Downsizing for Separation or Divorce

Ending a relationship is usually painful. Even if you believe you’re doing the right thing and it’s time to move on, you still have to cope with emotions like sadness and regret. At such a time, your feelings can make it extremely difficult to cope with the practical aspects of the situation, including sorting through and downsizing belongings. Here are some things that can help.

Be Realistic about What You Need

You might be tempted to keep all of your furniture, but if you’re moving from a large three-bedroom house to a small apartment, it’s simply not realistic to take everything with you. Unless you can afford to pay a storage bill each month, you’ll have to be realistic about what you can fit in your new space.

Take careful measurements and take only the most necessary items with you. Of course you’ll want to leave some room for sentimentality, but don’t let that be the thing that rules your decisions. Think about your needs before your wants.

Adopt an Attitude of Neutrality

One thing that can help you make decisions about what to keep and what to leave behind is trying to look at your possessions as if they weren’t yours. For example, you might be tempted to keep a chipped mug because it was part of a set that you got as a wedding gift. A neutral party could look at the mug and make a dispassionate decision about whether to keep something damaged.

Let Children Participate

Divorce or separation is difficult for adults, and it can be brutal for kids. They feel – and rightly so – that they have no agency in the decision. One thing you can do to ease the way for them is to make sure that you let them decide what to bring, within reason. Your kids need to feel that your new place is theirs as much as it is yours. Be as accommodating as you can, and make room for their most cherished possessions.

If you can’t bring everything, try to coordinate with their other parent if possible. Perhaps between the two of you, you can help your children accept their new reality.

Don’t Make Rash Decisions

When you’re hurt and grieving, it can be hard to make smart choices about shared belongings, especially gifts you received from your partner or sentimental items like wedding photos. You might feel a sense of urgency, but remember that you don’t have to make every decision right now. There’s nothing wrong with packing those items into a box and setting them aside for later.

The key is not to throw anything away that you might regret later. It’s hard to be rational in the immediate aftermath of a break-up. Even if you can’t pay for a storage space, you might be able to store a box of painful memories at a friend’s house until you’re ready to cope with it.

Your relationship might be over, but you have an opportunity to reinvent your life as you sort through your belongings. Now might be the time to get a few new things to express yourself, and to let go of old belongings that tie you to the past. Downsizing is a good way to evaluate your life and make a fresh start – even in the midst of hearbreak.

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