your partner, go through it alone to get an idea of what you may want. None of us have any idea of how much junk we have acquired until you see it up close in person. Bring a pen and paper with you while you skim your belongings to take notes about items or special pieces you want. Keep track of what you found of interest and what you believe you will want to keep.
Step Four: Decide What You Really Want
This is the tough part. Usually we have accumulated massive amounts of hodgepodge items during our relationship and at first glance may be inclined to keep most of it. Hold on! You realistically do not want most of this stuff! Yes, you got presents from friends and family, objects that remind us of deceased relatives and other items we think we should want. The key word here is “should” and being frank, you must make this inner chatter stop. You cannot decide what to keep based on “should”. Be brutally honest with yourself and ask the following: How much do I like this? Does this represent me and who I want to become? Does this signify the marriage that I am leaving behind? Do I only want this because I feel I should? Do I only want this because s/he will want it? Take a good, hard look and you will see what you may have thought you wanted has now dwindled substantially.
Step Five: With Your Partner, Make Three Piles
The day has come and you and your partner are now sorting everything together. Make three piles. One is theirs, one is yours and the other is donate/give away. Keep these three groups in mind as you go through everything and remain level headed and calm. For some reason, most couples feel there is only “mine” and “theirs”, but the “donate” group is very important and when given as a third option, both of you will likely be surprised as it grows bigger than you thought possible. Keep in mind that this is OK – both of you are starting a new life.
If Both People Want the Same Thing…
Refer back to step one and stay calm. Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Your pride and memories of this event are not worth fighting over a kitchen blender, bed sheets, that pretty vase or any other material item. Calmly and clearly state why you want the item in question. If both of you are calm, one of you will quickly give in and let the other have it. Remember: it is just stuff! Everything is replaceable and you are on the brink of making a new life. Be willing to let go.
Step Six: Review Again
After dividing everything, thinking it is all over and getting a Starbucks to relax, you actually need to give yourself another few days to review once more what you are taking. Again, be brutal as you scrutinize your possessions and be completely honest while asking yourself if you really want the stuff in your pile. If looking at something, you hesitate or have a numb feeling (or that dooming “should”), off to the donate pile it goes. Give it away and do not look back – you won’t miss it, I promise.
Kate Kennedy is an avid reader, researcher and teacher. She enjoys one too many coffee cups daily, and thoroughly revels in her title as “Aunt”. She is working on a research book tentatively titled “The Great Alimony Myth” as well as a fiction novel. She lives in America’s Finest City, San Diego, California.