By Kate Kovats
In my work as a divorce lawyer, I strive to help clients reach their next chapter and their new normal as peacefully and gracefully as possible. Moving on can mean letting go of grievances – large and small. It can also mean letting go of all the stuff … the physical remnants of the relationship.
With the changing of the season – Mother Nature’s as well as perhaps your own – it’s a great time to talk about “spring” cleaning after divorce. Of course, this task shouldn’t wait for warmer temperatures or some arbitrary month to arrive. While following the death of a spouse, the one left behind is encouraged to not make any major decisions for a while – some say a year – there is no such rule or guideline following divorce. In fact, the sooner the better. Onward to your new normal.
Here’s your post-divorce “spring” cleaning checklist. The theme: If you don’t love it, then you leave it.
Set aside a weekend to go through the jewelry you accumulated in your marriage. With each piece, let your emotions dictate whether you keep it or sell it. In other words, imagine you are Marie Kondo.
For example, if your engagement ring still sparks joy, perhaps keep it but consider turning it into a necklace. If it sparks any other emotion, sell it, and take yourself on a nice vacation, buy something for your house, stick it in your retirement fund or whatever. Do not save it for one of your children. Odds are they do not want that emotional baggage.
Maybe the watch for Father’s Day or the mother’s ring with the children’s birthstones are more reminders of the kids than the spouse who made the purchase. You can feel good about keeping those items.
You might want to burn them all. I get it. But don’t, especially if you have kids.
Your children will want to see those photos from birthdays and trips to Disney. While they might not want to be laden with photo albums, your kids will appreciate a flash drive of family photos. So, scan in whatever isn’t already digital and make sure to back up those files … and then you can have your bonfire.
All. The. Stuff.
The artwork, furniture, KitchenAid mixer, china, silver.
Does it spark joy? If yes, keep it. If no, toss it and treat yourself to new stuff – budget permitting.
Another thing to consider: Is it useful while not making you angry or bringing you down? If yes, keep it. If no, bye-bye, stuff.
The house can be complicated for a whole bunch of reasons – from financial to practical and sentimental. It can be even more complicated and emotional if you have children. But here’s what I always advise clients: Children are much more adaptable and resilient than you think.
If you want to move to a new house – for whatever reason – there will be an adjustment period, but the kids will adjust. The kids will be alright. Tell the kids: “The house isn’t where the goodness is. It’s us.”
No matter the stuff, it’s just stuff.
Move on. Channel your inner Queen Elsa from “Frozen” and let it go.
It might just put a spring in your step … into your next chapter, your new normal.